There is a variety of cable types when it comes to connecting a device – like a computer – and an accessory like a display port or audio equipment. There is one type of cable that is specifically meant for audio use: the XLR cable.
This cable type has a litany of audio-based uses, ranging from personal to military depending on the type of XLR cable. These cables can get to be quite expensive, leading to the question, “Why are XLR cables so expensive?”
While some XLR cables are fairly inexpensive, depending on the technology in question, the vast majority can get to be quite pricey. As is the case with any other piece of technology, it all comes down to a few factors that impact the quality and performance of that cable.
Your basic headphones can be quite cheap, especially if quality really isn’t a concern. The more niche you get, the more expensive those cables become. As it stands, there are a handful of different qualities that can drastically impact how far your budget can go when choosing XLR cables.
When you look at an XLR cable, you will notice a few things. The first thing you should notice is that there are a few thin strands of copper wire that are right in the middle of the XLR cable. If you pick a cable that has more fine strands than another, the one with the higher strand count will be much more expensive.
XLR cables that have more strands also tend to be both more durable and flexible. If you plan to use those cables quite a bit, the investment in something more durable that has a higher strand count may be worthwhile. That said, it not only adds in terms of production costs but manufacturing time as well.
Every cable comes with a layer of protection called cable shielding. This is an important factor to consider because it not only keeps the cable from degrading but can have an impact on any potential signal interference. Here are the three main shielding types to be aware of.
Braided. These are found in more high-end cables and use – you guessed it – braided copper. Braided copper is not only very strong, but it also happens to be extremely durable and highly conductive as well.
Serve. Serve shielding makes use of flatter copper straights versus the braided copper from above. Manufacturers will wrap the strands going in one direction instead of braiding them. Though this type of shielding is far less effective, it has better flexibility than the aforementioned braiding.
Foil. This is a combination between a copper drain wire and foil wrapping. It isn’t as effective or durable when it comes to shielding, but it has become standard for permanent installations as well as anything that requires snakes or multi-cores.
Think back to manufacturers twisting two copper wires together. This is where the focus of the lay is concerned. More expensive cables will have more twists than the more affordable cables. The lay is a measurement of the distance between those twists. The higher the lay, the more distance between the twists (which means fewer twists).
Shorter lay counts on expensive cables equate to better cable flexibility and noise-cancelling. A higher lay, however, will require a greater length of cable. That can ramp up the cost of those cables as well as the manufacturing times associated with them. Each factor plays an exponential role in not only the cost of those cables but in the overall performance as well.