XLR connectors are used to connect balanced audio signals. Many higher quality microphones provide a balanced output. Balanced connections offer the advantage of lower noise, especially over a long cable run, and less susceptibility to radio and other interference. Balanced wiring works by using three wires. One wire carries the signal. A second wire carries the same signal, but with the phase inverted. The third wire acts as the ground. If an extraneous signal is picked up, it is cancelled as the two signal wires are summed. The Audio Engineering Society (AES) standard AES48 specifies how to make these connections.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Small screwdriver
- Wire stripper
- Soldering iron
Strip ¾ inch of insulation from the cable coming from the microphone.
Strip ¼ inch of insulation from the red wire and black wire in the cable.
Separate the pin assembly from the cap of the XLR plug by unscrewing the setscrew.
Slip the XLR cap over the cable oriented with the opening for the pins toward the end of the cable that you just stripped.
Identify pins #1, #2, and #3 on the pin unit. The pins are laid out in a triangle formation. There is a small ridge in the edge of the pin assembly. The pin that is closest to the ridge is pin #2. Looking at the pin assembly from the rear (the side that you solder the wires to), as you move clockwise from pin #2, you will come to pin #1, and then to pin #3. Pin #3 is at the "bottom" of the triangle.
Solder the red wire to pin #2, the black wire to pin #3, and the ground (shield) to pin #1.
Slide the XLR cap down the cable, over the pin assembly, and tighten the setscrew to hold it in place.
Tips and warnings
- It is a good idea to keep a number of spare cables and connectors on hand.
- Be careful with the soldering iron. It is very hot.
- Double check to be sure you have connected the red wire to pin #2, the black wire to pin #3, and the ground to pin #1.
- Don't forget to slip the cap over the cable before attaching the pin assembly. Otherwise you may need to take the pin assembly off to put the cap on.
- Merely connecting an XLR plug to a cable does not make it a balanced line. The signal source and destination must be balanced signals or else you are just connecting the XLR plug to an unbalanced line.
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