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Balanced vs Unbalanced

admin_exported

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I work as a profesional music producer, writing electronic music under several different aliases. It has always puzzled me, coming from a production background, why hi-fi doesn't use balanced signal rather than the unbalanced phono conectors. Maybe I am wrong, and some top end kit does. Strikes me as a bit silly to pay lots for expensive kit if the signal is unbalanced.
 

drummerman

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Is'nt balanced's one big advantage the capability of driving longer cable runs with roughly twice the output at the terminals?

Personally, I made the comparison very few times only with mixed results and could'nt say for certain which is 'better'? The additional output stage required should, in theory, be a hindrance rather than beneficial but as everything is going through a myriad of electronics anyhow, does it really matter? I guess, if you got it, flaunt it. After all, it elevates you, as a user, into the rarified 'higher end' club and as such it would be unthinkable of denying the benefits ...
 
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Anonymous

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Haha nice response ;) I personally have tried listening to lots of different set ups and have found that I cant hear any difference between any cabling at all. Maybe its just my ears. For me, in a studio, the important thing is good conectors and thick cable, because chances are kit is being plugged/unplugged all the time and needs to be durable.
 

PJPro

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Jan 21, 2008
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Well, with balanced amplifiers each channel is driven by two amps - a positive and negative. So a balanced stereo ampflier actually contains 4 amplifiers.

As both terminals of each channel are driven, the return current from the speakers/headphones isn't dumped into signal ground, resulting in lower noise.
 

PJPro

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Having said that, I seem to remember seeing a fudge which appears to provide balanced output from just two amps.
 

PJPro

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drummerman:
I guess, if you got it, flaunt it. After all, it elevates you, as a user, into the rarified 'higher end' club and as such it would be unthinkable of denying the benefits ...


Well, the cost of components is twice that of a normal two channel amp....so it does get pricy.

Whether there's an audible benefit from balanced amps, I can't say as I haven't heard one. However, I believe the effect is measurable.
 

drummerman

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lejockey:Haha nice response ;) I personally have tried listening to lots of different set ups and have found that I cant hear any difference between any cabling at all. Maybe its just my ears. For me, in a studio, the important thing is good conectors and thick cable, because chances are kit is being plugged/unplugged all the time and needs to be durable.

I can certainly hear a difference between cables. As for connectors, Naim still favor the old DIN plugs and claim sonic advantages over RCA.

There's no doubt balanced facilities add a little bit to the cost but CA has, amongst other things proven, that this need not be exclusively reserved for pricey products.
 

PJPro

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drummerman:
There's no doubt balanced facilities add a little bit to the cost but CA has, amongst other things proven, that this need not be exclusively reserved for pricey products.

I'm not entirely sure what one needs to do to make a DAC balanced. It may be very little.
 
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Anonymous

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so lejockey, just out of interest, what are your favourite cables/interconnects?
 

drummerman

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PJPro:drummerman:
There's no doubt balanced facilities add a little bit to the cost but CA has, amongst other things proven, that this need not be exclusively reserved for pricey products.

I'm not entirely sure what one needs to do to make a DAC balanced. It may be very little.

I don't know but probably no more than making any other component balanced? What I do remember are pictures of a Krell Pre-amp, topless and the the sheer internal complexity of the thing. Bearing in mind that most pre-amp circuits are relatively simple, look at most integrated amplifiers whether they are Naim, Arcam or whatever, this Krell was like a BT telephone exchange. Similarely, CA's 840v2 looked vastly more complex than most other amps I opened up, in the interest of science and to satisfy my own curiosity only. Kids, don't do this at home but if you really have to, make sure it's plugged in.
 

Gerrardasnails

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Sep 6, 2007
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PJPro:drummerman:
There's no doubt balanced facilities add a little bit to the cost but CA has, amongst other things proven, that this need not be exclusively reserved for pricey products.

I'm not entirely sure what one needs to do to make a DAC balanced. It may be very little.

I think the 740A has balanced connectivity, the 840 range definitely does - not only the DacMagic.
 
A

Anonymous

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dim_span:so lejockey, just out of interest, what are your favourite cables/interconnects?

In the studio, I use KRK Systems VXT8 monitors linked up to a M-Audio projectmix I/O running both ableton 8 and pro tools. The monitors are active so I use a pair of balanced XLR leads I constructed myself. At home I have an old quad 33/303 pre and power amp running a pair of prototype quad speakers I was given when I was a teenager by an engineer friend of my dads who was quite high up in the company. Again I am running home-made leads, tho with the quad they all run of din connectors not phono leads. The signal is run from my laptop. In my home studio I have a pair of Fostex PM-1s.

Most of my cabling I build myself, as I am competent with a soldering iron. I designed and built my first amplifier when I was 18 and have always had a love of sound and hi-fi. I have always made sure when building my cables, to use thick cable with as many strands as possible, and well shielded. That and good solid connectors. Other than that I have struggled to hear any difference between other brands of cables. Having said that, when producing music, I can hear a difference in a sound when I compress something or subtly EQ something which other people don't hear. Also coming from a production background I tend to look out for accurate sound, and I think quite a lot of hi-fi intentionally colours sound slightly to the preference of the user depending on what sort of music they enjoy listening too.

At the end of the day, so long as music is being enjoyed, thats the main thing right?
 

Thaiman

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lejockey:

At the end of the day, so long as music is being enjoyed, thats the main thing right?

Yes, but try to tell, us, the hifi addict that! when you know that you can enjoy the music the way it sound in real life through hifi system then nothing else come even close for £ per enjoyment
 
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Anonymous

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Thaiman:lejockey:

At the end of the day, so long as music is being enjoyed, thats the main thing right?

Yes, but try to tell, us, the hifi addict that! when you know that you can enjoy the music the way it sound in real life through hifi system then nothing else come even close for £ per enjoyment


I take it you are a lover of music performed on acoustic instuments ;) Electronic instruments or amplified instruments never sound 'in real life'. I do love a bit of Satie though, and faure. Oh and stravinsky. I often find recording quality is a major issue tho. Guess thats a whole other can of worms..
 

Thaiman

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My favourate recording (not music if you know what I mean) is Ernest Ranglin's below the bassline. It's all close miked stuff that full with vibrations and texture....gorgeous.
 
A

Anonymous

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there is something wonderfully atomospheric about close miked sound. All the subtleties come to life in an almost skin tingling way. Its very different from recording an orchestra say, or a choir.
 
A

Anonymous

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My only experience of XLRs was my old NAD pre/power combo. I had it wired up with some decent quality RCA interconnectes, but i kept wondering about the three pin sockets on the back. I searched around local hifi shops for months, but nobody sold XLR cables, until eventually i went into a music shop and bought some 10 metre (i think they were electric guitar leads tbh) cables and plugged them in. These were £10 cables and yet the difference in sound was noticable straight away. It didnt take me long to decide to send my hifi interconnects back to the manufacturer and have them converted to XLRs. The difference in sound was amazing, like the amp was meant to be run that way. I would always prefer a balanced connnection tbh, but it seems so few seperates use them.
 

ad1mt

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admin said:
I work as a profesional music producer, writing electronic music under several different aliases. It has always puzzled me, coming from a production background, why hi-fi doesn't use balanced signal rather than the unbalanced phono conectors. Maybe I am wrong, and some top end kit does. Strikes me as a bit silly to pay lots for expensive kit if the signal is unbalanced.
The reason is because most high-end hifi manufacturers are selling snake-oil.

Balanced-line cables are used throughout professional audio circles because they have been scientifically proven to be inifinitely better. Full stop.
 

TrevC

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Jun 12, 2013
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ad1mt said:
admin said:
I work as a profesional music producer, writing electronic music under several different aliases. It has always puzzled me, coming from a production background, why hi-fi doesn't use balanced signal rather than the unbalanced phono conectors. Maybe I am wrong, and some top end kit does. Strikes me as a bit silly to pay lots for expensive kit if the signal is unbalanced.
The reason is because most high-end hifi manufacturers are selling snake-oil.

Balanced-line cables are used throughout professional audio circles because they have been scientifically proven to be inifinitely better. Full stop.
No, it's because they are tough, good for plugging and unplugging, and good for noise cancellation when using long cables. Neither characteristic is required in a domestic hifi system.
 

ad1mt

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admin said:
No, it's because they are tough, good for plugging and unplugging, and good for noise cancellation when using long cables. Neither characteristic is required in a domestic hifi system.
A few years ago I had to abandon my trusty old hifi and switch to professional active studio monitor speakers. Balanced was available on the studio speakers, but I couldn't find any hifi components that did. Luckily the speakers also had digital inputs, so I was able to use those instead.

Why did I have to switch?

I started getting an intermittent distorted voice coming through my speakers which was extremely annoying. I later found out that a near neighbour was a Amateur Radio enthusiast, and his broadcasts were powerful enough to induce interference on my hifi.

My old hifi was not cheap stuff bought from the high street, and I was very annoyed that the problem could have been fixed at source if it had been designed properly.

There's simply no excuse whatsoever that technology that has been proven to be infinitely better is not used in high-end audio costing £1000's. Its doesn't matter if 99% of people won't see a difference, the 1% (of which I was one), see things rather differently.
 

nopiano

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Feb 15, 2009
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ad1mt said:
admin said:
No, it's because they are tough, good for plugging and unplugging, and good for noise cancellation when using long cables. Neither characteristic is required in a domestic hifi system.
A few years ago I had to abandon my trusty old hifi and switch to professional active studio monitor speakers. Balanced was available on the studio speakers, but I couldn't find any hifi components that did. Luckily the speakers also had digital inputs, so I was able to use those instead.

Why did I have to switch?

I started getting an intermittent distorted voice coming through my speakers which was extremely annoying. I later found out that a near neighbour was a Amateur Radio enthusiast, and his broadcasts were powerful enough to induce interference on my hifi.

My old hifi was not cheap stuff bought from the high street, and I was very annoyed that the problem could have been fixed at source if it had been designed properly.

There's simply no excuse whatsoever that technology that has been proven to be infinitely better is not used in high-end audio costing £1000's. Its doesn't matter if 99% of people won't see a difference, the 1% (of which I was one), see things rather differently.
That's a very interesting story, and one that explains why you feel unbalanced connectiomns are not ideal. I suspect it's actually, 99.999% because I'm sure 1 in every 100 users don't have interefrence from such a source, but I get your point.

It could be your components, or just one of them, was to blame, not the wiring. Were you using a turntable, as they are always way more susceptible due to requiring such high amplification?
 

ad1mt

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Another reason for using balanced-line cables is that they totally elimiate ground loop problems (e.g. hum).

The high-end hifi manufacturers have really got no excuse whatsoever.
 

Al ears

Moderator
ad1mt said:
Another reason for using balanced-line cables is that they totally elimiate ground loop problems (e.g. hum).

The high-end hifi manufacturers have really got no excuse whatsoever.
Dragging up threads that are originally eight years old is fun isn't it? :)
 

DocG

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May 1, 2012
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Al ears said:
ad1mt said:
Another reason for using balanced-line cables is that they totally elimiate ground loop problems (e.g. hum).

The high-end hifi manufacturers have really got no excuse whatsoever.
Dragging up threads that are originally eight years old is fun isn't it? :)
Yes, and it's his second resuscitation of this particular thread...

I smell an obsession.
 

Al ears

Moderator
DocG said:
Al ears said:
ad1mt said:
Another reason for using balanced-line cables is that they totally elimiate ground loop problems (e.g. hum).

The high-end hifi manufacturers have really got no excuse whatsoever.
Dragging up threads that are originally eight years old is fun isn't it? :)
Yes, and it's his second resuscitation of this particular thread...

I smell an obsession.
Surely you are mistaken Sir, that couldn't happen here , could it? ;-)
 

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