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Balanced v Unbalanced

Discussion in 'audio' started by SteveG, Apr 30, 2019.

  1. SteveG

    SteveG pfm Member

    Previously I've never had any components with balanced connections so haven't really paid any attention to the difference between that and unbalanced. Now that I've got an amp with a balanced input and a CD player with a balanced output on the way I'm wondering if there is enough of a difference to make it worth me buying a balanced interconnect, or just wiring them up using the unbalanced connections and cables I already have. What do you think?
  2. Barrymagrec

    Barrymagrec pfm Member

    Unlikely to make much difference over a short run but to satisfy yourself why not try it? You don`t need an expensive foo cable, just something reasonably well made.
    Wilson likes this.
  3. Yomanze

    Yomanze pfm Member

    I think there is a worthwhile difference, because unlike RCA & speaker cables have never heard any differences with XLR cables (a well-sorted connection), also, might as well make use of the balanced circuitry or why have it at all... Blue Jeans Audio do some nice pro audio ones, under £30, which are all you’ll ever need. :)
    i.j.russell likes this.
  4. Jim Audiomisc

    Jim Audiomisc pfm Member

    If the units have balanced input/output then yes, might as well use them. However it shouldn't make much (i.e. noticable) difference over short connections in a home system.
  5. SteveG

    SteveG pfm Member

    Cheers - I'll probably buy a reasonably priced set of cables for a play then. The amp has more inputs that I need so there isn't really any pressing reason to use the balanced option other than because it's there!
  6. i.j.russell

    i.j.russell pfm Member

    I bought some balanced cables from Silver Mogwai for not silly money (£100) and have never felt the need to buy anything else.
  7. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    It is more often than not a backward step with much equipment as they are often not natively balanced and use extra circuitry to convert an unbalanced signal to balanced and then the same again in reverse at the other end, thereby adding between 3 and 6 op amps to the signal path depending on the topology used.
    Wilson and tuga like this.
  8. hifi_dave

    hifi_dave Hi-Fi Retailer

    Exactly. Apart from having nice plugs, there is no improvement.

    With equipment, such as Levinson, which is designed for balanced use, the correct cables do make a difference.
  9. Iceman16

    Iceman16 pfm Member

    I think you need to check first if your amp and cdp are “fully balanced”. There are few with balanced connection but not “fully balance”. If not just use rca single ended connection.
    ToTo Man likes this.
  10. SteveG

    SteveG pfm Member

    Apparently both the amp (Krell KAV-400xi) and the CD player (Cambridge Audio 840C) are fully balanced. I'll possibly be using the CD player as a DAC as well, so if there is a benefit it might affect more than just the CD. I'll buy a cheapish cable and give it a go I think.
  11. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    There is no such thing. Either it's balanced or it isn't as far as the actual inputs and outputs go. The range of topologies and nomenclature possible (intrinsically balanced, differential, ground sensing etc etc) around this is beyond the scope of this thread.
  12. SteveG

    SteveG pfm Member

    I think I'm just going to buy a set of cables and give it a go. Either it'll sound better or it won't!
  13. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    Why not indeed:)
    mw757 likes this.
  14. PBB

    PBB pfm Member

    Yup, makes good sense to me Digiflex or something similar should do the trick.
  15. Mike Reed

    Mike Reed pfm Member

    The diverse opinions above are certainly balanced !:) I rather thought that balanced cable use was a province of studios and the like because of the long runs entailed therein. A one metre I/C ? who knows? A pfm friend with balanced outputs (with trannies) on his valved pre. chopped his RCA input valved mono amps to the same but balanced. He reckons there's an improvement.
  16. SteveG

    SteveG pfm Member

    I will (eventually) report back. I fully expect the answer to be that I couldn't tell any difference though!
  17. FireMoon

    FireMoon pfm Member

    I posted a few days ago about this. Swapped the bog standard 5 quid balanced cables from my Phono PSU for starquad cables for the princely sum of 30 quid and the noise floor is a lot lower than previously and that noise that there is, is far less aurally intrusive. My experience is that, properly balanced circuits are inherently "cleaner" than rca connections irrespective of the length of said cable. I suspect the change you might "hear" is that you check that the volume is set the same as that you normally listen at.
  18. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    Eh? What's balanced audio got to do with power supplies?
  19. Space is the Place

    Space is the Place pfm Member

    Indeed, i think the Cambridge Dacmagic is fully balanced and has less Op-amps in the Balanced circuit than the Unbalanced, and sounds subtly different (seemingly more refined) when using the balanced output.
  20. The Chronicals

    The Chronicals Disruptor

    Big difference for me over a 5M run from my phono stage. Night and day...but I expected that over a long run.

    Noticed a change for the plus on the short 1m run as well from DAC to amp, but sadly my Pathos only has a single set of XLR inputs.

    I used Mogami XLR's with Furutech plugs and the same Mogami with Neutrik for the Phonos to do a comparison.

    So overall, the benefit is noticeable and audible, so if you have them, use them! If you cant hear it, get a hearing test to understand why :)
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2019

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