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Balanced or Unbalanced XLR cables for 50' length?
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Bbd
Presonoid
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Joined: 01/08/2012 23:30:41
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I need to run cables out to my garage.
I have read that using unbalanced XLR cables over 25' could introduce noise and degrade the frequency of the signal.

I need 50' for my drums.

Should I pay more for the balanced cables?

Thanks.

Bbd
Bbd

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stewpye
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Joined: 16/08/2012 12:04:35
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Yes, you should use shielded pair cable. All xlr mic cables you buy off the shelf would use a shielded pair cable anyway.
Bbd
Presonoid
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Thanks but what about BALANCED cables? I know unbalanced and balanced are shielded but I don't know about balanced vs. unbalanced.

Thanks again.

Bbd
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Presonoid
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You'll most likely want balanced. If it is for mic signals, it is really the best way to go. With a hot/good s/n ratio line-level signal you might get away with unbalanced at that length (under ideal conditions), but mic signals are so weak that any noise picked up by an unshielded cable will get amplified to the point of distraction. Virtually all serious mics have a balanced output, and if your input device has balanced mic ins you should really take advantage of that.
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Yes, you need a balanced connection. Technically the lead is not balanced. It is a shielded pair cable that is carrying a balanced signal. As far as I know all pre made mic leads are wired for a balanced connection. Are you making your own leads? If you need more than a couple I'd use a stage drop box, or hard wire a multicore if you want it installed in the building.
Bbd
Presonoid
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Thanks guys. I am purchasing pre made xlr cables. Sometimes they say they are balanced and other times not. Most of the time they say they are shielded. So all xlr cables are shielded but I need the balanced ones to keep the noise down?

Thanks.

Bbd
Bbd

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mrpicholas
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An XLRM-XLRF cable would be balanced in just about every case. If it were not going to be a balanced cable, it should say in the description.
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Presonoid
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Agreed -- if you go and buy an XLR to XLR cable, it will certainly be both shielded and balanced. (The quality of the shielding can be very poor on ultra-cheap cables, though. Try to make sure you are getting cables with a braided shield -- they'll be much more durable -- the shielding wont break down and get funky like with a cheap spiral wrap type. The gold standard in the cable itself is Canare brand "Star Quad," but you will pay some premium for really good cable. I prefer to make my own so that I can afford to have the best components but not pay the "Monster" brand sorts of prices.
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Presonoid
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Really good cables (when cared for) will last a REALLY long time, too. I have many cables that are over 30 years old. I've replaced ends, but the cables themselves are still in great shape and show no signs whatsoever of giving up anytime soon.
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Presonoid
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For completeness: Do make sure you buy audio XLR cables. DMX cables use the same plugs but have a different cable impedance!

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 05/10/2013 19:15:06

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Presonoid
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Really good point. Some DMX cables do have a 3-pin XLR (and some are 5-pin XLR -- I don't know which is more common, since I don't deal with that kind of stuff). If you go to a vendor and ask for mic cables I doubt very much that they'd make the mistake of trying to sell you DMX cables, though, so I wouldn't be too concerned about getting the wrong thing by accident.
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mwright137
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What are the cables going from/to? I don't mean "house to garage", I mean from what piece of equipment to what other piece of equipment?
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gadget69
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Three pin XLR is in almost all dimmer packs, and when I have seen 5 pin it is on the lighting console. Just for the sake of completeness I have never purchased a DMX cable and have had NO issues with them in a lighting setup.

There is plenty of good advice here and just t sum them up...

1. All 3 wire mic cable is NOT created equal... some have VERY small conductors, that are over 25 gauge and are really easy to destroy. Likewise the shielding is often poor, and the jacket is also problematic on some, especially cheap cable...Some cables develop "memories" easily an are difficult to wrap and store, and they won't lay flat on the floor, causing a possible t4rip hazzard.

2. All XLR connectors are not created equal, especially XLR F type. Here you REALLY get what you pay for. I like Neutrik, for value and quality, Switchcraft is very good, but spendy...

3. Balanced cables are used because we are trying to reject noise and RF form the cables, so a cheap foil wrapped cable has awful rejection capabilities.

4. a balanced cable allowes a balanced circuit to provide more gain for a better signal to noise ratio.

5. Unbalanced cables have 2 wires, a shield and an single inner conductor... as above they are NOT all created equal. Also the RF and noise your trying to keep out now is riding on the negative or cold side, not attached to the chassis of the devices to ground out the interference...
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Presonoid
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And some cheap mic cables use a non-foil (stranded, but not braided) shield. With wear and flexing the strands will deform and sometimes break, leaving physical gaps that are entry point for noise. These tend to be found in the really cheesy cables they'll often throw in with an inexpensive mic. I give those cables away to people I don't like (the guitar player that refuses to turn down their amp, for example).
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TimmyP1955
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Get a drop snake - much less messy. http://audiopile.net/products/Stagelink_snakes/PSX-8/PSX-8_cutsheet2.shtml
http://www.padrick.net/TP_Audio.htm
 
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