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Q: "Can you snip the 1/4" jack off a cheap mic and replace it with an XLR?"

So you have a cheap mic with a jack connector. If you replace the jack with an XLR, do you have an expensive mic?

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Question from a Audio Masterclass visitor...

"There are lots of cheap microphones with 1/4" plugs. Is it possible to replace the plug with an XLR and connect it to a snake cable? Or can I just connect these cheap microphones to a direct box and so convert the output to XLR?"

The (imaginary) scenario is this... a band is building up their own PA system from scratch and there's not a lot of money to go around. They have an XLR stage box and multicore cable that takes the signals from the stage to the mixing console, but they have spent most of their money and need to economize on microphones.

I would like to respond to this by saying that you can buy pro mics at amazingly cheap prices, so why bother with microphones that are obviously not professional?

But everyone has to start somewhere and sometimes the budget is severely limited. So let's have a look at this problem.

The microphone may have a fixed cable terminating in a quarter inch jack. If this is the case, then the microphone is almost certainly unbalanced, meaning that it only has one signal-carrying conductor in the cable, plus earth.

In this case, the jack can be replaced with an XLR by connecting the inner conductor to Pin 2 and the earth to both Pin 1 and Pin 3.

That will work, although the mic will be more susceptible to interference than a balanced mic.

If the microphone has a detachable cable, then the mic itself almost certainly has an XLR output. In this case, the jack on the detachable cable can be replaced with an XLR, or you can buy an XLR to XLR cable.

If you replace the jack, then take a look inside the female XLR at the other end to see where the wires go. Wire the male XLR to the other end keeping the pin numbers the same, with respect to the colors of the inner conductors. The earth always goes to Pin 1.

Of course, changing the connector will not improve the sound of the microphone in any way.

Connecting the mic to a DI box probably won't work too well. If it is a transformer DI box, then it might work. But replacing the connector is the better option.

Once you have got your mics working with their new XLR connectors, it's time to start saving for better mics!

By David Mellor Thursday November 30, 2006
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