RCA vs XLR cables in my system - which would give the best sound quality?


New member
Aug 10, 2019
Hi All,

I have changed my pre amp for a Bel Canto Pre 3 to hook it upto my Cyrus Mono X amps, but am wondering what would give the best sound XLR cables or normal RCA type cable.

Already have Van Den Hul the First between my old pre and power amps, but now that I can run balanced cables between them would this be better?

Also, is the Cyrus mono x amps a fully true balanced design?

Lots of questions I know, but if XLR would be better, which cables are good ones etc.




That is good to hear then, but what cables would you use or have used before?

Craig M.

New member
Mar 20, 2008
i seriously doubt there is any difference between balanced cables. i used a pair of 10 metre rca to xlr cables that cost about £6, when i first got my speakers, and they sounded exactly the same as the 2.5 metre mark grant star quad xlr cables i replaced them with.

El Hefe

Well-known member
Jun 21, 2008
Cant say much about XLRs between pre and power amps, but for source to amp, definitely sounds different. I say different because different XLRs also gives different sound. I connect my CD transport to my DAC and from DAC to my amp using XLR connections and it gives me a fuller sounds compared to RCA connections. But it was not easy choosing the right XLR. For me, it was from 2 models of VDH to A.S.I and finally Siltech. And I am now fully very happy. For my other non XLR kit, I am also slowly changing to Siltech.


Well-known member
Phil, I would be tempted to try some fairly basic XLRs to see if they make the sort of difference/improvement you seek. I think that in theory the balanced design should reduce the impact the cable structure has, but that said, there are countless hi-end XLRs available. You obviously have some great RCA phonos already with your VdH.

I have never tried my CD player unbalanced, having had the luxury of getting Transparent XLRs from the off, recommended by the supplying dealer. They are a great range but pretty costly in the UK. You cannot fail as long as you have the budget (I couldn't afford them now!).

Can you get a couple of sets on loan from your dealer, or a trial from Russ Andrews or a similar supplier? I'd also ask the pre-amp manufacturer, as many firms develop their gear with particular brands. If you fancy a gamble, there are quite often bargains on a well-known auction site, where people switch systems and sell-off unwanted XLRs.


New member
Nov 19, 2008
Do you have the manual for the Mono X? It says:

"Phono (RCA) connections are recommended unless the Mono Xs are a long distance from the pre-amplifier, or beside a loudspeaker, then balanced XLR connections may give improved performance."

If you are still curious, just borrow some XLR cables, or even buy some basic ones (you can always return stuff you've bought online in 7days), and check against phono cables you already own. You can then advise when someone else inevitably asks the question.
Hi Phil

Ime Cyrus Mono X's sound best when using single ended inputs. I've found the performance of the amps when using XLR inputs overall lack weight, dynamics and sound somewhat flat in comparison to the single ended inputs (which you may find too much of a good thing with the Bel Canto pre amp).

Btw, i would not particularly recommend using The First interconect between pre/power as there is a high probability that you could experience a level of ground loop. A better alternative will be using a basic RCA - RCA interconnect or if still wish to use XLR - XLR then a cable from your local Professional Audio shop will do the trick nicely.

All the best

Rick @ Musicraft


I support the advice given above, try and find a dealer who can provide both RCA and XLR cables of the make make (so you are comparing apples with apples) and see if you can hear the difference. I also have Transparent XLR interconnects, originally I had the "super" versions on loan and there was a very clear difference between RCA and XLR - much prefer the XLR.

Since then I moved up to the Ultra, and recently had the opportunity to compare my Ultra (MM technology) with the new version utilising the MM2 technology. I could clearly hear an audible improvement, however it wasn't night and day but then at the prices we're talking for these cables (Ultra MM2 I think is over £2k), you're very much into the realms of diminishing returns.


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