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Published Aug. 26, 2021

If you’ve ever used a piece of pro audio gear, you’ve most likely encountered an XLR cable at some point. Inventor James H. Cannon first developed the now-ubiquitous XLR connector in the 1930s as a compact adaptation of his company’s widely used multi-contact electrical plugs. Since then, XLR connectors have become an audio industry standard for passing signals between professional equipment of every conceivable type, appearing at the ends of most microphones and on the inputs of mixers, speakers, and audio interfaces. While XLR cables come in a wide variety of pin configurations, these recommendations are for the three-pin type that’s most commonly encountered in pro audio settings. Whether you’re looking to amass a collection of cables for an entire recording studio or you just need to plug in a single microphone, we’ll help you find the best XLR cable for your needs and pass along a few things to consider when making your purchase.

How we selected the products

Three-pin XLR cables are a pro preference due to their ability to carry robust audio signals. Unlike standard instrument cables and RCA cables, which carry a grounding wire plus a single signal wire, balanced XLR cables feature three conductors: a ground wire, a positive wire, and a negative wire. In this balanced design, the presence of signal on both the positive and negative wires allows for improved noise reduction over unbalanced designs. Due to the relatively delicate nature of their parts, wires, and internal electrical connections, an XLR cable should be built durable enough to withstand a reasonable amount of coiling, twisting, moving, and general use without risk of breaking. When selecting our recommendations, we looked at the scenarios users likely encounter, did market research, referenced product impressions and our own first-hand experiences, and determined the cables that deliver the cleanest signal and feature the fewest potential failure points or parts that might come loose.

Best XLR cables Reviews & Recommendations

Best XLR cable overall: Pig Hog PHM10 2-Pack

Quick, Quality Solution

The right price and quality for most studio and stage applications. Pig Hog

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Specs:

  • Connectors: XLR male and XLR female
  • Double-shielded: Yes

Why it made the cut: This two-pack of XLR cables from Pig Hog features exceptionally thick construction that’s built to withstand the rigors of long-term use.

Pros:Cons:
  • Thick gauge
  • Bulky
  • Durable connectors
  • Shielded
  • Pig Hog PHM10 2-Pack

    This XLR cable from Pig Hog comes in a variety of lengths ranging from 10 feet to 50 feet and is available in bulk packs of up to 10, making it an efficient and cost-effective choice whether you’re outfitting a large operation or you just need a couple for casual use. Its gauge of 14 AWG is well above the industry average cable thickness, making it more likely to survive repeated kinking and twisting. For this reason, the Pig Hog is an excellent option for stage and touring use in particular.

    Users should note that while the Pig Hog is one of the best XLR cables overall, its thickness comes with extra weight and bulk that makes storage a bit trickier whether it’s hung on the wall or stowed in a bin. Of equal importance is an audio cable’s ability to flex under doors, through wall ports, and in the cramped spaces behind equipment, and this cable may be a bit too bulky for those applications.

    Best value XLR cable: AmazonBasics XLR Cable

    Strength in Simplicity

    Crafted with quality components mirroring those found on pricier options. AmazonBasics

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    Specs:

    • Connectors: XLR male and XLR female
    • Shielded: Yes

    Why it made the cut: This XLR cable from Amazon’s own brand offers good components and a quality build at a value price.

    Pros:Cons:
  • Good value
  • Thin shielding
  • Connectors without small parts
  • Built from budget components
  • AmazonBasics XLR Cable

    AmazonBasics is known for offering a vast array of budget-friendly essentials at a good quality, and the brand’s XLR cables certainly fit that reputation. Each connector on these XLR cables is built from minimal parts without screws and closely resembles the design of industry-standard connectors from Neutrik. A 6mm PVC jacket around a layer of spiraled copper shielding protects the cable’s internal conductors, though the shielding is not particularly thick, which may result in more RF interference.

    While this cable is constructed from components that mirror high-end offerings and should last a long time if treated with care, they’re not guaranteed to be as robust or reliable as more expensive cables manufactured with premium components and high-level quality control. This may not be an issue for casual users—and these are certainly a good choice for light duties—but if you require prolonged reliability in critical environments, you may want to spring for a more durable cable, or at least invest in a soldering iron to handle any repair needs that arise.

    Best XLR-to-USB cable: Behringer MIC2USB

    Get Streamlined

    An interface and a microphone cable all in one. Behringer

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    Specs:

    • Connectors: USB male and XLR female
    • Shielded: No

    Why it made the cut: The Behringer MIC2USB turns any dynamic microphone into a USB mic.

    Pros:Cons:
  • Plug-and-play
  • Only works with dynamic mics
  • Direct microphone-to-computer connection
  • Sample rate limited to 44.1 kHz
  • Thin gauge
  • Behringer MIC2USB

    Users who want to circumvent the time, bulk, and cost of collecting recording equipment will appreciate this novel computer recording solution from Behringer that integrates a simple audio interface and an XLR cable into a single product. It’s 5-meters long and offers CD-quality analog-to-digital conversion on Mac and Windows without the need for drivers—simply plug in a microphone, open your recording software of choice, and begin recording. If you need a decent option for light content creation duties, already have a microphone, and aren’t ready to spring for a USB mic, this may be exactly what you need.

    While the MIC2USB is all about convenience and delivers it on some level, it’s really more of a quick-fix item than an appropriate replacement for a dedicated audio interface. It offers users no control over aspects of analog-to-digital conversion, nor does it include a headphone output for monitoring. Additionally, it only works with dynamic mics due to its inability to pass phantom power, which is required by condenser microphones. If you’re looking for a long-term professional solution for computer recording, opt instead for a standard XLR cable and a simple interface like the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.

    Best XLR-to-1/4-inch cable: Monoprice Premier Series XLR Male-to-TRS Male Cable

    Same Audio, Different Plug

    The best choice for pairing stereo equipment with mismatched connectors. Monoprice

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    Specs:

    • Connectors: XLR male and TRS male
    • Shielded: Yes

    Why it made the cut: If you’re looking to connect balanced, line-level equipment like stereo receivers, speakers, and mixers, this XLR-to-TRS cable from Monoprice is one of the best-designed cables for the job.

    Pros:Cons:
  • Gold-plated connectors
  • Connector screws may loosen
  • Reinforced shielding
  • Thick gauge
  • Monoprice Premier Series XLR Male-to-TRS Male Cable

    TRS, or 1/4-inch balanced connectors, contain three conductors and are used industry-wide for carrying the exact same types of signal as XLRs. This XLR-to-1/4-inch cable from Monoprice features gold-plated connectors, robust internal shielding, and a thick 16 AWG gauge to offer good protection from electrical interference and great durability when used in critical applications. If you’ll be connecting balanced gear with mismatched inputs and outputs, this cable covers the most common applications.

    Unlike other designs that fasten together without small parts, the XLR connector on this cable features a housing that’s held together by screws. While these provide reasonably convenient access to the cable’s internal parts for repairs and maintenance, the screws can come loose over time and affect both the reliability and durability of the cable. This is nothing to worry about if you’re using this cable for a semi-permanent purpose such as installing a home stereo, but if you’re going to use it for repeatedly connecting and disconnecting gear, consider a Mogami Gold Series cable, which has Neutrik connectors.

    Best price-no-object XLR cable: Mogami Gold Studio-15 XLR Cable

    Unbeatable Quality

    The gold standard for premium audio. Mogami

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    Specs:

    • Connectors: XLR male and XLR female
    • Shielded: Yes

    Why it made the cut: Mogami manufactures top-of-the-line cables with an extra layer of internal shielding for maximum interference reduction.

    Pros:Cons:
  • Neutrik connectors
  • Expensive
  • Gold-plated contacts
  • Extra copper shielding
  • Mogami Gold Studio-15 XLR Cable

    If you can afford to spend a little more, Mogami’s XLR cables are some of the absolute best that money can buy. They’re built from components of the highest quality, featuring Neutrik locking ends for sturdy connections, gold-plated contacts for improved conductivity, and an extra insulating layer of copper shielding. All this is packed into a durable, yet flexible 24 AWG rubber housing with heat-shrink at each end.

    Mogami’s cabling is known for providing some of the most reliable and noise-free performance on the market, but this reputation and quality come at a significant cost over other brands that can be hard for hobbyists and DIY-ers to justify. If you want a cable that consistently produces low-noise audio, has a very low chance of cutting out, getting stuck, or breaking, the extra cost of the Mogami may be worth it.

    Things to consider when buying the best XLR cable

    The wires inside an XLR cable are incredibly small, and each is soldered to its respective pin at both connector ends. For this reason, the strength of the solder points, the cable, and the connector itself are of high importance when trying to find the best XLR cable. Most of the cables on this list feature simple connectors, as well as connector housings that sit flush with the cable surface to keep out dust and debris.

    How many XLR cables do you need?

    Quantity is an important consideration when searching for the best XLR cable for your needs. If you are setting up a rehearsal space, a live venue, or a recording studio, you’ll likely benefit from a bulk XLR cable package such as that offered by Pig Hog. More expensive cabling like that offered by Mogami will cost much more to purchase in bulk, but its lasting durability and quality may eliminate the need to otherwise repeatedly replace cheaper cables as they fail.

    What type of equipment are you connecting?

    Nearly all microphones use XLR connectors, as do most sound mixers and pro audio interfaces. Some amplifiers, sound mixers, speakers, and stereo receivers also use TRS connectors to receive balanced signals, so it’s important to verify what type of connection you’re looking to make before you make your purchase. Also important to note is that while most equipment connections require a male-to-female cable, some connections may require a male-to-male cable, such as that from an audio interface to a powered speaker.

    Are you going to be making repeated connections?

    Durability is an important quality to consider if you’re going to be repeatedly connecting, disconnecting, and storing your XLR cables. In situations where cables are plugged in and left there, such as podcasting setups or behind home stereos, connector quality isn’t of the utmost importance. For studio and stage work where equipment is constantly set up and torn down, however, choosing a cable with more robust connectors will lower the likelihood of cables becoming stuck in equipment or the internal connections failing.

    FAQs:

    Q: What does XLR stand for?

    The term XLR originated in the connector’s early days at Cannon Electric. “X” referred to the company’s particular series of connectors, with “L” specifying the presence of a latch mechanism, and “R” representing the use of a rubber compound. Some sources suggest XLR stands for “external line return,” but this is a misnomer that disregards the connector’s extensive use as a means of carrying audio signals of every type and nature.

    Q: What’s the best XLR cable for powered speakers?

    Powered speakers, or studio monitors like the Pioneer VM-50, most often accept either or both XLR and 1/4-inch TRS inputs, so the best XLR cable for your situation depends on the connectors on both your speakers and your output device. Pro audio interfaces and home stereo receivers usually have TRS line outputs, while sound mixers have some combination of both XLR and TRS outputs. For most applications, an XLR-to-1/4-inch cable is the right choice for powered speakers, but be sure to read the manuals for your equipment and verify its input and output connectors before buying a cable.

    Q: What’s the best XLR cable for hi-fi sound?

    The Mogami Gold Series XLR is one of the best XLR cables for high-fidelity sound thanks to its gold-plated contacts and extra internal layer of copper shielding. When shopping for a hi-fi XLR cable, extra shielding is a particularly valuable feature to look for, as all cabling is naturally susceptible to picking up RF interference and becoming noisy.

    The final word on finding the best XLR cable for your audio setup

    From hi-fi home stereos to mixing consoles, for microphones and recording interfaces, XLR cables are one of the prevailing tools for connecting sound equipment and carrying balanced audio signals. Budget XLR cables are great for keeping on hand as spares or installing in semi-permanent setups, while higher-quality cables are reinforced for durability and offer better shielding from electrical interference. Wherever your next creative endeavor takes you, find the best XLR cable to reliably connect your equipment so you can focus on the big picture.

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