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Quality vs Cheap XLR cables? w/ audio sample
Old 15th November 2009
  #1
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quality vs Cheap XLR cables? w/ audio sample

Hey guys, I recently did a little upgrade to my studio. I'm using the apogee duet with a AT4050 just for recording vocals for pop mainstream top 40 music. For some reason I'm not really happy with the vocal recordings I'm getting. I know the preamps on the duet are supposed to be good and I don't doubt them. Now I'm thinking maybe it's the xlr cable I'm using. The cables beat up and it was the cheapest I could find at the local Sam Ash and probably around 3 years old now.

So I did a little test. I took a recording using the duet and AT4050 with the cheap XLR cable and then took another recording with my friends Monster XLR Cable. I can hear the differences but very subtle. What do you think?

The recording is completely dry.
1st recording is the 20 foot cheap XLR cable - 3 years old
2nd recording is the 10 foot Monster XLR cable - 1 year old


There are arguments I know about with Monster Cables not being up to par for what they are priced. So as far as which cables I'm going to get, I'm probably going with a 20 foot Mogami xlr cable. I've heard nothing but good things about them.


You think it's worth it? Should I just use the XLR Cable I'm using now or should I save the money for a Great River ME-1NV :].
Attached Files

XLR Cable Test.mp3 (961.1 KB, 13868 views)

Old 15th November 2009
  #2
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hazelmossobrien's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I didn't download the samples, but I can tell you unequivocally that unless there is something physically wrong with the cheap cable, there is no sonic difference. There will never be a sonic difference for one channel of cheap cable. Maybe over an entire studio wiring there is a vague audible difference between Hosa and Mogami. Still I doubt it as long as connections and soldering are clean.

besides, I am skeptical of Monster XLR cables really being quality XLR's anyway. I trust Mogami, for build quality reasons and piece of mind.

the Great River ME-1NV you desire will make more difference than any old cable will ever make.

I suggest learning to solder. Its a MAJOR bitch at first, but over time you will have confidence in your cables. Also you'll be able to have Mogami and Neutrik for around the price of the pre-made cheap cables.
Old 15th November 2009 | Show parent
  #3
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Ben B's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I've had the same XLR cables for over 20 years. Only one has ever gone bad. I've never spent a lot of money on "premium" XLR cables.

Build quality has never been an issue for me. Admittedly, I only use my cables in the studio. Perhaps if they were used a lot on the road, it would be a different story.

-Ben B
Old 15th November 2009 | Show parent
  #4
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
I agree on the most part with Mossobrien. However, if your in a downtown core with a tonne of radio stations around then yes maybe even one channel will make a difference. In my experience not too many studio aficionados use Monster but Mogami and Canare are industry standards.
Old 15th November 2009 | Show parent
  #5
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Upgrading your preamps will do a whole lot more than a cable...
Old 15th November 2009 | Show parent
  #6
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hazelmossobrien's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by theslygoose ➑️
if your in a downtown core with a tonne of radio stations around then yes maybe even one channel will make a difference
This is true. Just the other day I was picking up radio frequencies in a relatively short vocal chain.

I was going U87 > api 3124 > 1176LN > Apogee AD8000 > 003 > Presonus Central Station > ADAM A7's

I had a random 6 ft. cheap (Hosa I think) XLR cable linking two of the pieces because this was not a permanent situation. It was a temporary setup. I swapped out the cheap cable with a 20 ft. Mogami and *bam* no more interference.

This was the first time I'd ever had radio interference with a balanced signal.

So yea, RFI can be a problem, albeit rarely, with cheap XLR's. However I think the OP was referring to tonal differences (which I believe over an entire studio's wiring might make a difference in the top end)
Old 15th November 2009 | Show parent
  #7
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rkopald's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Uggh. Cables. Yeah, electrons like to go in a specific direction. Why didn't they teach me that when I was getting my B.S in Physics?? F&%kers!!!
UNGAWAA!!!
(dated reference: this is what Dizzy Gillespie used to say to white audiences while making a spear throwing gesture, the point being racism is idiotic and pointless, much like very expensive cables that seem to be able to bypass the most basic laws of physics)..
DO NOT BUY SPENDY CABLES. I have some plug cleaner that's waay more important for clean tone transmission. It's only a hundred dollars a spritz.dfegad
Old 15th November 2009 | Show parent
  #8
Gear Guru
 
John Eppstein's Avatar
 
58 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by hazelmossobrien ➑️
I didn't download the samples, but I can tell you unequivocally that unless there is something physically wrong with the cheap cable, there is no sonic difference. There will never be a sonic difference for one channel of cheap cable. Maybe over an entire studio wiring there is a vague audible difference between Hosa and Mogami. Still I doubt it as long as connections and soldering are clean.

besides, I am skeptical of Monster XLR cables really being quality XLR's anyway. I trust Mogami, for build quality reasons and piece of mind.

the Great River ME-1NV you desire will make more difference than any old cable will ever make.

I suggest learning to solder. Its a MAJOR bitch at first, but over time you will have confidence in your cables. Also you'll be able to have Mogami and Neutrik for around the price of the pre-made cheap cables.
Hazel, I didn't download the samples either, nor did I see the cable, but I can tell you unequivocally that if he has a bottom of the line bargain basement cable that is 3 years old and has any appreciable amount of use on it that there is, in fact, something wrong with that cable. I guarantee it.

Cheap-ass, bottom of the line cables use a spiral wrap shield because it's cheaper to produce and easier to use in an automatic cable making machine. Spiral wrap sounds fine at first, but with use the wrap starts coming loose, bunching up inside which leaves gaps in the shield, and causing handling noise and microphonics because it's free to move under the jacket.

Cable with a braided shield is more expensive to produce and harder to assemble on a mass production line due to the difficulty of separating the braid from the inner conductors - the exact same thing that makes it more durable. (Note: there is some cheap braided shield cable made by no-name Chinese companies that does not have high shield coverage. Steer clear of this. Quality cable should have at least 95% coverage.)

Also, cables with a 4 conductor "star quad" configuration have better rejection of RF interference if your location has that sort of noise problem.

So yeah, I don't doubt there's a difference. The cheap cable is almost certainly shot.

I prefer 2 conductor cable from Belden (8402 or 8412), Canare, or Mogami, or star quad from the latter 2 companies. Gepco also makes some good cable.

Belden 8402 is the most rugged mic cable made anywhere, if abuse is a problem.

Note - Do not waste money on any "ultra premium, blah, blah" cable. And Monster cable isn't very good, it's just overpriced.
Old 15th November 2009 | Show parent
  #9
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hazelmossobrien's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein ➑️
Hazel, I didn't download the samples either, nor did I see the cable, but I can tell you unequivocally that if he has a bottom of the line bargain basement cable that is 3 years old and has any appreciable amount of use on it that there is, in fact, something wrong with that cable. I guarantee it.
My point was if the cable had nothing phyically wrong with it, then there is nothing to worry about save for RFI and build quality. If its three yrs old and the shield is all f'd up and the connections are screwy, then there is something wrong with it.

Besides, I was thinking along the lines of Hosa as the cheaps, not knockoff phony Southeast Asian cables that make Hosa look top notch. That is like considering no name electronics bought in Chinatown to be in the same discussion as low end but brand name electronics.

Nonetheless, the OP may very well be talking about some Chinatown XLR cables.
Old 15th November 2009 | Show parent
  #10
Gear Head
 
🎧 15 years
Yeah really the point is who in their right mind would add "Monsters" to their studio? Don't we have enough opportunities on occasions as it is? I cant emphasize enough the use of quality cables the first time and getting on with the business at hand. To me the name says it all.
Old 15th November 2009 | Show parent
  #11
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by theslygoose ➑️
I agree on the most part with Mossobrien. However, if your in a downtown core with a tonne of radio stations around then yes maybe even one channel will make a difference. In my experience not too many studio aficionados use Monster but Mogami and Canare are industry standards.
In America, at least, radio transmitters are generally not in downtown areas, for numerous reasons. Generally, AM transmitters are located in watery and/or low lying areas away from downtown. FM and TV transmitters are usually on hilltops.
Old 15th November 2009 | Show parent
  #12
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
I know the die-hards will flame me for this and years ago I would have flamed me for this...

I'm a cable convert.

I started working with a guitar player who is a cable nut. At first I completely blew off his cable lunacy and thought of him as a nut case. He'd bring in various cables and try them out and I'd usually just humor him and move on.

One day he brought in two different 6' speaker cables for his amp. Both Evidence cables of different styles. I was setting up stuff in one room, he was in an adjacent room with his amp playing a bit with one of the speaker cables. He stopped for a bit and then I heard the guitar again. This time everything sounded "fuller" perhaps. A drummer friend on the couch in the room with the guitar player flipped. I poked my head in to see what the commotion was about to discover the only change was the speaker cable. We flipped back and forth a few times and there was definitely something to it. The two cables did sound different from one another.

Another time...The same guitar player brought over a prototype boutique guitar amp that had a bad FX loop on it. I cracked open the case and poked around and discovered the FX loop jacks were wired wrong. Broke out the soldering iron, and a couple of scraps of wire and fixed it. I had two different pieces of wire that I had trimmed up but only used one. As I was cleaning up the guitar player asked me to try the other piece of wire out. I hesitated and objected, but to prove a point, swapped the wire anyway. To my shock and amazement, that little 1" piece of wire in the FX loop made a difference in sound. In this case it was a heavier gauge piece of wire than what I had originally put in (Say 20awg to 18awg) but it definitely smoothed out the top end and made the bottom end rounder.

I scratched my head, swapped it out a couple of times and settled on the fatter wire. It just plain sounded better.

Also, try using something like a 10' esoteric guitar cable after a re-amp device and then a really short generic patch cable and let me know what you think about that. I was amazed at the different results achieved in that application as well.

This experience hasn't made me go crazy about wire and buying uber expensive stuff, but it has forced me to rethink things. I'll give just about anything a shot. Especially if I'm not spending the money on it.
Old 15th November 2009 | Show parent
  #13
Gear Guru
 
🎧 15 years
In important distinction needs to be made here when talking about these comparisons of mic cables, AC cords, the 'sound' of DAWs and all other issues that reside somewhere in the zone between 'extremely subtle' and 'Unicorns are real'

If you had your friend switch the cables, and you reliably picked the "good cable" all or most of the time, while blindfolded - then you have some "news" for the forum!

If you have not taken this minimal effort to confirm your "revelations", then for all we know, you are just another guy discovering the placebo effect for the first time.

as for the clips:
• you should use two brand-new cables to minimize the possible 'damage' quibbles
• for a mic cable, you should have an identically repeatable performance in front of the mic (a player piano, perhaps? how about a music box?)
• you should not post the correct identification of which cable is which - make us guess!
Old 15th November 2009 | Show parent
  #14
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Ben B's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I wonder if I could sell my old XLR cables, and call them "vintage?"

-Ben B
Old 15th November 2009 | Show parent
  #15
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You_Father_Sky's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Oh most likely. Every trend has a beginning. That being said I am going to Redco for an order soon, only because I need a bunch of cables and they're trustworthy.
Old 15th November 2009 | Show parent
  #16
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Kulka ➑️
In America, at least, radio transmitters are generally not in downtown areas, for numerous reasons. Generally, AM transmitters are located in watery and/or low lying areas away from downtown. FM and TV transmitters are usually on hilltops.
Thank-you for correcting my geographical error. I wasn't aware of these relevant but missing-the-point facts.
Old 15th November 2009 | Show parent
  #17
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hazelmossobrien's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by theslygoose ➑️
Thank-you for correcting my geographical error. I wasn't aware of these relevant but missing-the-point facts.
I wasn't directly downtown, but I was 50 blocks away in an urban setting in Portland when I got RF over an XLR cable.

...but who knows. There are tons of radio frequencies everywhere in cities.
Old 23rd November 2009 | Show parent
  #18
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
i agree with effitall.

i used to use cheap cables. 1 day i bought a faulty piece of equipment from a store. And they gave me a new piece while giving me a pretty good guitar cable made of eurocable with neutrik heads. and my bassist came to lay some tracks later that day. I tot why not try that new cable. and there was such a big difference in terms of sound. The cheap cable seem to have eaten up the highs from the bass.

But i believe as the price goes higher, the difference in sound quality becomes smaller.
Old 23rd November 2009 | Show parent
  #19
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Friedemann's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by l0u5y ➑️
i agree with effitall.

i used to use cheap cables. 1 day i bought a faulty piece of equipment from a store. And they gave me a new piece while giving me a pretty good guitar cable made of eurocable with neutrik heads. and my bassist came to lay some tracks later that day. I tot why not try that new cable. and there was such a big difference in terms of sound. The cheap cable seem to have eaten up the highs from the bass.

But i believe as the price goes higher, the difference in sound quality becomes smaller.
Apples and oranges here. The OP is not talking about guitar/bass-cables. The latter definitely make a difference, but this is simple physics!
Cables connected to a PU do alter its resonance frequency and this changes sound. Cables connected to active microphones, line signals or anything else donΒ΄t have any effect in normal studio length. Period.
Old 23rd November 2009 | Show parent
  #20
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
are you guys nutz? changed out my cables and it was SOO wroth it. wtf.
Old 23rd November 2009 | Show parent
  #21
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peeweedrummer's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
good quality cables feel nicer when rapping them up, and they dont get kinked as much.
thats enough for me to pay more.
Old 23rd November 2009 | Show parent
  #22
Gear Maniac
 
rtownsend's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I've been impressed with MonoPrice as a company and a good place to get consumer cables (USB, XBOX360 to computer monitor, etc). Not being an audio engineer, I can't form an opinion on these, but I'd like to know what others think of these cables:

Audio Cables - Professional

Disclaimer: I'm not connected with MonoPrice in any way.
Old 23rd November 2009 | Show parent
  #23
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Rabbit's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I'd be curious to hear any feed back on MonoPrice cables as well. My son's a working drummer and bought some for his stage monitor rig and says they sound fine. I've never used them but they do seem to be pretty well built but as cheap as they are it's hard for me to believe there isn't a downside to these cables.
Old 23rd November 2009 | Show parent
  #24
Deleted 99dc753
Guest
I must lie if I would hear a diffrence....

Also would be good to compare the same vocal sample.....
Place two times the same mic if it is recorded....

But anyway this is for esoteric section....
Old 23rd November 2009 | Show parent
  #25
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Subversounds's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben B ➑️
I wonder if I could sell my old XLR cables, and call them "vintage?"

-Ben B

"Great vintage XLR cables. Get that vintage sound you always wanted!!"


lolz
Old 23rd November 2009 | Show parent
  #26
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Ben B's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Exactly! They're definitely "broken in" by now! Some very excellent signals have run through them as well!



-Ben B
Old 2nd August 2013
  #27
Deleted User
Guest
I know this post is old....but there is a definite difference between the two examples. You need good monitors, but its there.

The cheap cable sounds brighter and louder. The "s" sounds have some distortion.

The Monster cable sounded darker, but it could be a volume difference. I didn't detect any clipping or distortion, which is more important to me.

At first I liked the cheap cable sound, perhaps due to a difference in volume, but I like the monster cable because I didn't detect distortion. Yep there is a tonal difference. Could be a flawed test. Would I buy monster cable IRL? No. I wouldn't want that cheap cable either.
Old 2nd August 2013 | Show parent
  #28
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Ephi82's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rabbit ➑️
I'd be curious to hear any feed back on MonoPrice cables as well. My son's a working drummer and bought some for his stage monitor rig and says they sound fine. I've never used them but they do seem to be pretty well built but as cheap as they are it's hard for me to believe there isn't a downside to these cables.
I think they are well made and sound great and are inexpensive. The pricing will blow you away.

I have purchase xlr's, long headphone cables, balanced 1/4" and guitar cords. I use them in my home studio, so I dont know how they would stand up to road abuse.
Old 2nd August 2013 | Show parent
  #29
Gear Head
 
hibbmatt's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Kulka ➑️
In America, at least, radio transmitters are generally not in downtown areas, for numerous reasons. Generally, AM transmitters are located in watery and/or low lying areas away from downtown. FM and TV transmitters are usually on hilltops.
In NYC and other places with skyscrapers, TV transmitters are very common on the tops of buildings. TV transmitters go by line of sight, therefore need to have enough clearance over the largest hill. In fact, many buildings have "multi-purpose" towers on the tops used for all kinds of broadcasting applications. Not to mention, almost every town and city in the states has HAM radio repeaters/transmitters usually on the top of the tallest building in town.
Old 2nd August 2013
  #30
Gear Head
 
hibbmatt's Avatar
However, FM transmitters (as well as HAM radio repeaters) have to be a good distance from the public for risk of radio waves cooking you like a microwave. Just another reason why they often reside on tall buildings.
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