Objective differences between XLR and Jack
In terms of sound quality as seen in previous articles, the unbalanced system is better than his successor balanced be it passive or active as it does not have the center-tapped transformer or electronic balancing circuitry means.
The Jack is much more used of XLR to carry voltages in the order of volts as the signal for example audio effects processors, equalizers etc .. and in the transport of a few millivolts as the outgoing electrical signal from devices such as guitars, basses, as compared to XLR has a much lower resistance having a copper cable with a larger cross-section thus affect much less the signal flow, and because having short cables leverages the quality of unbalanced circuits. In the case of the microphone signal, according to the standard it is necessary to use balanced connections because of external noise and more solid type and the best connection, in fact as against Jack has a less secure connection of XLR, just pull towards the opposite side in which is connected to remove it and then you accidentally or by mistake it is easy to remove the connector from its housing, while the XLR has locking systems that prevent the disconnect cable, if not by directly removing the appropriate block. In addition, the standard connection for XLR, owns the very small cross section of conducting pin in order to increase security but just allowing a lower section of the conductor.
The Jack, is used for short distances 10m Max. beyond which they warn the signal attenuation and the introduction of distortions since it is a conductor not balanced.
The connection Jack compared to that XLR not present major advantages in terms of convenience of use, since both the in which the out are of identical form and size (fig. 1), while the XLR follows a standard for the in (connector holes) (fig. 2), and another for the out (pin) connector (fig. 3).
Fig. 1 Fig. 2 Fig. 3
Some cable-conductor XLR especially for use in the studio (controlled environment from electromagnetic interference) and for short distances not have the protective shield, improving the final quality of the cable being devoid of a conductor in most, but only as said above all for short-haul.
As it regards the combo connections (found mostly in the input stages and much less so in those of output), the quality of the connection greatly depends on how the connector is constructed, generally, however, it is less than like having two connections (XLR and Jack separated). The XLR input will always end to a microphone pre-amplifier and/or A/D converter, while the input to Jack will always be a line input or instrumental that will always end or to its own pre-amplifier (more qualitative) or at the same microphone pre-amplifier of the XLR (less qualitative).
Also the shape and size of the connector as seen is essential to ensure the stability and quality of the audio signal over time, against external interference, damage and to allow a perfect and transparent interfacing on the signal path between two devices.
A HIGH QUALITY CABLE WITH A CONNECTOR DRAWER WILL RESULT A PORR QUALITY CABLE.
Some connectors possess on the terminal part asymmetrical foils with spring that when you go to insert the connector in the appropriate input or output they are compressed and rubbing on the pins cleaning them from possible oxidations and dirt, in this case it is possible for which to clean the connector by inserting several times the connector.
Others are realized with non-magnetic coverages (plastics) to protect the return of the signal against saturations due to the possible magnetic fields that are going to create for example a poor shielding, self-induction phenomena and against reaction of the input circuit.
Bantam (fig. 4)
Others are unbalanced or balanced connectors called bantam, have the same principle of Jack, but they are stronger and have a better type of wiring, and with higher quality signal transport. It is almost exclusively used in situations Recording Studio for signal bridges on Patchbay bantam. These connectors have a size of 1/6-inch.
There are primarily two types of insert cables, insert Jacks (fig. 5) and insert Jack – XLR (fig. 6).
They are the conductors that are used to carry the audio signal both in output and input to a device from the same connection, for example, used to connect outboard processors such as compressor, gate, limiter, expander, and also equalizers. They have the shape of a y as shown in figures 4 and 5, in which in one end will be composed of a Jack TRS and the other by two Jack TS in which a TS will have the signal carried by the TRS Tip and the other TS will have the return signal on the ring of the TRS (sometimes insert connections are located on the audio mixer, inverted, just reverse the order of connection of the two ends TS).
In figure 7, the diagram of an insert cable.
Generally the insert is located in the input of analog audio mixer (fig. 8) in the form of Jack female TRS as seen lastly which must be connected the Jack male TRS, for the connection of external outboard.
The goal is to bring the pre-amplified signal then elevated to the ideal voltage values (line voltage) to be able to process it to external outboards (as mentioned compressor, gate, expander, etc ..). For this from the insert connection usually on the TRS tip, out the signal after the stage of pre-amplification or sometimes after the equalizer stage that we find in one of the two TS of the Insert cable which will be connected to the Input Processor to send signal to be processed. The other TS will be connected in the output of the processor from which the processed signal will be released and will return to the ring of the TRS which will continue its path in the audio mixer (in the event of there being more outboard connected in parallel the TS in which arrives the signal to be processed is connected to the input of the first processor, while the return of the signal TS has to be connected to the output of the last processor).
In case of Insert Jack – XLR the signal is always unbalanced (Pin 2 is not used), used only for compatibility issues between devices.
In figure 9 a hypothetical input circuit of an analog audio mixer with insert connection.
Some older types of analog audio mixers have separate balanced insert connection In – Out where the signal to be sent to the processor is taken from the XLR Out and the return of signal is sent to the XLR In (useful if the processor has input and outputs on balanced XLR, otherwise the signal would be unbalancing or adapt to Jack TRS). Other types have, however, always a balanced connection in – out but on TRS Jack or unbalanced on TS Jack.
At level of digital audio mixer, insert connections are exploited for interfacing analogue outboard devices with integrated digital signal processing system, to do this are often used auxiliary connections Input and Output TRS (TRS as they can be used both for picking up signal unbalanced to balanced) present in the same audio mixer (fig. 10). In case of using external interfaces (because mixer is not built to accept a line signal at the input), you can find both on insert Jack TRS Input and Output of Jack TS, the interface for dialogue with the digital audio mixer is then connected to digital level according to their protocol.
n.b. The input and output connections aux of the digital mixer are not qualitative as those directed of insert because mostly that input has a line resistance which attenuates the signal to optimal values for the processing and eventual pre-amplification as used also for the removal of external signals to line level as keyboards, electro-acoustic guitars etc … unless not to find solutions that allow to convert the state of the input connection between the insert and line input.
n.b. The insert connections in addition to being used to withdraw the signal after the microphone pre-amplifier are also used to pick up the signal from the sub group, the master group, main and center out to process the signal before sending a group to the master out or of an output L – R or mono.
The power connectors are defined so precisely because they carry a large voltage in the order of volts and tens of volts, and the voltage is amplified by the final power amplifier that arrives at the diffuser. At the professional level, the most used are the SPEAKON connectors, called so because they go to be connected to the speaker (fig. 11).
n.b. How to use the power cable for the connection between the power amplifier and audio speaker will then be seen in successive treatments.
They are cables with a larger cross-section than those seen previously ( AWG 10-9 – 8) and without shield just because they must have a minimum resistance to the passage of the tension and it should enable the transport without creating inductive phenomena around them which would produce losses of electromagnetic energy. Generally short (20 meters could be an acceptable limit) and never go rolled as in figure 11 when they are in phase of operation for the reasons views in part I of this argument.
The polarities of a power connector may be from 2 poles (fig. 12), 4 poles (fig. 13), 8 poles (fig. 14), it depends on the number of routes that the speaker bring. These poles into the connectors as shown in gigures 12 – 13 – 14 for making a correct wiring are numbered (1+, 1 -, 2 +, 2 – etc …). We will see in other detailed arguments the connection between the power amplifiers and audio speakers.
Even speakon connectors do not have the verse, are equal both in the input that in the output. They are solid and isolating connectors against external interference, solids because the connector when inserted in the connection must be rotated 45 ° and can not be extracted if not turning it in the reverse always of 45 °.
As of today you can find 2 main types of speakon connectors, those in figure 12 (rear) in which the conductor is necessary to unscrew the screw in the housing of the conductors and then once inserted specifically for skinned to enters into the hole only part copper it’s necessary screw to allow to grip so that you do not disconnect the cable. And then more recent innovation speakon in which the cable housing is no longer screw but in clips, much more simply just pull a lever outward to allow the opening of the accommodation hole and then once the cable inserted release order to grip, a bit like are the audio conessioni of speakers and consumer amplifiers (fig. 15). Both methodologies are quality, only the second is more practical and easy.
Figure 16 shows the Speakon connections and connectors.
n.b. Some manufacturers have their multi-pole connector patented exclusively used for their amplification-diffusion systems.
As can be seen in the connection in figure 16 the 2 input connections are placed one at 180 ° relative to each other.
The material used for connectors and connections is generally plastic for lower-end ones, nickel or chromium for the most professional ones, as it is a material resistance against impacts and handlings that against external interference.
The speakon connectors are usually female, while the connections as can be seen from figure 14 are male, though there are at present even if they are little diffused male connectors (fig. 17) and female connections (fig. 18).
Fig. 17 Fig. 18
Before the advent of Speakon but you can still find them in old power connections systems were often made using Jack TS and XLR of larger section than those of the line (same section which can have one speakon), their limit was bipolarity then the transport of only 2 conductors, while as we have seen the speakon are also multipolar. In some contexts, you can also find Speakon / combo jacks Jack TS with which you can bring power to a speaker via Speakon or through Jack TS.
There are also various accessories such as the one in figure 19 (cork speakon plug for connection to protect it when not in use from dust and humidity).
Connectors, connections and accessories may have different shapes and dimensions according to the type of construction and sometimes also the number of poles, it is important to know the various devices to be able to correctly interface.
At commercial and craft level you can create and find cables made to increase or decrease the number of polarity (ie from 2 to 4 or 4 to 2) (fig. 20), then we will see in other arguments usage.
Further explanation and visual of various connections, connectors and accessories speakon including features that must have connectors and power quality connections, it can be found at the following link:
Notes on consumer and commercial audio.
At consumer level, for the connection of amplifiers and speakers especially in the installations Hi Fi and Car Audio, are used power connectors with section generally less at that pro because the voltages are smaller, and the routes of much shorter distance, of facts often they’re only the cores (fig. 21) without the coating of the wires, usually are shielded (better) but sometimes not (worse). Shielding it can be found for the Hi Fi and Car Audio power conductors as being crossed by tensions in the order of volts and a little more in particular types of installations such as Car Audio where electromagnetic interference are very present can be an advantage in qualitative terms.
As seen in figure 21, most of the time are no connector because the input connection of the speaker or the amplifier output is presented as the one in figure 22.
As regards the polarity, generally black it is always the – or negative, while red is the + or positive, are reversed if the cables you will have a sound reproduction in a phase opposition.
While in the case will come up like the one in figure 23, you can find the cables with connectors Transpose such as those in figure 24 and 25 (some called “banana” for the unusual shape that resembles a banana, fig. 25).
For connecting cables like the ones in figure 24 and 25 as you can guess, just unscrew the connection, insert the connector and tighten the connection to mesh.
The type of connection in figure 23 is often find even in the professional field for the power connections alternative to speakon. In that case, generally you must delete the speakon connector to be used for connection of the amplifier by connecting the stripped wires directly to the cable or by inserting at each end of the conductors with appropriate connectors tools such as those in figure 24. In any case, this type of connection is qualitatively inferior to speakon.
For connecting constant voltage speakers (fig. 26) (those generally installed for the sound diffusion into commercial centers, shops, on the street and the historic centers) which are fitted with amplifier and transformer or only transformer, are not used power connections but more simply network elettricity connections (typically 70 V – 100 V) through the normal conductors used for the electricity network of more or less large section depending on the electric voltage required by the system of sound diffusion.
It may find further details at this online article made a few years ago:
Modern connection technology between amplified audio speakers involves the use of connectors and Speakon connections for the transport of electric current supply (because are useful, easy to use, safety and efficacy). This type of connections are called POWERCON just to differentiate them from the SPEAKON cables which are instead used for other purposes. The powercon you recognize why one of the two connectors is white in color (fig. 27) while most of the speakon is blue in both connectors, and in more than a powercon connector does not fit in a speakon connection both in size and for the coupling method (fig. 28). Some Powercon may have in the other end an connector CEE or Schuko (fig. 29).
In figure 27 it’s well viewed as the type of coupling is different than the Speakon in figure 16 (the 2 connections are at 90 ° instead of 180 °). The PowerCon connector is usually used to bring voltage up to 240 V – 20 A.
Some manufacturers also produce powercons for line to 32 A (fig. 30).
They are being born then new PowerCon connectors that could be the future of this type of connection, more secure and reliable and that unlike the speakon and powercon that are identical both in the input that the output, these new PowerCon have connections and connector female (fig. 31) and male (fig. 32). In figure 33 the connections.
A Phono-Power (fig. 34) is a cable in which travels both the electrical line on Shucko connector that generally an balanced audio line on XLR, but you can also find on Jack TRS or unbalanced Jack TS, and as you can guess it is used mostly in semi-professional audio environment.
The two lines are well shielded inside but this will never have the quality of two separate lines, because we know that an electrical power cable near an audio cable creates large interference (minimum distance 50 cm to 220 V and more of 1 meter for 380 V).
It’s usually used to connect signal and power to audio monitors active stage or powered speakers with Shucko electrical connection.
If we need to make a bridge between more systems, for the signal just plug the XLR male to the XLR female of the next phono-power, for power supply just use special distributors Y-Shucko (fig. 35) that allow you to power a system and simultaneously extend over another.
Other Phono-Power can be found as cable Powercon + balanced signal on XLR (fig. 36).
More About Analog Audio Cables:
Analog Audio Cables – I (Technical Features, Shielding, Operating Environments)
Analog Audio Cables – II (Types of Connectors and Connections, Unbalanced Connectors and Connections)
Analog Audio Cables – III (Balanced Connectors and Connections, Passive Balancing)
Analog Audio Cables – IV (Active balancing)
Analog Audio Cables – VI ( RCA, MiniJack, BNC, Midi, Starquad, Edac, D-Sub, Socapex, Euroblock, Tipologie di Adattatori )
Analog Audio Cables – VII (Connection Types, Ground Loop, Solder A Cable, Acoustic Pollution)
Buy Analog Audio Cables from the Major Store