Tutorials & Info --> Sound Guide -->
Think a balanced cable has the same weight at each end? Have a
look at our guide to balanced and unbalanced
Any member who wants to sound engineer will get to know all about
XLRs very quickly. Robust, cheap, fairly quick to repair, lockable,
directional and most importantly; balanced, they are the industry
- Used for carrying microphone level and line level signals, XLRs
carry a signal into the female end and out the male connectors.
Note that the male and female connectors relate to the metal contacts,
not the plastic surrounds and that the directionality is opposite
to that found in such things like power cables. In the picture
above, the female XLR is on the left.
- The three pins on an XLR mean that the cable will be able to
cary balanced signals. By connecting compatable equipment together
with XLRs the amount of interference will be reduced, ensuring
better sound quality.
- When connecting microphones up, ensure that the cable is properly
locked in place (it should click) and that the excess cable is
coiled at the microphone end rather than the multi-core or desk
end to allow easy movement of the microphone.
- Try and run all XLRs away from more powerful cables such as
power and speaker cables as this will reduce the noise generated
in the cable. If it is completely nessesary to have an XLR crossing
a more powerful cable, try to ensure that the two cross at right
angles to each other.
- Be sensible, don't use the longest cable for the shortest distance!
1/4 inch Jack
The simple jack is found on a vast amount of musical instruments and
so has become the standard unbalanced connector for professional audio
systems. It is not directional and doesn't lock together but is robust
enough to survive being stood on. There are two varities of jack:
mono (see the picture above) and stereo which has an extra division
along its length.
A stereo jack can be used not just for unbalanced stereo signals
or balanced mono signals but as an insert. This is a method of connection
where one part of the jack is a ground, the second carries a mono
signal from desk to signal processor and the third returns the altered
signal back to the desk. This allows the alteration of the sound
to be performed by the use of a single connection, reducing the
time and complexity usually required with two cables which can get
mixed up. In a mixing desk, the insert affects the signal after
the gain control and before the eq controls.
Phono (or RCA) plugs can be found connecting almost every hifi
together. Simple and cheap, they work very well in such environments
but aren't used for professional audio. There are several problems
with phono connections: they don't lock into place, they break more
easily than XLRs and they are unbalanced which makes them unsuitable
for the long cable runs which we use. They are also identical at
each end which makes it difficult to tell what cable is being used
for what purpose and are only used by Backstage on hifi equipment
such as CD and MD players.
Invented by Neutrik, this
connector is designed to carry speaker level signals from the amplifier
to a speaker. The plug fits into its socket and is turned to lock
them together. The most common mistake with Speakon is that it is
not turned during plugging in and so the connection is not made
but as long as the connections are locked, a Speakon is extremely
robust and reliable, producing a safe and effective speaker cable.