The best is Neutrik (Gold pins or Silver), and they used by the majority of manufacturer of cables, like Synergistic Research and still others. Moreover they are not the most expensive.
Orcas 747 I have used Bocchino audio http://www.bocchtech.com/bocchinoaudio/baxlr.htm - although expensive they are superbly built and you can try different cable toplogies forever with complete ease and use a wide variety of cables and ribbons - I have not really compared them as it is too much trouble - I have achieved good results against very expensive cables but have not swapped XLR's
I agree with Redkiwi. I've build quite a few cables with different XLR connectors and my least favorite is Neutrik. The reason "most mfg's use them" is cost related, they can easily be had for about five bucks a piece. I'm not saying cost is the only factor, only saying that sometimes you get what you pay for.
I've found the Vampire and Furutechs to be superbly designed plugs that are easy to work with, have a superior strain relief design and offer solid performance. The Bocchino plugs are nice but overly priced for what they are but, the Furutechs are a bit pricey as well.
i've seen enough high dollar cables to know that neutriks are a valid solution. cost is not the reason IME. its that they do the least wrong.
the only people who can fairly comment on which connector sounds the best are those who've constructed same cable except the connectors...and i've seen them use neutriks (i'll be reviewing a set on PFO later this yr).
Rhyno, my comments above are based on exactly what you say - the exact same cable but with different connectors. The Neutriks are not fit for the best interconnects, say $1000 plus a pair, but are absolutely fine for interconnects that compete with interconnects up to say $500. Don't take me too literally on that, I am just giving you an indication that I rate them up to a point. I have used over a hundred of them but would recommend you try the Switchcraft for around the same price. The top XLRs are sadly also very expensive, but have to admit I don't have a heap of experience of the Vampires yet.
My biggest complaint on the Neutriks doesn't come from their performance but rather comes from a mfg's point of view and it's the strain relief design. Working with a "clamping" type strain relief vs the Neutrik "twisting" type of strain relief can be a royal pain to work with and I've had problems using that type in the past. The plugs sound fine and lock into place fine(though not as solid as some other plugs), I just don't like working with them. To much risk of something going wrong later on down the road. Of course this is just my opinion and you know what they say about those.... ;)
Johngp - just out of interest have you ever played with the Bocchino XLR or RCA ( new B11) - when you compare them to something like a furutech side by side you can see the reason for the cost. It is an intersting area where the argument for a very lightweight plug vs a big boofy plug like bocchino defines the philosophy of an IC - my DIY messing about leads me to the heavy weight approach - could be just the self damping issue - there also seems to be an advantage to lower resistance beyond what appears to be reasonable
I have been using Furutech rhodium for my interconnects for the past few years. Over the last year and a half I have been developing a new reference line of cables. At the same time experimenting with the Bocchino connectors, B2, B11 and BAXLR's along with spades.
I concur, the Bocchino is an amazing connector and I will be using them as a standard for our cable that will be announced the fall. The B11 is a nice size RCA, but it is the sonic quality that blew me away. So clear, open, extended and dynamic. They are completely perfect!
Best part for DIY'ers is they are screw set so you can experiment.
Jade Audio, LLC
Retailed, I payed $3200:O) As they break in the sound get's closer, although there may be a smidge more energy on top with the reference cables...program dependent and mostly with material that has alt of upper freqency energy to begin with. But hay, for $100 vs $3200 duh!! Can you say no brainer:O)
Holy markups Batman! I am looking for some XLR ideas for a DIY cable and I checked out those Bochinno's whick looked excellent until I saw the tag on them! I mean triple digits on a set of copper spades! Last I checked, copper was not that rare nor the technology that advances on silver plated copper. Looks like I will have to check out some of those other brands mentioned. Any other manufacturers use solid copper pins with silver plating?
Mtdking - I have tried Xhadow and while they are good I believe Bocchino are better.
Abruceaudio - they are expensive as blazes but if your are a restless DIY person they will pay for themselves quite soon as they are so easily reused and they have the advantage of being very good as Jadem6 describes