When purchasing new audio equipment or upgrading your current set-up, you will likely put considerable research into your selection of microphones, instruments and headphones. XLR cables on the other hand may become an afterthought, however any good musician or engineer knows that they are an essential part of a full recording or live performance effort.

As the connection between your microphone and recording device, low-quality cables can cause noise interference and issues with signal transfer. A poorly made cable can ruin your recording, so spending a bit of time researching options is well worth the time.

While you certainly encounter microphones that use 3.5mm cables or USB cables to connect to a mixer or recording device, XLR is by far the most common type of cable for professional quality equipment.

A well-made cable has three main components that will work in unity together. First, the conductors (internal wires) will carry the signal. The next layer is the shielding, which protects the conductors and the information being carried. Finally, connectors with three-prongs allow for linking of the cable at either end to other XLR connections.

The three most important factors to consider when buying XLR cables are the connector quality, the shielding of the cable, and the length. Connectors are made of a variety of materials, from zinc alloy and nickel on the lower end to silver and gold at higher price points. You will find PVC or polyethylene shielding around the cable in many cases, as well as some options with braided or metal shielding.

Lengths will vary from less than a foot to over fifty feet, and it is best to measure what length the studio set-up you are using requires and purchase accordingly. Using a cable that is too long won’t affect your audio quality, but the cabling can get heavy and bulky and longer cables are of course more prone to tangling.

A few other things you may encounter when purchasing XLR cables are right-angled connectors, which can be helpful if you are inputting into a device that backs up against a wall. Coiled cables, typically used for boom poles, could also be considered if you want a shorter cable with some flexibility in length. Most cables are also labeled for live use or studio use, with the biggest difference between the two being the durability and type of shielding.

When searching online or in-store of XLR cables, remember that you typically get what you pay for. However, this does not need to be a purchase you shell out hundreds of dollars for. In most cases, any XLR cable recommended in store by an informed staff-member will work fine. If you are looking online, these XLR cables are high-quality and provide a variety of features.

Mogami Gold STUDIO-06 XLR Microphone Cable

Mogami is a well-known cable manufacturer that makes cables for live performance and studio recording. Their pricing is a bit higher than some other options, but they provide a great variety of lengths and options, from two feet all the way up to 100 feet. This option features a balanced 4-conductor cable with amazingly superior clarity that they claim can result in up to 95% less noise than 2-conductor cables.

Pricing for shorter cables is around $35 to $50 depending on the length you select.

Audio Technica AT8314-20 XLRF-XLRM Microphone Cable

If you are looking for reliable audio gear and don’t know where to start, Audio Technica is a great and reliable option. In addition to equipment like microphones and headphones, they offer a variety of XLR cables that are well made and ultra flexible.

This option is 20-feet, which tends to be about what you might want for a small, two-person studio set up.

Cable Matters Premium XLR to XLR Microphone Cable

You will find countless budget-friendly XLR cables online, and it can sometimes be hard to navigate between the options. This offering from Cable Matters is a good wallet-friendly pick, with study connectors and gold-plated pins. The foil shielding can be a bit less flexible than a braided option would be, but in a studio environment is totally acceptable.

Prices start at $12 for three feet and go up to about $25 for a fifty foot cable.

LyxPro Balanced XLR Yellow Cable 10 ft Premium Series Professional Microphone Cable

Some engineers working with multiple microphones might prefer different colored cables to keep track of inputs and avoid tangling. This budget-friendly option from LyxPro comes in a variety of colors, including the traditional black, and a wide-range of lengths. If you’re looking to purchase XLR cables in bulk, to equip a studio or a live-venue, this could be a good option because of the variety of offerings.

Pig Hog PHM20 High Performance 8mm XLR Microphone Cable

Pig Hog manufactures cables marketed towards touring musicians, which essentially means they are built to be extra durable and flexible. If you are looking for something you could be a bit rough with, maybe if you are producing your podcast on the road, consider Pig Hog.

In addition to XLR cables with thick rubber outer casings, Pig Hog also sells cables with braided casings that can handle imperfect wrapping or cramped storage. While audiophiles may notice the quality of audio not being as perfect as some alternatives, Pig Hog still offers good quality audio with a focus on durability.

Kopul Premium Performance 3000 Series XLR M to XLR F Microphone Cable

Kopul is a well-regarded brand that sells cables in different series levels, meant to represent the audio quality. The 3000 series is in the middle of their offerings, and a great bet for podcasting. The cables feature Neutrik XX Silver Connectors, which you will see used in many professional-grade XLR cables.

Kopul also offers 90 degree angled cables, which can be a bit harder to find but incredibly useful for some applications. If you want to make your set-up as compact as possible, using 90 degree angled connectors can be advantageous and will avoid the risk of damaging your cable by pushing down on it or bending the connection.

Shure C25J 25-foot Hi-Flex Cable with Chrome XLR Connectors

If you are not sure what cables to buy to go with your favorite microphone, consider going with an offering from the same manufacturer as the mic. Shure, an excellent maker of microphones, offers a line of XLR cables as well that are notable for their thinness. While perhaps not as durable as some other cables, the thin cable weighs less and may be easier to keep organized than some other options.

With XLR cables, there are plenty of excellent options out available and the most important thing to remember is that you will most likely be getting the quality you are willing to pay for. Most applications won’t require the fanciest XLR cables available, but you should not necessarily opt for the cheapest ones either. If you are unsure, go with a brand you are familiar with, or one with a good reputation amongst audio professionals.

If you are buying online, reviews will be your greatest asset and if you shop in-store, find a representative who can help explain some of the cable intricacies. All in all, it is much easier to find a good cable than a bad one.


Brian Benton

Brian Benton is a writer and photographer based in Los Angeles.