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Mic cable question. xlr or 1/4" ?

Posted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 9:25 pm
by serv
I recently purchased Audio-Technica AT2020, but I realized after that the mic does not come with a cable.

I have Novation X-Station which I use for recording and it can use XLR input or 1/4" jack input.

Is there a difference in sound quality between XLR or 1/4" jack?

So should I get XLR to XLR or XLR to 1/4"?

Thank you.

Re: Mic cable question. xlr or 1/4" ?

Posted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:17 pm
by Ry-Fi
There's a HUGE difference in sound quality: the 1/4" line won't produce ANY sound! :lol:

The AT2020 is a condenser mic and needs phantom power, which will only be provided from the XLR jack. You need to use the XLR jack and an XLR cable to your microphone.

(Some brief science:

- an XLR connection has 3 conductors, hot, cold, and shield. It is a balanced connection. When used with phantom power, 48v are sent down the hot and cold conductors and used by the microphone.

- a 1/4" connection can have either 2 or 3 conductors, either tip and sleeve, or tip, ring and sleeve. This is why some 1/4" cables (like guitar cables) only have the 2 metal segments on the plug, and some have 3 (1/4" stereo headphone plug). As such, a 1/4" line can either be used for mono unbalanced, mono balanced, or stereo unbalanced purposes, depending on the circumstances. However, a 1/4" line will NEVER (or SHOULD never) provide 48v phantom, because the ambiguity of the format could make that an incredibly dangerous affair!

Therefore, dynamic microphones can work running off an XLR -> 1/4" cable, but phantom-powered condensers will NOT be able to. They NEED an XLR connection.)

Re: Mic cable question. xlr or 1/4" ?

Posted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:29 pm
by serv
Good thing I asked VSE before any purchase.
Thank you Ry-Fi.

Re: Mic cable question. xlr or 1/4" ?

Posted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:38 pm
by Ry-Fi
You're very welcome!

Re: Mic cable question. xlr or 1/4" ?

Posted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 7:13 am
by Stab Frenzy
Ry-Fi wrote:There's a HUGE difference in sound quality: the 1/4" line won't produce ANY sound! :lol:

The AT2020 is a condenser mic and needs phantom power, which will only be provided from the XLR jack. You need to use the XLR jack and an XLR cable to your microphone.

(Some brief science:

- an XLR connection has 3 conductors, hot, cold, and shield. It is a balanced connection. When used with phantom power, 48v are sent down the hot and cold conductors and used by the microphone.

- a 1/4" connection can have either 2 or 3 conductors, either tip and sleeve, or tip, ring and sleeve. This is why some 1/4" cables (like guitar cables) only have the 2 metal segments on the plug, and some have 3 (1/4" stereo headphone plug). As such, a 1/4" line can either be used for mono unbalanced, mono balanced, or stereo unbalanced purposes, depending on the circumstances. However, a 1/4" line will NEVER (or SHOULD never) provide 48v phantom, because the ambiguity of the format could make that an incredibly dangerous affair!

Therefore, dynamic microphones can work running off an XLR -> 1/4" cable, but phantom-powered condensers will NOT be able to. They NEED an XLR connection.)
Also most 1/4" inputs will have a higher impedance than you want for a mic, line level inputs are generally 10k ohms and guitar inputs 1M ohm. A mic wants 600 ohms or so to work properly. This is why dynamic mics plugged into guitar pedals usually sound crappy.

Re: Mic cable question. xlr or 1/4" ?

Posted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 8:37 am
by Ry-Fi
Right you are sir, and a worthy contribution to topic. I just didn't think I needed to go that far for the OP. :P