$20 XLR cables that sound good

I'll surely be ridiculed for this, but I'm achieving excellent results with lowly pro audio microphone cables called Planet Waves Custom Series. They easily bested my old single-ended cables and provide clear sound with no noise that I can discern. Their mechanical construction is first-rate, too. All for about $20 each.

If your system is on a budget, or if you simply want to try a low-buck XLR cable on a lark, give these a try.
Canare mic cable does xcellent job.
there should be no ridicule. others here should know of solid value xlr's on the cheap like mogami.
As Atmasphere has cited, the balanced configuration is insensitive to the kinds of wire characteristics which lead some audiophiles to pay mega-bucks for interconnects. It should be no surprise that your wires work well.
If cables have high capacitance and cause the high freq. roll-off, I am not sure the balanced configuration can help at all. But I do agree that cables don't have to be expensive.

I am moving away from a fully balanced system to a single ended one. But this probably belongs to another thread....
Yep, I've been using Mogami and Canare Star Quad balanced cables with Neutrik XLRs that I get from Markertek (a video supply house). Can't tell any difference with moderate priced consumer audiophile cables (but haven't compared to the really high-end/high-cost/esoteric cables and never will).
An excellent place to purchase the Canare, Mogami, and many other brands of pro audio cables is B&H Photo Video:


I've made many purchases from them over the years, of pro audio and video stuff, and they've consistently excelled in price, selection, accuracy of in-stock status shown on their website, and prompt shipping.

I have no connection with them other than being a satisfied customer.

-- Al
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You have just experienced what I have spent thousands in the past 30 some odd years to learn: there is no need to spend thousands on cable to get great sound.
You have just experienced what I have spent thousands in the past 30 some odd years to learn: there is no need to spend thousands on cable to get great sound.

Absolutely. If anyone is experiencing challenges and huge differences then (after checking simple things like contact, grounding and cleaning up your power) consider to get rid of the non-performing gear at one or both ends of the wire. The simple fact is that well designed, well built and well matched gear does not need thousands of dollars worth of wire to sound good.
I recently tried bulk Mogami 2534 wire terminated with basic Neutrik XLR terminations that I assembled myself for about $20.00 (including shipping) for a 5' pair of IC's. They are OUTSTANDING. There is an AG member who sells them premade for $100.00. Do yourself a favor and build a set for $20.00 or less and you will more than likely be pleasantly surprised. I sure was.
As Atmasphere has cited, the balanced configuration is insensitive to the kinds of wire characteristics which lead some audiophiles to pay mega-bucks for interconnects.
I have great respect for Ralph and his products. And his amps easily have the ability to show up differences between cables.....and quite dramatic differences. But the quote above is simply not valid. I live in the twin cities and I would love to visit with Ralph to bring over the XLR pair of Jade Audio Hybrid ICs.

Compare the middle and top tier cables from Kubala Sosna, Purist, Stealth and Jade Audio to name a few and then it will be very clear of the dramatic differences of ICs.

get rid of the non-performing gear at one or both ends of the wire.......

Shadorne, every time there is a cable thread, you go off that perfectly designed gear should not respond to cable changes. And yet time after time, even the very impressively designed products that I own, Aria, CAT, Aesthetix, all show significant changes with ICs. For systems that are incapable of conveying the portrayal of space, harmonic overtones, decays, etc., it's just a game of bandaiding a system's tonal flaws with cables. But for truly high performance systems, I am well aware on how many cables can destroy what that system is capable of. It only takes one poor-quality IC from line stage to amp to piss away the dimensionality of such a system. But when relying on a Best Buy CD player as a primary source, such an experience will never be observed anyway.

The CAT amps have a power supply design that few if any other tube amps out there can begin to compete with. And these amps will show in a split second the dramatic difference in 3D and dynamic contrasts with cable and tube changes.

Shadorne, please educate yourself on some of the products I mentioned above and make note of their power supply designs. Maybe then you will understand how and why such products do indeed show differences between cables. Don't make blanket statements to people here that are seeking advice to improve their systems. If I listened to your comments here 5 or so years ago, I would have ignored those from others here that educated me on the capability of such cables. We can all learn a lot from A'gon members like Albert Porter and Jadem6.

I have played with Mogami and Canare XLR cables and they are a good starting point. But there is so much more to benefit with a system that has the capability. It makes no sense to pay for high-performance cables when the rest of the system can not benefit from their contributions. It's all about keeping the system balanced in performance among all components.

As for Sidssp's comment about achieving great sound, over the years we have all felt we had great sound. But then we hear refinements with upgrades and there is no going back to the "great sound" we had 10-15-20 years ago. Such is progress. And it only takes one link in the chainto destroy that progress.

Sorry Nathanso, I did not mean to steer your thread off course.
I think that Ralph's statement about cables is also contingent on balanced equipment being fully differential and following a 600 ohm standard. Not all balanced designs are created equal in this respect. I believe there is a white paper on the Atma-sphere site that discusses this.

Also, if you own an Atma-sphere amp and preamp then Ralph does recommend the Mogami between the components. However, he told me recently that from source to preamp one could benefit from a better cable. Again it all depends on the source equipments design.

Personally I've used a 25' run of Mogami Gold between my Rowland preamp and VAC amps and found it to be more than adwquate sound wise.
Seems Like Ralph needs some help on what he recommends, we obviously know more about his products then he does. Maybe when you buy an amp for 15K, he thinks you need to save a buck on Mogamis. I doubt he has ever listened to them, we know better. Sorry for more crap, it just sounds like that what we are saying here.
I first want to point out that OTL designs such as Ralph's have considerably greater output impedance than most amplifiers, and are designed based on what he refers to as a power paradigm, as opposed to the much more common voltage source paradigm, and so we should be cautious extrapolating from what works best with his amplifiers to others.

For that matter, as Vett93 alluded to above, source components or preamps with highish output impedances will tend to be "revealing" of cable "differences" which are in reality just the interaction of their output impedance with differing capacitances of the cables being compared. And power amplifiers driving difficult loads (loads that are either low impedance at some frequencies, or are highly capacitive such as many electrostatics) may react to those loads differently depending on speaker cable inductance and resistance.

Not to mention that many expensive cables are designed to be non-neutral.

I'm not particularly taking a position on the disagreements which have been expressed in this thread, just pointing out that it's easy to mis-generalize about cable differences, and that some of the reasons for differences don't correlate with price.

-- Al

-- Al

My view point is that well designed, well matched and well built gear should not be a victim of slight differences in cables. I know you disagree with this approach to equipment selection but from my perspective we simply disagree on what is a "well designed, well matched and well built" gear. I don't subscribe to the princess and pea philosophy - I expect my gear to work despite a pea underneath twenty mattresses. I know you think the sound of my gear will be awful from your perspective but I value repeatability and robustness in products under a variety of conditions and loads and levels. I value these aspects equally as much as the sound quality. I would not be happy with a "princess and the pea" type product just in the same way I could not handle a speaker that required my head to be in a vice like position to get the perfect imaging - I like and expect a large sweetspot - I even expect to be able to stand up and have it sound substantially the same (why I prefer a far-field position).
Shadorne and Clio 09,

I have a Krell FPB-600c amp, an Ayre K-1xe preamp, and an Ayre Cx-7e CDP - all differentially balanced. I don't think anyone (who is rational) would question the quality of the design, components, and assembly of these products (or their power supplies). I can tell a HUGE difference between different XLR interconnects on this system.

I do agree that inexpensive XLR cables all sound about the same - good (or adequate as Clio09 says), but leave a lot of sound quality on the table compared to the best. Admittedly, the best cables are very expensive and usually complex in their design and construction. There is no arguing that the inexpensive cables are a much better value.
I can tell a HUGE difference between different XLR interconnects on this system.

I don't question your observations but this would drive me nuts...how do you know that you have solved the problem? How do you know for sure that $100 or $1000 or $10,000 is enough to spend on IC's. I mean if a different wire makes a HUGE difference then how do you determine that you are getting the best out of your system...I mean there are literally hundreds if not thousands of IC's you might try?
Good point Shadorne. I am sure that I have not found (and cannot afford) the best cables, but the good part is that every cable upgrade (in lieu of upgrading componentry) brings a solid improvement in the sound of my system and a smile to my face. That is what the hi-end is all about for me...
Everything's riding through IC's. I'd begin by selecting well-built, well-insulated "middle-end" IC's from a reputable audio company. Your ears will reveal if it's a musical system match, really capturing the system's synergy.

You may also order two or three different IC types and return your least favorite(s). I'd first try connecting the L/R main channels through different IC's and play your best-known test sources. The best system match may jump right out or be less dramatic but definately better.

I practice basic connections care that also definately helps. That includes cleaning all interconnects, keeping connections snug, using short cable lengths, pugging and unplugging carefully, and running audio cables separated from any power cords.

Audio arguments/discussions are always interesting. Somewhere in Stereophile, this month, I'll have to look for the exact article. But the comment in the article was that an Audiophile type person owns speaker Mark II, and is very happy with it, noticing no deficiencies. The the Manufacturer comes out with the Mark III correcting a list of supposed deficiencies in Mark II. The Mark II owner now suddenly and forever hears these issues until he makes a change. So much is subjective AND suggestive, that I am not sure where some comments I read even come from. But it is a hobby to enjoy and to each his own.
How do you know for sure that $100 or $1000 or $10,000 is enough to spend on IC's.
Is this not true for every link in the system? The progress that many people here continue to make is to add another level of refinement to their system with each change. Do we only upgrade sources, electronics and the speakers? ... and stick with budget cables forever?

And what does repeatability and robustness have to do with this? Once you get off the upgrade train, you have repeatability. But for the rest of us, who says we need to stop with budget cables?

If you are off the upgrade train because you are content with the sound of your system, that is fine. But every time you imply that cable sonic-differences are the result of poorly designed products, you do a disservice to the designers of those products and to the readers here who seek advice to improve their system.

As for the basic circuit designs of line and phono stages and amps, no new rocket science has really come along here for quite some time. But the implementations of these designs and the associated parts, active, passive, transformers, etc., allow many of us to hear detail in our recordings that we did not hear even 5 years ago. And this allows the music to get us a little closer to the real thing.

Shadorne, you put too much emphasis on what is on paper and not the end result, that which many of us can readily hear, of such high performance systems.
I've had my share of cables in my system in all different price ranges. I do subscribe to the theory that there are differences in cables. However, I have come to the conclusion that while there are some excellent sounding high end (and high priced) cables, the cost/benefit ratio was out of whack. Spending 5 times the price to achieve a 10% improvement got old with me. So I scaled back on my cables and spent more on my components, One of the best things I did with the extra money was upgrade my speakers.

To top it off, it's not like the cables I'm using today are slouches. They are all very good IMO (and yes they all sound a bit different in my system) and I can live very happily with them:

Magnan Type Vi
Grover Huffman SC
Chimera Labs
Mogami Gold
Oyaide PA-02

You are correct that I have a lot of respect for paper or the science behind our systems. This may be my problem (from your perspective) - no worries at least we know where we both stand. I just cannot see how a wire should make a significant or huge difference unless there is some unwanted or unintended interaction between the equipment at one or both ends. I just don't see why it should be necessary to spend thousands on a wire (my original post on this thread).
Some manufacturer's can assist you to match IC's. What cables did they find worked best during the R & D bench testing processes?

For example, most of us have read several articles explaining that Mark Levinson uses Revel Ultima speakers for bench testing components during R and D.

I'm very happy with a Proceed AVP2 +6, matching AMP 5 and Yamaha TX-1 powered cathedral monitors (connected directly off my pre-out signals). All sources sound right.

For system synergy, I'd place Ultima's on top of my list should I ever have to replace speakers.

Audiophile talk is like music and it goes on eternally. There's alot of great info here. Ask the manufacturer what they used and include them in your order for 2-3 different sets to test on your mains first after checking the return policy.