Best XLR connectors money can buy?

marty

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Apr 20, 2010
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Honestly, I'm surprised this thread is even active. Arguing which connector and cable is best is just pointless as Francisco suggests. If someone likes copper, great. Same for rhodium although I do not consider rhodium plating on interconnects great, good or bad but rather unlistenable. And yet, I'm still surprised by uses of some materials in specific applications. For example, I have a complete loom of Masterbuilt Ultras and that are terminated in gold plated copper for source components, but with Bocchino Sliver XLRs from preamp to amp. I thought, hey, if I liked the silver Bocchino's so well in that run, perhaps I'll try a pair from source to preamp. So even though it took 6 months to get a pair, thy finally arrived and when I hooked them up, I was stunned by how bad it was! I thought, Oh, this must be break-in. So I waited, and waited, and waited some more, like I was Waiting for Godot. I finally came to grips that they sucked. Brittle, unmusical, and harsh. I have no earthly idea why. Therefore I then had them reterminated with Nex Gen WBTs (gold/copper) and voila, the magic is back and then some. After many years, it just keeps coming back to me in spades that there are no reliable rules for so much of what we do. Preference is all we have. That's really all there is.

Kind of reminds me of a story....
Many years ago in college, I was listening to a radio show where they were suggesting what you could take that was a legal high. Some guy called in and said that smoking Crayola crayons worked great. About an hour later, another caller dial-in gagging and coughing as he waited for an ambulance to arrive to take him to the hospital. Told the listeners they didn't work!! Duh. Like that poor bastard, audiophiles just have to find out for themselves what works and what makes you gag. (And no, that guy wasn't me!)
 
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ayreman

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Jan 2, 2017
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Even considering there is no best in this hobby, it would be great to know why you prefer these materials - experience, technical reasons, etc .?
Only personal experience and careful testing in my system.
 

johndoe21ro

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Oct 3, 2012
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Xhadow are probably the best XLR connectors on the market... ETI come close!
 

ingemar

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May 21, 2013
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Hi Gents.
I hope you all are safe and sound!!A quick question for you,do anyone recognize the brand of this xlr connectors?
Kindly/Ingemar
 

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cosie

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Apr 1, 2020
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Hi Gents.
I hope you all are safe and sound!!A quick question for you,do anyone recognize the brand of this xlr connectors?
Kindly/Ingemar
looks like they made by TTAF.

Has anyone tried Neotech NEX-OCC connectors? Seems they use the best cooper currently available.
 
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Atmasphere

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May 4, 2010
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The telephone system is why there are balanced lines. The system was rapidly adopted by the recording industry after WW2. Rather than an exotic cable system, instead it was a set of parameters, which if met, meant that the system had a great deal of immunity to the cables themselves, allowing for long distances to be used but the system has a benefit even if the cable is only 6" long.

In high end audio there is a lack of adherence to the principles of balanced line operation. There's actually a standard for how the cables are set up and the equipment grounded, called AES48. In addition the system is meant to be low impedance.

When you ignore all the engineering that went into the system, one problem you get is you can hear issues (audiphiles call them 'differences' and grade the cables as if one is better than the other...) in the cables. So you get a lot of argument in high end forums about which is better, single-ended or balanced, and which cable is the 'best'.

The simple fact is though that if your equipment were supporting the standard, there would be no argument.

Put another way, if you want the 'best' in cables, the first thing to do is seek equipment that supports the standard. Although rare, some high end audio equipment does do that. Tubes or transistors has nothing to do with it. Whether the equipment is single-ended internally or balanced internally also has nothing to do with it (but if its internally single-ended, its likely that there will be line transformers involved to do the conversion from balanced to single-ended and back).

Back in 1988 I started designing a tube preamp to go along with our amps. There were a lot of single-ended tube preamps around at the time (still are) and wanting to stand out (and also knowing the advantages of balanced operation, having a fair amount of exposure to it in recordings on both sides of the glass), I designed what turned out to be the world's first balanced line preamp meant for home audio. It didn't occur to me at the time to not support the standard so I was a bit shocked when other products followed suit with the balanced thing but in no way supported the standard. Shortly thereafter the weirdest, but also predictable thing happened- 'high end ' balanced line cables appeared.

The thing is, the idea behind the balanced line system is that you don't have to use exotic cables! We all know this is perfectly true as well, since any classical recording going back to the 1950s employed balanced lines for the microphones, sometimes running the cables over 200 feet. But throw out those standards and now you need exotic cables. Sheesh! Its such a misapplication; what I've not figured out is whether so many different companies chose to ignore the standards or are simply ignorant.

One example of this is balanced line interconnects for tonearms. You know that weird ground wire that turntables always have? That's there because in a balanced line system, the ground is never used as the ground for the signal. Its independent, and the signal isn't grounded at all. Phono cartridges in a tonearm are thus a balanced source. To run it single ended, you have to ground the grounding system else it will buzz (hence that weird wire that no other single-ended source seems to need). But in a balanced connection the ground is pin 1 of the XLR. So why do we see balanced tonearm cables with a separate ground wire?? The correct answer is the person who made the cable didn't know what they were doing. Why is there a 'ground box' on some exotic balanced cables cables? Same answer.

Sorry for the rant. The short answer to this whole thing is if you want the best out of balanced lines and don't mind getting off of the white elephant merry go round of the latest cable, get yourself equipment that supports the standard. What's nice about this is you literally don't have to worry about cables again- you can run Mogami Neglex or the like and it will sound as good as cable that cost $1000/foot.

BTW if you want the best connectors, Neutrik has had that sewn up for a while. It embarassing to see really expensive copies of ancient Switchcraft designs being hawked as high end. Its no wonder that engineers from the recording world think cable differences are nonsense because quite literally they are.
 

DasguteOhr

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Tecknik1

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May 29, 2017
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Does anyone know what xlr s wireworld uses on there platinum 7 interconnects, while maybe not the best I replaced the stock xlr s with the furutech xlr cf 601 & 602 and perceive a clearer picture, smoother presentation over the stock xlr s offered by WW.

I would like to try the Atlas All Cu XLR Plugs offered from Analog Seduction they look a cut above the rest.
 

whistleraudio

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Jan 6, 2015
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Acoustic Revive has a very nice XLR-connector. We do not use it, but it ticks many boxes. It is solderless which was one of our top priorities when selecting an XLR connector for our interconnects.
 

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DaveC

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Ralph slays dragons again and the thread carries on ;)

That's because it's only half true.

Anyone who thinks materials don't matter and don't contribute to the sound is sadly misguided. Also, to think the dielectric doesn't matter even though it's effects actually determine propagation speed of the signal, etc... is simply not paying attention to cable design considerations that quite obviously audible.

It shows that this is all theory, as anyone could easily test the exact same cables using different materials and hear obvious differences. What's obvious to me is this has never been done.

Science without testing your own hypothesis isn't science, it's wishful thinking.
 

Solypsa

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Of course you are right materials and construction design both make differences.

I can't speak for Ralph but I interpret his post to mean that equipment with well designed and implemented balanced in/outs make cable changes a smaller issue than in lesser equipment all things equal...
 

BruceD

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Better /best?--who knows my Cello gears in the last century used Fischer and Lemo connectors.
The tried and true Neutrik/Amphenol/Xhadow /etc seem to deliver more than satisfactorily in most instances.
BruceD
 
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Atmasphere

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It shows that this is all theory, as anyone could easily test the exact same cables using different materials and hear obvious differences. What's obvious to me is this has never been done.
Yes it has. We did extensive testing back in the late 1980s. In one test we used a variety of balanced line cables using two balanced sources and an old studio cable from the 1950s as a control (it used rubber insulation, which was so old it was cracking and had stranded tin-plated wire for conductors). The cables were all 30 feet long, made by Kimber, Purist and 3rd (Esoteric?) whose name escapes me right now.

Two sources were used to drive the cables: a balanced passive volume control vs the direct-coupled balanced output circuit we use as our line stage in our preamps. Starting with the passive control (since people think that a passive has to be better than an active...), using an Ampex 351-2 tape machine and our balanced phono section as signal sources, the Kimber, Purist and the 3rd cable did well, each having their own 'sound'. The control cable made the system sound broken, like something was wrong with it.

Then we substituted the active line stage in place of the passive controls and did the comparisons again. At this point the differences between the 'exotic' cables were difficult to tell apart and the control cable sounded just as good. It was a pretty dramatic difference- and everything sounded better overall than when the passive volume control was used. (as a side note the passive control had not only a higher output impedance but didn't support the balanced standard since the output of each phase referenced ground, like many 'high end' balanced preamps made today)

These days one of the best connectors you can buy for balanced operation is the Neutrik connector, which typically has either gold or silver contacts and an excellent dielectric. I've found that a lot of the 'exotic' connectors are copies of older Switchcraft and Cannon designs but with silver or gold contacts rather than tin-plate. Tin gets a bad rap but the simple fact is that it shares gold's quality of not corroding easily and is hard enough to survive repeated use- if you are changing the cable around a lot you're often better off with tin plate rather than more exotic materials simply because its more reliable.

Of course the ultimate proof of what I've been saying here is all the recordings from the RCA, Mercury, Decca and EMI classical and jazz catalogs of the late 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, all of which used cables just like the one we used as a control (although they were new back then, but still using rubber insulation and a bit of twine to prevent the cable being damaged if you tripped over it). These recordings have stood the test of time- the better home systems get, the better these recordings sound. Mercury used to park their recording truck behind Northrup Auditorium in Minneapolis and they had to run the microphone cables about 200 feet to get to the microphone preamps in the tape machines. Somehow the signal arrived without degradation! The simple fact is the balanced line system is an exotic cable technology designed to prevent the cable from influencing the sound. In the world of high end audio, we just throw money at the problem (while ignoring the prior art) and hope that the cable 'sounds right', ignoring the fact that the problem was solved 70 years ago.

I've seen balanced cable that cost $1000/foot; a customer of mine had 24 feet of this stuff in his system. He didn't want to audition our preamp because that cable was so stiff and being 70 at the time, he didn't want to mess with it. I told him to use the cable I brought instead and he worried that it wouldn't sound as good- I told him 'just don't buy it if it doesn't sound better'. The next day he bought the preamp and the cables I brought. Apparently he sold off the $1000/foot stuff and got enough money to pay for our preamp and still have money left over. There are very exotic materials in that $1000/foot stuff, with nice connectors on either end. But the balanced line system gets rid of cable differences- that's what its for. So all those exotic materials and connectors literally meant nothing in the face of that.

I remember seeing some audio engineers write some letters to the editor at Stereophile back in the 1990s. They maintained that there aren't any differences between cables- that the exotic cable industry was so much snake oil. If you think about the fact that they are used running balanced lines supported by equipment that meets AES48 and the fact that most audiophiles at the time were using single-ended exotic cables which have no termination standard and other bugs, you can see that those engineers had a point, but were also comparing apples to oranges- the audiphiles were right too. But between then and now, balanced lines have become commonplace in the home so now those engineers' comments are considerably less apocryphal.
 
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