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Old August 4th, 2011, 07:50 PM   #1
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XLR cable acting as antenna?

I was setting up to shoot a video interview on a mountain top in the middle of Montreal, but received a loud radio signal in my headphones. When I tried to change the frequency on my wireless mic system, I realized that neither the receiver nor the transmitter were turned on (the receiver's battery pack was even off). When I pulled the XLR cable, the radio signal was silenced.

I turned around and realized that I was in relatively close proximity to a radio transmitter antenna (see Log In | Facebook). However, the short 12" cable to my shotgun mic captured no such radio transmission.

I ended up using a $30 voice recorder, but for future reference I'd like to know if there's a special shielded XLR cable I can get that won't act as an antenna?


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Old August 4th, 2011, 10:29 PM   #2
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Re: XLR cable acting as antenna?

Jacques,
I have had similar problems when recording in certain locations. I use Shure A15RF RF attenuators to remove any RF interference. Somewhat pricey, but always works.

Regards,
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Old August 4th, 2011, 11:14 PM   #3
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Re: XLR cable acting as antenna?

The proper link for the image is http://a7.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphot..._1526231_n.jpg


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Old August 4th, 2011, 11:53 PM   #4
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Re: XLR cable acting as antenna?

Just to get the complete picture, what was the XLR cable plugged into?
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Old August 5th, 2011, 12:11 AM   #5
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Re: XLR cable acting as antenna?

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Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
Just to get the complete picture, what was the XLR cable plugged into?
It's a 6-foot cable going from a non-powered wireless receiver (no battery in it) to a video camera's XLR input. It's a balanced cable.

A second 12-inch balanced cable connecting a shotgun mic to the camera's other XLR input received no radio intererence.


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Old August 5th, 2011, 03:02 AM   #6
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Re: XLR cable acting as antenna?

I'd bet the transmitter was an AM radio one - did you work out what station it was? This is very common and the problem with the XLR cable isn't that the screening is bad, it's that the screening, a few inches long, is a antenna - high powered radio, long bit of wire, and then the first thing inside your electronics are semi-conductor devices which do a marvellous job of converting the RF back into audio. Exactly the same process as the war time cats whisker radio sets. The power output from hill top broadcast stations can be really high, and any length of 'aerial' can 'collect' the energy and your equipment accidentally detects it. AM RF filtering is rarely very good on modern kit, because it's rarely a problem. FM breakthrough is less common, and rarely produces recognisable audio as normally a discriminator is required.

You can try all sorts of things - ferrite rings with the audio cable wrapped through it a few turns work pretty well - but few people carry them in the toolbox!
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Old August 5th, 2011, 09:25 AM   #7
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Re: XLR cable acting as antenna?

For all my new XLR cables I only use the Neutrik EMC XLR connectors.

They connect pin-1 to the shell via a ring capacitor - this gives a good shield through the shell and also prevents hum and buzz when you touch the connector.

They also have a ferrite ring on pin one and "teeth" on the female connector to make a good shield connection with the male.

I won't use anything else now.


I also have in my kit XLR in-line RF filters made by Canford Audio.

Quote:
CANFORD XLR IN-LINE RF FILTER

Although input stages today can provide a high degree of RF rejection, they are never totally immune and location recording, temporary installations and outside broadcast can pose particular challenges. Even using good quality screened star-quad cables (from Canford) still leaves a degree of risks that an AM radio signal will get into your equipment and be demodulated and this RF rejection filter can then save the day, or more often the evening!

Radio breakthrough is normally caused by common-mode RF signals being carried through either input or output cables acting as aerials and with the active electronics of the mixer or recorder providing a demodulator. The Canford RF immunity filter is plugged into the problem circuit at the mixer end of the cable and provides an effective solution by greatly attenuating the RF signal entering the mixer. The rejection is primarily of common-mode signals so it has no effect on the balanced audio signal even in applications when it is considered necessary to maintain the frequency response well into supersonic regions.

The filter is built into a high quality, machined “barrel” with Neutrik 3-pin XLR connectors, male on one end and female on the other. The internal circuit is symmetrical making the device equally suitable for use on inputs and outputs.
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Old August 5th, 2011, 05:46 PM   #8
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Re: XLR cable acting as antenna?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
I'd bet the transmitter was an AM radio one - did you work out what station it was?!
It's a Sennheiser receiver. Not the same frequency range as AM. Besides, as I mentioned, the receiver was not powered. No batteries were in it.


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Old August 5th, 2011, 05:50 PM   #9
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Re: XLR cable acting as antenna?

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Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
For all my new XLR cables I only use the Neutrik EMC XLR connectors.

They connect pin-1 to the shell via a ring capacitor - this gives a good shield through the shell and also prevents hum and buzz when you touch the connector.

They also have a ferrite ring on pin one and "teeth" on the female connector to make a good shield connection with the male..
Thanks. I make my own cables using Neutrik connectors. Where can I find ring those capacitors and ferrite connectors? What rating?

Quote:
I also have in my kit XLR in-line RF filters made by Canford Audio.
Yes, I've been looking at those. Thanks.


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Old August 5th, 2011, 07:33 PM   #10
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Re: XLR cable acting as antenna?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacques E. Bouchard View Post
It's a Sennheiser receiver. Not the same frequency range as AM. Besides, as I mentioned, the receiver was not powered. No batteries were in it.
AM frequencies are the ones most often picked up by long cable runs. MANY years ago, I "played" bass guitar in a punk band. I had 50' of TS guitar cable in my setup (with a gain box between the instrument and my amp, of course!) and we ALWAYS had issues with picking up the All Oldies station KY58 at 580KHz.

Paul was discussing the cables acting as an antenna INDEPENDENT of the wireless system.
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Old August 5th, 2011, 07:43 PM   #11
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Re: XLR cable acting as antenna?

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Originally Posted by Shaun Roemich View Post
Paul was discussing the cables acting as an antenna INDEPENDENT of the wireless system.
Right, sorry Paul. I thought he meant the wireless mic transmitter, but he was referring to the big-ass antenna looming over the treetops.

I suspected it was the long-ish (6-foot) cable acting as an antenna, because my 12-inch shotgun mic cable didn`t pick up anything. And that antenna must have been no more than 100-200 feet from me (see picture).

I'll add a few filters to my kit. I'd still like to know about the parts to DIY, since I usually make my own cables.

Thanks everyone!

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Old August 6th, 2011, 06:22 AM   #12
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Re: XLR cable acting as antenna?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacques E. Bouchard View Post
Thanks. I make my own cables using Neutrik connectors. Where can I find ring those capacitors and ferrite connectors? What rating?
The capacitors and ferrite rings are an integral part of the Neutrik EMC XLR.

Full details are HERE.

Drawing with explanation is here.
Attached Thumbnails
XLR cable acting as antenna?-neutrik-emc-diagram.jpg  
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Old August 6th, 2011, 11:54 AM   #13
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Re: XLR cable acting as antenna?

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Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
The capacitors and ferrite rings are an integral part of the Neutrik EMC XLR.
Thanks! I'll see if my local electronics supply store can get them.


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Old August 6th, 2011, 08:15 PM   #14
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Re: XLR cable acting as antenna?

To add to the other info here, I just wanted to remind those interested that balanced audio is an ACTIVE system.

A balanced cable by itself is just a long wire. And ALL long wires are antennas by their very nature.

In a balanced system, what eliminates "common mode" hum and noise isn't exclusively the shielding or the connections of the cable, but the way that two separate signal legs are forced out of phase at the sending end, then inverted at the reception end such that inducted noise is phase canceled and so DAMPENED when the system is active.

The fact that the sending or receiving unit was powered off - means you've DISABLED the very process that supresses the noise in a balanced system.

Before you go nuts trying to add chokes or further shielding, next time try turning ON the equipment and see if its working properly when it's functioning as it's designed.

FWIW.
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Old August 7th, 2011, 12:49 AM   #15
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Re: XLR cable acting as antenna?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Davis
what eliminates "common mode" hum and noise isn't exclusively the shielding or the connections of the cable, but the way that two separate signal legs are forced out of phase at the sending end,
Sorry, but I respectfully disagree.

If an input is balanced, then the input is balanced. Both sides, (+) and (-) polarity, should (by definition) have identical input impedance. Therefore, any equal signal presented to the (+) and (-) inputs should cancel out and not get past the input stage. Even if the cable is open at the far end, the input is still balanced.

But we have to wonder whether the output of the Sennheiser receiver is perfectly balanced, "somewhat" balanced, or unbalanced. If the receiver output wiring is unbalanced (even if it's turned off), that will unbalance the entire circuit on that mic input channel (of the mixer) and that could make that channel much more susceptible to RF pickup.

Also, if the Sennheiser has an active output (rather than an audio transformer) then its output impedance will be much lower when it's turned on. That might, indeed, tend to swamp out some RF that's getting into the system at that point.

Unfortunately, a lot of equipment is not designed with strong RF fields in mind. For example, if pin 1 on the input XLR connector is connected to the nearest point of the chassis, then any RF picked up on the shield of the mic cable will be directed immediately to the chassis and won't cause much trouble. But if pin 1 connects to a wire (hookup wire, harness, whatever) that runs for several inches inside the case, before actually reaching ground, then that internal wire will act like a short antenna to re-radiate any RF that was picked up on the shield of the mic cable.

Many ICs (namely those used for the mic input) are pretty good at common-mode rejection within the audio band, but are not nearly as good when the common-mode signal is at RF frequencies, or a very high voltage. This is one instance where transformer inputs on the mic channels will make a big improvement.

Like ground loops, RF overload can sometimes be tricky to cure.
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