XLR cables for a reasonable price?

I've seen lots of threads where it is stated that balanced components are "insensitive" to cables.  Does this mean that spending a lot of money on XLR cables is probably unnecessary, as it offers no sonic benefit over cheaper XLR cables?

I would like some recommendations on reasonably priced XLR cables that give excellent sonic performance.  Thanks for your replies.


“…balanced components are "insensitive" to cables…”


This is absolutely false. Single ended or balanced the first most important thing is the quality of the wire. How much this affects the sound quality depends on your components. In general consumer products, not at all, budget components most likely not, good components, yes to varying degrees.. audiophile, absolutely… very substantially. That is a generalization… and fairly reliable. But I know a couple instances where budget components were tremendously improved with good cables.


In general, when buying from well established companies the higher the cost the better quality and greater impact. One way not to not get off on the right foot would be to compare really cheap cables. Typical recommendations are to spend about 10% of the component cost.

There is one more dimension to cables… the sound character. Different companies have different basic sound characteristics… Cardas are a bit warm (can help systems sound more musical)… which can mask deficiencies in your components… they get less warm as you go up in levels and more clear. Transparent are… exactly that transparent and they get quieter and more so as you go up in price.

One thing to note is that XLR are a bit louder… it is easy to mistake this for clarity, so you must equalize the sound level to correctly compare sound characteristics.


The important thing is the wire and synergy with your components… which is nearly impossible to predict. Best to try them. The Cable company has a way to let you try a number of different ones. Used cables go for half price… great way to go. Also, XLR tend to cost a lot more.

XLR are best used (although they do not always sound better) on components that have an internally balanced design. Otherwise there is a conversion being done to the XLR sockets and then back again in the next component.

So to be helpful, we really need to know your system. There is a place to put some photos and ID components under your ID… virtual systems. You can see mine under my virtual systems.

I don't use XLR cables so take this as you may.  But I have read several times where Atmasphere states that the quality of XLR cables is not of paramount importance where both of the components being connected have true internally balanced designs.

Blue Jean.  Nothing special as in not magic. Just a good cable. 

FWIW, unless you have transformer outputs, your XLR outputs are not balanced. Close and good enough but not balanced.  Parts tolerances and just plain old Physics.  If running over about 3M, I would use them though even with their much higher capacitance than good coax.  If you want to really understand this topic, I would refer you to the Jensen transformer white papers. 

XLR to RCA is not too bad, but RCA feeding XLR is going to give a gain miss-match causing maybe higher noise. Many of the adapters are made incorrectly so be careful. 

SOME XLR is louder, some RCA is louder. This is where we have some issues with specs.  I thought XLR was pretty well-defined in the professional industry but it seems a lot of consumer products do not follow those specs.  Seems they don't even respect the 600 Ohms spec. In consumer it varies from 10 to 50K. That is one of the specs you may trust from ASR.  All that may make interconnect parameters matter more as big differences in current.