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XLR / PA

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XLR Basics

What is XLR?

XLR is a standard connector used for signal transmission between audio, video and lighting equipment. XLR connectors are also known as Cannon plugs, in reference to the Cannon Electronic Company, which first introduced this connector to the market.

Where is XLR used?

Typical devices that are connected using XLRs include microphones, loudspeakers and mixing consoles. XLRs are also used to control special equipment such as fog machines and spotlights. Connections via XLR cables are used as professional equipment by musicians, event technicians, DJs or stage technicians. XLR cables provide good sound and high-quality transmission for home entertainment, in recording studios, at concerts and on stage. Even at greater distances, XLR cables provide interference-free signals without noise in studio quality. They enjoy a good reputation as the perfect professional accessories for music enthusiasts and all people who depend on crystal-clear sound and reliable audio-visual transmission in the event sector. Even youtubers and podcasters who work with high-quality microphones usually use an XLR connection. Audio mixers such as the GO XLR or the GO XLR MINI offer an XLR input.

What is the pinout of an XLR connector?

XLR cables transmit analogue signals in the same way as RCA and phone plug connections. The biggest difference, however, is that XLR cables are balanced. Unlike asymmetrical cables, which have only one signal and earth wire, XLR cables have two signal-carrying wires and a negative pole (earth). This small difference has a big impact: Signals can be transmitted without loss of quality and free of noise and crackling. XLR stands for "External Live Return" and refers to the XLR wiring, i.e. the connections of the internal wires in a simple three-pole plug-in connection.

Why does an XLR cable transmit without interference?

The signal is sent via the live cable, just as it is sent via the return cable, but inverted and with a negative sign. At the receiving device, the signal from the return cable is reversed to positive and added to the live signal. All interferences that have crept in during the transmission have the same sign on both cables. By reversing the polarity at the end of one channel, positive and negative noise cancel each other out. The sum of the noise is therefore zero. This way, you get an interference-free signal, even over long distances of up to 50 metres. Mutual interference with other electrical devices is also no longer an issue. XLR connections are therefore always the first choice when laying long cables at live events or recordings under studio conditions, where particularly high sound quality is important.

Other advantages of an XLR connection

XLR connectors have a small but practical locking mechanism. This prevents the cable from being accidentally pulled out if too much strain is put on it. When plugging in an XLR connector, signals and ground remain separated from each other. Unlike a jack plug, there is no loud crackling noise. XLR cables can transmit phantom power, which is needed to supply condenser microphones. Because of their simple construction and robustness, XLR plugs and sockets are among the most commonly used connections in sound and event technology. A quick repair with a soldering iron and solder is also possible on stage. The disadvantage of XLR cables is that the plugs and sockets are relatively large and therefore cannot be used on small equipment.

XLR to jack plug adapter

XLR and 6.35mm jack both transmit analogue signals. Since both are mainly used in the audio sector, you will find sufficient adapters in both directions. The most common connection is the three-pin plug. However, please note that there are also other variants with 4 to 7 poles.

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