Disservice: XLR interconnects

I ended up shelling out some serious bucks and buying Cardas XLR interconnects and connected them between the Luxman C900U, M10X and the hifi Rose RS150B. I am blown away, at the details and just how it bumped up the sensation of just the beautiful musicality..

I have to say, I am no longer in the camp of cables don't matter. In fact, I think folks who say cables do not matter are doing a great disservice to the audiophile community. 


Amazing what your ears can tell you.

You've just had an epiphany. And now that you know, you can't ever go back.

And I agree......next up: Try a new power cord. :)

Maybe even try a fuse. :)


Did you move from RCA to XLR? A balanced component like the HiFi Rose will output double the voltage on XLR, usually while keeping noise floor the same. So that’s a huge advantage (and +6dB level boost), among other balanced drive advantages (common mode noise rejection). Quality cables definitely matter, but a lot of what you’re hearing there is probably due is the move from RCA to XLR.

Not all components sound better from the XLR outputs / inputs versus RCA. There’s a lot of variables. But it is quite often the case.

I learned in the eighties that interconnects matter when I went from the cheapie IC’s that came with components to Monster. I paid $112 a pair for them and was blown away! I ended up getting two more pair later!



Sounds to me as if you are endorsing high end cables… not specifically XLR. For the most part my experience has been that what usually counts is the quality of the interconnect more than whether they are single ended vs XLR. I recognize there are exceptions to this generality… in both directions.


@audphile1  +1

Yes, I also recommend trying a power cord… specifically for your amp… one designed for an amp. Some folks experience an even bigger difference with the power cord versus interconnect.

Always believed that cables mattered.  However.......

I was convinced, mostly by others, that quality RCA was as good as XLR for shorter runs, the benefits of XLR only revealed by long runs.  Purchased Mogami medium quality XLRs to run between ATC preamp and ATC powered floor standers replacing the Wire World Eclipse 8 Silver RCAs.  

Hold the phone!  Advice given was obviously wrong.  Sent the World World back for re-termination and reinserted.  Now it's all way better.  Detail, dynamics, sound stage, attack.

I can be wrong and that's okay.  Enjoy your XLR adventure.


Not sure they do a disservice to the community, but certainly to their own listening experience.

I think there is a forum for those folks but the name escapes me. 

@mulveling I moved from some random XLR cables that I got from Amazon to the Dealer bought Cardas XLRs. And I am just kicking myself for not having done it sooner..

@ghdprentice you are right, I was commenting on higher range XLRs.. I feel like I have achieved the true potential of what I have assembled with the system.. I just recently updated the photos in my virtual system.. 

...Quality cables definitely matter, but a lot of what you’re hearing there is probably due is the move from RCA to XLR. Not all components sound better from the XLR outputs / inputs versus RCA....

This has been my experience. 

I moved from some random XLR cables that I got from Amazon to the Dealer bought Cardas XLRs. And I am just kicking myself for not having done it sooner..

That's cool! I know some advocate that the balanced standard removes audible differences between cables, but I've definitely heard differences upgrading through several XLR cables on my amps. No cheapie cables here, anymore or ever again :) 

@bdp24 Gear that adheres to the AES48 standard do have some audible sonic differences with various types of XLR's. The thing is if you are not too anal about it you can get 95% there with much lower cost pro cables. Even for those small differences someone may chose the lower cost cable based on sound preference alone. However. I am all for people spending money on audio gear and finding happiness.

I am rocking cheap 15 foot Benchmark XLR between my Benchmark LA4 preamp and 2 Benchmark AHB2 monos. They are AES48 compliant. I have tried 'better' consumer XLRs on these 2 and I could not hear a worthwhile difference.

With other non-AES48 compliant gear I have found 'better' cables to be preferred by me. Such as non-Benchmark sources to my Benchmark LA4 pre-amp I use Audience AU 24 SE XLRs over Benchmark XLRs

@rman9 whenever you are ready to try some power cords on your amplifier make sure the Audioquest high-current are on your list.
AQ Tornado is really good and Hurricane is even better. Probably two of the best power cords I ever tried on my amp. 

@yyzsantabarbara I was running a 15ft long Mogami Gold Studio XLRs from pre to amp for a month or so but just moved all components closer together simply because my Acoustic Zen Absolute Copper XLRs are just much better. Depends what you’re comparing, what type of sonic compromises you’re willing to live with and for how long. That’s been my experience. 


I think there is a forum for those folks but the name escapes me. 


ASR - Audio Science Review. That’ll be one of ‘em. And it comes with a YouTube channel for those who feel great about using their old RCAs that were supplied with their VCR because Amir measured them and said they conduct electrical signal just as good as anything out there. Speaking of disservice to the audiophile community that’s our case in point. 

@audphile1 Thanks for the power cable recommendations.. I'll look into that.. My dealer has a range of Power cables between Nordost and Cardas brands. They will let me borrow them for a trial at home. I can start with the Amp first and then move to the Preamp if need be.. 

Congrats on discovering good cables but that thread title makes no sense lol. I figured this would be a screed against XLR connectors.

@jond my apologies.. I was so excited with the XLR cables, like someone else said.. it was an epiphany, my first instinct was to blast out what ever came to my mind first.. 

Yes cables and interconnects matter BUT.

IMO there is a point of diminishing returns. Meaning that yes going from lamp cord to quality oxygen free speaker wire will have an impact that will justify the cost difference. Then there is a point that spending 2000% more for only a 10% increase in sound is in my world not worth the money. I have always tried to stick to a 2 to 1 ratio for my buys. Meaning double the cost for a 50% increase or four times the cost for a 100% increase. Might sound nuts and others will say I can’t really measure the end results. Well it has allowed for me to be in a place where I love my system, it was built within reasonable budget, and most important the music sounds fantastic.

@yyzsantabarbara: Yeah, my post was a sort of joke, as Ralph Karsten of Atma-Sphere has many times here asserted that hooking up two components which both adhere to AES 48 balanced pin configuration will result in the balanced cable contributing no sound of its own. As your post makes clear, not everyone agrees with Ralph's assertion.

@audphile1 What were the preamp and amp that you connected together?

My point was about preamp and amp that were AES48 compliant and XLR cables not having much sonic differences amongst decent cables. There are some differences but those were not something that made much of a difference.

However, removing all my gear, except the tiny AHB2 amps, from in-between the speakers because I use low cost long XLRs made a huge difference in the sound quality of my system. 

I was also a cable doubter but tried some used Silversmith Fidelium and heard a significant difference. Then I tried an expensive usb cable for crying out loud and that made a difference. This is some crazy business. I didn't think a cable that carries 1s and 0s could make any difference. I guess you just have to use your ears.

@dz13 are you serious about USB cable? I grew up with the notion its just carrying ones and zeroes and so what gives. Unless it's long enough where some data could get dropped. It's funny one of my senior design project was to write an error correction algorithm with encoding and decoding to ensure same data between source and destination.. Anyway, that is surprising and I might tweak and play with the usb cables.. 

I tried 25’ long XLR, Oppo 205 to preamp and or integrated amp. Either way, some weird noises occurred.

I tried short 6ft XLR Sony xa5400es, zero difference, I liked the locking connector, but no change in SQ. Didn’t notice any volume difference.

@rman9, I kid you not. It's actually almost disappointing because it means you have to consider paying a premium for every cable and interconnect. I bought a Hapa Aero USB Cable from a trusted poster over at Audio Circle. I got him down a bit because I said I cannot abide paying more than a certain amount for a USB cable. But dang if I didn't hear an immediate difference which was more detail in the upper range. I play music mostly from my computer which goes to my DAC (another thing I doubted made much difference and again was proven wrong) via USB. The other thing is that I use RCA cables from my DAC (iFi pro iDSD) to my integrated amp because it is a 15 foot run. When I ultimately retire and relocate everything, I can use the XLR cables. I don't want to buy a 20 foot premium XLR cable because that would be really expensive so I'll wait until it's only a 1 or 2 meter run.

With xlr cables to truly get the most out of the all components.  All need to be Differentially balanced from input to output.

All cables should be treated as living breathing animals,every one is different.

@dz13 agree.. Even with the XLR cables I'd like to use the shortest lengths possible.. The ones that I got are all 1.5m.. The price seem exponential, as you add to the length.. 

Rman9, good on you for using your ears and seeing for yourself.....cables can and do make a difference (to my ears)

Celtic66, for years I also listened to the "cables don't make a difference", then a friend loaned me a set of AntiCables 3.1 speaker cables and some AQ RCA interconnects.....that was a revelation on the value of good cables.

Sgreg1, I don't have a formula as you do, but I also believe in "bang for the buck" in cables. My total system, including cables, is just shy of $16,000. Does a $2,000 cable make sense in my system? No to me they do not. What does make a lot of sense is finding amazing cables at affordable pricing that do make clear audio improvements. There are some great manufacturers in that category: AntiCables, Morrow Audio, WireWorld, Cullen Cables, Oyaide, Supra Cables, DH Labs, Lavri Cables

Dz13, once I realized the improvement that almost every cable can produce, I had to find better Ethernet cables (feeding Node130), USB Cable feeding DDC from Node, and even I2S cable from DDC to Pontus II DAC

If you have true balanced components (as all of my Denafrips products are), definitely use XLR to keep that balanced signal integrity

Rman9, I would try a better power cable as many have mentioned. Even better, add a dedicated 20 AMP line ($200 - $300), a high quality 20 AMP plug ($50 - $100), and a better quality power cable.....that made tremendous gains for me

I prefer XLRs and use them whenever I can (my 2 DACs are XLR out to my Freya preamp with 2 balanced ins...rare for most preamps), and without cables my system would just sit there as a meaningless heap...silent...collecting dust...so yeah, cables are VERY important.



Yes, USB cables make a difference… and it can be very large. Erase the 0 and 1 theory. It will point you in the wrong direction in audio every time. Everything matters and sometimes it seems the more counterintuitive the bigger the difference.

and if you want an even bigger improvement try interconnects that are made with OCC single crystal wire far superior to anything ofc on the market.

@yyzsantabarbara - What does the spec "AES48 compliant" refer to?

In my limited research the only thing I could find is that it calls for the cable shield to be connected to pin 1 of the XLR at both ends, rather than the shell tab.

If this is not the case, could you please explain? Thanks.


Audiogon Discussion Forum

The posts by @atmasphere on this subject are the most informative, maybe also the most controversial since he does not see the need to spend a lot of money on XLRs for AES48 compliant gear.

I agree with that assessment based on my own listening tests. There are some differences in the cables but nothing that is making a big sound difference. On my gear that is not AES48 compliant I use my more expensive XLR's (Audience).

A balanced component like the HiFi Rose will output double the voltage on XLR, usually while keeping noise floor the same.


If this is the case then the equipment isn't AES48 compliant.

In a balanced line, ground is ignored. sSe the explanation below. If the XLR doubles the voltage at the input, this means ground is being referenced by the XLR; hence it is not compliant.


AES48 is the balanced line standard and the idea has been around a long time. It was Robert Fulton who founded the high end audio cable industry back in the late 1970s, but his cables were single-ended. Balanced inputs didn't exist on home amps and preamps until Atma-Sphere introduced the MA-1 in 1987, followed by the world's first balanced line preamp, the MP-1, in 1989.

The simple fact of the matter is there was an exotic cable technology prior to Robert Fulton and that is the balanced line system. We know this system works because there are classic recordings made in the 1950s that to this day sound better and better as you improve your system. Some of these recordings had microphone signals traveling as much as 200 feet before arriving at the microphone preamp! Obviously this system is very successful at its task. The exotic part of it is the transmitting and receiving technology, not the cable itself.

In order to take advantage of what balanced operation offers, you have to support the standard. Here is most of it:

1) pin 1 ground, pin 2 non-inverting signal, pin 3 inverted signal

2) neither pin 2 or 3 reference ground; instead they reference each other. Put another way the voltage of pin 2 is made with respect to pin 3 and vice versa. The usual implementation of this if an output is the secondary of a matching transformer, with one end of the winding tied to pin 2 and the other to pin 3. Pin 1 is thus chassis, with no part of the transformer winding connected thereof.

This means there is no signal return current in the shield of the cable. It literally is for shielding only. When there is signal current there, all of a sudden the construction of the cable affects the sound.

3) a third aspect is that a balanced line system will be low impedance. This is not part of AES48 however. But any studio equipment uses fairly low impedances so that if any noise is impinged on the cable it will be swamped, dwarfed by the impedance, which in the old days was 600 Ohms; these days more like 1000-2000 Ohms. We didn't have any idea to not support this aspect in our products as well so our preamps, which are all-tube, drive 600 Ohms no worries.

Anyway, if your equipment supports just the AES48 aspect I think you'll find that the system is far less sensitive to differences in interconnect cables.

As always, Ralph-@atmasphere, gives the best advice.

FWIW, I bought a 25 foot run of his Mogami cable when I got his amps and preamp.

My dealer suggested moving to AQ, so I did, (as I respect his opinion).

Long story short, I noticed very little difference between the two cables- except the price. 

So, the takeaway is that if the equipment supports the AES standard, cables will not result in changes in sound reproduction.


@atmasphere - Thank you for your detailed response Ralph. Just an FYI while I've got you here: I've always wanted to own one of your amplifiers but with retirement just around the corner I think I may have to wait for my next life! 

@ditusa  - thank you Mike for your article as well.

I did find through this information that my XLR interconnects are AES48 compliant.




I too have learned that even if something has balanced jacks or connectors, doesn't mean it is actually a balanced circuit.  The connectors can have one of the pins dead, passing the signal on the other two pins.  Learned the hard way on that a few years back.

@navyachts ,

The reason I, and Ralph specify the AES standard is that there are many manufacturers who add XLR input/outputs on their equipment without adhering to those standards.

The result might be cables that 'sound so much better.'

When using the AES 48 standard, a specific cable's 'sound' is minimized.

The AES Standard has been used in recording studios for decades.




Welcome! to the Club. Up next, try a Power Cord.


Happy Listening!

I read a lot about different manufacturers of XLR cables.  No one mentioned the Japanese, it's AudioCraft.  Inexpensive and very worthy AudioCraft CX-100 XLR cables.  They are very popular in Japan.  I highly recommend taking a look at them.

I've said it before. It all depends. With my ARC Ref 6 and Ref 150 SE I tried six different XLR cables many on loan from a well-known PA webtailer and throughout a spectrum of price points. At the bottom rung price-wise were Mogami's and at the top were Cardas Clear Beyond. With these two components each IC cable between preamp and amp made a marked difference. The Cardas Clear Beyond was a clear winner. By a mile. 

There are hundreds of Chinese cable makers in China on eBay and Alibaba. With names like Audiocrast, Nordust, Cardost, Kimble, Wirewood, it is too darned funny, really hard to keep a straight face. Reminds me of back in the day buying a fake Hermez silk tie in Manila.

I have used a variety of Cables over the years and have been present at Cable Bake Off's in other owned systems.

Cables as a Interface can have a profound effect for the better or worse. At a Bake Off, Interconnect Cables from a well known Brand which is commonly seen referred to and in this case retail at over £500 could not deliver through the system in use.

Interconnect Cables cost approx' £100 were much more attractive in use.

Today, I have come away from the idea of a Branded Cable being the ideal Interface, I now work on the notion the Signal Wire used in the Cable and the Quality of the construction and Connectors is where the real advantages are to be found.

As for Signal Wire today, I am a advocate of PC Triple C ( CCC ) Wire  and D.U.C.C Wire, either of these Wires can be found in well thought of Branded Cables.

Others I have introduced to the CCC Wire have been quite impressed and certain individuals have now adopted their own approach with it, and the use of Low Eddy RCA Phono Connectors on Cable and Chassis, Hook Up Wire in a Phonostage and Internal Wand Wire, experiencing it in use as this type of Signal Path,  has been a revelation.

I am quite keen to adopt some if not all of the above and have taken my interest in the PC Triple C wire to the stage, that I intend on producing my own builds using the Helix Configuration as seen in a Thread in the Cable Section on this Forum. 

I have been a Cable Convert for quite few years, probably commencing at the time of exchanging from OFC Wire to OCC Wire. The CCC wire has had a impact that has been much more, maybe as it has been in my perceptions, substantial in use, and has aligned/filled in the missing blanks, where I without any real ideas on how to make a further improvement.  

I didn't read every post, but none the first ~20 mentioned that many components that have XLR I/Os do not have true balanced circuits, which is a big reason why people do not hear a difference. IMHO, hi-end should only be used when the components are true/differentially balanced