Stereo or Mono 1/4 jack cables?
Old 14th July 2010
  #1
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Stereo or Mono 1/4 jack cables?

Hi all.

Not even sure if this is the right thread but as I make electronic music with hardware I'll try here.

I'm a little confused about when to use stereo 1/4 jacks and when to use mono jacks. To identify which is which, I think the stereo jack has two rings around the tip of the metal connector bit, and the mono has but one ring. Is that right?

My set-up will look something like this:

Yamaha AN1X synth ---> Behringer UB2222FX mixer
EMU Proteus rack sound module ---> mixer
Yamaha RS7000 sequencer ---> mixer
Quasimidi 309 drum machine ---> mixer

so these 4 devices are all similar, in that they are instruments and have a L & R 1/4 output. The mixer is this one:

http://deeprepal.ru/foto/23.jpg

I will also be using a Korg A5 effects device, and plan to use 2 jack cables to plug into the FX Send section of the mixer. I think I might need a further 2 cables to send in too.

But I'm a bit confused as to when I should be using mono jack cables and when I should use stereo jacks. Does it even matter? Does it also matter where I place the devices on the mixer?

The mixer has 8 (what I think are mono) channels and 4 stereo channels with a L&R each. Any suggestions as to which device should go where?

On my own I invariably figure it out and get decent-sounding audio. But if there are any special benefits to specific cable/connector combinations which I'm not aware of then I'll be happy to know of them.


Thanks for any advice and greeeeets from Berlin.
Old 14th July 2010
  #2
Gear addict
 

To identify which is which, I think the stereo jack has two rings around the tip of the metal connector bit, and the mono has but one ring. Is that right? Correct

Don't worry, you can just use all mono cables.

You usually need stereo if you use headphones, that's why headphones don't need 2 jacks for stereo
Old 14th July 2010
  #3
Oli
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The 'stereo' cable you wrote about is a TRS - tip, ring, sleeve connector. These can be used for mono balanced signals. Do a search for balanced signals and connections.

The 'mono' cable you wrote of is a TS - tip, sleeve connector. These can be used for mono unbalanced signals. As mentioned, you will probably be fine just using these.

It wouldn't hurt to read up on the spec of each of your connections.
Old 14th July 2010
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ok, thanks guys.

So is using TRS stereo jacks not recommended then? Would there be an audible drop in sound quality?

But yes, I'd also have to check my gear's manuals, to see if they specify one or the other.
Old 14th July 2010
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dhollmusik View Post
So is using TRS stereo jacks not recommended then? Would there be an audible drop in sound quality?
All of my synths are connected to my balanced patchbays via TS cables, are normalled or get connected using TRS patch cables. No loss in sound quality.
Old 14th July 2010
  #6
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It all boils down to whether the output and input devices are balanced or not. With 2 unbalanced devices, it makes no difference what cables are used. With an unbalanced out, and a balanced in, you want to use a TS cable (most balanced inputs can be used with unbalanced signals and will adjust accordingly). Where you might get in trouble is using a TRS cable in that arraignment since the ring terminal will be open on the balanced input as opposed to being grounded with a TS cable.

In the OP's case, I would recommend just using TS cables for everything to be safe
Old 14th July 2010
  #7
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i have some balanced and unbalanced patch cables

i noticed that my proco - you dirty rat distortion pedal doesn't like balanced cables in it's input... at least not if it is inserted all the way

you can do some really cool things with the future retro XS by not inserting a patch cable all the way since different portions of the connector carry different signals
Old 14th July 2010
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rust Creep View Post
i have some balanced and unbalanced patch cables

i noticed that my proco - you dirty rat distortion pedal doesn't like balanced cables in it's input... at least not if it is inserted all the way

you can do some really cool things with the future retro XS by not inserting a patch cable all the way since different portions of the connector carry different signals

There is no such thing as a "balanced" or "unbalanced" cables. There are only balanced or unbalanced inputs and outputs
Old 14th July 2010
  #9
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That's really ****ing pedantic.
Old 14th July 2010
  #10
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Originally Posted by Tarkovsky View Post
That's really ****ing pedantic.
How so exactly? XLR, and TRS cables are used for just as many unbalanced applications (if not more) as balanced ones..
Old 14th July 2010
  #11
Gear nut
 

When someone says "balanced cable", it's quite common to assume that they are obviously referring to a cable/connector intended for use with a balanced connection(such as an XLR cable or TRS). Therefore, though not necessarily technically correct, there is no reason that one should not be allowed to use this terminology, as it is widely understood, and sounds much more professional than saying "stereo cable" or "mono" cable, as those are also incorrect, and sound far more amateur.fuuck
Old 14th July 2010
  #12
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it's quite simple really.

if the devices on both ends support balanced connections, then use a TRS cable

if only one end of the connection supports balanced connections and the other one (or both) doesn't, use a TS cable.

Quite honestly though, if all you runs are less than 10ft long, you probably won't notice a damn difference anyway. in which case, you could just get away with TS cables everywhere....but i typically prefer to use a balanced connection whenever possible. Balanced connections often also have a higher signal level, which means you can get away with less gain on your mixer, which should mean less distortion...although there's all kindsa funky equipment with varying levels and pseudo-balanced connections and what not so really it can be a mess regardless....just go with what the manual says if you want to be "right" if it says it supports balanced/TRS then use that, if not, use TS, that's really all there is to it.

as to what goes where, typically stereo inputs on your mixer are only needed for devices that have stereo outputs, usually such devices have some kind of chorus effect or some other type of stereo effect. Most analog synths are mono for the most part, but some synths like the junos have built in stereo chorus effect, thus using the stereo output would be advisable, in that case you'd use one of the stereo inputs on the mixer. Note that the stereo input (when using 2 separate 1/4 jacks) may still be balanced or unbalanced...so you have to see what your equipment supports regardless of the input you use...
Old 14th July 2010
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dpalasini View Post
When someone says "balanced cable", it's quite common to assume that they are obviously referring to a cable/connector intended for use with a balanced connection(such as an XLR cable or TRS). Therefore, though not necessarily technically correct, there is no reason that one should not be allowed to use this terminology, as it is widely understood, and sounds much more professional than saying "stereo cable" or "mono" cable, as those are also incorrect, and sound far more amateur.fuuck
No its not, and this is exactly why there is so much confusion regarding this subject. It just shows how ignorant the person is. XLR cables are used more for mics than anything, those are not balanced connections so why call them balanced cables?
Old 14th July 2010
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Altitude909 View Post
No its not, and this is exactly why there is so much confusion regarding this subject. It just shows how ignorant the person is. XLR cables are used more for mics than anything, those are not balanced connections so why call them balanced cables?
uhh correct me if i'm wrong but mic XLR is still balanced is it not? i thought that was the whole point of why mics use balanced is because microphone signal levels are often quite low, so using balanced over a long distance XLR mic cable reduces interference?
Old 14th July 2010
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Altitude909 View Post
No, 3 conductors: power, gnd, signal
i'm pretty sure there's no power wire....phanton power uses the 2 signal cables for power...it's generally wired "ground, hot, cold"

quoth the wikipedia

Quote:
Phantom power

Some microphones such as condenser microphones require power. An alternative to battery power is phantom power which consists of direct current applied equally through the two signal lines of a balanced audio connector (in modern equipment, usually an XLR connector). The supply voltage is referenced to the ground pin of the connector (= pin 1 of an XLR), which normally is connected to the cable shield or a ground wire in the cable or both.
so pin 1 gets the one leg and pin 2/3 get the other leg of power....the power is essentially coming over the same wiring as the signal...similar to how PoE works...

However that's not to say a microphone can't be unbalanced....it can actually be either


http://artsites.ucsc.edu/EMS/music/t.../teces_20.html

Quote:
Microphone Levels

As I said, microphone outputs are of necessity very weak signals, generally around -60dBm. (The specification is the power produced by a sound pressure of 10 uBar) The output impedance will depend on whether the mic has a transformer balanced output . If it does not, the microphone will be labeled "high impedance" or "hi Z" and must be connected to an appropriate input. The cable used must be kept short, less than 10 feet or so, to avoid noise problems.

If a microphone has a transformer, it will be labeled low impedance, and will work best with a balanced input mic preamp. The cable can be several hundred feet long with no problem. Balanced output, low impedance microphones are expensive, and generally found in professonal applications. Balanced outputs must have three pin connectors ("Cannon plugs"), but not all mics with those plugs are really balanced. Microphones with standard or miniature phone plugs are high impedance. A balanced mic can be used with a high impedance input with a suitable adapter.

You can see from the balanced connection diagram that there is a transformer at the input of the console preamp. (Or, in lieu of a transformer, a complex circuit to do the same thing.) This is the most significant difference between professional preamplifiers and the type usually found on home tape decks. You can buy transformers that are designed to add this feature to a consumer deck for about $20 each. (Make sure you are getting a transformer and not just an adapter for the connectors.) With these accessories you can use professional quality microphones, run cables over a hundred feet with no hum, and because the transformers boost the signal somewhat, make recordings with less noise. This will not work with a few inexpensive cassette recorders, because the strong signal causes distortion. Such a deck will have other problems, so there is little point trying to make a high fidelity recording with it anyway.
However, I think it's wrong to say that XLR is generally = unbalanced microphone connection, these days generally any mono signal coming in over XLR or TRS is generally balanced. Back in the 80s and early 90s there was a lot less standardization and also sometimes the signal wiring on the XLR connectors were reversed (like some early mixers had the pins hot/neutral pins swapped) but these days it's pretty much all standardized...
Old 14th July 2010
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Altitude909 View Post
XLR cables are used more for mics than anything
surely you mean XLR connectors, that is connectors in the style of the Cannon 'X' series, with the Latch and Rubber compound.?

because using the term XLR cable is meaningless, by your rationale.

...kidding!
Old 14th July 2010
  #17
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hey, i don't mind someone showing me my ignorance

a learning experience is just that to me and i have a thick skin

so while my terminology may be acceptable in some circles, i'd much rather someone point out how i was slightly or completely incorrect because i'd rather be wrong once than spread misinformation to others
Old 14th July 2010
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xero View Post
i'm pretty sure there's no power wire....phanton power uses the 2 signal cables for power...

quoth the wikipedia



so pin 1 gets the one leg and pin 2/3 get the other leg of power....the power is essentially coming over the same wiring as the signal...similar to how PoE works...

However that's not to say a microphone can't be unbalanced....it can actually be either


Microphones



However, I think it's wrong to say that XLR is generally = unbalanced microphone connection, these days generally any mono XLR/TRS are generally balanced.
Fair enough, i stand corrected. I still high disagree to calling TRS cables balanced however.
Old 14th July 2010
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Altitude909 View Post
Fair enough, i stand corrected. I still high disagree to calling TRS cables balanced however.
Well, calling them stereo cables ain't much better...TRS is TRS....can be used for anything that needs 3 wires, which can mean balanced, or a stereo unbalanced signal...shit you could even use an XLR for stereo unbalanced, cept no one really does that!

If it's a mono signal and it's got 3 wires, it's probably balanced. Ground, hot, cold.

If it's a stereo signal with only 3 wires, it's probably an unbalanced stereo signal. Ground, right, left. This is typically only used for 1/8" connections on non-professional stuff, like portable cd players and such....but i've seen the occasional use of a 1/4 connector for this.

The other possible use of a 1/4 TRS connector is as an unbalanced send/return cable, in which case it's usually ground, send, return (don't quote me on the ordering!)
Old 14th July 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xero View Post
Well, calling them stereo cables ain't much better...TRS is TRS....can be used for anything that needs 3 wires, which can mean balanced, or a stereo unbalanced signal...shit you could even use an XLR for stereo unbalanced, cept no one really does that!

If it's a mono signal and it's got 3 wires, it's probably balanced. Ground, hot, cold.

If it's a stereo signal with only 3 wires, it's probably an unbalanced stereo signal. Ground, right, left. This is typically only used for 1/8" connections on non-professional stuff, like portable cd players and such....but i've seen the occasional use of a 1/4 connector for this.

The other possible use of a 1/4 TRS connector is as an unbalanced send/return cable, in which case it's usually ground, send, return (don't quote me on the ordering!)

That's the whole point I was trying to make in the first place. It is about the signal, not the cable that determines whether it is balanced or not. People too often hear "balanced cable" and assume that using one will somehow improved something that is not balanced in the first place..
Old 14th July 2010
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Altitude909 View Post
That's the whole point I was trying to make in the first place. It is about the signal, not the cable that determines whether it is balanced or not. People too often hear "balanced cable" and assume that using one will somehow improved something that is not balanced in the first place..
OK yeah that's just silly....of course it's the signal that counts! At the same time, the confusion of balanced vs unbalanced never seems to end, it's a confusing situation regardless, I think....
Old 15th July 2010
  #22
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to add some completely un-technical input to the original question: i'd experiment with TS and TRS.

last night i eliminated amp noise which only occured when one of my modules going through the mixer was plugged into the power supply but not powered up (all was OK when it was switched on). i simply changed the two TS leads with TRS and now an annoyance has disappeared
Old 15th July 2010
  #23
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that's exactly what balancing sgnals is for: interference.

so it makes perfect sense that it worked to eliminate noise

edit: sorry thought it was a question
Old 18th July 2010
  #24
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Interestingly enough, my new monitors (my very first monitors, actually) have just arrived:

ESI Near08 Classic

And at the back each speaker has the choice of either a XLR input or a TRS Jack input. It says "TRS" specifically above the hole.

Maybe a daft question, but putting a mono jack in there won't do any kind of damage, will it? Maybe the sound won't be as crisp but it surely won't hurt?

I have plenty of mono cables but no TRS. Here in Berlin the local MediaMarkt electrical superstore and even the pro music store Musik Service don't stock any. I'll have to order some.

If I use the XLR input of the speaker, I'll need a jack-to-XLR cable. My current mixer is a Behringer Xenyx which has no XLR outputs. So three further questions:

- would using a jack-to-XLR cable from my mixer to the monitor speaker provide a sonic advantage to using a jack-to-jack cable?

- would this jack-to-XLR cable need to be TS or TRS at the mixer/jack-end? As the back of the monitor says TRS for its jack-input maybe I need to look for an jack-to-XLR cable where the jack has two rings around it.

- i'm thinking of upgrading my mixer, maybe to a Yamaha MG. As the MG's have XLR outputs, would using an XLR-to-XLR cable from the mixer to the monitor provide a sonic advantage to using jack cables?


I don't know about yous but I find the concept of cabling more complex than any synthesis I've come across)
Old 18th July 2010
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rarara View Post
to add some completely un-technical input to the original question: i'd experiment with TS and TRS.

last night i eliminated amp noise which only occured when one of my modules going through the mixer was plugged into the power supply but not powered up (all was OK when it was switched on). i simply changed the two TS leads with TRS and now an annoyance has disappeared
That could be relevant to my current situation too.
Old 18th July 2010
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dhollmusik View Post
- Maybe a daft question, but putting a mono jack in there won't do any kind of damage, will it?

-Maybe the sound won't be as crisp but it surely won't hurt?

- would using a jack-to-XLR cable from my mixer to the monitor speaker provide a sonic advantage to using a jack-to-jack cable?

- would this jack-to-XLR cable need to be TS or TRS at the mixer/jack-end? As the back of the monitor says TRS for its jack-input maybe I need to look for an jack-to-XLR cable where the jack has two rings around it.

- i'm thinking of upgrading my mixer, maybe to a Yamaha MG. As the MG's have XLR outputs, would using an XLR-to-XLR cable from the mixer to the monitor provide a sonic advantage to using jack cables?


I don't know about yous but I find the concept of cabling more complex than any synthesis I've come across)
there is no sonic advantage to using xlr/trs cables over ts jacks. you know about phase? about nulling audio by playing it out of phase with itself? the idea is that the output source splits a signal into two, in opposite phase, and recombines them at the destination input, nulling any interference that could be picked up along the way by phase cancellation. you only need TRS/XLR cables for mono signals if you are picking up interference. your audio in't brighter, clearer, or different at all outside of being free of electromagnetic interference.

that being said, it won't hurt to play it safe and use the balanced options.
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