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What is XLR?

by Stuart Charles Black
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This is part of a FAQ series! Please share and comment if you found any of these articles helpful 🙂

  1. What is Soundstage?
  2. What is Latency?
  3. What is Timbre?
  4. What is MIDI?
  5. What is XLR? (You are here)
  6. What is SPL?
  7. What does Sibilant mean?
  8. What is the Sennheiser Veil?
  9. What Is Headphone Burn-In? [Real Or Myth?]
  10. How Do Noise Cancelling Headphones Work?

Salutations friend and Welcome!!

What is XLR? That’s an interesting question indeed. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, grab a snack, sit back, and relax because…

You’ve come to the right place!!

A staple in the studio.

What I will bring you in this article

  1. Introduction
  2. What is XLR?
  3. The best way to connect an XLR mic to a computer
  4. Final Word

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!


The term XLR can be a bit intimidating at first if you’re just starting out building a home studio. How to build a home studio.

Luckily for you, I aim to keep it really straightforward and organized here 🙂

XLR cables are used to connect various parts of your studio equipment together.

Some common uses:

  1. Connect your audio interface to your Studio monitors.
  2. Connect your microphone to your audio interface.
  3. Connect your microphone to your mixer.

What is XLR?

It’s nice to know what they can do, but what is XLR?

XLR is used to deliver balanced line signals across a long distance.

Because the signal is balanced, it will contain less unwanted noise from outside interference due to what’s known as Reverse Polarity.

An XLR cable functions in the same way as a standard TRS cable, only it uses 3 prongs instead of the Tip, Ring, and Sleeve inherent in a TRS cable.

You want to be using balanced cables since any noise or interference will be canceled out by the time the sound reaches your ears.

XLR cables:

  1. Are balanced.
  2. Have 3 pins inside a circular connector.
  3. Are essentially the same as a TRS (Tip, Ring, Sleeve) cable mentioned above, but look different in their appearance.
  4. Are suitable for both live and studio applications/situations, because they have the ability to travel long distances.
  5. Are used to connect most microphones to their mixers or audio interfaces. Your audio interface. They also allow phantom power to be distributed to these microphones. Other cables are incapable of this feat.

You must make sure that all of your devices have balanced line inputs before using balanced XLR cables.

If any signal in your chain is unbalanced, then it renders your entire chain unbalanced.

In this case, your balanced XLR cables would become useless.

What makes XLR different from an unbalanced signal?

An XLR cable has 2 identical signals, plus a ground signal, whereas the TS cable only has one copy of the audio signal (and therefore more susceptible to noise).

As mentioned in the TRS vs. TS article, one of the signals (on an XLR cable) is basically inverted and sent completely out of phase with the other.

It is flipped 180 degrees essentially.

When two signals are inverted and flipped from each other, it creates a noise cancellation at the other end resulting in happy smiling faces for you and me 🙂

But how does it do this?

  • The polarity flips once on its way down the wires, causing the 2 signals to be out of phase with each other.
  • The sound continues down the wire and is flipped again before it reaches the end.


To cancel out any interference/noise that the wire picked up from outside forces. It does this automatically.

Or automagically. Heh. Pretty neat huh?

So in essence, XLR cables do a great deal in protecting the sound that YOU produce.

The best way to connect an XLR mic to a computer

Final Word

Interested in learning more about my top pick for an audio interface that uses XLR?


Well, that’s about it for today my friend!! I hope I’ve answered the question of “What is XLR?”

If not, please contact me!

Hey Marvin, what do you make of all this? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,





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