Finally Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Best XLR Cables

An essential part of any home studio setup will be ensuring that you purchase the best XLR cables on the market. Without such, you absolutely will not be able to record anything in your home studio.

For those unfamiliar, the XLR cable is the cord that connects your microphone to the interface or device that you’re using to capture the sound that you input into the microphone. Although this may seem like an insignificant attachment in the grand scheme of things, it actually has a tremendous impact on the quality and sound of your home studio.

If you remember in our article about microphones, one of the terms that we discussed in depth was that of ‘impedance’. As a refresher, impedance refers to the level of ‘resistance’ between the microphone and the and interface itself.

In an even more simplified definition, impedance more or less refers to how much ‘interference’ or sound quality will be lost from the words or vocals that you say into the microphone on its path to your laptop or computing device that is supposed to pick it up. Okay, so I just need to worry about the microphone then and not the XLR cable, right? Not exactly.

See, with an XLR cable, it is important to make sure that it matches up to the specifications of your microphone to ensure that it can actually handle all the power of your device and that it also does not hinder or reduce the quality of your recording. Many microphones these days are built to operate with the same kind of XLR cable, so your risk of buying the wrong one is relatively low these days.

However, factors such as the cable’s overall length, design, noise and copper rating, along with the material that the contacts are plated with all make a difference in the quality of the XLR cable.

These are all very challenging and technical terms, but don’t worry! We will break this down for you in a way that even a middle schooler will understand and then use these terms to ensure that you truly purchase one of the Best XLR Cables for your studio. Stick with us, because we’re going to break down everything you ever wanted or needed to know about these cables.

Functioning

Fundamentally, it’s important to understand that XLR cables are balanced cables. What Does This Mean? This means that it works using three wires. If you look at your XLR cable directly, you’ll notice that it has three holes on one end and on the other end there are three prongs (no, they do not connect together!). Without going too far into detail, these cables are essential in assisting with the reduction of noise interference and preserving your overall impedance ratings. The side of the cable that has the prongs is known as the ‘male’ side, and the side that has the holes is known as the ‘female’ side (these tech guys sure are clever).

Structural Design

The cable is made up of five component part which are; the cable jacket, insulation, hot conductor, shield, and cold conductor.

So How Can I Tell Which XLR Cable is the ‘Best’ for me?

At this point, you’re probably tired of all the technological jargon and you just want the straight raw and gritty information on how you can tell which XLR cable would be best for you. Well, similar to how we were able to judge the effectiveness of the microphones in our Best Recording Microphones article, we want to look at a few well defined characteristics.

  • Impedance level – As mentioned earlier, impedance basically tells how much ‘resistance’ there is between the signal and whatever device (computer) is being used to interpret it. It’s measured in ‘ohms’ (don’t worry about what that is) and the lower this number is, the better. Typically, an impedance rating of below 600 ohms is what we want to shoot for out of an XLR cable.
  • Insulation – Remember when we mentioned that insulation was one of the core components of an XLR cable earlier? Well that’s because the insulation basically serves as the ‘protection’ for the cables. The better and higher-quality of insulation that the cable has, the more resilient it will be to wear and tear and general damage (stepping on it, crumbling it up etc. – these things do happen a lot more often than you anticipate!).
  • Cabling – This is one of the more technical aspects of the hardware component of XLR cables, but it matters. Cabling basically refers to the…Well, cabling. For example, star-quad cables are preferable to alternative cabling methods because they generally reduce outside interference and impedance which leads to higher recording quality.

As you can see from all of the terms and technical aspects listed above, an XLR cable plays a more pivotal role in recording success than one may think. The moral of the story here is: A cable is not ‘just a cable’.  

But, without further ado, we’ll delve into our list of the best XLR cables on the market to help ensure that you get the best item possible and heighten your recording ability. Each cable on our list of Best XLR Cables will be judged on the basis of four criteria which are; aesthetics, hardware, pricing, and ‘overall’.

Each category is given a score between 0 to 100, with 0 representing the absolute worse and 100 being the opposite. Below, we have some brief explanations on how we’ve derived each score. For:

Aesthetics – This category, like in our other hardware articles, is purposed with the intentions of trying to ascertain the physical beauty of the item in question. We basically answer the age-old vain, yet necessary question of ‘Does it Look Cool?’

Hardware – This will be the most important category of them all in our reviews here. This is where we synthesize all of the complex technical information that we gave you above and give you the straight gritty on what this cable offers you and how it can enhance your experience.

Pricing – In our pricing category, we evaluate how fair and favorable the pricing is in relation to what the cable offers in terms of hardware and aesthetic value and also when compared to comparable devices on the market.

Overall – Overall is just a general aggregate of each of the three aforementioned categories. Some of the cables may excel more in certain areas than others, so we created this category to help you gauge what you’re receiving overall from the device in order to appropriately gauge its value. Below, we present our list of the top 5 Best XLR Cables on the market currently.

PsyRox’s list of Best XLR Cables on the Market

 

#5 – Silverback Roar XLR Patch Cable

Overall

Aesthetics

Hardware

Pricing

 

Coming in at #5 on our list of Best XLR Cables is the Silverback Roar XLR Patch Cable. There’s absolutely no way that you can lose picking this microphone as it provides everything that you would desire out of an XLR cable.

Aesthetics – This cable really catches the eye, aesthetically. It deviates from the norm of the all black wiring that most cables are equipped with and instead opts for a silver casing for both the male and female ends as well as a black and white mesh thread weaving that interlocks throughout the entire 50 feet. There’s also a silver coil extending from both the male and female component adaptors, which gives it more of a ‘flash’ if you will.

Hardware – There’s a lot to be said about the hardware of this device here. It is equipped with a PVC Jacket, which is one of the better insulating materials out there on the market; A huge plus. It also uses silver, a material known to assist with the conductivity of XLR cables, on the male and female adaptors on the device. The length of the cable is also magnificent as well. With 50 feet of extension, there’s definitely no shortage of range that one can have with this cable. All of these component make it a strong contender and a great fit for the Best XLR Cables.

Pricing – The pricing of this device is fair given what is offered. We certainly aren’t mad at it, and find it to be somewhat of a deal for those interested. In comparison with how expensive XLR cables can be, it’s closer to the side of being a steal.

For more information, including how to purchase, customer reviews, and a more detailed product description, click here.

#4 –  20 Foot – Belden Brilliance 1192A – Premium Star Quad, High-Definition Balanced Microphone Cable with Neutrik Gold XLRF Connectors

Overall

Aesthetics

Hardware

Pricing

Coming in at #4 on our list of Best XLR Cables, the Belden Brilliance 1192A holds its own very well, making this one of our most competitive lists on the website, rank-wise.

Aesthetics – As with the Silverback Roar XLR Cable, this cable deviates from the routine design of most XLR cables. The sleeve on the cord itself is absolutely beautiful, incorporating the PVC material that we personally haven’t seen on many cables before with the exception of our #5 on this list. The all-black PVC material just looks really cool, especially with how the lettering is placed upon it. The male and female adaptors on both ends of the cord are all-black and rich in tone and texture as well.

Hardware – Where do we begin? To start with, the presence of the Star Quad cable patterning is a huge plus because this does much to reduce electrical interference as the signal travels from the microphone to whatever device the XLR cable has attached it to at the other end. There is substantial wall thickness, great insulation material, and a ridiculously low impedance rating. It’s safe to say, this cord gets the job done. Without a doubt.

Pricing – Pricewise, the cord is listed at a respectable price. It isn’t necessarily cheap, but considering the pros that we listed out in the hardware and aesthetics section, we feel that the price is respectable and far from a rip off of any sort. If you’re willing to spend a couple extra dollars to upgrade from the #5 on our list, then the Belden Brilliance 1192A is well worth the purchase.

For more information, including how to purchase, customer reviews, and a more detailed product description, click here.

#3 – Mogami Gold Studio 15 Microphone Cable Quad Conductor 15 Feet

Overall

Aesthetics

Hardware

Pricing

Coming in at #3 on our list of Best XLR Cables, the Mogami Gold Studio is a top notch cable, bar none.

Aesthetics – Aesthetically, it doesn’t exactly wow as much as #5 and #4 on our list do, but don’t let that fool you. The simplicity in design here is definitely something that is much appreciated and may serve as the perfect touch in your studio depending on what look you were going for. This cable does fall in line with the classic all black, rubber exterior connected to two all black, metal female and male adaptors. However, the cord itself is very thin, giving it a sleek and advanced feel.

Hardware – As noted with #4 on our list of Best XLR Cables, the presence of Star Quad cabling is a huge plus. According to the product information accompanying this device, it has the ‘highest cancellation of hum and noise.’ While there are unfortunately no concrete specs to verify this claim, we can go off of the wealth of information that we already do have. It incorporates gold in its conductivity casing, which is a huge plus because gold is a superior metal to silver in this area (which most other XLR cables and the #5 and #4 cables on our Best XLR Cables list use). The lifetime warranty would indicate that there is probably a high level of reliable insulation as we guessed when originally reviewing this cable’s design.

Pricing – The pricing is not excellent, and that’s why we couldn’t bump it over the 80 rating. It’s fair, but it’s not necessarily a ‘deal’ or a ‘steal’ of sorts. This is probably an even one-for-one type of deal if you decide to purchase this cable. However, that does not make it a loss or a bad deal by any means. We would absolutely not discourage you from purchasing this cable and would like to remind you that, despite of our lackluster endorsement of its pricing, we’ve still decided to place it as #3 on our list, so that’s gotta tell you something.

For more information, including how to purchase, customer reviews, and a more detailed product description, click here.

#2 Planet Waves Custom Series Swivel XLR Microphone Cable

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Aesthetics

Hardware

Pricing

Coming in at #2 on our list of Best XLR Cables at somewhat of a counter-intuitive pick at first glance, yet very worthy upon closer examination.

Aesthetics – Admittedly, the aesthetics of this cable doesn’t jump out at you. It’s designed much like many other average XLR cables with the all-black rubber covering for the cord portion. However, there is variation with the male and female adaptor part. The adaptors feature a silver ending attached to a rubber grip.

Hardware – The first thing that stood out in terms of uniqueness with this device was the fact that the rubber grips on the male and female adaptors are actually designed to allow the piece to ‘swivel’. This is extremely useful if one would like to use the XLR cable in a way that other settings would not conventionally allow. It also comes equipped with ‘24k gold-plated plugs’, which, as mentioned earlier, are far superior to the alternative silver-plating option that many other XLR cables opt for. He has multiple layers of shielding which serve to ensure that sound will not deteriorate as the signal travels through this cord from the microphone. There’s a very low capacitance on the device which provides for great signal transparency as well.

Pricing – Given what you get what this device, the pricing on here is absolutely excellent. This cable is something we’d expect to be 75% and even 100% of the current listed price given what it does. However, fortunately for all of us, it is not! If you have the money to get this cable and you don’t want to lay out bank on the best of the best on our Best XLR Cables list, we would strongly recommend that you move forward to purchase the Planet Waves Custom Series with haste!

For more information, including how to purchase, customer reviews, and a more detailed product description, click here.

#1 – Better Cables Silver Serpent II Blanced XLR Audio Cable

Overall

Aesthetics

Hardware

Pricing

Coming in at #1 on our list, we’re very confident that this is the best XLR cable out of all of the cables we considered placing on our list of Best XLR Cables based on our criteria.

Aesthetics – Aesthetically, this is a beautiful device. The exterior of the cord appears to be made of some sort of snakeskin material that is encased in plastic. The pattern of the snakeskin appears to be black and red and the material appears to be tough. There isn’t too much remarkable in terms of appearance concerning the male and female adaptors on the cable, but in its entirety, it’s a pretty cool looking thing.

Hardware – There’s almost too much that we can include when it comes to the hardware of this XLR cable. It comes equipped with huge, silver-coated copper conductors as well as a high-end audiophile balanced connector and it has a lot of these conductors (24). It has very low capacitance with an impedance rating of only 27.7 ohms, which is absurdly low. There appears to be substantial insulation on the cord itself, making it an item that would resist wear and tear for many years to come and the material that it is made out of (silver-plating) allows for great conductivity. There isn’t really much to be desired on the ‘hardware’ side of things here.

Pricing – Although this is the most expensive XLR cable on our list of Best XLR cables, we can affirm that it is well worth the money. Given the aesthetic and hardware benefits that one gets with this device, the current listed market price appears to be highly justifiable and we’d recommend any studio recording professional that has a budget that allows for this purchase to do so at their earliest convenience.

For more information, including how to purchase, customer reviews, and a more detailed product description, click here.