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Do XLR Mic cables have differing abilities to handle high gain?

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Do XLR Mic cables have differing abilities to handle high gain?

Postby jclemensfl » Mon Dec 17, 2018 4:02 pm

I mount my bass drum mic (which is a Heil Sound PR48) inside the kick for ease of travel and setup, and use a short 3-foot cable to run through the front head. Then I hook my Whirlwind drum snake's channel 1 up to that 3-footer.

I'm having trouble with nasty distortion coming from the kick. When I used a 25-foot cable direct from the mic into the mixer, no issue, which would leave me to believe it is either the 3-foot cable or the snake channel 1. But I've tested both the snake and two different three-foot cables on a LiveWire cable tester, and register no issue.

So could the distortion be a problem in the snake or 3-foot mic cable that still allows the cable to test out properly on the cable tester, but distorts when presented with the High Gain of the kick drum mic?

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Do XLR Mic cables have differing abilities to handle high gain?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Dec 17, 2018 4:14 pm

The sound pressure level inside a kick drum is immense, and the shockwave is likely to cause the short linking cable to move. But some mic cables are microphonic, meaning they generate electrical voltages when moved which add to the wanted signal and can often sound like crackles or distortion.

Cable microphony won't show up when tested on a standard cable tester.

You could experiment with different types of cable -- by which I mean completely different brands and constructions -- because some types are a lot better than others in this respect.

The other things to check are the integrity of the solder connections inside the XLR plugs -- again, poor joints can become microphonic), and to ensure that the XLR connection between the short cable and the snake isn't rattling against something as that can sometimes sound like distortion, too.

As an aside, I once spent considerably effort as an assistant sound technician trying to track down the source of distortion on a kick drum mic at a BBC In Concert recording decades ago. Changed the cables, the mic, the snake channel, the desk channel... eventually discovered that the problem was the TT patch-cord in the patch bay. The monitoring SPL in the OB van was so loud that the shock wave caused the patch cable to move slightly in the breeze, and the slightly corroded plug resulted in audible distortion. Bizarre but true!

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Re: Do XLR Mic cables have differing abilities to handle high gain?

Postby jclemensfl » Mon Dec 17, 2018 4:26 pm

Hugh, thank you for the very thoughtful response, and the anecdote as well. I would guess my best path forward would be to try a super high quality jumper cable, perhaps Monster or Mogami? I'm assuming these would be my best bets at avoiding microphony. Much appreciated.
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Re: Do XLR Mic cables have differing abilities to handle high gain?

Postby MarkPAman » Mon Dec 17, 2018 4:30 pm

Also the sockets in some "lesser" makes of XLR are not as tightly fitting as others, especially as they get older. These too will probably first start showing problems in a loud place.
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Re: Do XLR Mic cables have differing abilities to handle high gain?

Postby Wonks » Mon Dec 17, 2018 4:39 pm

You don't need to go for overpriced and overhyped Monster cables. Just buy some that have Neutrik connectors (not copies) and a well known cable brand like Van Damme and you'll be fine.

Much cheaper if you can make your own, but even ready made, they aren't that expensive. Several places that make them to order online, or try somewhere like Studiospares.
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Re: Do XLR Mic cables have differing abilities to handle high gain?

Postby Wonks » Mon Dec 17, 2018 4:44 pm

Also it's worth getting hold of either some De-Oxit contact cleaner or 'WD40 specialist contact cleaner' (never normal WD40) and spraying some in each connector in the snake in turn after inserting and removing an XLR a few times to help clean the contacts and remove dirt and any light corrosion.
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Re: Do XLR Mic cables have differing abilities to handle high gain?

Postby jclemensfl » Mon Dec 17, 2018 5:02 pm

Again, thanks so much for all of the quick replies. We regularly gig in front of a couple thousand folks, so I have no problem spending the money to make sure I get the best gear. I will take all of your comments to heart, and let you know how it turns out.
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