The Best TRS Cables for The Money

Best TRS CablesTRS cables are among the most useful accessories you can have in your home or studio. Whether you are a hobbyist, an audio professional, or even just a casual music listener, you may find it useful to have a few of these handy.

So in this article, we’ll cover some of the best TRS cables on the market, as well as some important information on what you need to know when looking for one to buy.

Related guides:

Studio Monitor Cables, Instrument Cables, XLR Mic Cables


10 Best TRS Cables

If you’ve walked into an audio equipment store you may realize that there seems to be an unending choice of cables. Yes, There are many options in TRS cables available nowadays, with different connectors for interfacing with different devices. Also, they come in a wide budget. We think that most highly expensive cables are mostly snake’s oil, so we’ll only be covering the most common ones that come at a reasonable price.

However, if you are looking for a specific type of TRS cable that’s not found in the list, we recommend that you use the Sweetwater Cable Finder.

Hosa HPE-325

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You’re see the Hosa name a lot. They’re a very common brand that makes some of the best TRS cables around. The Hosa HPE-325 is a straight headphone extension cable with a female TRS connector on one end and a male TRS connector on the other. It measures 25 feet in length, giving you sufficient reach for most home and pro studio applications. However, you can get it in shorter lengths if necessary. And because it is made by Hosa, it is durable enough to withstand the rigors of constant use on the road. Ideally suited for connecting headphones to mixers, audio interfaces, and other devices, the Hosa HPE-325 provides reliable and hiss-free performance with no signal loss and no deterioration in sound quality.

Hosa MHE-100.5

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The Hosa MHE-100.5 is a TRS cable with a ¼-inch female connector on one end and a right-angled ⅛-inch male connector on the other. A balanced cable, it measures six feet long, which makes it a great option if you don’t have to stray too far away from your studio desk. You can use this to connect instrument cables to devices with a ⅛-inch jack or to extend headphones that have a ¼-inch plug. Because the ⅛-inch connector is right-angled, it won’t take up too much space on an already cramped desk.

Hosa MHE-325 1/4″

 

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The Hosa MHE-325 is a balanced TRS cable with a ¼-inch male connector on one end and a ⅛-inch female connector on the other. The cable measures 25 feet from end to end, making it ideally suited for any application, but you can also get it in 10 feet for most studio and live applications. Like all Hosa cables, it is also durable enough to withstand regular use on the road. Common applications for this cable include connecting headphones to stereo amplifiers or receivers. You could also use it to connect audio equipment that uses ⅛-inch cables to amplifiers or mixing consoles. The Hosa MHE-325 provides a solid connection with no static or crackling.

Hosa MHE-110 3.5mm

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The Hosa MHE-110 is a balanced TRS cable with a ⅛-inch female connector on one end and a ⅛-inch male connector on the other. It measures 10 feet in length, giving you sufficient reach for most studio and home applications. The MHE-110 is also suitable for live sound reinforcement and live performance use, with the trademark Hosa quality and reliability. You can use this to extend the reach of your headphones or to connect instruments to a mixer, effects processors, or other equipment that has ⅛-inch connectors. Like all Hosa connectors, the MHE-110 promises crackle- and static-free performance with the full quality of the audio preserved.

Pro Co BPBQXF-10 Excellines

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The Pro Co BPBQXF-10 is a balanced cable with a female XLR connector on one end and a ¼-inch male TRS connector on the other. The cable is ten feet long and has a durable but flexible exterior. The end connectors are very sturdy and well-made, so you can expect the cable to provide years of reliable performance. Common applications include extending the reach of a mic and plugging it into a mixer that doesn’t have XLR inputs. If you are looking to upgrade from your current cable but don’t necessarily want to spend a bundle, the Pro Co BPBQXF-10 is a good choice.

Pro Co BP-10 Excellines

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The BP-10 is part of Pro Co’s celebrated Excellines series, bringing high-quality cable technology to the market without the high price tag normally associated with high-end cables. A balanced TRS cable, the BP-10 has ¼-inch male connectors at both ends. The cable measures 10 feet long, which provides enough reach to connect to an amp or a mixing console comfortably without excess cabling getting in the way. As expected, this cable works equally well in the studio and in live settings, allowing you to connect your instrument to your amp, effects processors, or other equipment. The cables are color-coded as well, which is useful in a dark studio or stage setting.

Hosa CMS-110 Stereo Interconnect Cable

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The Hosa CMS-110 combines a male ⅛-inch connector with a male ¼-inch TRS connector in a high-quality balanced cable. Measuring 10 feet long, the CMS-110 is a reliable all-around cable that should find plenty of use in any home or studio environment. Like all Hosa cables, it is durable enough to withstand heavy-duty use on the road or in a pro studio facility, delivering reliable performance day in and day out. Use this cable to connect your guitar, keyboard, or other instruments to an amp, a powered speaker, a mixing console, or any other equipment with a ⅛-inch connector.

Hosa CSS-110R

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The CSS-103R from Hosa is a balanced cable that combines a straight ¼-inch TRS connector on one end with a right-angled ¼-inch TRS connector on the other end. It is 10 feet long, making it long enough to provide sufficient reach between your audio equipment. However, if you operate in a cramped room you can choose 3 and 5 feet options, which will leave you without having too much excess cabling that will get in your way. You can use these to connect instruments to amps, mixers, or effects processors for example, with the right-angle connector reducing the amount of desk space that the cable will take up. These are perfect for live applications as well, with the trademark quality that Hosa is known for.

Pro Co PARKER15

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The PARKER15 is a ‘Y’ cable that is essential for owners of dual-output instruments. Made by Pro Co, it lets you combine the signals from a dual-output electric or acoustic guitar into a single TRS connector or split a signal into two distinct paths. One end of the cable has a ¼-inch TRS plug while the other has two ¼-inch TS plugs. The cable itself is ten feet long with the two TS ends measuring five feet in length. This gives you enough reach to connect your instrument comfortably to your amp or a mixing console.

Hosa CMM-105RR

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Hosa’s CMM-105RR is a handy cable that measures five feet in length. With a right-angled ⅛-inch connector at each end, it is essentially a patch cable that lets you connect cellphones, media players, and any other ⅛-inch equipped device with amplifiers, speakers, signal processors, and other audio equipment. The right-angle connector also makes it ideally suited for connecting shotgun mics to DV cameras. The plugs are nickel-plated to ensure durability and reliable connection. The CMM-105RR also has oxygen-free copper (OFC) conductors that enhance the clarity of the signal passing through, and an OFC spiral shield that keeps out EMI and RFI.


TRS Cable Buying Guide

Types of Audio Cables

Audio cables come in a few different types, each of which is intended for a specific purpose. The four most common types of audio cables are:

  • Instrument cables
  • Patch cables
  • Microphone cables
  • Speaker cables

Instrument cables are used to connect electric instruments such as guitars, basses, and keyboards to amplifier or preamplifiers. These types of cables carry low-voltage instrument signals, and most are equipped with the familiar ¼-inch connectors.

Read more about instrument cables.

Patch cables are similar to instrument cables, but they are usually much shorter in length. They are typically used to connect different equipment together, such as effect pedals or PA or recording gear. While instrument cables are generally unbalanced, patch cables may be balanced or unbalanced depending on the application.

Microphone cables are shielded and balanced cables that usually have XLR connectors, although they may have ¼-inch TRS connectors as well. Some may even have ⅛-inch or USB connectors, which allows for direct interfacing with computers. Some PA systems use microphone cables to connect mixing boards to powered speakers using XLR connections.

Read more about microphone cables.

Speaker cables are unbalanced cables that typically use much heavier gauge conductor wires than patch, instrument, or mic cables. These heavy-gauge wires are necessary because speakers are expected to carry much higher voltage signals than other types of audio cables. Speaker cables may be fitted with any of several connectors, including ¼-inch phone or MDP or “banana clip” connectors.

Read more about studio monitor cables.

Balanced vs. unbalanced cables

A balanced audio signal

“Balanced and unbalanced.”

You have probably come across these terms many times when reading up on audio cables and audio connections. Knowing the difference between the two will help you determine the most appropriate types of connectors and cables to use for specific pieces of equipment. This, in turn, will help ensure better signal quality and fewer anomalies in your audio signal chain.

What is “balanced?”

Balanced cables utilize two conductor wires and a ground wire. This is why balanced connectors have three contact points. By using two wires, balanced cables flip the audio signals passed through it and add them to each other. This effectively cancels out any noise in the signal, resulting in higher quality audio.

What is “unbalanced?”

In comparison, unbalanced cables are more likely to pick up noise and electrical interference from nearby equipment. Although unbalanced cables are fine for non-critical applications and shorter cable runs, it is generally advisable to use balanced connectors if signal integrity is a primary concern. This ensures that electrical hums and signal noise are kept at bay while recording or mixing.

How this applies to you

Of course, a truly balanced connection requires that every single point of contact in the signal chain is balanced. The equipment being connected to each other should have the appropriate balanced inputs and outputs. All cables and connectors used–whether TRS or XLR–should be wired in a balanced configuration as well. If even just a single one of these elements is unbalanced, the entire signal chain will essentially be unbalanced also.

Most cables with ¼-inch connectors that you will come across in a studio or on stage are probably unbalanced. Unless they are specifically labeled as ‘balanced’, it is best to assume that they are unbalanced, so you don’t inadvertently mess up what is supposed to be a balanced connection.

Unbalanced cables are best kept less than six feet long to prevent signal degradation. If you need to make longer cable runs–or if you need to connect an unbalanced piece of equipment to one that is balanced–you will have to use a direct injection (DI) box. This device is commonly used to convert instrument signals to line-level signals. DI boxes are often used to plug unbalanced instruments such as electric guitars or synthesizers to mixers and PA systems.

What are TRS cables?

TS vs TRS audio JackTRS connectors look very similar to TS connectors, except that they have three points of contact:

  • the tip, ring, and sleeve.

In this design, the tip carries an audio signal, while the sleeve carries the ground, just as it does with a TS connector.

However, TRS connectors also utilize the ring for an additional signal.

TRS connections may be used for a few different applications.

They may be used to pass stereo signals, in which case the signal is split between the left and right channels. With such connections, the left signal is carried by the tip, while the right signal is carried by the ring.

TRS connections may also be used to pass balanced mono signals between two pieces of audio equipment. This type of connection results in much less noise than an unbalanced connection, even with longer cable runs.

When to use TRS connectors

As just stated, TRS connectors are best used when:

  • Sending mono balanced signals between two devices
  • Sending stereo signals between two devices

Although it may be possible to use a TS cable instead of a TRS cable, this will likely result in lower signal strength and increased noise and risk of electrical interference.

A Note on The Term “Phone Jack”

The standard ¼-inch connectors are often referred to as ‘phone’ jacks, which can cause a bit of confusion. This stems from the 19th century when such connectors were used in the earliest types of manual telephone switchboards. Some believe that ¼-inch connectors are the oldest type of connector that is still in use today. Considering that these connectors were first used in 1878, they are now more than 140 years old!

Other Types of Connectors You Probably Should Know

Apart from the ¼-inch connectors used in TS and TRS cables, you may also come across audio cables that have ⅛-inch, XLR, or RCA connectors.

⅛-inch ConnectorSmall Jack Connectors

Many consumer audio devices have ⅛-inch connectors. These are typically used to connect headphones to media players or other audio devices and are commonly referred to as ‘headphone’ connectors. They may also be used to plug media players or cellphones into the ‘aux’ input of stereo systems, in which case they are often referred to as aux cables.

XLR ConnectorsXLR connector tips

Some cables may have XLR connectors, which are commonly used to connect microphones to preamps, direct boxes, or mixing consoles. They may also be used to connect two audio devices to each other. XLR cables are usually wired in the same way as TRS cables, resulting in a balanced connection and reduced noise in the signal passing through.

Because XLR cables typically carry low-impedance signals, they are also referred to as ‘low Z’ cables. XLR cables can usually be run at longer lengths than other types of cables without increasing the noise level because of their balanced design.

RCA ConnectorsMogami GOLD RCA

Another common type of audio connector is the RCA ‘phono’ connector, which is commonly used in consumer and semi-professional audio equipment. While XLR connectors are very similar to TRS connectors, RCA connectors are more similar to TS connectors. Like TS connectors, RCA connectors carry unbalanced signals. They also consist only of a single connector plus a ground.

RCA connectors are often used in paired cables that deliver a stereo signal. These are usually color-coded to make it easier to distinguish the right from the left and vice versa. Right connectors are usually colored red, while the left connectors are colored white.

Because RCA cables carry unbalanced signals, they are much more prone to noise and electrical hum than balanced cables. For this reason, most RCA cables are designed to be as short as possible.

Tips on Choosing Cables

When choosing cables, you will have to take the following factors into consideration:

  1. the task you will be doing
  2. equipment you will be connecting.

These factors will help you determine what type of cables and connectors to use and how long your cables should be.

For Studio Work

Your cables only have to be as long as necessary to connect the necessary devices to each other.

Any longer than that and you will have to deal with unnecessary cable length that will just get in your way and possibly add unwanted noise to the signal chain.

For Smaller Spaces

Most experts agree that audio cables should be as short as possible. Speaker cables are generally best kept up to ten feet. Instrument cables can be considerably longer, but it may be necessary to use a buffer to prevent signal degradation with longer runs.

For Larder Spaces

For connecting audio equipment that are located at a distance away from each other, using balanced cables will often provide better results than unbalanced cables. If you have to use unbalanced cables, it would be best to keep them less than six feet in length.

What Connectors You Need

When it comes to connectors, the best TRS cables typically use XLR connectors or ¼-inch plugs. XLR connectors are more commonly used for connecting microphones, DI boxes, and speakers, while ¼-inch plugs are used to connect line-level devices.

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