Originally published on June 30, 2016. and updated on October 9, 2017.
Balanced XLR Cables are used to connect microphones and other balanced output music gear into mixing consoles. They continue to be the industry standard for both recording and live performance because they can shield your signal from interference, and transfer your audio over longer distances.
There's no point in having great mics when your XLR cable is giving you noise, ground and other connectivity problems. And since not all XLR cables are created equal, you'll want ones that are reliable and better shielded. This is where we come in with our 2017 updated list, incorporating recent reviews and ratings data, of the best XLR cables. This update unseats two previously top rated cables and introduces three market favorites into the list, the GLS Audio MC25, Rapco RoadHOGM, and the Mogami Gold Stage.
This guide focuses on XLR cables that work with mic or line level signals, since this is what most people are looking for.
- The Best XLR Cables
- Things to Consider When Buying XLR Cables
The Best XLR Cables
Here are the best rated XLR cables on the market today, covering cables that work well for stage performance and studio use.
GLS Audio MC25 Balanced XLR Cable
The GLS Audio MC25 provides reliable mic cabling at a very affordable price point. At 25' length, it has enough wire for use on most stages, while having minimal effect on the sound. It features 21 Gauge dual copper conductors that transmit the sound well enough for it to receive consistently good reviews. The conductor core is protected by thick and flexible exterior rubber jacket and shield, while strain relief is provided by its flexible rubber ends. All these features combine to make the MC25 a very practical choice for small venue productions.
- Length: 25'
- Available Lengths: 25' to 30'
- 21 Gauge Dual Copper Conductors
- Flexible Rubber Jacket with Strain Relief
Musicians, event organizers, speakers and even video producers continue to write good reviews for the GLS Audio MC25. It is well received for its value for money and overall performance, with many specifying its quiet operation and clear signal as its biggest positive trait.
There are a few who reported minor build quality inconsistencies, but it is an issue that can be relatively easy to correct.
If you're on a tight budget and you're looking for a reliable stage microphone cable, then check out the GL Audio MC25.
LyxPro LCS Premium Balanced XLR Cable
With its 98% braided shield, twin PVC inner shields and cotton yarn wrap, this reasonably priced cable has everything going for it in terms of specs, and its popularity in the market reflects it nicely. Even without the big name branding that other cables enjoy, the LyxPro LCS Premium cables continue to accumulate high ratings and positive reviews, a testament to their quality and value for money.
- Length: 15'
- Available Lengths: 1.5' to 100'
- 98% braided shield
- Dual PVC Inner Shields
- Cotton Yarn wrap for Noise Reduction
- Black metal housing connectors
- Cable strain relief
- Gold plated contact points
From small bars, to churches and big auditoriums, the LyxPro LCS Premium has been proven to be stage-worthy by many users. They are particularly happy with how sturdy and reliable the cable is. Other users have also put this cable to good use in studio recording, and have been impressed with its sound quality. Some have even used it for recording video and other modern applications like Podcasting. Market approval for this XLR cable is still high, thanks to its value for money.
There aren't that many complaints about the quality and reliability, still there are some who gave the cable a slightly lower score because they want to use the cable longer first before updating their reviews - and unfortunately, many of them either forget or neglect to actually follow up. There was one reviewer who complained about some noise in a studio setting when bending the cable at a sharper 90 degree angle, but this can be avoided by proper planning and cable layout.
For the price and the specs, this XLR cable is simply a steal and is a true professional quality gear that will not disappoint. Highly recommended for live performance situations.
Planet Waves Classic Series XLR Cable
Planet Waves was acquired by popular guitar accessories manufacturer D'Addario, and it became their entry point into the cable market. This sub brand now carries an extensive line of cables designed for specific purposes, and the Classic Series XLR cable is just one of them, especially designed for microphone use. This XLR cable makes it to this list with its reliable operation, carrying over the same qualities that made Planet Waves instrument cables popular among musicians.
- Length: 25’
- Oxygen-free copper conductors
- Nickel-plated connectors
- Dense Shielding
- Virtually no handling noise
Reviews consistently mention that the Classic Series XLR cable is built well. The general consensus is that the cable works nicely, and in a variety of scenarios, including stage and recording. Value for money is still the most praised trait of this cable, which when coupled with its worldwide availability makes this a strong competitor in the affordable XLR cable market.
There were a few who gave the cable a slightly lower rating without much explanation, so we can't really pinpoint any particular complaint.
If you're looking for a reliable bargain cable that will not change your sound, and comes with big brand backing, then you should consider the Planet Waves Classic Series XLR cable.
Hosa Pro Balanced XLR Cable
Hosa again makes it to this list with their Pro Microphone Cable line, with its silver-plated Neutrik REAN connectors and thicker conductors. As the name implies, this one is meant for professional use, specifically for the studio with its improved signal transfer thanks to its thicker 20 AWG OF core. But what really makes it stand out is its tempting price, which Hosa was able to maintain despite the specs.
- Length: 25’
- Available Lengths: 3' to 100'
- Silver-plated Neutrik Rean connectors
- 20 AWG Oxygen-Free Copper (OFC) conductor
- 90% OFC braided shield.
The majority agree that this XLR cable works very well as intended, with some even comparing it to more expensive alternatives from more established brands. The cable's toughness and durability continue to receive recommendations from musicians, engineers and owners of recording studios. Finally, all of these positive traits are complemented by the Hosa Pro's low price point, which gives you great value for your money.
Its unfortunate that some users complained about the cable being stiff, when this is something that should be expected, given that it has a thicker core. This is the reason why cables with thicker cores are better used on fixed installations, because they are harder to roll and unroll, and tend to pose problems when doing quick setups.
If you're looking for an affordable studio friendly balanced XLR cable, then the Hosa Pro is your best bet.
ProCo Sound is more popular for their guitar distortion pedal called "Rat", but they also make affordable musical equipment including microphone XLR cables. The ProCo StageMaster is among the most popular in the market, with its accessible price tag and good performance, and as such is worthy of a spot in this list. Having a thinner 24 AWG wire, this cable is meant to be flexible and easy to roll for stage performance use.
- Length: 30’
- Available Lengths: 1' to 100'
- Metal nickel-plated XLR Connectors
- Low-noise twisted-pair 24 AWG wire
- 90% Shield Coverage (Copper)
Users continue to report putting this cable to good use in a variety of situations, from small to medium sized band performance stages, to recording setups, to DJ performances. A common theme in reviews is that this cable gets the job done nicely and does so while keeping a very affordable price tag. The ProCo StageMaster XLR cable also receives a lot of thumbs up for its premium feel.
There were a few who had cables with maintenance issues. Others rate it slightly lower because they are unhappy with its sound quality. Still many did mention that they are content with its performance, especially when considering its price point and accessibility.
The ProCo StageMaster is highly recommended if you're looking for an affordable stage cable that does not color your sound.
Rapco RoadHOGM Blanced XLR Cable
Rapco describes the RoadHOGM as a tough and road worthy XLR cable, and it doesn't look like they are bluffing because there are many reports from users who are impressed with its overall performance. It features a pure copper conductor that is wrapped in copper serve shield that covers around 95% of the wire, and protected by a matte finish PVC material that's durable and flexible. At 30', this cable is quite long for small stages, but since it does come in a variety of size configurations, you can just get one that fits your requirements. Finally it utilizes Neutrik plugs to ensure longevity and consistency.
- Length: 30’
- Available Lengths: 2' to 100'
- Pure Copper 24 Gauge Conductor
- Bare Annealed Copper Serve Shield (95% Coverage)
- Matt PVC jacket
While it doesn't have fancy materials, the Rapco RoadHOGM XLR cable gets the job done remarkably well. This is reflected by the many high ratings that it continues to receive, from musicians and sound engineers who love its balance of sound, durability and practicality. A lot of users noted how easy it is to roll up, which is surprising for a cable with a very tough exterior.
While many users are happy with the cable's thicker profile, there are a few who were not too thrilled with its bulk and weight.
If you're looking for a durable cable that can handle the rigors of constant setup and breakdowns, then the Rapco RoadHOGM XLR is for you.
Mogami Gold Studio Balanced XLR Cable
Mogami started out in a small workshop in Tokyo, Japan. They made a name for themselves back in 1977, thanks to audiophiles who were impressed with the quality of their cables, and helped spread the word. These days, Mogami have grown to be a worldwide provider of premium "Hi-Fi" cables (with the help of Marshall Electronics), and the Gold Studio XLR is one of their top products. As the name suggests, this is designed to be as transparent as possible for studio recording purposes.
- Length: 15'
- Available Lengths: 2' to 50'
- 100% coverage spiral copper shield
- Neglex oxygen free copper cable.
- 4-conductor cable design
- Black metal jacks
- Gold-pin Neutrik XLR connectors
The majority of reviewers are impressed with this cable's consistent and quiet operation, some of them go so far as to claim that it actually "improved" their sound. Other positive comments on this cable pertain to its durability and heavy insulation. Many consider it as the gold standard for microphone cables, with its zero noise operation and high signal transfer fidelity.
Speaking of insulation, some users nit-picked on the cable being a bit on the heavy side, and that because of its bulky jacket and shielding design. Some complained that it takes more effort to get the cable rolled up. However, being an XLR cable designed specifically for studio use, flexibility is expected to be limited since the cable has to be heavily shielded. It would also be nice if the cable were a-bit more affordable, but I guess the higher price point is expected from this particular brand.
If you have the budget and you're looking to wire up your home studio with a branded cable of reliable quality, then this will be a worthy investment.
Mogami Gold Stage Balanced XLR Cable
The Mogami Gold Stage XLR cable balances sound quality with reliability and mobility, resulting in a studio grade cable that's tour ready. As expected, the company does not spare any expense to ensure the quality of their cables, utilizing premium 105 copper cores that have three times more strands than the competition. This stranding design improves the flexibility and reliability of the conductor, complementing its full-coversage braided shield and virtually indestructible XLPE (Cross-Linked Polyethylene) insulation. With all these features, the company have put a premium price tag on this cable, so expect to invest more for it.
- Length: 20'
- Available Lengths: 20' to 50'
- XLPE (Cross-Linked Polyethylene) insulation.
- Braided shielding (95% Coverage)
- 105-strand Conductors
- Crush Resistance via Fiber Fillers
As proof of its reliability, many reviewers report that they've been using their Mogami Gold Stage cables for years without any issue. This is also a testimony to its overall value, when compared to cheaper cables that have to be repaired or replaced more often. Sound fidelity is also commended, especially by users who have upgraded from other brands, some even went so far as to replace all their cabling with Mogami branded cables.
The most common complaint for this cable is its price, but those that are willing to invest have nothing but good things to say about it.
If you're looking for a high quality cable that can take the usual punishments of road use, then save up for the Mogami Gold Stage XLR cable.
Things to Consider when Buying XLR Cables
Some audiophiles will tell you that they can hear the difference between different leads and this is often used by some companies to sell extremely expensive leads. When it comes to Balanced XLR cables the consensus of audio engineering professionals and actual measurement is clear - there isn't any audible difference between properly functioning balanced XLR cables in normal conditions. However in situations where there is significant radio frequency interference, cables with less effective shielding will be more susceptible to picking up those signals. Of course a cable that's damaged can experience glitches, noise or not work at all. So the main issue to avoid problems with sound quality is to buy balanced cables that are durable, reliable and ideally have good shielding.
Usage: Recording versus Stage
XLR cables that will be used on stage have to be durable enough to handle movement and being stepped on. On the flip side, since you're not moving around as much in the studio, flexibility and durability may not be as important.
Getting a cable with the right length is important, obviously you don't want anything shorter than what you actually need and remember this can include running the cables around various obstacles . But there can be some reasons for not getting a cable too much longer than you'll use. Properly operating balanced cables can operate without any audible signal loss over 100 feet and more so that isn't much of a factor. However having surplus cable lying around in the wrong places can be messy and increase the chances that it will be damaged or get tangled up with other cables. Recording, rehearsal or performance setups can quickly become disorganized so consider what you'll do with that extra cable length. Note that we went with the cable lengths that are more popular with users, which incidentally ranges from 15 to 30 feet.
Core thicknesses range from 20 to 26 AWG (American Wire Gauge), with 20 being the thickest. Thicker cables allow for better signal transfer and are preferred for studio applications, while thinner ones are preferred for stage use because of their flexibility. While some audiophiles will insist Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) provides the best signal transfer, the consensus from pro audio techs is that it doesn't make any difference.
Shielding protects your audio signal from interference, and there are currently three types of materials used: Aluminum laminate (foil), Tin Plated Copper and Copper. The shielding itself is connected to the third pin of the XLR, which directs the intercepted interference to ground. Spiral copper shielding is preferred for stage use because of its 97% coverage and flexibility. Just note that gaps can open up when the cable is flexed too much. For this reason, some cables come with multi-spiral shielding that protects each cable core. Braided Tin Copper shielding is preferred in studio settings because of its higher 98% coverage, oxidation protection, and improved conductivity. Foil shield is commonly used on generic, cheap cables, because it provides effective interference protection without jacking up the price tag. Just note that it can be damaged when the cable is bent. For best results, some manufacturers combine different types of shielding.
Connector Type and Strain Relief
In this particular aspect, the saying you get what you pay for holds true. It may seem like you're saving a few bucks by going for a cheap generic XLR cable, but in the long run, you may end up spending more - and not to mention have problems at the worst possible times - like during a live performance! Having played a vital role in improving the XLR connector design, Neutrik continues to be one of the most trusted brands when it comes to connectors, but they do come with a more premium price tag. Having a Gold connector has a nice ring to it, but it's not really a better conductor, rather the gold plating just makes the pins last longer.
Best XLR Cable Selection Methodology
We looked at the most popular balanced XLR cables being sold at online retailers, and picked the ones that stood out in terms of ratings, popularity and recommendations. We then gathered all relevant data and fed them into the Gearank algorithm, which in-turn helped us pick out the final list by generating the scores out of 100 you see above. Note that the list has been updated in October 2017, to reflect current market sentiment.
Incidentally, we ended up with cables that are between 15' to 30' long, but all of the cables in this list are available in different lengths, and that the scores mostly reflect the combined ratings for all their length variations. For more information about this process, see How Gearank Works.