What is the best monitor cable
Cable for studio monitors
The best cables for studio monitors
The choice for the best cable for studio monitors in the home studio is not that easy if you do not know some important aspects (yet). Anyone who relies on the recommendation in the forum or social media, well - they are abandoned and spend a lot of money in vain.
The best cables for studio monitors come with high quality connectors like these
By Carlos San Segundo
Contents: Cable for studio monitors
What are the best cables for studio monitors?
In this guide you will find our suggestions for the best cables for studio monitors. If you follow the advice from this guide, you will be able to enjoy excellent sound from your speakers, without any background noise from your smartphone, noise or crackling.
To make this clear right from the start: The type and quality of the cable for the studio monitors is very important. If you pick up models from the crawling box at the exit of the music shop, you might get away cheaply. But it receives (in many cases) correspondingly cheap quality and performance.
So what are the different types of cables for studio monitors?
Which cables fit my studio monitors?
Unfortunately, there is not just one standard for cables for studio monitors. Depending on the manufacturer, price or planned purpose of the loudspeakers, very different connections and cables can be used.
In this article we focus on loudspeakers that are intended for use as monitors in professional recording studios or home studios - the so-called studio monitors. Here, above all, analog connections are used: Cinch, jack (TRS) and XLR. Cinch is more geared towards the consumer market and tends to be found less often in speakers for studio use.
Most models are equipped with jack sockets or XLR sockets. Some even come with all three connection types.
Also read: The best studio monitors 2021
Connect studio monitors digital or analog?
Above all, more expensive loudspeakers have come with digital connections in recent years, which of course require a “digital cable”. But this is only a marginal issue here: Most readers will not even get into the trouble of having to decide on an audio cable here.
Some high-end studio monitors, such as the KSdigital A200 we use, come with digital connections. This means that these speakers have built-in converters that convert the signal from digital to analog.
Also read: FAQ audio cables
Anyone who has installed high-quality converters in their home studios will probably prefer to leave the conversion of the signals to the specially designed converter and control the loudspeakers in an analogue manner. Anyone who has an audio interface with mediocre converters could benefit from saving an additional conversion in the sense of better sound quality.
Ultimately, a surprising number of professionals use analog cabling.
Can you use analog cables for digital connections?
Pascal Miguet from Sommer Cable says: “Yes and no. We receive feedback from customers that the transmission with our adapters usually works without problems. Nonetheless, the S / PDIF format is a very critical signal, where over-lengths (more than 15 m) can lead to transmission errors, especially if there is no impedance adjustment from 75 Ohm (S / PDIF) to 110 Ohm (AES / EBU).
Neither a cable designed for analog unbalanced audio signals nor a cable designed for analog balanced audio signals has the necessary impedance of 75 or 110 ohms.
A high-class S / PDIF cable can be recognized by a high-quality skin / gas / skin foam and a dense braided shield, as is common with digital video cables. When processing an S / PDIF video cable, it makes sense to use a screwable RCA connector or to ensure a clean soldering point when soldering in order to avoid contact resistance.
Analog cabling - you have to pay attention to that
A frequently asked question is whether it would be better to use jack or XLR connections. And the answer to that is: Basically, it's a completely different question, namely whether the connections are symmetrical or asymmetrical.
With balanced cables, there are a number of benefits to the connection, including the elimination of unnecessary noise. I will leave you the details of the differences between the audio cables in the next link, at this point we just want to go into which cables are now designed symmetrically.
It is important to mention, however, that for a symmetrical connection, the equipment connected to both ends of the cable must have symmetrical connections. A balanced cable only helps if the loudspeaker and audio interface have balanced connections. If the audio interface or speakers have unbalanced connections, then correspondingly unbalanced audio cables must be used.
Also read: Balanced vs. Unbalanced - Cable FAQ
Unbalanced cables have two wires inside. One wire is for the signal, the second for the ground. The signal cable is responsible for transmitting the sound, while the ground serves as a reference. The unbalanced cable connections have two conductors, one for each wire. Unbalanced cables can easily be noisy from electronic devices near the audio cable. It is therefore important that unbalanced cables are kept short.
Plugs for cables for studio monitors
As already described above, cinch, jack and XLR are mostly found on the speakers. Cinch cables fall out because they are always unbalanced. So if you have the choice, go for jack or XLR - both can be symmetrical.
You can recognize this on a jack by the two colored rings - so it is a stereo jack cable. XLR / XLR cables are usually balanced. You have to be careful when it comes to XLR to jack, here the jack must again be designed as a stereo jack so that it is symmetrical.
High quality connectors on the best studio monitor cables
In terms of sound, the different types of plugs (XLR or jack) make no difference per se. Rather, it depends on how well the respective connections are made by the manufacturer. We are happy to recommend the usual suspect connections (HICON, Neutrik, in this order), as these have correspondingly low manufacturing tolerances - that is, they are manufactured to a particularly high quality.
Balanced cables carry three wires, two for the signal and one for the ground. The two signal wires are fed to the same signal with inverted phase. In the summation, the signals are recombined and the noise in both wires cancels each other out. Therefore: Symmetrical cables are low-noise, even over very long distances.
Difference between jack and XLR cables
As already mentioned, the connectors themselves don't make too much of a difference (apart from the material used). The cable between the plugs themselves can even be the same, regardless of whether the plug is a jack or XLR. One difference arises from the other aspects of the connector.
A latch is designed so that it can be plugged in and out frequently. I once read somewhere that they were originally developed for switchboards and telephone operators, where frequent coupling and uncoupling to establish and disconnect connections was common. So it is not surprising that the jack cable can be removed more easily from the socket - and that need not be desired in the home studio environment.
XLR cables can snap into place
XLR plugs, on the other hand, snap into place, better sockets even have a proper lock to prevent accidental pulling out. Another advantage of XLR plugs and sockets is that the ground is connected first, which dissipates any stray energy in the line. XLR can be left connected for long periods of time.
Criteria for good cables for studio monitors
These are our criteria for buying good cables that last a long time and, above all, sound excellent.
Manufacturer - not marketing
There are some manufacturers who do excellent marketing and (have to) call up appropriate prices. An expensive price or a big name does not have to mean that the product is actually good in an objective comparison. Over the years we have been able to test a lot of cables - in long-term tests, so to speak. We sorted out some cables (manufacturers) because they couldn't keep up on many levels.
An important aspect when choosing a manufacturer is whether you manufacture the cables yourself or just assemble them, i.e. buy individual parts and then assemble them. Manufacturers who operate machines for the production of cables by the meter score with consistent quality in production. That means a cable you buy today will sound just as good as it will next year. And is otherwise the same in all other manufacturing aspects.
With manufacturers who only assemble cables, it can happen (with appropriate quality management) that even two cables from the same batch are made differently well. So they sound differently good and have different physical properties.
Length - better shorter
Even with symmetrical cables, it makes sense to use shorter lengths (pun?). The longer a cable, the greater its resistance - and this also applies to symmetrical cables. Therefore, it is fundamentally true that short cables are better than long. However, you don't have to really worry as long as you stay below ten meters. Normally no drastic losses are to be expected up to this length.
We chose cable lengths of three meters for our studio. Just enough to connect the speakers to our converters. Once set up, studio monitors are seldom moved around the studio. So it doesn't make sense to use longer audio cables. If this is different for you, you can of course use other lengths.
Conductor material for studio monitor cables
The quality of the conductor material is important because of its physical properties. The better the material can conduct electricity, the better the sound. Usually the conductor is made of pure copper. Some expensive cables use silver as a conductor material. This may be the better conductor, but over time it has more wear and tear.
A solid conductor core can be found in some cables, which results in a better sound but less flexibility when bending. Solid means here that only a single thick wire, in contrast to many thin wires (stranded wire), is used for audio cables. Stranded wires are more flexible and are used in normal standard cables.
Shielding against interference
A symmetrical cable is almost completely free of noise, but a shielded cable can do even more against electromagnetic interference. For this purpose, an additional braid is used around the cable in the insulation, which serves as an even greater protection against interference.
The shielding is a conductive braid, not to be confused with the optical braids made of plastic on some cables. Although the latter look nice, they have no (hardly) influence on interferences. Electromagnetic interference or noise can be generated by screens or electronic devices with or without magnets.
A classic with us: We used an unshielded cable, as this allowed more heights to pass through than the comparison cables. The disadvantage: As soon as a mobile phone searches for a station or a call comes in, it can be heard on the studio monitors.
Quality of the connector
Even with an excellent cable, the connectors can, in the worst case, destroy the overall quality. In my practice I have already seen everything from loose contacts, no longer detaching from the socket or rusting after a while.
You can prefer to use gold-plated and silver-plated plugs, as these precious metals are quite corrosion-resistant: so do not rust. Cables with gold plugs are usually more expensive than those with silver contacts.
As far as the manufacturing tolerances are concerned, we can recommend HICON and Neutrik.
Recommendations - the best cables for studio monitors
From crawling boxes to supposedly high-end cables - we had them all here and tested. And these are our current recommendations for your studio.
Sommer Cable Epilogue - our choice for connecting our studio monitors
Summer Cable Epilogue
We connected our studio monitors with the Sommer Cable Epilogue EPB1-300. These are very high quality cables with an extremely low capacitance of 35 pF (wire / wire crossover). This ensures negligible losses, even with long cable runs. Each wire is 100% shielded by a dense copper braid and a semiconductor. For better conductivity, all four cores have been provided with a smoothing made of carbon.
In contrast to our earlier choice, these cables have 360 ° shielding and twisted, gold-plated contacts. The shielding protects against external electromagnetic interference, which we regularly heard with our unshielded cables. In particular, incoming calls, SMS or other short messages were announced over the loudspeakers before they even reached the smartphone.
As the manufacturer himself writes, these cables sound more convincing than their often more expensive competitors. We use a length of three meters, whereby the manufacturer emphasizes that these cables should be absolutely loss-free up to ten meters.
The Epilogue are pre-assembled with gold-plated XLR plugs from the Neutrik brand, which were specially manufactured for Sommer Cable. In the meantime, the price for a pair has leveled off at 169 euros, which is an outrageous bargain for a cable of this quality. The performance between expensive and inexpensive cables is often very similar.
The Sommer Cable Basic XLR / XLR cables offer very good sound quality at a low price
Sommer Cable SGHN-0300-SW
But what do you do if your budget (especially at the beginning of your career) is not that big? Then you can fall back on the basic series from the manufacturer Sommer Cable. This also offers very good sound quality - especially when compared to the asking price. In terms of sound, the Epilogue presented above can of course go a step further, but the SGHN is in no way inferior in terms of price / performance.
The “Stage 22 Highflex” cable used is characterized by a wire cross-section of 0.22 mm² for the two inner conductors. The cable offers tremendous flexibility thanks to the soft PVC sheath (6.4 mm). This is not needed when laying it in the studio, but if you want to use the cable as a microphone cable at a later date, you will be very happy about it.
The two XLR plugs come from the HICON brand, which are characterized by very low error tolerances. The contacts are silver-plated, which ensures very good sound transmission. The SGHN-0300-SW is currently available from specialist retailers for a street price of 12.50 euros.
Conclusion: The best cables for studio monitors
The budget is always a big issue, also for us. It is clear that really good cables for studio monitors cost money accordingly. Unfortunately, this cannot always be avoided. On the other hand, good cables are practically ready to use forever, you only have to buy them once.
Especially the cables in the recording studio that are attached to the speakers should never actually break. Because they are seldom plugged in and unplugged. And our recommendations are guaranteed not to rust either. So a one-time investment that can be used over many years.
We have chosen a mixture of different cables for our studio - depending on the purpose. The Epilogue connects our loudspeakers with the converter in order to have the most unadulterated sound quality possible.
One thing that you must not forget when buying equipment for your home studio: If only one element in your sound chain does not meet the requirements, the entire sound quality suffers. You may not have to buy the best cable for your studio monitors first, but you shouldn't wait long either. We have tested it several times with various professionals and sound engineers - the difference to cheap cables is (clearly) audible.
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