inexpensive xlr vs expensive rca

I currently use homemade Belden 8423/Neutrik XLR throughout my system. Mainly because I was spending money on getting all of the components up to spec.

I'm looking at some used, very high-end RCA cables at a good price. I can't find the equivalent XLR cables used, but I can find XLR cables a few levels down of the manufacturer. For instance, $1500 RCA cables for $600. Or $700 XLR cables for $700. 

I'm connecting a Parasound JC-3+ and an Ayre QB-9 DSD to a Parasound JC-2. All first-class equipment. 

Would I be better off getting the super quality RCA used cables, or the less high quality (but still good) brand-new XLR cables at the same price point? 
If the preamp and amp support the balanced line standard, then you'll be fine running the less expensive balanced cables.

The balanced line standard was devised to reduce the sonic issues of the cable. Originally it was for trans- and inter- continental phone calls, which it made possible because the signal degradation is so much less than with single ended. Contrary to popular myth, the length of the cable is irrelevant- you can still have a benefit if the cable is only six inches.

Check with Ayre and see if the preamp supports 'AES file 48' which is the balanced standard. If yes, you're good to go.
@marktrav - personally I’ve compared a nice XLR’s and a nice single ended cable with RCA’s, on a very nice Ayre based system - the Single ended proved to provide better sound quality across the board.

The XLR’s were Kimber Kable Silver Streak.

The Single ended cables were the gZero3 from KLE Innovations. These cables are capable of very high resolution and are excellent in terms of imaging, dynamics, bass extension/control and clarity.They also outperform many other brands of single ended cables

The gZero3 is a very good cable, but that has now been superseded by the QFLOW3 - which is an improved version.

The gZero3 retails around $550AUS for 1 meter - new

I owned the gZero20, which is a stellar performer. It retails for $2000AUS for 1 meter, but the ZPURITY8 offers a little better performance at $1700AUS for a 1 meter.

I would contact KLE Innovations and ask what other QFLOW models might be available - they are a brand new release not yet listed on their web site.

Caveat: the use of XLR cables is the preferred option when long cables runs are required in a high noise environment like a recording studio - in excess of 30 ft I believe.

I cannot make a general statement that ALL single ended cables are better - just the products I have tried from KLE Innovations.

Hope that helps - Steve

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I would respectfully disagree about any Ayre product sounding better using RCA connections and would suggest sticking with your XLR cables to the QB9. Having used both the QB9 and now the Ayre Codex, both pieces sound dramatically better running balanced. I have no experience with Parasound products and I won’t speak to the effect on them. But if the Parasound gear is truly a balanced design I would stick with your XLR’s.

Good Luck!
As a test, I ran XLR Belden 8423/Neutrik from my JC-3+ into my #1 JC-2 input, and I ran a pair of Goertz Micro-Purl CU RCA from the JC-3+ to my #6 JC-2 input.

While listening to the newly remastered 180G Pink Floyd Animals, I switched between input 1 and 6 on the remote. I "think" I may have heard very slightly more detail in the upper midrange on the Micro-Purl. Like the soft tapping of the ride cymbal may have been just slightly more revealed. The soundstage "seemed" to be maybe a little bit wider with the Belden 8423.

By the time I got through with the listening session, I convinced myself that I really heard no difference at all. And yes, the levels are perfectly matched between the RCA output and the XLR output between the two Parasound boxes. I'll see if the Ayre outputs the same levels between the XLR and RCA and try the test there as well. 

I'm not a cable non-believer. I think well constructed cables using the right gauge, inductance, capacitance, shielding, etc are necessary. I've got an AudioQuest Diamond between my Mac Mini and the Ayre because there was an obvious difference in clarity and detail over the Belden Gold USB cable I had been using. The only thing I can think of there is that the Diamond reduces the self-correcting error rate between the USB receivers by sealing the signal inside a DBS path. Honestly, I really have no idea and I hate the fact that it sounds better, but it does, so it was money well spent. 

I wonder how I would compare XLR vs XLR and not get confirmation bias. The way I did the XLR vs RCA, I get immediate feedback since I'm listening to the exact same piece of music at the exact same level and switching back and forth on the remote is instantaneous and seamless. If I'm taking time between listening to the same track during a physical cable swap, I'm not sure if what I'm hearing is real or imagined. 

Sorry, I know I think I switched gears here, but I'm just re-thinking my current cable setup. I might be good to go with what I've got. 
@marktrav - exactly what is your goal?

1. to get the best performing cable?
- in that case try cables from KLEI
2. to prove there is little if no difference between XLR and RCA?
- you have done that with your test, so stick with the cable you felt performed the best.

Having said that - your test has compared two mediocre cables and as such there will be very little difference between the two. I would have thought the XLR would have sounded better out of those two cables.

Neither of the cables you tested are in the same price point (i.e. $600 - $1500) as those you mentioned in your original post, so your findings are really not "transferable" to higher priced cables - regardless of the connector type.

So I guess you were more "generally" curious as to which connector type might offer the best performance?
- From what you observed there is little difference at those price points
- From what I observed, as stated in my earlier post, it is more about the cables than the type of connector

Good luck with your quest - Steve :-)

@williewonka yes, you are correct. I have decided to audition the lineup of 3T van den Hul cables over the next week. XLR is the connector of choice. I’ll post back once I’ve had a chance to listen. God, I hope I don’t fall for the Mountain. Wallet is pretty light lately. 
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@marktrav I applaud you for undertaking and doing what you have / are. It isn’t easy.

This isn’t a test. No one is grading you. 

Getting caught up in methodology gets in the way of taking the music in.

I encourage you to focus on the music and not the process. You will sort it out.
@marktrav - I think you will be pretty happy with the Van den Hul cables - they have been a long time favorite of mine. They are a definite step up from the two cables you used to conduct your comparison.

Another cable that I have not tried, but I like the geometry used in their construction, is from Anticables - they start from around $200 for a 1 metre pair (you can get as low as 0.5 meter.)!/Level-2-Performance-Series-Analog-XLR...

They also have some very good RCA cables...!/SALE-50-off-NEW-Level-1-Classic-Serie...

They utilize a helix spiral neutral, which I have found is a vastly superior cable geometry to that used by many cable constructors and I have used the same Helix geometry many times with great results.

The Helix geometry provides a quieter background, faster dynamics with greater control, improved clarity and superior imaging.

One last thing - if you are into DIY - take a look at the following link

These are cables I have developed over the last few years and now use throughout my system.

Looking forward to hearing your comments on the Van den Hul cables

Cheers - Steve

Dang it. Well, the results are in and my wallet is going to get lighter.

Here’s the chain: JC-3+ - XLR1 - JC-2 - XLR2 - active x-over
I also have an Ayre QB-9 DSD - XLR1.5 - JC-2 - XLR2 - active x-over

First, we replaced the XLR1 with the VdH Mountain. It’s a short run between the two, but we used a 2m cable since that was what he brought. There was a slight improvement in bass definition and there was more air around the instruments, but not dramatically so. We put it on the XLR1.5 and came to the same conclusion. Finally, we replaced XLR2. Wow! ok, things just got real. Bass definition became more round and more solid. Instruments like guitar and vocals became more lifelike. XLR2 is a solid 2M+ run, so replacing that long Belden 8423 cable did the trick. We didn't hear as much of a difference at XLR1 and XLR1.5 positions because the longer run was in the way sonically. 

So, I guess I’m now convinced. However, I’m going to replace ALL of the XLRs with the Rock. I can’t afford the Mountain, but he said I’d get pretty far down the road I need to go with the Rock. They are both part of the 3T family.

I was very impressed that he came out to my house and spent almost 2 hours letting me demo the cables in my own system. If you are in Atlanta, you should get to know Chris Amos at Kemela.
XLR is superior sound i just had my Purist rca cables reterminated to balanced 6 db louder and much quieter would never use single ended again.
Glad to hear you decided on XLR - balanced is almost always going to sound better than unbalanced in my experience. At least for signal integrity if nothing else. Power cables and other interference is a lot less with balanced.

I like the KLEI RCA connectors, have no experience with thier cables (way too expensive) but one thing to note - the ’silver’ connectors aren’t silver.. FYI. Also you can find the connectors cheaper pretty much any site OTHER than the KLEI site since he put the prices up a year ago. Silly.. I’m currently deciding whether or not to get more KLEI copper connectors for a couple of phono interconnects, or Neutrik profi, or two of each. I need four interconnects from two turntables going into two Rek-o-Kut low noise stereo switches. I figure getting two equal length cables (75cm) with the different connectors will be my first easy way to AB compare KLEI vs Neutrik profi connectors, as I will be using the same Mogami 2965 cable for all the interconnects. The only issue with KLEI I have at the moment other than the claims of silver alloy when it’s silver plated, is that you can’t easily get an 8 pack - There are 4, 6 and 12 packs available but not an 8. Doh! So either 2x 4 packs or a 12 pack and have 4 spare for another interconnect some day (maybe use in an interconnect upgrade for cassette deck or mixer RCA record output). The cheapest I can get the KLEI is a few dollars more per connector than the Neutrik (around $9-10 USD each compared to $13-15 for KLEI)

I personally use Neutrik (the proper ones, not Rean/Ningbo/Yongshen) XLR and TS/TRS, and am now also considering Amphenol for TS/TRS. I don’t believe in paying a fortune for cable - I buy some nice Mogami generally from Redco or and get the connectors put on for me at a local cable company. Designacable will make cables up for you for reasonable prices too. In Australia I get Swamp to do my cables - $5 per RCA connector, $10 custom order job fee. Not bad! They don’t have as big a range of parts as designacable but I just send the components/cable I want worked with.
@lastninja - in response to your postng of the Aurealis Audio web content above.

Please checkout the KLE Innovations site and read the Brochure and Technical Paper

I think you will find that nowhere does it state that the Silver Harmony is fabricated from "solid silver".

It would appear that most people "ASSUMES" solid silver is used simply because of the name assigned to the plug.

Based on that "assumption" is it feasible to conclude that an American Express Gold Card is made of gold? I think not.

The "Silver Harmony" is just a name assigned to an RCA that achieves a higher level of performance that the Copper Harmony, but not as good as the Pure Harmony or Absolute Harmony.

To quote from their documents:
Proprietary mathematical modeling is utilized to produce the Silver Harmony’s ground to signal pin relationship, parameters, and determines the proprietary metallurgical processes that are used.

I think this fact has been overlooked by the people at Aurealis Audio on purpose. They may have stated in their advertising that Solid silver was used and a customer complained and are now covering their "assets"

In fact they seem to have gone one stage further and have actually mis-quoted snippets from KLE Innovations documents on purpose.

For what purpose I do not know, but it would appear they have an axe to grind with KLE Innovations and are willing mis-quote their documents in order to disparage the good name of KLE Innovations in favour of their own.

Personally - I have auditioned every plug from KLE Innovations at length and all I can is that it does not matter the Harmony plugs are not made from Solid Silver - each plug in the range, much like American Express cards, provide a level "service" that improves as you proceed up the product line.

The issues here should not be with KLE Innovations, a company that I trust and respect, but with that post on Aurealis Audio that appears to have no other goal but to disparage.

Regards - Steve