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From XLR to RCA Adapters

Picture of XLR Jack to RCA Plug Adapter

Most audio equipment will typically have XLR and RCA ports and cables. For music recording and live music equipment, XLR is the cable of choice, whereas RCA is usually found in personal and home audio devices. Cannon was the first to come out with XLR cables, but now many companies manufacture these types of connectors and cables. RCA was first developed by Radio Corporation of America, and hence it was named after its initials. Generally, these XLR and RCA cables are not used in direct conjugation with each other, but sometimes the need does arise, and in such instances, you need XLR to RCA adapters.

Between XLR and RCA, Which is the Better Connection?

Since XLR is usually used in sophisticated setups and professional audio equipment, people assume this connection would sound better. Even though there is some truth in this, it is not always so. To compare the two connections it is important to analyze their signals. In an XLR connector, the hot pin carries the signal, the cold pin carries the mirror image inverted signal, and the third pin is the earth.

The XLR socket in the equipment that receives the signal, the noises that are common to the cold and hot pins, are cancelled. Such a setup is especially necessary for recording equipment in studios, where the length of the cable is quite long, and the signal from the microphone that has a small voltage, has to be carried over a long distance.

On the other hand, XLR connections are not required in home hi-fi systems where the interconnecting cables are not going to be more than one to two meters, and the signal has power of about 4 volts. However, apart from the technical requirements, the quality of sound plays an important role in audio equipment. This is where things become dicey, as it boils down to the audio system. In certain systems, the sound from XLR connection sounds better, whereas in some systems RCA provides a much better audio.

XLR connections are considered balanced, whereas RCA are unbalanced. Just because balanced connections cancel out the noise and hum of the equipment, it does not necessarily mean the sound quality is impressive, as it has a low-level signal. On the other hand, when the connection is unbalanced, there is high-level signal, and since the cable is not very long, the interconnection will produce a much better sound quality.

The Requirement for XLR to RCA Adapters

When you are connecting two audio equipment devices, you will need to consider the sockets available on both. If both XLR and RCA sockets are available on both pieces, then it is better to try these connections individually and figure out, which sounds better. However, when one has XLR, and the other has RCA, or you simply want to switch the interconnecting types, you will need XLR to RCA adapters.

Picture of XLR Jack to RCA Plug Adapter

The XLR to RCA adapter is mainly used to convert XLR signal to RCA, or the other way round. These adapters can also convert input of XLR to standard 1/8 or 1/4 inch microphone or headphone jacks. However, when using such adapters the benefits of balanced electronics will be lost, because the RCA cable will be unable to eliminate interference and ground noise from the signal. Hence, such a setup will not make much sense in a professional recording setup with a microphone, but might provide better sound quality when connected between playing equipment and speakers or headphones.

What is XLR to RCA Adapter?

The XLR to RCA adapter is a cable with XLR connecter at one end and the RCA connector at the other. However, for the signal to adapt to another connector, the wiring will be different. For instance, in a simple adapter that has one 3-pin XLR and one RCA at the other end, the wiring similar to one used for making a connection between XLR and a quarter inch jack plug. The wires running from the shield and negative pins of the XLR are joined together at the RCA end by soldering them to the sleeve of the RCA connector. Another way of wiring would be to soldering the link between the negative and shield pin in the XLR end itself and running a single wire to the RCA sleeve. Both ways of doing are fine and does not make any difference in the sound quality.

Types of XLR to RCA Adapters

There are different types of XLR to RCA adapters depending on the materials used, and the male or female type of connector required at either end. Your choice of male or female connector for XLR and RCA will depend on the type of sockets available on the instrument. This means you could have:

  • Male XLR to male RCA adapter cable
  • Female XLR to female RCA adapter cable
  • Male XLR to female RCA adapter cable
  • Female XLR to male RCA adapter cable

You should also note that an XLR jack will transmit signal from only one channel and therefore you will require XLR jacks for right and left channels, which will connect to the RCA end for stereo music.

The quality of XLR to RCA adapters is influenced by the construction design and the materials used in the connectors. Adapters using silver and rhodium materials for connector contact surfaces will be much superior to adapters made from other materials. The female RCA connector should preferably be non-magnetic with rhodium over silver and eutectic brass materials. Secondly, when the signal path is short and the connector has a single-piece construction it will be superior to others.

XLR to RCA adapters are also available for specific audio equipment. For instance, the Music Streamer Pro has mini outputs in XLR, and a company manufactures adapters having mini female XLR connectors at one end and a full-sized male RCA at the other end. Hence, you can shop for XLR to RCA adapters depending on the specific type of equipment you need to connect.

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