What is your favorite type of microphone cable?

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Technical question regarding mic cables:

What is your favorite type, and why?

I shot out a few kinds and I found Monster Cable to be the best overall for my purposes of recording voice and vocals.

Has anyone found anything better? What type of cables do you use for recording?

Thanks in advance, as always! All of your experience is always greatly appreciated!

Utopia

Posted 2010-09-24T20:15:04.030

Reputation: 14 155

Was it a blind comparison? – endolith – 2010-09-24T21:50:02.763

@Endolith Yes, it was. – Utopia – 2010-09-24T22:37:14.357

o_O What did you have it plugged into? – endolith – 2010-09-24T23:39:37.947

@Endolith Reference Tube pre. – Utopia – 2010-09-24T23:56:14.043

@Ryan, I was pretty concerned we had a GC Disciple in our midst when I saw the title of this thread. I can't really help -- I'm using Radio Shack cables for most of my runs -- but I'm glad you've obviously done your homework and aren't just taking Monster at their word. – Dave Matney – 2010-09-25T16:26:16.217

@Dave Yeah and I also recently worked with Bruce Swedien who swears by Monster. And with his quality of recordings you kind of have to believe him. P.S. He's not a payed spokesperson. He brings 2 Monster cables to every studio for his recordings - he rarely uses what they have in their wall runs. – Utopia – 2010-09-25T19:27:19.363

1Using the same cables as a great audio engineer won't make you a great audio engineer. – endolith – 2010-09-27T20:49:38.240

1@endolith That's true, but it's a good start. Do you always doubt the opinions of professionals? – Utopia – 2010-09-27T21:10:16.897

4Let's start the 48k vs 96k argument next and see some more professional opnions :) – VCProd – 2010-09-28T19:39:12.123

@VCProd Amen. You ask that question - I have already gotten enough flak for asking this one. – Utopia – 2010-09-28T20:44:46.020

@Ryan, Brend or Type? – Cvrgoje – 2010-11-16T11:47:37.863

@Cvrgoje Brand or type of what? – Utopia – 2011-02-09T02:43:19.640

Answers

14

If your Monster Cable changes the actual sound of the recording, I'd throw it away or demand a new one. It's copper, nothing else. Nothing about it should (or could really) change the sound. The point of a cable is to just get from point A to point B without coloring the sound. If your cable is coloring the sound, you're in trouble. If your cable can color the sound, then the longer the cable, the more it would color, and all sorts of problems would occur at longer cable runs.

If you do a true, 100% honest blind test, I guarantee you won't be able to tell the difference between a Monster and something like a Whirlwind or other cheaper brand. IMO, the only reason to buy Monster is because of the warrantee (which is amazing). For the price, though, you could get a much better construction on a cable - something like Mogami or Canari.

The stuff Monster puts on their packaging might be true in a lab with an oscilloscope, but nothing that the human ear can discern. If you can discern it, you are suffering the same problem that occurs when you turn an eq, hear a difference, then later come to find out the eq was never inline in the first place. Your brain wants to hear a difference, so it makes you hear one.

Same thing goes for those $300 IEC cables and such. It's power. As long as you're plugged into a conditioner, it's not going to change the sound of your gear.

So, in short, the thing you want in a cable is good construction and good noise reduction. In general, the quad-star type cables are the best at noise reduction, so I'd go with that. Mid-level Mogami or Canari does just fine. And, if you buy it bulk and solder it yourself, you can get a lot of it for cheap. Monster is fine too, just don't buy the holy-crap expensive stuff. Isn't worth it.

Edit:

Check this out too. Not studio audio, but Audiophile level, but the same idea: Monster A/B

Edit 2:

In case money is no issue and you just want to have the coolest out there (regardless of an increase in function or not), here's some gear pr0n for you to look at: alt text http://www.jpslabs.com/images8/aluminata_xlr10.jpg

(JPS Labs Aluminata XLR Interconnect)

Colin Hart

Posted 2010-09-24T20:15:04.030

Reputation: 7 588

Really? Maybe we're talking about the wrong thing. I'm talking about 100+ feet of runs. I can send you my recordings if you'd like. There is a definite quality difference... – Utopia – 2010-09-25T02:41:51.757

1For very long runs, you might be hearing a difference in the preservation of the sound and noise reduction. Any good quality cable will do. I'd still stay away from Monster. Way overpriced and they're not a very nice company. Also, check out the link I've added to the bottom of my post. – Colin Hart – 2010-09-25T04:08:17.060

Wow nice link, thanks for this. Yeah, I'm talking about longer runs where Mogami sounds thin compared to the Monster. If you want I could e-mail you pictures of the studio I'm talking about. I'm just looking for the best possible quality on the recording because we all know a bad recording is un-recoverable most of the time. – Utopia – 2010-09-25T04:14:09.280

The cable's capacitance could affect the sound if it rolled off the high end. Shouldn't happen with well-designed equipment, but with "high-end" tube equipment, you can never be sure... Also, make sure the cable doesn't generate its own noise from triboelectricity/electret/microphonics when you move it around. But usually the "quality" of a cable refers to the durability, not the sound. – endolith – 2010-09-25T04:16:29.837

2i vote coat hangers. – georgi – 2010-09-25T12:31:21.983

@Colin - I especially enjoyed this Monster Cables story http://www.audioholics.com/news/industry-news/blue-jeans-strikes-back

– VCProd – 2010-09-26T01:40:31.690

1@VCProd: That's awesome. There's a few stories out there like that. Monster just likes screwing people. @georgi.m, @Ryan, @endolith, @VCProd - added some gear pr0n to the post in case you're interested... – Colin Hart – 2010-09-27T03:59:57.967

Ooo. Nice. I like the snake-mesh outer casing. – Utopia – 2010-09-27T04:01:12.757

2They should call them Alluminati, so you feel like you've just joined a secret society. – Dave Matney – 2010-09-27T04:18:19.347

1"I can send you my recordings if you'd like. There is a definite quality difference..." Multiple recordings of the same sound with identical mics in identical position through different cables, and with a definite quality difference? I'd like to see those. – endolith – 2010-09-27T20:45:02.283

@Ryan, @endolith, @VCProd, @georgi.m Somebody just needs to set up an A/B test with an oscilloscope as see how different the resulting waveforms are / aren't. – Colin Hart – 2010-09-28T07:12:07.007

@Colin I have some test gear on order. I'll see if I can get some solid comparisons for you. – VCProd – 2010-09-28T19:45:06.923

@VCProd. Nice. I have access to oscilloscopes and such, just don't know how to use them. I suppose I have access to people who know how to use them... Let me know what you come up with! – Colin Hart – 2010-09-28T20:56:46.643

@VCProd @Colin Hart - Let's not forget that the ear is the final test :) – Utopia – 2010-09-29T06:14:32.167

@Ryan - the point of the test is to figure out if there is a real difference, or if it is purely psychological. Sort of like a blind A/B test on steroids. – Colin Hart – 2010-09-29T07:20:51.840

@Utopia. The placebo is very real and very strong. Please don't think that your ear is more objective than an oscilloscope. I do agree you have to give it credence at times though. – None – 2017-08-19T21:59:34.843

6

Years ago, I worked at Guitar Center. Monster Cable was the best at one thing; making us more money than any other cable. The Monster Cable reps were like used carsalesmen, management pushed us to sell that stuff as much as possible. It was the only thing in the store sold at full retail price. Not even the store manager could sell it for less. The markup was insane.

Chuck Russom

Posted 2010-09-24T20:15:04.030

Reputation: 4 359

1I also used to work at Guitar Center. Same experience here. – Colin Hart – 2010-09-25T19:01:28.773

Wow. Really? I had no idea. The cable I bought was $9 a foot. Pretty expensive, but I needed the shielding. Thanks for the experience! – Utopia – 2010-09-25T19:21:13.540

2If you want the best cable, at the lowest price, buy bulk canare, belden, mogami, etc. Buy some neutrik or switchcraft connectors and solder your own. Alternatively, check out places like redco.com for custom builds.

Personally, I've never had an issue with brands like whirlwind and Proco. For snakes for my PT system I bought Digidesign snakes, they were the cheapest and quality is fine. Only cables I've ever had issue with are Hosa. – Chuck Russom – 2010-09-25T19:50:55.310

1I walked into a music store in LA a few days ago to pick up a 3' cable. Before I'd finished saying "XLR," the rep was steering me toward the Monster rack. He implied that they didn't have any (short) non-Monster cables. It took him a minute of my not going for it before he remembered another rack with less-exorbitantly-priced stuff. @Chuck What was the specific issue with Hosa? – Tyler – 2010-09-25T20:05:50.827

1@Ryan $9/foot?? West Penn 77291 is $122 for 1000 feet, plus $3/connector. Cheap cheap cable, great great quality. – VCProd – 2010-09-26T01:45:19.823

@VCProd Thanks - heh. I guess I got my question answered. – Utopia – 2010-09-26T01:58:30.000

1@Tyler Hosa are cheap with cheap construction. I've used them without issue, but I've also had some develop shorts. For slightly more money, you can get better constructed cable that is easier to repair (should you need to). – Chuck Russom – 2010-09-26T02:21:51.230

@Chuck Thanks. I've never used them; guess I'll steer clear. – Tyler – 2010-09-26T23:09:18.300

I second what chuck says. I mainly use a star quad cable (four conductor with shield) made by belden with neutrik connectors. I make most of my own cables, but I also purchased a couple 100 ft and a couple 50 ft XLR's made by ProCo just to have them on standby for when I mix shows on my mix cart. They're always attached to my utility cart for when I need a long run for some odd reason, and after over three years or use they still work great. I've been looking at buying some the thin canare cable used by Sound Devices for their accessories. That stuff is great, very flexible and well built. – Edwardo Santiago – 2011-02-09T04:18:42.133

6

My favorite type of mic cables are the ones that work! I especially like them if they work even after they've been dragged through the mud, gaffer taped to cars, baked in the sun etc.... No matter how good the sales pitch is or whether they sound 0.0001% better when plugged into a preamp with wooden knobs, if a cable fails it fails 100% and there may never be a take 2, ever.

user49

Posted 2010-09-24T20:15:04.030

Reputation:

4

While many swear by Mogami - I have a few for long runs - most of mine are Canare starquads, and all of them use neutrik connectors, and like Chuck, I've got a few Whirlwinds for special uses (like one-footers for runs from bag wireless units). Nary a problem, but I've got a dozen years' worth of cable purchases that are weak, broken, frayed, noisy, poorly-shielded, verbally abusive, and generally crapulent. Once I discovered Canare and Mogami, no looking back, and no problems unless I do something really stupid.

I can't hear any difference between the good brands I just mentioned.

NoiseJockey

Posted 2010-09-24T20:15:04.030

Reputation: 11 088

@Nathan I have some Canare starquad cables that I build for myself and have had zero problems with them. I also have at least a couple hundred feet of Canare starquad cable on rolls that I've been meaning to build into cables. It's only been 5 years, I'll get to it eventually :) – Chuck Russom – 2010-09-26T02:24:13.980

1I misread, "have been verbally abused." And I thought, yeah man, nothing will cut a cable's life expectancy than low self esteem. :) – MtL – 2010-09-28T15:37:08.853

ROFLMAO, @MtL! :-) – NoiseJockey – 2010-09-28T18:47:40.103

3

If you want good quality, make your own cables. You have full control over how it is shielded and terminated. Like NoiseJockey, I almost always use Caranre starquad cable - I have a reel of 1000 feet that I use as my starter cable. From there, I depends on the application for the connector - I generally use Neutric connectors, XX series. If you're not comfortable with soldering, they have a Crimp Series XX. If you're want pretty cables, you can use the CrystalICON Series that are studded with Swarovski crystals. I wish that was a joke.

There are lots of claims that go around involving the noticeable quality of sound with different connectors, low oxygen copper, etc. The only thing that should be noticeable is any interference, in which case you need to look at your grounding practices.

VCProd

Posted 2010-09-24T20:15:04.030

Reputation: 3 122

It's very interesting, the opinions on this matter. I feel like I have opened a pandora's box by asking it. It's good material to chew and discuss on. I'm curious: If cables sound the same, then why are some solid-state mixboard channels so drastically different? Copper vs copper, transformer vs. tranformer, right? So a Neve transformer should sound the same as a Mackie transformer. Right? – Utopia – 2010-09-26T02:05:16.007

2

Eh, there have just been a lot of wild claims about "boutique" or "premium" audio gear and 99% of it is just fancy sales talk. If it were just copper, they should be the same, but tranformers have different wrap patterns and whatnot that make them unique. If you're just talking about point A to point B, copper is copper. You need the right gaugue and grounding for your application, but the copper is not to blame (or give merit to). Here is a great (mind-melting) white paper on grounding for A/V http://www.surgex.com/pdf/PowerGround.pdf - know it, love it :)

– VCProd – 2010-09-26T02:22:10.590

1a neve transformer should sound different than a mackie transformer, unless the design was copied/licensed/rebranded. nothing to do with copper wire. – georgi – 2010-09-26T10:56:40.607

@georgi.m But what's all the talk about the phase shifting of long cables with Monster being made to have the highs arrive at whatever time with the lows taking a longer time or whatever their secret is. I think that has some difference in it than copper - plus those tests were done with like a foot-long run of cable, right? Not 50 feet or even 10 feet? – Utopia – 2010-09-26T20:41:31.183

1@Ryan, you trust salesmen way too much. – endolith – 2010-09-27T20:40:47.023

@endolith I trust my ears. I trust my equipment. And I trust professionals with real products. – Utopia – 2010-09-28T00:55:54.267

+1 for Canare starquad and neutrik. I use L2S2 for monitors and L4 for recording with NTG-2. – Pretaeperon – 2011-02-09T18:49:35.507

2

My favorite kind is the one that reaches sufficiently from point A to point B and all the pins on one end are the same as the other.

Steve Urban

Posted 2010-09-24T20:15:04.030

Reputation: 6 009

2

Professionals for the most part use Canare with Neutrik ends. The cable should not make any difference in the sound, but the build quality is important especially for film sound folks like me. Your brain might trick you into thinking that cables sound different, but through years of treating cables like the commodity they are I've never paid them much mind. The thing has to work, and if it doesn't you should have a backup ready to fly in. Also as an older mixer than myself once said "if something is wrong you will know it." If you're running such long lengths of cable you might want to look into remote preamps, or placing the preamps closer to the source and running a line level the rest of the way. That would make much more of a difference. Frankly if shielding wasn't an issue I'm sure lamp cord would do the trick just fine.

user1205

Posted 2010-09-24T20:15:04.030

Reputation: 21

1

MIT makes great XLRs and interconnects. But for 100' runs... ayeee... would be way to pricey.

Auddity

Posted 2010-09-24T20:15:04.030

Reputation: 598

0

Good cables are the ones that don't fail, don't get curled and are nice to handle without making you all dirty. Testing with very long cables on a cable drum or coiled up could possibly be a problem as inductance might be caused.

Otherwise I trust Paul Frindle, SSL analog console designer (E,G types), Sony Oxford designer, Sonnox plugins original designer. I'll find his quote later but essentially a wire is a wire, even with extremely long runs nothing but interference (depends on shielding and cable run design) and a VERY slight HF rolloff can occur. the cable lengths to make that HF roll off to be of importance is almost rediculous.

ErikG

Posted 2010-09-24T20:15:04.030

Reputation: 706

0

Can't go wrong with the monster gold-tips. They're shielded better to reduce any noise. All around a good buy.

Detroit Sound Design

Posted 2010-09-24T20:15:04.030

Reputation: 340

0

Different cables definitely can sound different. Anybody who says otherwise simply doesn't know what they are talking about. All you have to do is listen to a good stereo and try a few different brands connecting the CD player to the amp. The differences are obvious. The people who say "it's just copper" simply haven't sat down and tested it out. I'm not saying it makes perfect sense, I'm just saying, it's true. Good luck with your search. I'm searching for the best sounding mic cable right now myself.

hukkfinn

Posted 2010-09-24T20:15:04.030

Reputation: 9

By the way, Monster is not serious cable, if you're talking about a stereo. I doubt their pro gear is any better. – hukkfinn – 2011-02-08T21:59:32.673

-1

I started using Pro Co Ameriquad cable for mic for karaoke singing...I found the difference in the cable I used earlier ones and this one..The difference is clarity, no noise, and excellent and clear sound...I dont have any problem with this..company says ' use or abuse' we will exchange free...I saw a price of $26.75 for 10 foot cable and was browsing for lower price...Zzsounds.com had it for same price $26.75.. when I wanted to place order next day on Amazon.com, I saw the price at $44.95, when went back to Zzsounds.com saw the same $26.75 still on...instead of a patch cord, I ordered 2 of this 10 foot for mic to pre-amp and pre-amp to sound mixer. I do find a quality difference! Instead of going for 3 or 4 times cheaper ones, lets go for 1 cable which would serve us long time..

Stargreen_1

Posted 2010-09-24T20:15:04.030

Reputation: 1

-1

this is silly. More air mattress wind Ryan, that was awesome!

Rene

Posted 2010-09-24T20:15:04.030

Reputation: 10 706

-5

We buy Mogami cable and Neutrik connectors in bulk and roll our own mic/line/instrument cables for our studio. We've also done some blind shootouts, and can assure you that different brands of cable absolutely do sound different from each other. I use the word "different" because "better" is subjective. That said, in our tests we all chose Mogami hands down over ProCo and Whirlwind. We felt that the Mogami cable offered less comb filtering in the high frequencies (some may describe this as being "smoother" in the highs) and extended, even low frequency response on kick and bass.

Oakwood Sound Design

Posted 2010-09-24T20:15:04.030

Reputation: 17

2Comb filtering? Are your mic cables several miles long? o_O – endolith – 2010-09-25T14:56:06.233

3having studied electronics i'm voting this down to keep my sanity. – georgi – 2010-09-25T16:38:39.750

Oakwood - Thanks and I had the same experience. I guess it's an audiophile thing. – Utopia – 2010-09-25T19:22:16.487

Isn't everyone here an audiophile?? – Jay Jennings – 2010-09-27T07:10:11.963

But what about the skin effect?!?! – VCProd – 2010-09-27T14:51:41.630

Just saw the responses here... just wanted to say that I didn't mean to start any problems or anything like that... My post was just a simple report of our blind tests. Everyone in the room came up with the same decision and similar reasons. The bottom line is that none of us knew what cables we were listening to and we all came up with the same winner.... That's it. No implications, just a report of our experience. Thanks! – Oakwood Sound Design – 2011-01-29T15:51:28.497