July 17, 2012

Broken XLR Cable Got You Down? Learn How to Fix It in This Tutorial

In the indie or DIY world, learning how to fix something yourself can save a lot of money. Certainly, there are cases where an item might be better off with a professional -- like the internal electronics of your camera -- but there are are plenty of fixes anyone can make with a little knowledge. John Hess of FilmmakerIQ (also a frequenter of this site) guides us through the steps of soldering on new XLR heads. This is great not only if you break a cable, but if you want to make a new one.

Practical knowledge like this is important if you want to want to save money. It's also important, however, to learn the right way to do something so that you don't hurt yourself or anyone else in the process. Electrical currents and massive amounts of heat (in the case of a soldering iron) usually present an inherent danger, so if you don't understand what you're doing, take the time to familiarize yourself with the process and talk to someone who actually does know what they're doing. Knowing how to fix an XLR cable could be an invaluable skill in the field, but most importantly, you will feel better knowing that you don't have to rely on someone else -- an embodiment of the DIY spirit.

[via FilmmakerIQ]

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Just as an interesting note - the camera shooting the overhead and any of the close up macros shot is the GoPro with the Varifocal lens you posted posted a few days ago:

It's mounted on a C-stand with a boom using their bicycle mount with a little gaffer tape.

Just thought it was a neat connection :P

July 17, 2012 at 2:23PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Nice, I was wondering what it looked like in practice. Looked pretty good. Great video too. I've made BNCs and CAT5 but was wondering how making an XLR was different. Thanks

July 17, 2012 at 4:20PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I think that Varifocal mod is great. It's cool to see all the third party stuff coming out for that camera. Either way thanks for making these videos and tutorials!

July 17, 2012 at 8:59PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Joe Marine
Camera Department

Interesting, but I'm sorry this is pretty awful!
To paraphrase "it doesn't matter if red or black is 2" Well yes it does!
Red is traditionally hot, and it depends what equipment you are connecting to. Some gear is pin 2 hot, some is pin 3 hot. If you are going between equipment of different standards you need to swap pins.
Also, the earth ( screen ) should be covered with a rubber sleeve ( hellerman is a brand name ) to prevent it touching the other pins if the cable is twisted or distorted over time.
Finally, regarding the hot pin, if you are making or repairing a XLR to 1/4" unbalanced plug you need to put the hot pin on the tip and join the cold and earth together.
If you don't know which pin is hot, and don't wire them correctly then you will have problems.
Any experienced sound engineer will automatically assume that red is wired to hot and black is wired to cold.
Any cables that convert pin 2 to pin 3 hot are normally labelled as such.
Please get the facts right as wrongly wired cables can be a nightmare on set.

July 17, 2012 at 4:19PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Additional Information can be found here

July 17, 2012 at 4:28PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


David: that is only relevant to an xlr connected to a device. For interconnecting cables, such as the one in the vide, that simply bridge the distance between two devices (i.e., between a mic and a mixer) as long as #2 on one side and #2 on the other side are connected via the same color wire (and the same for #'s 1 and 3), you're golden. So the video is technically correct. Your point is well made, but is limited to XLRs on a device.

July 19, 2012 at 7:29PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Mike P

The most important part is at 06:16. I can't tell you how many times I've forgotten to put the cable sleeve on. :-/

July 17, 2012 at 10:06PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Haha, me too! :)

July 20, 2012 at 4:56AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Just one anecdote. I once used a borrowed boom mike with an XLR-minijack cable that had been made wrongly. All was good during editing (stereo monitoring), except on final mix to mono it went silent. One of the channels had been hooked up the wrong way, and the two waveforms were out of phase, cancelling down to silence.

Argh. Stress and pain.

July 18, 2012 at 8:44AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Any good audio software or even hardware mixer should be able to do a simple phase shift. One push of a button: problem solved.

July 23, 2012 at 4:06AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


If you can use a soldering iron, there is a great benefit to making your own cables, especially for analog signals. I needed a 6" cable for my camera-mounted shotgun mic, so I bought high-quality components at my local electronics place. It cost more than buying Chinese cables, but they're rock-solid and have never failed me.

July 19, 2012 at 3:43PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Jacques E. Bouchard

you should also ground the xlr plugs - male and female

July 19, 2012 at 10:42PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


xlr body plugs , i mean

July 19, 2012 at 10:44PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Great advice on making your own cables. I agree doing it yourself can inspire more confidence during a shoot, but all the skill in the world cannot make up for poor quality cable and connectors. I recommend Canare Star Quad Microphone cable (L-4E6S / L-4E5C) and Neutrik connectors, either the female Neutrik NC3FX-1 or the male NC3MX-1. Canare cable is used by professionals all over the world and is extremely durable. It has two conductors for the hot & cold conductors. Neutrik connectors are also very durable and provide a more positive cable lock and strain relief than the crimping type shown in the video. Cheap cable and connectors may save a few bucks, but I think it's wrong production tool to save money on.

July 23, 2012 at 4:00PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I started making my own cable connectors out of necessity to power various devices. It's something everyone in video/audio should know so that when situations come up, you can solve them on location or at night before the next day.

Sure, red and black don't matter because they're still just conduit/insulation for the wire for electricity to flow through, but doing it half ass and backwards just screws up anyone having to deal with it/problem solve it later. Take the time to get it right.

Red = + (pos)
Black = - (neg)

To do otherwise is like replacing the IN/OUT doors to the kitchen in a restaurant. if you've ever seen Seasame Street with Grover as a waiter or a Buster Keaton movie, you know you're setting up a recipe for disaster.

With high amperage devices like car batteries (which back in the day I often had to use to run CRT's for video village), you can cause thousands of dollars of damage and also risk shocking yourself to death.

It does matter...b/c if this cable were to fail or get severed on set and had to be fixed in the field, any experienced person (who may not have a volt tester and just have electrical tape, or maybe not even that---on set with 20 people waiting on you to fix it) you're gonna wire the cable with red as positive.

July 26, 2012 at 6:43PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Daniel Mimura