Female XLR to RCA?

In a solid state analog system, Is using a connection cable with an XLR Female to an RCA male advisable? I'm interested in a preamp that is variable XLR output only  (both RCA outputs are fixed) Of course my power amp is RCA input only.


In most cases, this should be fine. Though, if by design the preamp only has balanced outs, it may expect a balanced power amp, so the output gain of the preamp may be 3db lower if you use an XLR to RCA cable or connector. The impedance may also change, but typically it should be fine. 

What preamp and amp are you matching together?


Juan, correct me if I’m wrong, but as long as the impedance of the amps input is at least ten times higher then that of the preamp it should work.  Right? 

You'll only get an advantage if your amp/preamp are differentially balanced.

XLR is really for Pro use with long runs, prevents interference to signals.

One advantage of XLR in short runs in home systems is that it is a LOCKING connection, whereas RCA connectors can be problematic, even sporadically problematic. Lot of cables, mess with this cable, it disrupts that cable.

XLR is really for Pro use with long runs, prevents interference to signals.

There's nothing magic about an XLR connector. Their advantage in long runs is only when they're used in balanced circuits. It's not uncommon to see XLR connectors used in a conventional unbalanced circuit.

One advantage of XLR in short runs in home systems is that it is a LOCKING connection, whereas RCA connectors can be problematic.

Some XLR connectors lock (most do), some don't. Some RCA connectors lock (most don't), some do.

While you can do it and the sound quality difference may be not be obvious I would not unless this is an intermediary step to get to a fully balanced system.


High sound quality sound is the sum of every optimal design, component, sub component, interconnect choice… etc. if sound quality is top of you mind, then I would not start by buying into two compromises… connecting a balanced preamp to a non balanced amp and converting balanced to unbalanced connections. While the penalty may be small… they are not optimal.

I would buy components that are completely physically compatible. Preferably that you have auditioned.

It’s a waste of time ,you throw away the advantages of being balanced 

to ultimately lowers the noise floor.

This is correct.  Running balanced has many benefits, not least reducing noise and making the connected system more robust.  I have run balanced for many years, from cartridge to power amp.


By the way, I wonder if we should be referring to connectors as 'female' any longer.  In today's strange world there are increasing numbers of females who do not have the equipment that is connoted but the use of the term in audio and electronics parlance.

Sure, you can wire it that way. But note that rca has 2 terminals and that XLR has 3 terminals. XLR/XLR has three wires, rca/rca, has 2 wires. The 3rd wire/terminal, becomes obsolete and is shorted out. Q: are you making your own cable? This wiring method negates the advantages of using XLR. The connections will not be balanced and cannot have as long of a run, <25’. Impedance will be higher as well. In this case, neither has an advantage over the other. Only a balanced terminal at each end, and fully balanced electronics, will give you a balanced circuit. Might as well have rca at each end, it’s probably less expensive cable that will give you the same result. You can look up how to terminate rca to XLR on the Internet.


Less Hum, Less Buzz

Do you have these problems in your home system with short runs? I sincerely doubt it.


I've got xlr/xlr; xlr/rca; rca/rca. There is no sound quality difference here. Some slight volume differences.

OUALITY of any cable's innards can make a difference, emphasis 'CAN'.

I changed all my RCA/RCA to locking connectors. All my XLR are locking.

Not to hi-jack the thread, but how about the other way?  Can you use an RCA-out pre-amp (ARC) with balanced-input ARC amps?


@ michaellent the preamp I’m looking at has three balanced inputs and three RCA unbalanced inputs. I would be using the units’ unbalanced RCA inputs as I have no balanced out puts on any of my sources. Neither would I be wiring these cables myself. It would be a short run. 4 feet max, most likely 3 feet. I would be purchasing them from an audio cable manufacturer. Here’s the link.
I’m just looking to connect my amp and preamp in such a way that it doesn’t explode when I power it up.
@elliottbnewcombjr thanks. I think you just gave me the answer I was looking for. My system doesn’t have any hums or buzzes in it. In fact it sounds pretty goddamned good if I do say so myself. Right now my system is all RCA to RCA. I’m looking to upgrade from my Musical Fidelity M2si to possibly an SPL Elector preamp (one of many choices. It’s the only Solid State preamp I’m considering.) and the ONLY variable out put on it is an XLR (female) out. (Why do manufacturers do this?)
@richopp I’m looking to possibly add an SPL Elector Preamp to my system to replace my Musical Fidelity M2si. Iv’e been using the M2si as a preamp to feed a Musical Fidelity X-P200 which is RCA inputs only

+1 @ghdprentice

Just because a component may have XLR connectors - such as a preamp or amp - it does not automatically prove that the component has truly balanced circuitry. The manufacturer simply installed XLR connectors to their unbalanced single ended circuitry (SE) just for convenience. It’s simple to do - and it looks cool. But it does not add any SQ benefit.

When buying a component, it’s important to confirm that it definitely has truly balanced circuitry. Having it adds a substantial cost to the price of the unit - around US$1000 or so - depending on many factors. (DIY would be cheaper.) Yet, having only one component with balanced circuitry makes no sense. At least two - or more - would be needed to achieve the benefits of a balanced system.

Yet, many high-end audio systems are specifically designed around single-ended circuitry only because the manufacturer believes that it sounds better than balanced. Eg: Shindo Audio and Conrad-Johnson Design.

SPL makes pro products as well. That's probably why the Elector has XLR outputs. If you're running a PA system or a Recording Studio this makes sense.

If you buy (cable/camera/phono stage .....) from a source that accepts returns, try it, keep or return.

Thanks for the sound advice. A friend of mine referred these people to me for replacing old interconnects. They're out of Seattle Washington. I bought three sets of RCA terminated interconnects from them. I have no regrets buying them.