This article shares how to buy audio cables for a music studio.
These audio cables connect to music equipment like speakers, microphones, or various outboard analog music equipment.
We’ll also look at the types of audio connectors, like TRS 1/4″ and XLR.
I personally like using Monoprice Audio Cables:
I also show a workflow tip with audio connectors, also mentioned in member interview #4.
The brand I recommend is Monoprice. They provide very high-quality audio cables. I linked to their premier series above, which I think is worth the extra few bucks.. they should last you for a long time!
Important Things to Know BEFORE Buying Audio Cables for a Studio
You may walk into a music store and buy whatever audio cables the store clerk recommends to you.. and while they may have great advice, it’s always good to do some research yourself.
Buy Cables Longer than Needed!
Something I learned the hard way was buying audio cables the exact length from my audio interface to my speakers.
The problem is if you ever move, or upgrade to new equipment, that extra foot could be all you need.
I’m grateful I learned to buy audio cables longer than what I need, because I’m always able to connect my music studio in any situation!
Let me clarify..
I’m not saying to buy a 100′ speaker cable..
But if you’re looking at a 6′ cable, I’d say buy a 10′ or 15′ cable..
You’ll be so happy the next time you move your setup around, and you can connect everything without have to buy new cables.
Use Same Cable Length to Speakers
People REALLY care about their audio quality in the audio world..
But you have to be careful with the advice and tools you purchase, because things can get REALLY expensive quick.
And this is one of those points which you can get away with if you don’t follow, but it’s something I’ve always liked to do..
That’s making sure my audio cables are the same length.
Audio travels really fast down your speaker cable, so you probably won’t notice a 6′ cable on the left speaker, and 10′ cable on there right speaker, but I’d still recommend the same audio cable length to each speaker.
This ensures each speaker receives audio at the same time.
TRS 1/4″ vs. XLR Speaker Cables
TRS 1/4″ and XLR Audio Cables are the exact same cable, just a different connection type, when we connect to our reference monitor speakers.
XLR is a stronger connection, but both TRS and XLR give you the same audio quality.
Most of the time audio interfaces do not have an XLR output, so we move often use 1/4″ TRS for speakers.
It’s very important to use a balanced audio cable for speakers. That is a XLR and TRS Cable (Not TS or RCA!)
The image below is of a typical reference monitor speaker.
The back of this studio monitor has both 1/4″ TRS and XLR audio connections (you only want to plug in one audio cable).
But you’ll see with the audio interface, it only allows 1/4″ TRS output!
The audio interface in the image below has TONS of 1/4″ output connections, but no XLR output connections! (XLR on the far right is for microphone INPUTS).
That’s why 1/4″ TRS cables are most common when connecting speakers to an audio interface!
You can always buy TRS 1/4″ to XLR cables, but I’d say just keep it simple, and get a TRS 1/4″ Male to TRS 1/4″ Male cable for your speakers.
XLR Microphone Inputs (and Hardware)
I really like XLR because of its strong connection.
XLR audio cables are most common to connect microphones or hardware like outboard audio equipment like compressors and equalizers.
The female XLR connection has a locking clip, which would allow you to swing your microphone around like a Rockstar. 😂
Must Have Audio Connectors
I want to share a valuable tip about audio cables.. and that’s having audio connectors!
Sometimes you need to go from 1/4″ to 1/8″ when connecting an MP3 player into your computer, or even connecting consumer headphones.
These handy connectors easily increase or decrease connection size, and allow cables to work no matter what the device is asking for!
Balanced vs. Unbalanced Cables (TS, TRS, and XLR Cables)
You’ll hear BALANCED and UNBALANCED when buying audio cables.
As bedroom producers, we use BALANCED 99% of the time..
Let’s quickly discuss TS, TRS, and XLR cables so you know what’s going on.
TS (not TRS) is a weird cable in the industry.. it’s only used for certain applications and equipment like recording guitars, digital pianos, and hardware synthesizers.
A TS Cable is unbalanced, which means it only has two wires.
This is a TS Cable’s biggest weakness, because it is not able to run long lengths, and extra noise can be introduced into the audio signal!
TRS (Balanced Cable)
Both a TRS and XLR cable are balanced.
What this means is that there are 3 wires inside the cable, which means we can run the audio cable at much longer lengths without unwanted noise being introduced into our audio signal!
This happens by flipping the phase of one audio cable, then flipping it back right before it plugs in! It cancels out the noise that would have been introduced, and you’re left with your pristine audio signal! (It’s truly an amazing invention!)
I discuss this further 10 Steps to Become an FL Studio Pro.
Here’s a quick drawing breaking this down.
In short, if the sine waves are in phase, the signal adds. If the sine waves are 180 degrees opposite, the subtract!
Wrapping Up: Best Audio Cables For Speakers and Microphones
To keep things really simple, here’s what you as a bedroom producer need to know about buying audio cables for speakers and microphones:
- 1/4″ TRS Cables for Speakers
- XLR Cables for Microphones
Both 1/4″ TRS and XLR are balanced to take advantage of that long cable-run science stuff!
Remember, buy cables a little longer than needed.. it will come in handy when you least expect it!
Here’s those Monoprice audio cables I mentioned:
It doesn’t get more technical than this for us bedroom producers!
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me!