Even if you don’t know the name, you have probably seen an XLR connector before. XLR cables are an electrical connector that is most commonly used for professional audio and video (AV) applications. They also have limited application in both industrial AV equipment and medical video technology.

Created back in the 1950s by the Cannon Electric Company, it has been around as the primary solution for both digital and analog connections as it relates to amplifiers, microphones, mixing consoles, and other audio devices. Read on to find out more about this versatile cable.

The Construction of an XLR Cable

In order to better understand XLR cables, it helps to know more about their construction and technological applications. These connectors have a latch that locks into place, ensuring a secure connection that won’t be accidentally disconnected. This is incredibly useful for live events or large installations where movement and mechanical stress can compromise other cable types.

There are three pins that carry the balanced signal. The configuration helps to minimize noise and interference, which creates a cleaner audio transmission. Pin 1 is the shield or ground pin, basically giving electrical noise a path to be discharged safely. The second pin is the “hot” or positive audio signal while the third pin is the “cold” or negative signal.

XLR Cable Considerations to Make

If you need to use XLR connections, then it is important to know that they require balanced cables in order to take advantage of their full noise-rejection abilities. Balanced cables have the aforementioned positive, negative, and shield conductors. This type of cable helps to ensure that the signal is transmitted properly and that any potential interference is drastically reduced or removed.

To give you a better idea of how vital XLR cables are to the audio industry, it was inducted into the Technology Hall of Fame in 2008 by the Mix Foundation for Excellence in Audio. If that doesn’t show you how valuable these cables can be, nothing else will.

Applications and Markets

XLR cables are fantastic because they are versatile and apply to many markets. You will find XLR cables in the military and aerospace, medical, industrial, and consumer markets. In the entertainment industry, you will find XLR cables being used for equipment like amplifiers, television equipment, stage lighting, synthesizers, and all sorts of stage rigging.

Both the XLR-4 and XLR-5 connectors are used for AV applications where additional connections are required. Think of intercom or steroid audio systems. A four-pin version will be used with video and film equipment because it provides power as well.

In some instances, you will find a five-pin XLR connector. These are ideal for digital lighting control and are also used for military audio and headset applications in the aviation industry.

Construction Notes

XLR cables come in two varieties: snap-on and push-on. The snap-on is probably more ideal for situations where interference can lead to a sudden disconnection. Size circumference can differ but, for the most part, the widest point is roughly 60mm. A three-pin connector tends to go with control and lighting equipment. It is great because it reduces potential damage to that equipment against issues when using a 48-volt power source.

If you work with video or audio equipment in any way, you know all about XLR cables. They are tremendously valuable and ensure that the signal being transmitted remains as high-quality as can be. They are relatively affordable, easy to use, and so versatile that having a few of them on hand will likely turn out to be beneficial in some way, shape, or form.