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The XLR series of connectors is widely used for audio and video applications. The XLR connectors provide a rugged series of connectors that can be used for professional as well as semi-professional applications. As an indication of this, XLR connectors are used on most serious audio mixing desks, and on high quality microphones, as well as for many other audio applications.
The XLR series connectors started life as the Cannon X series of connectors. The original versions had no method of retaining the connectors, and later a latch was added to prevent accidental disconnection, and the resultant connector was known as the XL connector. A further medication incorporated the use of a rubber based compound surrounding the contacts, and the designation XLR was given to them.
XLR connector basics
XLR connectors are available in male and female versions in both cable and chassis mounting designs, a total of four styles. This is slightly unusual as many other connector designs omit one of the styles (typically a chassis mounting male connector). The female XLR connectors are designed to first connect pin 1 (the earth pin), before the other pins make contact, when a male XLR connector is inserted. With the ground connection established before the signal lines are connected, the insertion (and removal) of XLR connectors in live equipment is possible without picking up external signals (as usually happens with, for example, RCA connectors). The number of pins varies. As of 2016, XLR connectors are available with up to 10 pins, and mini XLR connectors with up to eight. XLR connectors from different manufacturers will intermate, with the exception of six-pin models, which are available in two incompatible designs. The older Switchcraft 6 pin design adds a center pin to the standard 5 pin design, whereas the newer Neutrik design is a different pattern. The Switchcraft 6 pin female will accept a standard 5 pin male plug whereas the Neutrik 6 pin design will not. Currently Neutrik offers connectors in both 6 pin designs.
Standard XLR connections
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