Balanced or RCA sound quality difference?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Thouston, Dec 21, 2016.

  1. Thouston

    Thouston Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Mattoon, IL
    I have a Schiit Gungnir DAC and a Yamaha A-S2100 Integrated amp. They both have a balanced interconnect option. In all of the years that I have been into 2 channel audio, I have never used a balanced connection. Will I notice a difference in sound quality by going balanced over single ended? I am currently using Morrow Audio MA3 interconnects and they sound very good. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    Not really.

    Louder, in a rare case, maybe lower noise floor.
     
  3. Thouston

    Thouston Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Mattoon, IL
    Thank you Mr Hoffman.
     
  4. Eduardo Denaro

    Eduardo Denaro Forum Resident

    Location:
    Minnesota
    Well that answers that. Saved me dough in the future I'm sure. Thank you!
     
  5. ls35a

    ls35a Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eagle, Idaho
    I recently switched from RCA to XLR on my preamp/power amp and there was quite an improvement. Not saying you'd get a similar experience, but that's how it worked with my gear.

    The only way to know for sure is to it.
     
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  6. Diamond Dog

    Diamond Dog Cautionary Example

    How far apart are the two components ?

    D.D.
     
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  7. Thouston

    Thouston Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Mattoon, IL
    3 ft.
     
  8. Vagante

    Vagante Member

    Location:
    St augustine
    Pardon my ignorance but what is a balanced interconnect? Is this an optical Connection?
     
  9. Diamond Dog

    Diamond Dog Cautionary Example

    Unless you have a noise problem now, the biggest difference you'll notice by switching to XLR would be an increase in volume.

    Some equipment designers feel that single-ended ( RCA ) circuits are simpler and thus closer to the "straight wire with gain" ideal. For example, I've owned two Manley tube pre's and neither even had balanced outs. Other designers like the balanced option. In theory, balanced cables are preferable in long runs as they offer superior noise rejection which would be desirable in that application. 3' is not a particularly long cable run. If you have the ability, try and compare the two options and see what you think.

    D.D.
     
  10. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Burnout from the smoke pit

    Location:
    Ohio
    Same thing for me, I switched and it was better. It was also better cable so it wasn't exactly apples to apples. Like DD said, it kind of depends on the design of the gear in question and length.
     
  11. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

  12. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Burnout from the smoke pit

    Location:
    Ohio
    Balanced Cables and Signals. A balanced cable, by contrast, has three conductors in the connector and three wires in the cable: two signals wires plus a separate ground wire. As in the unbalanced cable, the ground wire still surrounds the signal wires and is used as a shield against interference.

    [​IMG]

    Also knows as XLR
     
  13. slovell

    slovell Retired Mudshark

    Location:
    Chesnee, SC, USA
    I don't know about others but with my Marantz AV-7005 I get a 3-4 db increase in gain using the balanced XLR's.
     
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  14. If the components you are connecting are truly internally balanced, you might notice an improvement. I say this because I tried both XLR and RCA connectors on my modern Yamaha integrated amp and ("matching") Yamaha CD player and the balanced connectors were louder and (seemingly) better.
     
  15. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    Depends on the nature of the circuit -- if it has a differential output, what's the nature of the circuit? something transformer based? and op-amp amp circuit? -- there will be some added circuitry to the balanced circuit. Will that be better or worse, or not very different sounding than the unbalanced circuit? Maybe. You'll have common mode noise rejection that you won't have with the single ended connection, but how much lower will that noise floor be, again, depends. Will it be louder? Maybe and that alone may make you think it sounds better (louder psychologically always sounds better), but if you do a comparison at the same playback volume, maybe differences won't be as noticeable as they first appear. Cheap enough to buy a couple of balanced cables and see.
     
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  16. matteos

    matteos Stereotype

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    My amp has balance connectors. I use a set of unbalanced cables and a set if balanced adaptors. I do that because I get a lot more gain.. about 4db or so and it's a low powered amp. theoretically balanced should give a better sound. but practically.. If Steve says not really. I'd be inclined to believe him.
     
  17. Linger63

    Linger63 Forum Resident

    Location:
    AUSTRALIA
    Love how XLR's click when they lock in!!!!!!!!!!:winkgrin:
     
  18. And they won't accidentally short or damage gear if you unplug them or plug them in while the equipment is on. Doing that with RCA cables is potentially risky business.
     
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  19. slovell

    slovell Retired Mudshark

    Location:
    Chesnee, SC, USA
    That's not a guess either, that's according to the specs in the manual. You can definitely hear the bump in gain using the XLRs vs RCAs.
     
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  20. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    Theoretically, balanced should give you lower noise by virtue of common mode noise rejection. But there's no other theoretical reason balanced should sound better than unbalanced in terms of the sound of music. Any given set up with balanced and unbalanced ins and outs may sound better or worse in ways other than noise -- all the musical qualities of timbre and space etc that we tend to be listening for -- using the differential or the single ended set ups, you just have to try it and see.
     
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  21. CoolJazz

    CoolJazz Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eastern Tennessee
    Properly designed balanced interfaces should also avoid the equipment sharing grounds. Which I think is very important and easy to overlook. Though a potential big contributor to 'better'.

    CJ
     
  22. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    Noise, that's the theoretical "better," better noise performance. That may have an audible impact in other qualities of the sound -- dynamics at the extreme quiet end of the scale, resolution of inner detail, a sense of wholeness of presentation of space on albums recorded to represent that, etc. That's what to listen for I think, after you've ensured that you're listening at the same level by cranking volume with the single ended to match any bump in volume you get from the balanced circuit -- musical performance that's related to the noise floor.
     
  23. ky658

    ky658 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Miami, Florida
    Yup, balanced audio is the only way to go, in my opinion (if you have an application that allows for them, such as professional gear).
     
  24. LeeS

    LeeS Blue Note Fan

    Location:
    Atlanta
    My own experience is that you get as many as three things:

    1. Better connection.
    2. Lower noise.
    3. More gain on components that are really designed for XLR connections such as the Audio Research Reference gear and others. For instance the ARC amps tend to offer around 6db more gain on XLR.
     
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  25. Doug Sclar

    Doug Sclar Forum Legend

    Location:
    The OC
    Another benefit you can get from balanced outputs is that they are generally low impedance. Even if you unbalance them they will still have the advantage from the low impedance outputs. That means they are better at driving cables without the fear of capacitance attenuating the high end, especially on longer runs.

    They can also drive difficult loads easier than high impedance outputs can.
     
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