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Old November 9th, 2016, 08:54 AM   #1
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Xlr cables

Newbie here when it comes to audio, but does it make any difference if I use lower quality xlr cables from lavaliere to mixer and high quality xlr cables from mixer to camera? Does it change the audio in any perceivable way?
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Old November 9th, 2016, 09:07 AM   #2
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Re: Xlr cables

I have had really bad luck with the cheap cables that I purchased at Guitar Center. I have 3 and they all look fine and appear to be well made. But within a little over a year, they all developed problems with noise and loose connections. And I only use them occasionally in a home studio environment. I have one expensive cable that I got at the same time, and it's fine.

One thing I've noticed is that the XLR connectors on the cheap cables just don't fit my microphones as nicely as the expensive one. And they have gotten looser over time. So the problem actually seems to be the cheap connector and not the cable itself.

Anyway, I am done with buying cheap cables. But maybe it's also a question of what you consider a "cheap cable" and where you are getting them?
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Old November 9th, 2016, 09:18 AM   #3
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Re: Xlr cables

If you're asking about so-called oxygen-free conductors or other marketing claims, there really isn't a meaningful difference between cheap wire and expensive wire, except for the less-common Quad cables, which really can be helpful in high-interference environments, such as running alongside of power cables.

That mostly comes into play in larger shoots.

The real difference in cables is whether they're built well with good connectors. Built well meaning that all the soldering was done correctly, and the conductors actually *stay* connected. Good connectors have built-in strain relief, so that when you tug on the wire, the conductors don't break off their soldered connections.

The worst part of many, but not all, cheap XLR cables is the connector. If there is a visible screw that holds things together I would replace the cable - those connectors don't have good strain relief, and *will* eventually break in-use. The good connectors are Neutrik or based on the Neutrik design, with a rubber and plastic boot on the cable side of the connector, that screws into the connector shell, squeezing some jaws against your cable, kind of like the chuck of an electric drill.

In summary, it's durability you're shopping for. If a cheap cable breaks when you have no back up you're sunk. I have premium quad cables with Neutrik. I have good korean cables with connectors that look like Neutrik but aren't. They both work really well. Short of physically bending the shell, it's quite uncommon for a Neutrik-style connector to be damaged. It's quite common for other styles of connectors to fall apart :-(

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https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora...cable-right%3F
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Old November 9th, 2016, 09:42 AM   #4
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Re: Xlr cables

The connectors I described have good strain reliefs, there are no problems in the way they are soldered and they don't come unplugged. The problem is that they are not quite the right size. When I plug the female end into a Shure mic for example, you can wiggle it and observe some movement because the diameter is slightly small. This didn't matter at first, but I think this movement loosened up the contacts inside the connector over time and that is what now makes them unreliable.

OTOH, the expensive cable has an XLR connector that fits the mic nice and snug, so it can't wiggle and stress the internal contacts.
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Old November 9th, 2016, 10:37 AM   #5
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Re: Xlr cables

Like Boyd and Seth say, good professional XLR cables are worth the money. Reliable, good interference rejection, rugged, and available in pretty colors (which is actually helpful).

For standard XLR I like Canare Starquad cable and Neutrik connectors. But there are also good options from Belden, Switchcraft, and others.

I usually build my own cables. I find it fun. But if you're not up for that, you can find good pre-built cables in standard lengths. A good audio dealer can build cables for you, but here are a couple resources:

Prebuilt cables from a spinoff of Trew Audio (a top-end location audio dealer). These are available from a bunch of different dealers (including box houses like B&H):
Remote Audio – Built From Sound Ideas

Prebuilt cables sold by Markertek and made by their sister company (I think), Sescom. Don't freak out at the initial price...that's for a 100-foot cable....shorter cables cost less.
Canare Star-Quad Microphone Cable 3-Pin XLR Male to Female 100 Foot - Black

HTH.
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Old November 9th, 2016, 11:00 AM   #6
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Re: Xlr cables

I use Canare L-4E6S Star-quad cables for mics, (about $0.50 /ft.) with male and female Neutrik NC3 connectors (about $6) if you can make them yo'self. A few are 25+ yrs old and have been subject to all kinds of abuse. I replaced the boots of one and the male XLR on another which got bent. For bag and cart line level interconnects, I use the Canare L-2E5 mini cable. There is also Canare L-4E5C mini Star-quad cable
A high-quality cable will usually last an entire career under normal usage.
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Old November 9th, 2016, 01:59 PM   #7
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Re: Xlr cables

The major difference between cheap/lousy cables and sensible/good cables is materials and workmanship which equate to reliability and longevity.

I have been making cables for over 50 years and my original XLR cables (the ones that haven't been lost or stolen) are still in use today with no problems. Ordinary decent Belden cable and Switchcraft connectors (long before Neutrik joined the game).

A favorite quote from GearSlutz forum: "A $200 cable is better than a $2 cable. But not better than a $5 cable."

My current stock is Canare L-2E5 for regular mic cables, and Canare L-4E5C for stereo mic runs. And I'm now using Amphenol AC3M and AC3F connectors. I like the miniature Canare cable because it is smaller and lighter for packing around on international gigs and it lies flat on the floor nicely. Certainly for head-banging heavy metal gigs it probably wouldn't hold up. But that's not my thing. And the Amphenol connectors are quite competent competitors to the standard Neutrik connectors at a sensible price. I get all my cable and connectors from http://www.redco.com/
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Old November 9th, 2016, 05:46 PM   #8
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Re: Xlr cables

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Crowley View Post
I have been making cables for over 50 years and my original XLR cables (the ones that haven't been lost or stolen) are still in use today with no problems.
Same here. The original Belden 8412 is still in pretty good condition. The old Amphenol or Canon connectors are amazingly rugged. (The strain reliefs are not nearly as good as the Neutrik design; then again, I baby my cables.)

But how do you keep the actual mating terminals clean? I can clean the male pins with Cramolin or D5 and a Q-tip, but getting down inside the female terminals is a real challenge. IIRC, someone used to make a special tool for this job, sort of like a specialized pipe cleaner. But I can't find them now, and don't even remember a brand name to search for.
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Old November 9th, 2016, 06:01 PM   #9
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Re: Xlr cables

To be honest, I have never cleaned the contacts on my XLR connectors. I have never experienced a problem with dirty contacts, so I never even thought about it.

Well, except for a couple of cables that had been left out in the weather. I cleaned them with a tiny wire brush and alcohol.
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Old November 10th, 2016, 02:19 PM   #10
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Re: Xlr cables

Clean? I've never cleaned an XLR in my life! In fact, the very first mic I bought in 1974 was a Shure SM57-CN with a 20 foot cable supplied. I found it a few weeks ago in the store and the cable works fine. XLRs have self wiping contacts anyway - as you shove the plug in, the design does a very light skim down the contact.

The only difference between a cheap cable and an expensive cable is when one breaks. If the cheap one breaks, then you bin it. If the expensive one breaks you cry, and probably will want to repair it - which frankly is uneconomic nowadays. I always make my own cables because I can make exactly the length I want, from the cable I want, with the connectors I want. I use Neutrik and Canford HST - but recently bought a batch of Chinese XLRs and some cheap cable from Thomann with almost identical feel and toughness.

If the cable feels good and doesn't crush, and the connectors are solid and don't melt when you stick the iron on - I'm happy. What I do know, and since 1974 to now has set it in my mind, is that there is no sound difference - just practical mechanical differences - which may or may not matter.
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Old November 11th, 2016, 09:49 AM   #11
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Re: Xlr cables

Live shows rarely crash because an electronic component like a camera or switcher goes down during a show. Shows crash all the time because of the cables that link all of the expensive gear together to provide signal flow. When we have to trouble shoot a signal flow issue cables are always number one on the list of suspects.

Their longevity and reliability can depend on proper use and storage.

1. Use the over under wrap technique an all cables.

2. Never tie them off with a knot. Use tie line (parashoot cord).

3. Provide additional strain relief whenever necessary. That would especially apply to any cable leaving a camera mounted tripod.

I found these great new gadgets on the shelf at Home Depot last month. I have a ten pack of them in my kit now and they are amazing for cable management. They are better than pigin strips on my audio bag because of their added versatility: https://www.niteize.com/product/Gear-Tie-ProPack.asp

Check them out, you will be glad you did :-)

Kind Regards,


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Old November 11th, 2016, 04:44 PM   #12
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Re: Xlr cables

Just wanting to add my support regarding only buying good quality cables.

Years ago I rented a boom mic kit and some cables to go with it. Turned up at the shoot and quickly discovered that the cables were crackly and shorting out. It was only the kindness of the local pub lending me some cables from their PA system that saved the shoot. I would have been absolutely embarrassingly sunk.

Ever since then I've pretty much never hired gear and instead bought my own. Never again will I be placed in that sort of jeopardy. Never again.

I also happily pay good money for good quality cables and I've never since had an issue. It's a good way to be.

Andrew
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Old November 12th, 2016, 01:32 AM   #13
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Re: Xlr cables

Only time I have cleaned an XLR cable is if the connector has been trampled into the turf at a sports event, servisol is a good cleaner and in the old days we used AF spray.

I have used low cost and top of the range cables and have generally found them all to be the same sonically although star quad does have better mains hum rejection due to the multi strand cores. It is best for mic level though and is not so good for line level.

At the end of the day they can all go faulty and the skill of soldering can be a godsend to change connectors or repair faulty cables.

As for connectors the neutrik ones tend to be the most common now but I have some canon XLR's that are nearly 40 years old now and are still going strong.

Personally for my studio I just buy the cheap ready made coloured cables from e-bay and they are almost consumables these days and I but them and cut in half to size for more fixed installations like my drum kit set-ups.
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Old November 12th, 2016, 11:16 AM   #14
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Re: Xlr cables

An observation on connectors.

Connectors, such as XLR, that connect by sliding friction when inserted tend to be "self cleaning" when used frequently. The act on insertion and separation tends to rub any slight surface corrosion off at the contact points. However, plugs that are rarely moved/separated may develop some slight corrosion over time that can inhibit good contact. .A station I was associated with for a brief period had a number of modules that used Cinch-Jones connectors. They were prone to this over time - the chief engineer called it "Jones plug disease."

Quote:
A favorite quote from GearSlutz forum: "A $200 cable is better than a $2 cable. But not better than a $5 cable."
In consumer application the $200 cable also comes with bragging rights that you don't get with the $5 cable.
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Old November 12th, 2016, 01:49 PM   #15
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Re: Xlr cables

90% of the problems long term with cables is how they are handled and stored, do it properly and a cheap one will last a lifetime do it wrong and the best cable can be destroyed within the month.

Remember 'OVER and UNDER'
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