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Are XLR Cables Balanced? Which One Should You Use?

Are XLR Cables Balanced

Are you worried if your XLR cables are not balanced?

Cables are used in an audio system, and how they are placed together can greatly impact your system’s sound quality.

But I’m here to kiss your worries goodbye. In this article, you will learn about balanced and unbalanced cables,

And find out the differences, types of balanced and unbalanced cables, and when to use them accordingly!


  • XLR cables can be balanced or unbalanced, but balanced ones are preferred as they are better at reducing interference and noise.
  • Balanced XLR cables or microphone cables transfer balanced signals, which are better for recording and live performances.
Table of Contents

Are XLR Cables Balanced?

Most XLR cables are balanced, although some are not.

These cables are unbalanced in a scenario when the inner components have malfunctioned or have been damaged.

XLR cables are used for live performances, live shows, and professional recording sessions.

These cables have three wires or pins and a circular connector. These cables transmit balanced microphone and line-level signals over long distances.

Furthermore, XLR cables are considered microphone cables.

They can transmit a balanced signal that will minimize noise picked from outside electrical interference.

Can I Use Any XLR Cable Then?

You can use any XLR cable, but we would suggest that you use balanced XLR cables.

XLR cables are crucial for recording audio with microphones or live performances. These cables are capable of making excellent sounds.

Balanced XLR cables are the most reliable for reducing unwanted noise from the outside. They have circular connection points with three pins:

  • Positive
  • Negative
  • Ground

Balanced cables or microphone cables are composed of three parts: connectors, conductors, and shielding.

The conductors of balanced cables have internally installed wires and are responsible for transporting audio signals.

The shielding operates the function of protecting the information that is transmitted through the conductors.

What Are Cables For? What Do They Do?

Every cable in an audio system can add noise to be able to compromise the sound quality of the connected components.

That’s why it’s important to use the RIGHT audio cables!

Even if microphones contribute to making great sounds, audio cables are just as vital when creating the desired audio quality.

Any audio cable is receptive to noise interference from outside sources. Typical noise interference comes from power cables placed near the audio cable.

Balanced XLR Cables Does Not Mean Balanced Input or Audio

A common misconception about balanced and unbalanced cables with regards to the audio mix of the signal.

Neither of the balanced and unbalanced cables affects the balance audio level.

A stereo channel’s left and right channels are NOT impacted by a cable as long as it’s not transmitting a single signal.

Any static or unclear audio signal can come from unbalanced signals that merge with a balanced mixer.

Why Should You Use Balanced XLR Cables?

Aside from getting a balanced signal and preventing unbalanced audio or unbalanced input, these cables send all:

  • Positive audio signal
  • Negative audio signal
  • Ground signal

Each of the positive and negative numbers on the audio signal is identical, except that each is inverted.

The audio signal that contained the noise is now an inverted signal. When the inverted signal is mixed with the original noise, both cancel each other out.

What’s left now is the original signal!

Balanced vs. Unbalanced Cables

We are narrowing down the differences between a balanced audio cable and an unbalanced cable.

Let’s get into it!

First Things First: What Are Balanced Cables?

A balanced audio cable creates XLR cables. People often get confused by referring to an RCA cable as an unbalanced cable.

Conventional RCA cables are where the negative signal and ground wires are placed together.

Balanced cables have female and male terminals with three pins connecting to one of the three dedicated wires in jack cables.

Two wires are for passing the signal, and one is a ground wire.

The ground wire acts to surround the signal wires and protects against radio frequency, EMI, and other interference.

But what makes a balanced cable special is how it uses the two dedicated signal wires.

What Are the Two Wires For?

The two signal wires are created with the same materials and have the same electrical impedance.

When these two signal wires are used to transmit a signal between balanced connection points, both wires in a balanced XLR cable carry the same signal but opposite polarity.

One signal wire carries a positive signal, while the other carries the inverse, a negative signal.

This forms a balanced connection and is generally how balanced XLR cables are used.

What Is a Reversed Polarity? Is It Important?

In a reversed polarity, the two signals cancel out any unwanted noise or signal interference and make it COMPLETELY SILENT.

Any noise through the external cable shielding will be added evenly to both the positive and negative signal wires but will not impact anything between the two opposite-polarity signals.

What Are Unbalanced Cables?

Although an unbalanced cable is the opposite of a balanced XLR cable, they are also mistaken for RCA connectors.

Unbalanced cables have two connection points and two conductors each. They are also connected by two wires that are a signal wire and a ground wire.

It is honestly easy to determine a cable created to transfer unbalanced signals by its connectors. How?

Because each wire needs to wind up at the connectors with its contact point, an unbalanced cable needs only two conductors at the connector.

On the other hand, TS and RCA cables are unbalanced cables that you’ll end up using on stage the most.

Standard RCA cables are commonly used for many AV components.

How Does An Unbalanced Audio Cable Work?

Unbalanced cables connect audio equipment like a guitar to an amp. Of course, guitar cable is what you’ll often connect with anyway.

Unbalanced cables are not great at compressing unwanted noise from outside interference.

So when you get an unbalanced cable, it should have a maximum length of 15-20 feet, especially in super loud environments with very low audio signals.

The ground wire has two roles.

  • It carries a portion of the sound signal and delivers to the foil shield and from the main signal wire to some extent from outside interference from noise.
  • It does a decent job of rejecting noise, but in this scenario, the wire also acts like an antenna and picks up noise.

Where Does the Noise Come From?

Typical noise impinging comes from power cables placed close to the audio cable.

To avoid sound from impinging on unbalanced cables, place them next to the power cables perpendicularly and away from TV and radio signals.

When Should You Used Balanced or Unbalanced Cables

Balanced cables have an advantage over unbalanced cables since the sound signal can travel much farther.

Moreover, a balanced cable can cancel out the noise, making it perfect for microphone setups near a display monitor.

Balanced connections are also great for stereo connections like headphones and microphones.

Types of Unbalanced Cords and Cables

Let’s get to know the different unbalanced audio cables that you can use with your music writing.

TS Cables

TS cables are guitar cables because they are the standard connection for electric guitars.

TS connections are identifiable by the ring on the connector, the bottom ring is for the ground wire, and the ring is closer to the prompt wire’s tip.

AV Cables

These cables are what most gamers refer to as older gaming consoles. These are also RCA cables specified for audio and video connections.

These cables are also color-coded, which tells you where the jack connector goes.

RCA Cables

These function with analog devices like older TVs and monitors. They have two connection points, one for the right signal and one on the left.

These white and red connectors help you determine which of the two signals is receiving.

Types of Balanced Audio Cables

On the contrary, these are the balanced audio cables that you can try using.

TRS Cables

TRS cables are balanced.

They are similar to TS cables, and you can even place them near each other because they can both carry a balanced or unbalanced signal.

XLR Cable

Avoid unbalanced connections by using an XLR cable. XLR connectors only hold balanced inputs or balanced signals.

An XLR connector can transmit balanced audio or signals up to 200 feet.

These cables are commonly used to attain balanced connections.

One advantage that separates it from the rest is the ability to support much longer cable runs or to transmit low-level signals.

Professional recording studios and other pro audio applications have long cable runs or low-level signals from microphones and musical instruments.

They usually revert to balanced connections for their common-mode rejection of noise.


This balanced cable is the standard for modern visual connections like game consoles and PCs.

It works faster than AV cables in transferring audio and video signals and can send unbalanced stereo signals and balanced mono.

How to Choose the Right Cables

When choosing the audio cables that best suit your needs, it is important to know if you need balanced or unbalanced cables.

Even though these cables work similarly, each provides different results in audio quality and restrictions.

It’s essential to know that even if you use a balanced cable on an unbalanced connection, you will get no benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Some questions to add more information and clarify some of your possible curiosities about balanced and unbalanced audio cables.

What Happens If My Equipment Has An Unbalanced Signal?

It’s fine to connect balanced signals into equipment with an unbalanced signal, which will still work fine.

Although, if you want to balance an unbalanced signal, you might need an extra signal wire.

Sometimes, you would need a hot wire, a cold wire, and a separate screen.

Do I Need A Direct Injection Box?

You may need a direct injection box if you are running LONG cables for instruments such as bass guitar or electric guitar without losing signal quality or adding noise.

Don’t forget to get your power amplifiers too!

Which Cables Are Not Balanced or Unbalanced?

We have two cables that are neither balanced nor unbalanced: the USB and MIDI.

These cables do not send nor deliver any audio signals at all. These cables only transfer digital messages between the connection points.

Do Balanced Cables Work Better Than RCA Cables?

The RCA cable would be sufficient with short cables and little to zero noise involvement.

The noise-resistance capability of balanced connections surely caters to the prime benefit of ensuring a better signal and removing noise


Bottom line, which of the two cables should you use? The option is heavily up to you, but we strongly suggest using balanced cabling.

They are less receptive to noise and can offer you a signal you can truly depend on as you perform. They also work stronger over long distances.

About the author


After becoming obsessed with the beats that were the soundtrack to his youth, Nick became a student of hip hop, digging for vinyl records, looking for the perfect break. Before he got his hands on an MPC sampler, he would mash these records, beats, and breaks into mixtapes and live DJ sets.