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XLR vs 1/4" TRS for balanced connections?

691 Views 4 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  Mashie Saldana
I have just ordered 2 Hypex Ncore NC252MP based multichannel amps similar to the one below but with 8ch and 7ch each.


When it comes to connectivity they will accept both XLR and 1/4" TRS male plugs.


Is there any reason to pick one over the other? The price is pretty much the same for the leads.
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Some people like that one side of XLRs lock, others don't like that because it means if a person trips on the cord instead of the cable getting yanked out of the socket, the whole component gets yanked out and smashes to the ground.

1/4 inch plugs are more compact.

For a fleeting fraction of a second as you insert a 1/4 inch plug the tip, ring, and sleeve touch outputs they are not supposed to, or if the connection only gets partially severed this also can occur, which can cause loud thumps/clicks/buzzes from the amps, but modern gear it is usually safe from damage if this occurs [I make no promises however.] The three pins of the XLR, aka Cannon connector, never suffer from this issue.

There is more than one pin-out configuration for XLR which is why there is usually a label for it on the component's rear panel or in the manual.

I have no idea how prevalent the "Pin-1 problem" is however here it is: Pin 1 Revisited

9 out of ten times balanced connections have no audible benefit over unbalanced in the typical short runs a consumer uses in a single stack of gear. Balanced runs become more critical with weak signals, such as from a mic, or over long runs, say across the stage or recording studio, hence their prevalence in pro systems.

I hear this a lot: "But the balanced wire's manual says they 'help reject common mode noise'". The manual is using scaremongering because they know all systems have some noise, generally thermal noise aka Johnson noise, so they realize it is trivially easy to dupe the consumer into thinking the hiss they hear is "from their interconnects". It (usually) isn't. Common mode noises are generally hum or buzz, not hiss (white noise).

Balanced connections run at around 4V instead of 2V in RCAs. All things being equal this helps the overall SNR a little. [Although I've seen some gear where oddly the XLR connections exhibited more noise/ worse performance.]

Many of the benefits of balance connections fly out the window if all the units in the system aren't "fully balanced (differential)". On lots of consumer units the XLRs are indeed not fully balanced. [For example, the Marantz AV8805A.]
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Thanks, good stuff.

I will go with XLR to TRS then for the smaller connectors. The other end will be a HTP-1 so not much point converting to unbalanced just for the sake of it.
I think XLR is a more common variety of balanced connection (for instance, the HTP-1 can't even use TRS) so were you to ever reuse the cables for some future device you are more likely to be safe if you buy XLR to XLR now. [Convertors are available but they add strain/torque on the connection and are less than ideal.]

The TRS balanced connection is useful when the entire product itself needs to be compact, for instance this Behringer unit:

It would need a cabinet twice as tall if it took XLR connections instead of TRS balanced.

I like how the TRS connection has no required orientation so you can insert it even in the dark. XLR has to have the pins aligned properly prior to insertion and of course there's a male end and a female end of the cable.

In the end buy whatever you deem best. :)
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The cables will be XLR female to TRS male so regular XLR facing the HTP-1 and then TRS facing the amps. Any future processor is likely to be XLR as well and I don't intend on ever replacing the amps.
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