If you’re new to audio cables, figuring out which cables can be used for what application can be tough.
Let’s compare XLR and 1/4″ TRS cables. Both cables are widely used in the professional audio industry, but which one is right for you?
Quick Answer: Both cables are essentially identical but have different connectors. When comparing XLR vs TRS, the best cable will largely depend on what you’re using it for.
What is an XLR Cable?
XLR cables are typically used for professional audio equipment, such as microphones and speakers.
They have a locking circular connector with three pins that provide a balanced signal for transmitting audio with low noise interference.
This makes them ideal for long cable runs and environments with a lot of electrical interference.
The locking connector is very useful on things like microphones and speakers that must stay connected for the desired duration.
What is a 1/4″ TRS Cable?
TRS cables, on the other hand, are commonly used for connecting compressors, reverbe units, amplifiers or and studio monitors.
They have a cylindrical connector with three sections: the tip, the ring, and the sleeve. The tip carries the positive signal, the ring carries the negative signal, and the sleeve carries the ground connection.
TRS cables can be used for both balanced and unbalanced signals, depending on the application.
TRS cables are often confused with TS cables. Both have a similar looking 1/4″ jack, but TRS cables have three sections and TS cables have two sections. TRS cables are balanced, TS cables are not.
Cable Spec: Balanced Cables
Both TRS and XLR cables are balanced cables. This means they have two signal wires and a ground wire. The two signal wires are phase inverted and will cancel out any noise or interference that an unbalanced cable would typically pick up.
Theoretically, these cables can run up to 1000ft (300m) without noise or interference.
Balanced vs Unbalanced Signal.
In order for the entire signal chain to be considered balanced, both the source and destination must also have balanced connections. While TRS cables are balanced, if the source or destination only has an unbalanced connection, the benefits of a balanced signal chain will be lost.
XLR connections are always balanced, and you don’t need to double-check the source or destination of your signal to make sure the signal is balanced.
XLR vs TRS Connectors
TRS cables use a 1/4″ connector, while XLR cables use, you guessed it, an XLR connector.
The 1/4″ connector is commonly found on instruments such as guitars and keyboards, while XLR connectors are typically used for microphones and speakers.
XLR connectors are also known for their locking mechanism, ensuring a secure connection and minimizing accidental disconnection.
TRS as TS Connectors
It’s worth noting that a balanced TRS cable can also be used as an unbalanced TS cable by using only one of the conductors. However, TS cables cannot carry a balanced signal and are more prone to noise and interference.
Although XLR and TRS cables are identical aside from the connector, you’ll often find XLR used for long runs and TRS used for short “patch” connections.
XLR cables are commonly used to connect microphones to audio mixers and audio mixers to powered speakers.
1/4″ TRS cables, on the other hand, are commonly used to connect outboard equipment (compressors, reverb units, etc.) and studio monitors.
So, which cable is better quality? Well, it really depends on the application. If you’re in a studio setting and need to connect your outboard gear or monitors to your audio interface, a TRS cable will suffice. However, if you’re performing live and need to connect your microphone to the mixing console, a locking XLR cable is the way to go.
XLR vs TRS Pricing
XLR vs TRS FAQs
Is XLR better than TRS?
XLR is not better than TRS as long as the source and the destination are also balanced.
Is A XLR the same as a TRS?
XLR is a different connector than TRS, but they are both high quality, balanced cables that work for audio.
Is XLR to TRS okay?
You can use a XLR to TRS cable. You don’t need a transformer or converter since both connectors use the same cable and underlying technology.
Is TRS balanced or unbalanced?
TRS cables will give you a balanced connection between a balanced source and a balanced destination.
Is TRS Always Balanced
TRS cables are always considered balanced unless used to connect unbalanced equipment.