XLR vs. Mini XLR: The Differences Explained


Do you need to connect professional microphones, speakers, or other sound equipment to your computer? Well, then you’re in for a treat! You have two major choices – XLR cables and Mini XLR cables.

The notable differences between XLR and mini XLR cables are that XLR cables are bigger than the latter. Besides, an XLR connector has three to ten pins, while the mini type has three. Also, XLR cables are longer and pricier than mini XLR cables.

These connectors are used in different scenarios, but choosing one might be more difficult if you don’t know their differences. Read on for more information on the differences between XLR and Mini XLR cables and tips on what to consider when buying them.

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The Main Differences Between XLR and Mini XLR

Here are the main differences between XLR and mini XLR cables:

                XLRMini XLR
SizeLargerSmaller
Number of pinsThree to tenTypically three
Cable qualityGenerally better than the mini XLRDecent but not as good as an XLR
Cable lengthOften longerOften shorter
PricePricierCheaper

Here’s a rundown of these differences:

Size

The first difference is that Mini XLR cables are smaller but still carry the same signal.

This makes them perfect for microphones that need to be plugged into a computer because they’re small enough not to take up too much space.

This also makes them more convenient to pack when traveling because they take up less space in your bags.

Number of Pins

The next difference is that these connectors come with varying numbers of pins.

Notably, the typical mini XLR connector has three pins. 

In contrast, an XLR connector comes with up to ten pins.

Cable Quality

The third difference between the two types of cables is cable quality.

It’s essential to ensure that you’re getting excellent cable quality when you buy an XLR cable because it’s carrying a signal for your audio equipment. If there’s any damage to the cable, you’ll lose sound quality.

Because mini XLR cables are made with thinner materials, they can be less durable.

Cable Length

The fourth difference is that the length of an XLR cable is much longer than a mini XLR cable.

The mini XLR cable was not designed to carry signals over long distances. Instead, it can be used for short distances like plugging into a computer or laptop.

An XLR cable has a greater length because it typically carries audio signals between devices in the same room so that you won’t lose signal quality due to interference. In contrast, mini XLR cables are used for short distances.

Price

Another difference is that mini XLR cables are much more affordable than an XLR cable because of their size.

Mini XLR cables are cheaper to produce since they use fewer materials, which means they can be more affordable for you. This makes them great if you’re on a budget.

In summary, mini XLR cables are small and cheap, designed to carry audio signals over short distances. In contrast, an XLR cable is long and can carry audio signals over longer distances.

What To Look For in XLR Cables

Just like with any cable, when you’re looking for an XLR cable, it’s essential to make sure that you’re getting a high-quality product. Look out for the following things when shopping around:

Quality

Make sure that the connectors are made from durable materials to withstand constant plugging and unplugging.

The last thing you want is your cable to wear down and lose sound quality or stop working altogether.

Length and Size

An XLR cable should be the correct length for whatever you’re using it for, whether that’s carrying audio signals over short distances between devices in the same room or long distances across a stage before an audio device.

Make sure it’s the right size to accommodate whatever you need it for.

Price and Affordability

As with any cable, price is a significant factor in determining which one you buy.

An XLR cable is more expensive than a mini XLR cable because of the materials used to make it and its size. If you need to save some money when buying cables, go for a mini XLR cable.

If you’re looking for a quality microphone XLR cable, I recommend this Amazon Basics XLR Male to Female Microphone Cable from Amazon.com. It comes with a PVC jacket for flexibility and a protective metal casing for added durability. Besides, it’s compatible with several sound equipment, including PA systems and speakers.

Amazon Basics XLR Male to Female Microphone Cable - 6 Feet, Black
25,830 Reviews
Amazon Basics XLR Male to Female Microphone Cable - 6 Feet, Black
  • FOR LIVE SOUND & RECORDING: XLR male to female microphone cable for studio recording and live sound
  • 3 PIN CONNECTORS: Zinc alloy 3-pin connectors with nickeling
  • DURABLE & FLEXIBLE: Protective metal housing and flexible 6.0mm PVC jacket

Frequently Asked Questions

Are XLR Better Than TRS?

Generally, XLR cables provide a better signal and are less susceptible to picking up noise. TRS connectors only deliver mono signals and tend to pick noise. 

For a better, clearer sound that can stand up to a variety of conditions and interference, XLR cables are the best choice. 

The Differences Between XLR and TRS

One difference between TRS and XLR cables has to do with how they are used in music. The primary purpose of TRS cables is for musical instruments.

They have a 1/4” (0.64 cm) stereo plug, which means they’ll have a tip and a sleeve. XLR cables, on the other hand, are typically used for microphones or by DJs who want to split audio signals from one device into two different ones.

Another difference between the two is that TRS cables can’t carry phantom power. This kind defeats their usefulness in some cases, which is why XLR cables are typically the go-to type of cable.

The last difference between TRS and XLR cables has to do with flexibility. You can bend a TRS cable any direction you want since it’s just one solid cord. An XLR cable, on the other hand, has two distinct cords that have to be connected in a certain way if they’re going to work.

If you want to bend an XLR cable in a different direction, it can cause unwanted interference.

That said, here’s a list of instances where you should choose TRS over XLR cables.

  • If you’re on a budget
  • If you need patch cables for musical instruments
  • If you’re not using phantom power or if your device doesn’t have it
  • When you’re only splitting one signal into two, instead of three or more

For more information, check out my article about which is better: XLR vs. TRS.

What’s the Difference Between a Balanced Cable and an Unbalanced Cable?

A balanced cable has three conductors (two signal wires plus ground) to reduce the noise picked up during transmission. In contrast, an unbalanced connector has only two conductors (one signal wire plus ground).

Balanced cables are usually used on stage because of their ability to reduce noise interference.

Are XLR Connectors Balanced?

XLR connectors are balanced. These cables have three conductors to reduce unwanted noise interference. Because of that, you can use them in live sound situations where equipment is close together, like on stage.

What’s the Difference Between Shielded and Unshielded Cables?

A shielded cable contains a metal shield, typically aluminum, to protect against external noise. In contrast, unshielded cables lack any foil to protect them from external noise.

Cable shielding is often used in long connectors where the effects from external noise sources can be more pronounced, such as a stage cable for a microphone.

In a nutshell, here are the instances to use shielded cables:

  • If you’re looking for durable, high-quality cables
  • For long cable runs of more than 5 meters (16 feet)
  • Where there will be a lot of noise present in the signal path

Conversely, here are the scenarios that would allow the use of unshielded cables:

  • For short cable runs of up to 5 meters (16 feet)
  • If the signal path isn’t going to be impacted by external noise
  • Where the cable will only be used as a patch cord between two devices for signal splitting

Is XLR Better Than Jack?

XLR connectors are generally more reliable and offer better sound quality than unbalanced connections, such as the Jack. One of the main differences is that XLR uses a configuration that prevents ground loop noise from occurring in the signal.

For more insights into the different types of connectors and cables, you’d find the information in this video helpful:

Final Thoughts

XLR cables are longer and pricier than mini XLRs. If you need a cable to connect your microphone or speaker from the mixer to an amplifier or PA system, then this is the type of cable for you.

However, if it’s just between two microphones or speakers on stage, go with mini XLRs instead because they’ll be easier to manage. Lastly, make sure that whichever connector you choose matches what equipment you have available – otherwise, all of these differences won’t matter at all.

Sources

Last update on 2021-09-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Vinnie

I'm Vinnie, and I'm here to support you to create your own studio at home, whether it’s for photography, recording audio, podcasts, or videos!

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