Almost every standardized piece of audio equipment, especially that which is used in music industry, relies on either XLR or TRS connectors.
You will find these everywhere from guitar cables, amps, PA systems, microphones to mixers and monitors. These two types of connectors are the standard at the moment.
The difference between the two is significant. When you put them side by side, they look absolutely nothing alike. TRS, also known as 1/4 inch connector relies on the good old fashioned ‘banana’ style jack, while the XLR uses a three pronged design.
In many ways, the TRS is an oversized mono version of your 3.5mm audio jack which you can see in every laptop, MP3 player and similar equipment.
So what happens when you want to plug a piece of equipment that uses an XLR into another piece of equipment which only supports TRS?
You need to get a XLR male To 1/4 TRS male adapter.
Versatility on The Cheap
Using adapters to bridge the signal between two incompatible connectors is nothing new. This has been done in all areas of tech industry.
Adapters in general increase the versatility of any device, given that the signal doesn’t need additional non-hardware related adjustments. If you own a quality set of headphones, you probably use this piece of gear every day to downsize the TRS to match a 3.5mm audio jack on your devices.
The same thing can be done with XLR and TRS connectors.
XLR male To 1/4 TRS male adapters usually come in two forms. You either have a direct adapter which looks like an extension of the connector, or you have a cable which connects two an XLR on one and with the TRS on the other.
Each of these has their own benefits. For example, you would want to use the cable in situations where space is very limited. The width of the XLR connector is much larger than that of the TRS, which may cause you some trouble if you need to plug it in a crowded input panel.
On the other hand, straight adapters are much cleaner in a sense that you won’t have all the extra cabling to worry about.
A great example of a direct XLR male To 1/4 TRS male adapter is Hosa GXP246.
This thing is built like a tank, and comes with great connections between the contacts. There is no loss in signal quality, and the adapter is pretty much inexpensive.
When it comes to cables, something like Monoprice 16AWG works just fine. It comes in many different sizes, and the build quality is decent to say the least.
What kind of performance can you expect from these two types of adapters? Well it depends which brand you go for. The ones we mentioned are pretty great both in terms of signal quality and durability.
There are some models on the market which will come with sub par components, leading to a degradation of signal quality. Because of this, it’s recommended to be very careful which ones you choose to buy.
What we like
The practical value of this type of adapter outweighs the cost by several orders of magnitude. With one of these, you can connect various equipment which you otherwise wouldn’t be able to.
What we don’t like
There is a lot of bad product in this specific category on the market. Being extra cautious is a must, especially since some of the cables come with wires soldered to wrong contacts. Sounds unbelievable, but it happens.
This adapter is not that uncommon. Many sound technicians and musicians will have one or more in their tool kit somewhere. If there is no immediate necessity for these, you will still want to have at least one just in case. Who knows when you will need to connect mismatching pieces of equipment together.
Luckily, a good product of this type will cost you several bucks at best, so it is not really that much of an investment to get one or more and have them in your toolbox.