What Audio Cables Should I Buy for My Bedroom Studio? (XLR, TRS, TS)

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In this article, we’ll discuss good audio cables to buy for music production equipment, like your speaker cables and microphone cables, and the types of connectors we most often use (TRS 1/4″ and XLR).

I’ll also show you a powerful workflow tip with special audio connectors to have laying around the studio, like mentioned in member interview #4.

I’ve linked to audio cables I recommend, but please read below, as there’s valuable information for buying the RIGHT audio cables for your studio.

TRS 1/4 Male (Speaker Cable)
XLR Audio Cable
XLR Male and Female (Microphone Cable)

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, if not forever!

Important Points to Know BEFORE Buying

My explanation of audio cables here will be common to 99% of bedroom studios, when you’re ready to start acquiring music production gear.

I’m speaking to a bedroom producer who uses FL Studio, and uses MIDI heavily to make their beats with Virtual Instruments (VSTi).

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Buy Cables A Little Longer

I suggest buying audio cables a little longer in length.

If you ever move from your residence, or decide to adjust your studio around, your speaker cables may not reach. It’s happened to me many times..

I’m not saying to buy a one-hundred foot speaker cable.. but if you’re looking at a six-foot cable, I’d say buy a ten-foot cable.. you’ll be grateful you did! 🙂

Always Use the Same Cable Lengths to BOTH Speakers

Audio travels really fast down your speaker cable, but still, I recommend having your speaker cables the same length to each speaker.

For example, do not use a six foot cable to the left speaker, and a 10 foot cable to the right speaker.

This is just to ensure that the audio gets received to each speaker at the same time.. again, it won’t make a difference, but play it safe!

TRS 1/4 is Usually For Speakers

The TRS 1/4″ cable is most often used to connect our reference monitor speakers.

This is because most audio interfaces that we buy have TRS 1/4″ connections, and only accept XLR for microphone connections.

As you can see in the images below, my speaker allows for XLR and TRS 1/4″ connections.. but the audio interface only has TRS 1/4″ outputs. (You can 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 Is For Connecting Microphones + Hardware

I really like XLR because of its strong connection.

We most commonly use an XLR audio cable to connect microphones or hardware like outboard pre-amps, compressors, and equalizers.

Notice the female XLR connection has a locking clip (in my image above), which when plugged into a microphone, would allow you to swing your microphone around like a Rockstar. 😂


Powerful Workflow Tip: Audio Connectors

As a bedroom producer who creates content, you will be using variations of these cables all the time, and sometimes you need to go down to 1/8″ (1/4″ is professional grade, but 1/8″ is what you connect to your MP3 player for example when plugging in headphones).

It’s very important to have handy connectors around which can increase or decrease the size, and allow your cables to work no matter what the device is asking for.

Audio Cable Adapters (1/8″ to 1/4″), and Coupling

Must-Know Details: TS, TRS, and XLR Cables

You will hear the term BALANCED and UNBALANCED when buying audio cables.

We as bedroom producers use BALANCED 99% of the time..

Let’s quickly discuss TS, TRS, and XLR cables so you know what’s going on.

TS (Unbalanced)

audio cables - ts
You have to be careful.. notice it only has one ring. A Tip and a Sleeve (TS).

TS (not TRS) is a weird cable in the industry.. it’s only used for some applications like recording guitar, digital pianos, and hardware synthesizers. (I remember trying to research why TS is used in only these special circumstances, and never found a straight answer).

But a TS cable’s weakness is that it’s really susceptible to noise coming into the audio signal, and degrading it! Because of this, TS cables usually are not very long in length, so unwanted noise doesn’t enter into the recording.

The Ingenuity of a Balanced Cable

Alright, I had to draw a little example here so you can understand.

I also discuss this further in my 10 Steps to Become an FL Studio Pro course.

So XLR and TRS cables are the same cable, just the connectors are different. But, how balanced cables work is super cool.. there’s some really smart people out there that initially invented this stuff.. we just get to use it!

A TS cable only has two wires, but a balanced cable has three wires!

Sine Wave Adds (if the Same Polarity):

Notice on the bottom sine wave (where it says +8dB and -8dB), all of the sine waves are in the same direction. Because of this, the dB’s just add up!
This example shows that the two sine waves go in the opposite directions. The green +3dB goes up, but the pink -2dB goes down! When we add them together, we only get 1dB, because they subtract! This is what phase cancellation is when we talk about mixing!

Without getting TOO technical..

Because a balanced cable has three wires, it uses a cool trick with this extra wire.

It sends the exact same audio down two of its wires, but it flips one’s polarity, and causes the audio to cancel out. But as the audio is sent to its destination, bad noise can get picked up on both of these audio cables.

When the audio reaches the equipment, the equipment flips the audio signals so they are the same polarity (they now add), so we hear the audio again, but it would now cancel out the noise that got introduced during its destination!

Very very clever people out there that invented this!

Wrapping Up Best Audio Cables to Buy For Speakers and Microphones

So there you have it.

It doesn’t get more technical than that for us bedroom producers.

We simply use balanced cables (TRS 1/4″ for our speakers, and XLR for our microphone to our audio interface).

Again, I think Monoprice is the best audio cables in terms of price and performance.

Remember, make sure to buy a little extra cable length than what you’d think.. it will save you money, and allow the audio cables to be more versatile!

If you have any questions, just leave a comment below!

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GratuiTous (Riley Weller) is a Recognized FL Studio Trainer with over 30 Beatmaking Courses. He writes Beatmaking Books, hosts the Music Production Made Simple Podcast, and helps students with FL Studio Lessons. He also makes lots of his own music!
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