Are XLR Cables Mono Or Stereo? Here’s What You Need To Know - Vita Audio

Are XLR Cables Mono Or Stereo? Here’s What You Need To Know

All this audio stuff can get pretty confusing if you’re just starting out.  We’re here to help clear up any confusion you may have regarding XLR cables, how they work, and how they are used.  

Primarily, XLR cables are used for balanced mono audio signals, but on the other hand, they can also be used for stereo signals.  The thing to bear in mind is that if an XLR cable is being used for a stereo signal, the signal becomes unbalanced. 

Are XLR Cables Mono Or Stereo? Here’s What You Need To Know

Don’t worry, we’ll get into what that means further on. 

XLR cables are commonly used to connect microphones to recording consoles. They also carry audio signals from instruments like guitars and keyboards into mixing desks.  In other cases, balanced XLR cables are sometimes used to connect speakers to a hi-fi system.

What’s The Difference Between Mono And Stereo?

The difference between a mono and a stereo signal is pretty simple. A mono signal is just one channel of information. Mono is short for monophonic, meaning a single audio source. 

For example, if you were into a single microphone, this would be a mono audio channel.  

Stereo, on the other hand, is short for stereophonic, which use two audio channels (one for each ear!) 

For example, if you’re recording an acoustic guitar using two microphones in different positions, this would be a stereo signal, as the two microphones pick up two slightly different channels of information. 

The point of using a stereo signal is that it gives the impression of space and direction.  It creates a wider stereo “image”, and makes a recording sound more like it’s there in the room with you.  Mono, on the other hand, tends to sound a little flat in comparison. 

When you’re playing back a stereo audio signal, each one of your two speakers is receiving and playing back a different signal, as the right and left speakers have their own separate channels.

Stereo signals are normally preferred to mono when it comes to music or movie audio.  But that’s not to say that mono signals have no use!  Mono is the preferred choice for telephone networks and public address systems and the like.  

Who Invented XLR Cables, And Why Are They So Common?

XLR cables have been around since the early 1960s. They were invented by James H. Cannon, who worked for IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission). He invented the audio cables while working for IEC in Kanagawa, Japan.

His invention was based on his experience with audio equipment from the 1940s. He found that using a simple spring clamp was not reliable enough for high quality audio applications.

So he came up with a new design that would hold the wires tightly without damaging them. This design became the basis for all modern XLR connectors.

XLR cables are generally used for professional audio applications such as recording studios, broadcasting stations, and live performance venues. There are many types of XLR connectors available. Some of these include:

Balanced XLR connectors – These are the most common type of XLR connectors. They are designed to carry low level signals. They can handle frequencies up to 100 kHz.

Balanced XLR connectors are commonly used in professional audio applications such as mixing consoles, sound reinforcement systems, broadcast facilities, and recording studios.

Unbalanced XLR connectors – These connectors are mainly used for connecting microphones to preamps. They are designed to handle higher frequency signals. They can handle signals up to 1 MHz.

Unbalanced XLRs are usually used in consumer electronics devices like CD players, tape decks, and some portable music players.

Differential XLR connectors – These XLR connectors are designed to carry high level signals. They can carry frequencies up to 20 MHz. Differential XLRs are mainly used in professional audio applications like mixers, studio monitors, and loudspeakers.

XLR connectors are designed to withstand harsh conditions. For example, they can survive temperatures ranging from -40 °C to +60 °C. They can also survive humidity levels between 0% and 90%.

XLR connectors are very robust. Most XLR connectors will last at least 25 years if properly maintained.

The main advantage of XLR connectors over standard RCA connectors is their ability to carry higher signal levels. XLR connectors are much better suited for carrying high level signals.

Because of this, they are often preferred when you need to connect two devices together that require high level signals.

XLR connectors are also more resistant to electromagnetic interference. This means that they are less likely to pick up radio frequency noise. It also means that they do not affect the function of nearby electronic components.

XLR connectors have an internal strain relief mechanism that prevents damage to the connector due to external forces. The connector has a built-in safety feature called “hot polarity”. Hot polarity ensures that the connection remains intact even when there is no power applied to it.

XLR connectors can be either male or female. Male XLR connectors are attached to one end of the cable. Female XLR connectors are attached at the other end of the cable. When using a male XLR connector, the cable should always be terminated with a female XLR connector.

If you use a female XLR connector, the connector should always be terminated with another female XLR connector.

How Are XLR Cables Wired?

If you take a look at an XLR cable, you’ll notice it is basically comprised of 3 parts: the wires, the connectors, and the shielding.  XLR cables have three wires inside them. Two of these wires transmit audio signals, while the other provides grounding.

The shielding that surrounds the wires provides protection from noise and interference. 

XLR connectors feature a round end with three contact points, known as “pins”.  XLR cables have a “male” connector and a “female” connector. 

Usually, you’ll see an XLR with a male connector that has three pins and a female connector that has three holes at the opposite end of the cable. 

These plugs connect to each other by means of a cable. Most XLR cables are made of copper. Copper has a low impedance, which makes it ideal for transmitting high frequencies. Because copper is so conductive, it can easily transfer electrical energy.

If you use an XLR connector incorrectly, then you may damage your audio system.

A few things should be noted when connecting an XLR cable to a device. First, make sure that the ground wire is connected to the chassis of the device. Next, make sure that the center pin is connected to the positive input.

Finally, make sure that the outer pins are connected to the negative output.

Thanks to the balanced nature of XLR cables, they can  be connected together for extremely long runs without the worry of any noise or interference messing up the audio signal. 

For this reason, they are universally used in ive performances and in music studios, not to mention radio or broadcasting studios all over the world.  

What Is A Balanced Signal?

What Is A Balanced Signal

Balanced XLR cables are preferred by audiophiles because they provide better sound quality.  This is because they pick less noise and interference, especially when using longer cables.  Balanced XLR cables have 3 wires going down the cable. 

One of these wires is the ground cable, while the other two wires carry the signal.  The signal on a balanced cable is split between the two wires.  One wire carries the signal, while the other carries the signal with reversed polarity. 

The reversed polarity signal gets flipped once it reaches the output of the XLR cable, which helps cancel out any noise or radio interference.  

Unbalanced cables, on the other hand, such as keyboard outputs or guitar cables, only have two wires, one for the ground and the other for the signal.

When an XLR cable is carrying a mono signal, this signal is balanced.  The reason for this is that the mono signal is being transmitted through both wires, with the reversed polarity being transmitted through one wire. 

Remember, the third wire is just the ground wire.  If one of these wires remained unused, the signal would become unbalanced and therefore susceptible to noise and interference.  

Balanced XLR cables are designed to transmit two channels of information at the same instant. This is done by connecting the two wires in the cable together. When you plug a microphone into such a cable, you’ll get two separate channels of information at the exact same time.

The value of a balanced mono signal being transmitted through an XLR cable is that the signal is well-preserved.  Once the signal reaches the end of the XLR, the polarity is flipped from one of the wires, in turn cancelling out any noise or interference that was picked up by the cable. 

This makes it ideal for microphone signals as they produce the cleanest possible signal with little to no hum or radio interference.  

Is A Balanced Cable For Mono Or Stereo?

Balanced cables are designed to transmit a single audio signal, meaning a mono signal.  However, these cables can be used to transmit stereo signals, but in turn, they will no longer be balanced as each of their wires in the cable is being used to transmit audio. 

This can lead to problems with the audio signal such as hum, interference, and noise.

How Can An XLR Cable Transmit A Stereo Signal?

As we’ve discussed, an XLR that transmits a balanced signal has to be mono, as this requires the use of both the positive and negative wires in the cable.  However, through the use of a dual XLR connector, a balanced stereo signal can be transmitted.

To do this, you will need a dual XLR Male Y splitter, which can be purchased from Amazon.

What this splitter does, essentially, is it splits the left and right channel into two mono signals, then it routes them through two individual XLR cables. 

This connector can be very useful, as it allows you to transmit a balanced stereo signal from any audio source such as a laptop or other line level stereo devices.  

What Is An XLR Cable, And How Do I Connect Them?

XLR cables come in different sizes. Most of them come in standard size, while others are miniature. Standard-size XLRs are usually used by professionals because they’re easier to work with. Miniature XLRs are smaller than standard XLRs.

XLRs are made up of three parts: the male connector, the female connector, and the wire inside. When connecting these components together, you need to pay attention to polarity.

For instance, when connecting a male connector to a female connector, you always need to connect the positive terminal first. Next, you need to connect the negative terminal last.

When connecting the wires inside the connectors, you need to pay close attention to which end goes where. You should never cross over the ends of the wires.

The most common type of cable is called a balanced cable. Balanced cables have four conductors instead of the usual three. A balanced cable allows you to get better sound quality.


Normally, you would use an XLR to transmit a mono signal as opposed to a stereo signal.  This is because XLR cables are designed to transmit a balanced signal, which consists of a single audio signal which is then duplicated with reverse polarity. 

Thanks to this ingenious design, XLR cables are less susceptible to noise and interference from electromagnetic signals.

Jacob Stable
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