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XLR output instead of jack

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by jwstoker, Oct 19, 2009.

  1. jwstoker


    Nov 30, 2007
    the Netherlands
    Why do (bass)guitars not come with XLR outputs instead of a jack output.
    A quick search on the internet learned that XLR is better than jack connectors in many ways.
    Or are those fables?
    I m curious what the experts will tell about this!

    My new bass is being built at this very moment, so: should I ask to built in a XLR output?
  2. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    I think it started this way and remained as some kind of de facto standard.
    XLR is indeed better and not very complicated to implement inside a bass.
    A few bass amps (Markbass comes to mind) have XLR inputs.
  3. Rob Lewis

    Rob Lewis

    Feb 23, 2006
    XLR is more physically robust but it will only work as intended if your amp. has a balanced input. I would think it would add to the cost. Didn't JayDee's (as per Mark King) used to have an XLR as well as a 'phone jack output?
  4. Alembics have XLR outputs.
  5. Hoover

    Hoover Banned

    Nov 2, 2007
    New York City
    Well, it would be quite possible -- and probably more desireable, actually -- to take advantage of the more physically robust XLR connector without having to require a balanced input on your amp; you would just wire up the XLR output so that it's unbalanced, and then you'd have to have a proprietary unbalanced XLR-to-1/4" cable with you.

    At all times.

    So the first time you lose or forget to bring that special cable, you'll realize why XLR jacks haven't really caught on for bass guitars!

    Alembics are somewhat specialized; their 5-pin XLR jack is to allow an external supply to power the onboard electronics. It's both a DC input as well as an audio output.

    otoh, the Wal bass has a genuine balanced XLR output.
  6. pjmuck


    Feb 8, 2006
    New Joisey
    My Wal bass has both 1/4" AND XLR outputs. I never really gave the XLR much thought, but recently I started using it with the 1/4", since you can actually run both out at the same time. The end result is you've got two feeds of your signal that can be sent and processed separately, thus creating a real "Wal" of sound.
  7. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's Supporting Member

    The bass AND the amp should have the XLRs, then you use a standard mic cable. I think that Neutrik makes combo jacks that have both. The 1/4" plug and jack are nearly as bad for instruments as they are for speakers.

    In addition, the amps should provide phantom power for active basses as well, just like EVERY mixer does for condensor mics.
  8. The XLR jack is more physically robust, and is a locking jack. This is true.

    However - here's the thing - guitars and basses operate at low signal levels (as compared to line level) and at high impedance (also known as Hi-Z).

    Microphones, on the other hand, operate at low impedance, or Lo-Z. A common misconception is that if you had an XLR out on your bass, you could plug right into a mixing board without a DI - this is not the case, as mixer XLR inputs are designed for use with low-impedance mics. For this to work, you'd need to have a built-in DI - while this could theoretically be useful, I would advise against it, just because a really good DI can cost hundreds of dollars - just get one and bring it to all your gigs, rather than get five or six and install them in all your basses.

    In general, simply for reasons of simplicity, I would reccomend sticking with a 1/4" phono jack (also called a 1/4" TS or TRS) - just because it's compatible with everything there is. Bear in mind that if you used an XLR out, you'd need an XLR-to-1/4 TS/TRS converter, either in adaptor, specialty cable, or stompbox format, thereby negating by inconvenience any advantage gained by the more robust jack.

    If security of connection is your prime concern, you should consider the option of the Neutrik locking TRS jacks - these plugs accept a standard instrument cable, but have a locking mechanism similar in utility to an XLR.

    Hope this helps!

    EDIT: Gio S, the combo jack is a good idea. The phantom power idea is also interesting, however you should bear in mind that most onboard systems used in basses (as far as I know!) are not configured to use phantom power - and also, standard microphone phantom is 48 volts, while onboard EQ/pre systems are typically set up to run on 9 or 18 volts. Not sure if that will make a significant difference, but I'd be leery of trying it, myself.
  9. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    IME I've seen XLR connections fail almost as often as 1/4". And the locking feature is irrelevant IMO - run the cable through your strap and you're good to go. (This should be done even with a locking feature because strain directly on the plug & jack is bad.)

    To take full advantage of the XLR it would be nice to have a balanced output signal. AFAIK none of the commercially available onboard bass preamps have a provision for this, so that would be another hurdle to make or scrounge, then install the appropriate extra circuitry.

    A balanced XLR output (essentially a built-in DI) could be very handy indeed if your intent is to mostly go straight to mixing boards, mic pre's or powered speakers.

    Lack of a 1/4" output would be a hassle if you ever need to use a conventional bass amp. (Could be a real problem if you forget to bring the necessary adapters.) So if I were going to all the trouble to add an XLR output in a custom build, I would definitely also include a standard 1/4" jack as well.
  10. naturalkinds


    Jan 22, 2009
    Savannah, GA
    R. Lae + Jef: really thoughtful responses. +1 + 1.
  11. Rob Lewis

    Rob Lewis

    Feb 23, 2006
    Alembics: of course!
  12. sugarbear


    Jan 25, 2002
    My Rickenbacker 4002S has 3 outputs. 1. Rick-o-sound 3/4 output: Essentially both pickups, but I've also seen where there was a special Rick-o-Sound system of some sort. Never really researched it...... 2. second 3/4 output: only outputs the bridge pickup. Basically, if you used both the 3/4 outputs, you could send each pickup to a seperate amp. Kinda cool if you have 2 seperate amps. 3. XLR output: Direct signal, no control of tone from bass. Just a plain dry signal.
  13. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Interesting. Man, those 3/4" outputs must be MEGA sturdy! Where do you find cords for that? :D (I assume you meant 1/4"...)
  14. JackANSI


    Sep 12, 2006

    Neutrik NJ3FP6C-B Locking 1/4".

    Unless you are going to have a balanced output from the bass into a balanced input somewhere you get none of the noise rejection qualities of the XLR. Without the signal being balanced its sonically not much different to your standard 1/4" jack.

    Don't forget the SCDP-0 to make it look even better.
  15. Maybe Speakon would be best?

  16. Eight_Stringer


    Feb 22, 2009
    FWIW, used XLR on my P bass, rick4001, Destroyer II, since 1977 on the USA basses and 1981 on the DII. Like others mention it can be pain at gigs as you need to match 1/4" jacks to XLR when mixing basses or rigs. Have adapter cables and XLR or 1/4" on the amps. You can also use anti microphonic XLR on the bass. Jump around a lot on stage, 1/4" have a place , just not on my stage at 3 hour gigs.

    BTW you can use the third pole on the XLR to provide a stop 9V thump circuit on active basses ie you can nuke your amp with the negative battery switch circuit on tip,ring sleeve 1/4" if you disconnect the bass jack with amp at gig volume
    regards John
  17. There was a thread a while back talking about almost the same thing as this. Idea was that using an XLR cable, you could provide 9v (or 18v) power to your active pickups. I believe it spurred from someone using a 1Spot power supply (for pedalboards) to power their active pickups. Whoever it was (not sure of the user name at this point) used the 9 volt adapter on the 1Spot.

    It would really be nice to have something similar to this without the cost, and being able to build it myself.

  18. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    My idea would be to NOT use the balanced standard XLR mic output for the bass. That is low impedance and low level. That would requrie a DI in the bass. Also Phantom power is 48 volts which would be a hassle to convert to 9v.

    I'd first not use a microphone XLR connector with three pins because you DO NOT want mics etc. plugged into your bass or amp! I'd chose an XLR with say 5 pins. This gives you great options. gnd, two signals, 9v, 18v, spare. Standardize the pins so the bass and amp automatically connect to the right voltage and signal leads for the given gear.

    The advantages of this system would be no batteries. Which means that lower noise higher current circuits (like say those in your amp where power consumption is not a factor) can be used. Plus since there's plenty of power the output line impedance can be dropped with a line driver so cable length is not longer a problem. Like the mic counterparts these XLRs also lock and are slightly bigger than phone plugs but not excessively so. Of course you might do the same thing with DIN connectors but they are SO chintzy and they pull out!

    The one downside is that you can buy XLR jacks of the three pin type that have a phone plug jack right in the middle. That would allow you to use a normal cable and a passive mode in a pinch. I don't think they make those in 5 pin...unless this system were to become very popular!
  19. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    It's very simple to make your own X-bat. You need a box with a 9 or two 9 volt battery holders, a mono cord to reach your amp input with a mono jack and a stereo jack to plug your stereo cable into. Wire the battery plus though an on-off switch to the ring and minus to the ground. Inside the bass you need to make a shorting clip that snaps onto the battery clip. Tip goes straight through the box.

    That's all there is to it!


    1. make sure the battery "switch" in your bass uses the ring terminal to ground the negative side of the battery. A mono jack with an outboard switch won't work.

    2. make sure your stereo cable is two wires and a shield. Headphone unshielded wire won't work and some stereo cables are two shields and a center conductor which is not as good. If in doubt build your own stereo cable.

    3. This homemade power source DOES NOT have the short circuit protection. For that reason be sure to have both ends of your cable fully plugged in before turning on your battery switch. Phone plugs can short the tip or ring to ground if they are not fully plugged or while they are are pushed in or out.

    4. Again because you have no short circuit protection you have to be SURE that both ends of the stereo cable are fully plugged before turning on the battery. Otherwise as you plug the stereo cable into the battery box the tip contacts the ring terminal on the way in putting 9 volts on the output of your active bass preamp! only you can decide if you are willing to be careful enough to live without the short protection.

    Which is EXACTLY why I favor the 5 pin XLR idea. That way things don't inadvertently short out. One could just as easily construct a XLR 5 pin box the same way and there'd be no need for short circuit protection. Of course then you would have to change the jack on your bass. If you used a three pin XLR you can buy jacks that take either an XLR or a phone plug. However you don't want your bass cable plugged into some mic or mixer!
  20. Speakon IMO

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