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Thread: Difference between XLR and TRS input on monitors

  1. #1
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    Difference between XLR and TRS input on monitors

    Hi there-

    I've recently purchased a new pair of monitors for my setup, and I'm currently using the TRS input on the back of my old monitors, which connects to my mixer. I'm not particularly tech savvy, but could someone explain to me what the main differences of using an XLR cable would be, rather than using the TRS input, other than the fact that it's a larger cable/3 pronged, etc. I'd like to keep my current cables, rather than purchase new ones, but I'm wondering if there are some advantages of using XLR.

    Any input would be greatly appreciated!!

    Thank you kindly.

  2. #2
    In most cases the difference between TRS and XLR is the connector. Both are intended to carry a balanced line level signal. XLR are preferred because the connectors are more durable. 1/4" TS connectors are different, they're made to carry an unbalanced signal. In rare circumstances TRS are intended to carry a stereo signal. If in doubt there's always the owner's manual.
    Bill Fitzmaurice
    Bill Fitzmaurice Loudspeaker Design
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  3. #3
    Moderator pete's Avatar
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    You won't get any difference in sound quality from XLRs. TRS and XLR carry the exact same balanced signal.
    They are just more durable connectors and are certainly a safer fit when playing live.
    So something to put well down the list of investments into your setup.

    If you have a soldering iron look into building your own cables. You can get excellent quality for comparitively cheap prices.
    bored, curious, deaf or just bad taste in music?
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    and what's this, another shoddy mix...another dull mix

  4. #4
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    All of the DJs I work with have questioned me about the differences in RCA, TRS and XLR interconnects. For some reason they were all under the impression that XLR cables deliver better sound quality than the others and I had to work pretty hard in some cases to make them understand that there is absolutely no difference in the sound quality produced with any of these formats, it is about the greater mechanical durability of XLR and TRS connections and superior noise rejection over longer distances available with balanced connections.
    Paul O'Brien
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  5. #5
    Some XLR panel mounts have a solder pad into the connector casing.. I'm unsure of the exact reason behind this but it's probably a safety ground point in case the cable shorts and the connector/casing becomes energized (not so that you can booby trap your equipment against misuse/theft by wiring mains etc power to it via a hidden lift switch but it's possible in theory, although you probably just shoot yourself in the leg by doing so)

    EDIT : another is that XLR has 4 types of connectors.. male/female panel mount and male/female plug, afaik there are no male panel mount TRS/RCA. This allows you to form longer cables when needed and you only have to carry XLR male/female cables without the need for extension adapters etc as most TRS/RCA cables are male-male and chassis connectors are female. In XLR the signal flow is standardized as male to female unlike in 3-phase 16A, amplifier outputs don't use XLR though because you could short the pins by accident. On 1/4"s defense XLRs are interlocking which may cause the equipment to fall if you or someone else trips on the cables whereas TRS isn't.

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    Thank you everyone for your input. I really appreciate all of the insightful knowledge and help. Have a good weekend!

  7. #7
    Banned™ Manu's Avatar
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    In a nutshell:

    XLR cables' purpose is to shield against interference over longer distances. So you can run live setups types of cable lengths and it won't pick up Bob John's local pirate CD radio signals and/or things like that.

    XLR plugs are better quality in my opinion, metal with locking mechanism versus plastic.


    When you're on a home setup and running something like 6 or 10 feet of cable, none of this really matters.

  8. #8
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    And off topic: how should i set the level/gain on each monitor? I've always just kept this in the middle. This is for home DJing....Thx so much!

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Manu View Post
    XLR cables' purpose is to shield against interference over longer distances.
    To expand on this, balanced lines reduce interference, and also eliminate ground loops. XLR are almost always balanced lines. TRS is balanced as well, so it has the same properties. 1/4" TS isn't balanced, so it's prone to interference and ground loops. Now, as to why TRS is used at all, since XLR connectors are better. A lot of gear only has 1/4" TS connectors. TRS will work with a balanced TRS plug, and it will work with an unbalanced TS plug, although without the improved noise rejection of a balanced line. If what you're plugging into has XLR and TRS you can use it with a source that has XLR or TRS or TS outputs. Having RCA would add that option, which is unbalanced just like TS, but RCA is almost never used with pro gear, as the plugs and jacks are too delicate.
    Bill Fitzmaurice
    Bill Fitzmaurice Loudspeaker Design
    www.billfitzmaurice.info/forum

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Fitzmaurice View Post
    TRS will work with a balanced TRS plug, and it will work with an unbalanced TS plug
    Except if the TS shell is conductive which is when the ring (=right ch, neg phase etc) shorts to sleeve/ground.

    Not much of a problem with line level but in high power applications like guitar amp heads and power amplifiers you get whatever the amp is pushing into it.

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