Your Questions: Help! My Controller Won’t Plug Into My Speakers…

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balanced cables cables Pro RCA unbalanced cables XLR
Last updated 28 March, 2018

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Sometimes you’ll find you have to plug your controller into gear that doesn’t have the same sockets on it, which is the problem our reader has today. There’s always a solution, though…

Digital DJ Tips reader Liam writes: “I have 2 x RCA outputs for the master out at the rear of my DJ controller, but I need to connect to two active speakers, which each have an XLR connection. (That’s 1 x red RCA and 1 x white RCA to connect to 2 x separate speakers with 1 x XLR connection on each). Is this even possible?

Digital DJ Tips says:

Yes, it is. You can buy leads that have a single RCA on one end and an XLR on the other, and they’ll work fine. A pair of these will be all you need to get the set-up you describe up and running (see picture above). If you’re interested, the diagram below shows how they will be wired internally (you may want to make your own, for instance):

XLR to RCA

Balanced vs unbalanced

It pays to understand what’s going on here. XLR leads are what’s called “balanced” meaning in layman’s terms an XLR lead can carry a signal a long way with less degradation than an equivalent RCA cable. If you have a lead that has an RCA connector on one end and an XLR on the other end, it automatically becomes “unbalanced” and loses that benefit. But in practical terms, for home use or for running from you controller to a nearby amplifier / pair of speakers, this won’t matter.

It’s definitely preferable to use balanced cables for longer runs though, which is why mid to pro controllers have “balanced” outputs, too, as well as RCA (“unbalanced”) outputs. (It’s also why pro CDJs, turntables etc don’t – because the distance from these units to the mixer is so short that there’s no benefit from having balanced cables.)

Have you had to hack together this kind of thing to get your DJ system up and running? Have you had problems with hum or interference that balanced cables solved? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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