October 19, 2020

Are you trying to connect a smartphone or a laptop into professional audio equipment? In this post, I’ll show you three ways to adapt a 3.5mm (or ⅛-inch) connector to XLR.

I’ll show you an adapter that is best for short distances, a tool that let’s you run a single channel over long distances, and a DI box that is made to send stereo signals over long distances.

Option 1: 3.5mm to Stereo XLR Adapter

The first option is a 3.5mm to Stereo XLR adapter. This adapter has a 3.5mm TRS plug on one end and two male XLR connectors on the other end.

You will want one that is rugged and won’t break after the first few times you use it. I recommend this Hosa 3.5mm to Stereo XLR adapter.

It takes in a stereo left and right signal from your device through the 3.5mm TRS. Then, it splits the left and right channel into the two XLR connectors. The left signal goes to one XLR and the right signal goes to the other.

I’d recommend this method if it’s important to maintain a stereo signal with the left and right signals separated.

I can plug the left signal into one channel of my interface or mixer and the right signal into another channel.

Although this option adapts to XLR connectors, the signals are still unbalanced. So, if you are running the cable more than just a few feet, you might end up with a noisy signal.

It’s important to understand the risks of using this adapter! If you connect your device while phantom power is active, you could destroy your smartphone or laptop’s audio output.

The other options on this list will protect your devices. Watch this video to learn more about the dangers of 3.5mm to XLR adapters.

Option 2: RapcoHorizon LTIBLOX Laptop Interface (3.5mm to Balanced Mono XLR)

The second option is this device – the Rapco Horizon LTIBLOX Laptop Interface. The LTIBLOX transforms the unbalanced stereo signal into a balanced mono signal.

A balanced signal can be passed through a long XLR cable without picking up a lot of noise along the way.

If it’s OK to sum the left and right signals into a single channel, this is a good option. It allows you to run a single XLR cable, instead of two XLRs.

Plus, it has a built-in attenuator knob for adjusting the level.

Option 3: Radial ProAV2 DI Box (Stereo DI Box)

The last option is to use a stereo DI box, such as the Radial ProAV2. The ProAV2 can transform an unbalanced 3.5mm stereo input to balanced stereo XLR.

With a stereo DI box like this, you can run separate left and right signals over two long XLR cables without worrying about excessive noise.

The Radial ProAV2 is a really useful tool to have in general. You can connect instruments with ¼-inch connectors, such as keyboards and guitars, as well as devices with RCA jacks.

Recommendations: Connecting 3.5mm to XLR

Here are my recommendations:

If you are only running the cable a few feet, go with the 3.5mm to Dual XLR adapter.

If you are looking for a quick and easy option that allows level control, go with the RapcoHorizon LTIBLOX Laptop Interface.

If you want a professional option that can be used in a variety of situations, I recommend investing in the Radial ProAV2 Stereo DI box.

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