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Why you should NEVER use a
regular 1/4" to XLR mic cable

The 1/4" end has 2 connections (signal, ground) & the XLR end has 3 connections (+ phase, - phase, ground). So how do 2 connections magically become 3? They don't.

Inside the XLR, pin 2 is connected to the 1/4" hot, but what about pin 3?

It usually gets tied to ground.

Why should you care?

Without all 3 pins, the connection is not balanced, meaning it can't reject radio interference. Essentially it's become a giant 1/4" to 1/4" cable. It's not the XLR connector that matters, it's the balanced audio behind it.

The signal is sent down 2 wires, pin 2 is the normal signal, but pin 3 is the out of phase. A mirror image of pin 2. Since radio interference would hit both wires, when you take the DIFFERENCE between pin 2 & 3 you get the signal, but the rf noise is gone. This is balanced audio, and it has to be XLR on BOTH ENDS.

What should you do instead?

This is what a direct box is for. 1/4" unbalanced in. Transformer inside balances the signal. XLR out with the ability to lift ground in case there's a buzz.

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Here's a pdf of an article I wrote for Audio Media Magazine
"Interfacing with Inexperienced Clients"

About the Owner
photo of Lonnie Bedell of AVlifesavers.com My name is Lonnie Bedell, and I'm the guy behind AVLifesavers. Unlike big companies, I've been doing actual live sound work since 1995, and live recordings since 1985.
It's that kind of real world experience that I feel makes AVLifesavers stand out. It's one thing to examine problems theoretically, it's a whole different thing to deal with frantic last minute changes from an inexperienced client who wants it done yesterday.

Been there, done that, so I've designed products to solve live sound problem fast.

All products are assembled right here in the USA. Living Wages to American workers is and will always be part of the fabric here, despite the temptations.

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