Let’s compare the 2 most common types of XLR cable. In this article, we’ll look at the differences between twisted pair and star-quad XLR cables. We’ll explain the pros and cons of each and give you our XLR cable recommendations for studio and live sound use.
Quick Answer: We recommend investing in star-quad XLR cables for a studio setting as they do a better job of preventing electromagnetic interference. Less expensive twisted pair XLR cables are great for live events, and longer cable runs where interference isn’t an issue.
If you’re trying to find the best XLR cable for your microphone, check out our XLR cable buying guide now.
Twisted Pair Overview
The twisted pair is by far the most prevalent wiring configuration found in XLR cables. Materials and manufacturing processes vary by brand, but all twisted-pair XLR cables share the same basic design principles.
- Outer PVC covering.
- A layer of copper shielding.
The copper shielding wraps around the inner components of the cable along its entire length. This shielding is wound up at either end and soldered to an XLR connector, acting as the ground for the audio cable.
- 2 x copper cores.
Typically protected inside a PVC covering, each of these cores carries a version of the audio signal. The signals are identical except for the fact one is phase inverted. The inverted signal is realigned at the destination device in a process designed to cancel out electromagnetic noise and interference.
Twisted Pair & XLR Connector Wiring
Simplifying the overview above, the 3 components inside the cable are soldered to the 3 pins on an XLR connector.
- The cable’s copper shielding is wound together and soldered to the ground.
- One of the copper cores carries the standard version of the audio signal.The second copper core
- carries the phase inverted version of the audio signal.
Twisted Pair Pros & Cons
- Inexpensive to make.
- Relatively easy to make yourself.
- No noticeable audio quality difference between the cheapest and most expensive twisted pair XLR cables. Check out our Amazon Basics XLR cable review.
- Susceptible to interference in environments with a lot of lighting, speakers, computer monitors, and other electronic devices. We’re basically describing a studio or home recording setup.
Star-quad is a newer XLR cable wiring configuration designed to perform better than a twisted pair cable in environments with more electromagnetic noise.
- Outer PVC Covering.
- A layer of copper shielding.
So far, this looks just like a twisted pair cable. The copper shielding surrounds the inner components and is soldered to an XLR connector at either end, acting as the cable’s ground.
- 4 x copper cores.
This is where the star-quad configuration differs in design from the twisted pair. There are now 2 pairs of copper cores that are more tightly wound together down the length of the cable. This means there are now 2 cores carrying the regular audio signal and 2 cores carrying the inverted version.
Star-Quad & XLR Connector Wiring
Things are a little bit more complex when it comes to wiring a star-quad cable to an XLR connector. There are now 5 components inside the cable being soldered to the 3 pins on the connector.
- The cable’s copper shielding is wound together and soldered to the ground. Exactly the same as a twisted pair configuration.
- One pair of copper cores is soldered to a single pin to carry the regular audio signal.
- The second pair of copper cores are soldered to a single pin to carry the phase inverted audio signal.
Star-Quad Pros & Cons
- Preserves the quality and integrity of a balanced audio connection in intense environments that typically cause degradation of a signal with a traditional twisted pair XLR cable.
- The cable’s parallel lines increase capacitance, creating the potential for loss of higher frequencies over longer cable runs (longer than 50′).
- More expensive due to increased material and labor costs.
- Less flexible due to the additional cores.
Studio XLR Cable Recommendation
We recommend using star-quad XLR cables in a studio environment as they offer greater protection from interference. Guitar amps, studio monitors, TVs, and computers are all sources of electromagnetic interference, so it makes sense to go with the safer star-quad option.
They’re not that much more expensive, and even if you don’t have problems now, they’re more likely to help you than hurt you in the long run. The Canare L-4E6S star-quad XLR cable is our recommendation; click the link to read our review.
Live Sound XLR Cable Recommendation
With live sound and live events, there are a couple of factors to consider. There is generally less electromagnetic interference as everything is spread out over a larger area. You’ll also be working with longer cable runs.
For both of those reasons, a traditional twisted pair XLR cable is the better option in this kind of environment. It doesn’t make sense to pay more or deal with the other downsides of using a star-quad cable with a live sound setup.
Twisted Pair & Star-Quad XLR Cable Pricing & Specs
- Canare XLR Cable: https://currentprice.io/canare_xlr
- Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro Headphones: https://currentprice.io/beyer_dt_990
- XLR Cable: https://currentprice.io/xlr_cable
- TRS Cable: https://currentprice.io/trs_cable
- Mic Stand: https://currentprice.io/desk_stand
- Rode PSA1 Boom Arm: https://currentprice.io/boom_arm
Twisted Pair & Star-Quad XLR Cable Topics
- 0:00 – Introduction
- 0:47 – Twisted Pair Overview
- 1:45 – Twisted Pair & XLR Connector Wiring
- 2:11 – Twisted Pair Benefits
- 2:40 – Twisted Pair Cons
- 3:17 – Star Quad Overview
- 3:52 – Star Quad & XLR Connector Wiring
- 4:22 – Star Quad Benefits
- 4:46 – Star Quad Cons
- 5:45 – Studio Recommendation
- 6:22 – Live Sound Recommendation