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From church, I took home two XLR Cables (16 AWG) that I considered may be broken, so that I could test them in a more controlled environment.

My Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 has been working great in the past month with my own mic cables and MacBook Pro 16".

My Tests (In Sequence Order)

  1. Home Mic Cable: As a control, with my home microphone and my mic XLR cable I recorded a bit of audio from my microphone and played it back. GOOD; just as expected.
  2. XLRCable1: I was able to record and playback from my 2i4. GOOD; albeit it was quieter... XLRCable1 seems to be working.
  3. XLRCable2: Soon after I plugged it into my 2i4 multiple things happened: a) the secondary input meter light started to flash (though I plugged into the primary input), b) I could not hear any microphone signal through my headphones (which was connected to the 2i4), c) I began to hear digital noise (like digital pulses) through my headphones.

My hunch: The XLRCable2 was so broken that it some how internally broken my audio interface.

Two Hours Later: It's been many hours of restarting my computer, unplugging and plugging in the audio interface and I can not get any audio to play (e.g. Spotify music), and I still hear digital noise. Even when I go back to using my Home Mic Cable (my control), I cannot record any signal anymore!

Q) Can a bad XLR cable harm/break an audio interface?

Yes, I had phantom power on at the time, to power CloudLifter CL-1.

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Guesses…

XLR 1 has one broken wire, hot or cold, can't tell. This would in effect halve the power.

XLR 2 has a short between hot/cold & ground. This might potentially be giving the DAC 48v where it wasn't expecting it, possibly frying something.

For next time…

  1. Take the barrels off & visually inspect the connections.

  2. Use a continuity tester/multimeter to check each matching & non-matching terminal for breaks or shorts.

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    I came here to say this too. Personally, I use a dedicated cable tester: my Behringer CT-100 has been with me for years and has been so useful that I take it everywhere I'm working with audio. – 7HzResearch yesterday

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