What are the advantages of using XLR cables with headphones? I see many people on the internet re-cabling their headphones because it's "better", but whats actually going on?
The advantages for XLRs as opposed to some other types of connectors, is that they are what you call "balanced" where a signal is split, then re-converged. Some people claim to hear a difference, I do not see how on a very short cable run. some people find it more convenient to run XLR.XLR's are also a good deal less influenced by interference cause by outside sources. This is not normally a problem in large speaker gauges, but headphones are not as thick. XLR by its nature is much thicker. I use XLR speaker cables on my active PA system due to ease of hook-up and the splitting is much better when dealing with active speakers. They REALLY come into their own however, with very long cable runs where most other analog cables start to get scratchy. It is a matter of preference and need on shorter runs. The part that is anexception is for example, when I DJ and use the line out, I convert that signal to XLR because my mixer has better connectivity to the channel via XLR as opposed to 1/4 or in most cases 3.5 to RCA to 1/4 adapter. By cutting out the adapter, I get a bit of a boost.Also, I can hot swap cables with XLR. with anything else, it can cause a "pop" and I do not like having to turn down volumes in order to plug things in.
Do people seriously put two XLR connectors on their headphones? You need two, one for left, one for right. And then how does it go from balanced to unbalanced? Or do they just use one XLR and have one pin left, the other right? But then it's unbalanced anyway. And what do you have to plug those into? Is there anything with XLR headphone outputs? Or do those people have to use an adapter?
PS in response to ProSonicLive above me:
XLR is just a connector. To say "XLR speaker cables" is not quite accurate, since you are running line level audio to active speakers. A speaker cable is generally far heavier and runs between a power amp and the speaker. With active speakers, the power amp is inside the speaker cabinet.
And some side notes:
1/4" TRS (tip ring sleeve) is also used for balanced audio in professional gear. They are generally wired in parallel (and sometimes even are combined into the same connector jack) with the matching XLR connector. The advantages of 3 pin XLR (yep they come in several pin counts) over 1/4" TRS are durability and that the ground pin is longer than the others so it connects first and disconnects last. The big advantage of 1/4" TRS is connector density, which is to say they simply take up less panel space. They can also be less expensive.
Yes audio snobs have been putting two XLR cables on their headphones and spending ridiculous amounts of money on "Balanced" headphone amps. It just seems ridiculous to me. I usually see XLR cables at concerts where there are long runs and lots of other equipment that could interfere.