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Balanced vs Unbalanced inputs, which is best?

springbeg

New member
Nov 18, 2008
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Recently acquired the Leema Tucana amp. It was factory fitted with the Balanced input card a process which disables the CD RCA line level input. My sacd/cd source is the Marantz SA-11S2 (also equipped with Balanced inputs). I'm currently using Chord Chorus 2 RCA interconnects via aux input. I'm not familiar with balanced input technology and would welcome any advice/guidance on other people's experience. Do Balanced inputs offer greater fidelity? If so....any suggestions regarding appropriate XLR leads.

Thanks,

Springbeg

Leema Tucana; SA-11S2; PMC OB1i; Chord interconnects; Wireworld cables; Atlas Hyper 3.
 

clearer_audio

New member
Oct 20, 2007
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Hello Springbeg,

Balanced will usually always offer the best performance. However it is worth noting that many high-performance RCAs (such as WBT nextgen or Eichmann Bullet) can outperform a standard XLR plug. If possible audition both XLRs and RCAs (ideally the same cable) to see what you prefer.

Hope this might help.

Kind regards,

Darren
 
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Anonymous

Guest
It is worth testing both, though I'd go for the XLR. Can be a tenth of the price of a similar performing RCA.
 

springbeg

New member
Nov 18, 2008
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Hello Darren,

thanks for that. But when you say preferably the 'same cable' do you mean from the same manufacturer?

Regards,

Keith
 

clearer_audio

New member
Oct 20, 2007
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Hello Keith,

Indeed the same cable from the same manufacturer. You are then eliminating any variability due to the cable design. So in essence the only thing that would be different would be the termination and you can therefore assess which connection you prefer.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Darren
 
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Anonymous

Guest
I'm not sure I understand here. The cable design and the connection are completely different with RCA and XLR. By comparing the two you are ruling neither instance out.
 

clearer_audio

New member
Oct 20, 2007
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Hello Octopo,

You can terminate most interconnects (all but coaxial) with both RCAs and XLRs. Therefore the the only thing that changes is the termination and connectors. The cable remains the same. For example, we can terminate our Copper-line Alpha Interconnect in both XLR and RCA configuration - the cable remains the same but the way in which it is terminated is indeed different. Most other cables companies do the same allowing different connections for the same type of interconnect cable.

The point here is to ensure that the cable design (i.e., conductor material, dielectric and geometry) does not differ therefore allowing the configuration and connectors to be heard rather than the cable per se.

Kind regards,

Darren
 
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Anonymous

Guest
clearer_audio:Hello Octopo,You can terminate most interconnects (all but coaxial) with both RCAs and XLRs.

I understand that, but it doesn't explain how I've heard the same quality from a balanced MIC cableÿworth £20ÿas a Chord Anthem RCA worth £250. Surely the very nature of the newer XLR technology, being completely different and being able to go for great lengths without any interference beats the usual RCA technology? Forgive me if I'm wrong.
 

springbeg

New member
Nov 18, 2008
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Hello Octopo,

I'm more confused than ever.......I too was under the impression that the XLR technology was significantly different and that this extended to the cable as much as it does to the terminations....how else do you explain the claimed ability of balanced inputs to be particularly effective over longer cable lengths?

Cheers,

Springbeg
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Springbeg,

I believe balanced is by far, far, far away your best bet. Here is where I look these days.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Darren,

If you'd care to respond I'd love you to prove me wrong? If not I may spend my entire life not knowing that RCA was always better.ÿ
 

springbeg

New member
Nov 18, 2008
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Hello Octopo,

I will hopefully be taking delivery of some chord chorus 2 xlr interconnects in the next day or two. I'll be able to make a direct comparison with their RCA equivalents...........watch this space.

Springbeg
 
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Anonymous

Guest
I'm sure they'll be superbidoso.

The point I'm trying to make though is you don't need to spend silly money on XLR cables. RCA is a very old technology that needs to be wrapped in bandages in order to exist in the audiophile world. In all reality it shouldn't be here at all. If the hi-fi world had caught up ten years ago XLR would be the norm. We wouldn't be arguing about interconnect sound. We would live in pleasant XLR bliss.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
The only advantage that a balanced connection has over an unbalanced one is less cable noise on low level inputs like microphones over a long run. Sound quality will be the same for both when using line levels and short cables.
 

chebby

Well-known member
Jun 2, 2008
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Makes sense if your CD and amp (or pre-amp/power-amp) both have XLR/balanced connections and you normally have to use long speaker cables.

Instead you can keep the CD and preamp nearby and use long lengths of XLR balanced cable to the power amp/speakers. This will permit the use of short lengths of speaker cable. (Cheaper and better.)

Long XLR balanced interconnect + short speaker cables = better than short interconnect + long speaker cables. Plus there is the bonus of not needing such expensive cable when using XLR balanced connections.
 

springbeg

New member
Nov 18, 2008
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Hi Chebby,

what you propose makes a great deal of sense but unfortunately the lay out of the listening room wont permit short speaker cable runs.

Cheers,

Springbeg
 

Gerrardasnails

Well-known member
Sep 6, 2007
295
1
18,890
Octopo:
clearer_audio:Hello Octopo,You can terminate most interconnects (all but coaxial) with both RCAs and XLRs.

I understand that, but it doesn't explain how I've heard the same quality from a balanced MIC cableÿworth £20ÿas a Chord Anthem RCA worth £250. Surely the very nature of the newer XLR technology, being completely different and being able to go for great lengths without any interference beats the usual RCA technology? Forgive me if I'm wrong.

I think what Darren is saying is to try the Chord Chorus 2 RCA against the Chord Chorus 2 XLR (for example). I have this XLR and it's excellent.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
It depends on the design of the amplifier to whether it will make a difference or not, some amps will have XLR inputs but will not be a true balanced design but pseudo balance, if you have true balanced then it will be more beneficial to use balanced connections over long runs, for short runs as has already been said you might as well stick to RCA cables.
 

chebby

Well-known member
Jun 2, 2008
1,232
4
19,195
silly:It depends on the design of the amplifier to whether it will make a difference or not, some amps will have XLR inputs but will not be a true balanced design but pseudo balance, if you have true balanced then it will be more beneficial to use balanced connections over long runs, for short runs as has already been said you might as well stick to RCA cables.

So which brands are 'faking' true balanced XLR connection?

Name and shame please. People should not have to find this out the hard way when they buy into what they genuinely believe to be a superior means of connection.
 

springbeg

New member
Nov 18, 2008
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Point taken.....I'm assuming that the Tucana upgrade is a 'true balanced design', the balanced input upgrade disables the line level CD input.

Springbeg
 

Gerrardasnails

Well-known member
Sep 6, 2007
295
1
18,890
chebby:
silly:It depends on the design of the amplifier to whether it will make a difference or not, some amps will have XLR inputs but will not be a true balanced design but pseudo balance, if you have true balanced then it will be more beneficial to use balanced connections over long runs, for short runs as has already been said you might as well stick to RCA cables.

So which brands are 'faking' true balanced XLR connection?

Name and shame please. People should not have to find this out the hard way when they buy into what they genuinely believe to be a superior means of connection.

I'm betting that Huygens amps aren't among them.
 

springbeg

New member
Nov 18, 2008
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for anyone that has an interest in the question of whether balanced inputs offer a superior listening experience....I took possession of a pair of Chord Chorus 2 XLR cables and have had the opportunity to play them alongside the Chord Chorus 2 RCA interconnects. I can now confidently conclude that I'm ******** if I can hear a difference, well, not quite....but to my ears there is'nt much in it. Now that might be because MY ears ARE ********. On the other hand.......

In fairness to the XLR's they probably need a little more burn in time (approaching ten hours). If there are differences they're quite subtle. Music choice: William Carter - La Guitarra Espanola (Santiago de Murcia) LINN SACD and Carolyn Sampson - Victorious Love (Purcell) BIS SACD The choice of music allowed for an uncluttered evaluation. The intimacy of Carter's Baroque guitar did seem to have a 'keener' quality and this sense of greater space around the music was perhaps even more apparant when the human voice comes into play....Sampson's vocal in 'O Solitude'....close your eyes for a moment and you would swear she was in the room. Yep...on reflection Balanced might just hold the field.
 

up the music

New member
Mar 13, 2008
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gerrardsnails
So which brands are 'faking' true balanced XLR connection?

I don't think it's 'faking' but my Exposure pre power amps have both RCA phono and Unbalanced XLR pre out/power in connections.

They never claimed them to be balanced. The thinking was that XLR offer a better more secure connection.

I'd rather have full balanced but I guess they'd have to charge even more for that. It would have been worth it though.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
When I upgraded my CD player and power amp (pre-amp is in the CD player), I had 2 pairs of interconnects on loan to try - Transparent "Super" in both RCA and XLR. I started with the CD player, then added the amps using my old interconnects, then moved to Transparent RCA, then moved to XLR. Whilst the additional cost of the CD player and Amp were quite substantial, it was only when I moved to the XLR/balanced interconnects that the sound really opened up and I got the improvement in sound quality I was hoping for. So for me, balanced interconnects are the only way to go but I believe both my CD player and mono blocks have a true balanced design.
 

Hi Fi Decision

New member
Jan 11, 2008
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If your equipment is fully balanced then balanced is far better than rca. No contest. I tried a Nordost Heimdall rca v's xlr. The xlr had more attack, a fuller sound and a lower noise floor.
 

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