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Does an unbalanced vs balanced cables matter in short cable runs? Headphone Amps
Old 17th October 2017
  #1
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Does an unbalanced vs balanced cables matter in short cable runs?

I was looking for a new audio interface when i came across the Tascam US-1x2, but i noticed that the monitor outputs are RCA connections. There are other interfaces around that price point that do have balanced outputs, but will it really matter if the cable is no longer than a few feet?
Old 17th October 2017
  #2
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johnnyv's Avatar
It's important to get the connection you want when shopping for an interface. If you want balanced then stick to it. It won't matter sound wise but more important is what do your studio monitors have? If you end up having to purchase RCA to XLR cables you'd be better off spending that money on a better interface that has the connections you need.
The only case where you would want RCA is if your powered monitors have that option or you drive your passive studio monitors with a stereo amp that has them.

Myself I used balanced cables whenever possible no matter how long the run.
Both XLR and TRS, I keep all kinds of cables on hand.
But that said, I drive my NSM10's with a Technics intigrated amp which only has RCA inputs. I need to change this as I do get RF interferance from my wireless mouse, I traced it to that location as I don't hear this in my headphones, only through the monitors.. I will look at buying powered speakers that have XLR or even SPDIF.

Last edited by johnnyv; 18th October 2017 at 12:01 AM..
Old 17th October 2017
  #3
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If you're working around a computer, it's best to give yourself as much an advantage in noise suppression as possible. In my project studio, I use balanced connections whenever I can, even when I'm just using patch cables.
Old 17th October 2017
  #5
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The "best and purest" output on my Millennia STT-1 is the unbalanced line output, as there is no additional components needed to balance the signal and the output is pure class A electronics.

I have used this unbalanced output with short cables and never had a single issue with noise compared to using the balanced output.

So in theory balanced is better (re noise reduction) but in practice with short cable runs in a typical environment you won't hear any difference.
Old 18th October 2017
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnnyv View Post
...Myself I used balanced cables whenever possible no matter how long the run.
Both XLR and TRS, I keep all kinds of cables on hand.
But that said, I drive my NSM10's with a Technics intigrated amp which only has RCA inputs. I need to change this as I do get RF interferance from my wireless mouse, I traced it to that location as I don't hear this in my headphones, only through the monitors.. I will look at buying powered speakers that have XLR or even SPDIF.
I've been revisiting my monitor path lately as I'm in the same boat; A fairly long run -20 to 30 feet depending on which rig in this case with 'balanced outputs and lines -but ultimately get 'unbalanced terminating into female TRS / TS - RCA adapters to the amp.. Which means, unless I'm mistaken totally defeats it as being 'balanced, or any of their benefits.
Given that, I'm not having (or 'chasing) any noise problems. - I was wondering if an improvement might be had 'correcting it.

But, the OP is asking about unbalanced outputs..

FWIW I came across this with a few points new to me re 'Connecting Balanced and Unbalanced Devices (Unbalanced outputs in this case.
https://www.presonus.com/learn/techn...ced-unbalanced
In particular a 'Better unbalanced-to-balanced wiring' -with 30 - 50% of the common mode rejection of a fully balanced system? Fairly cool I guess. :>)

For my use -balanced outs, and 'servo-balanced later in the doc.. and being what my RME rigs use, that could in part explain(?) why I'm getting by ok. (Don't know, keep on learning
Old 18th October 2017
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martel80 View Post
Quote:
a hum can be picked up in these cables if the run is to long or if there is a difference in voltage potential on the ground of the the chassis of your equipment (this can be caused by plugging your equipment into two different power sources with a voltage draw between your common and ground
Hmm. This is (typically called) a ground loop problem right? A voltage flow via unequal ground paths?
Does a 'balanced path even address this?
Old 18th October 2017
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayne View Post
Hmm. This is (typically called) a ground loop problem right? A voltage flow via unequal ground paths?
Does a 'balanced path even address this?
I was not suggesting that he might have a Hum problem but trying to adress the OP question with proper documentation to connect his monitors to his DA rca's output.
Old 18th October 2017
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martel80 View Post
I was not suggesting that he might have a Hum problem but trying to adress the OP question with proper documentation to connect his monitors to his DA rca's output.
Got it. I was just wondering if balanced addresses ground loop hum like they suggest. I could see the answer going either way. I'm thinkin not, but curious now and got's to know
Old 21st October 2017
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Poinzy View Post
If you're working around a computer, it's best to give yourself as much an advantage in noise suppression as possible. In my project studio, I use balanced connections whenever I can, even when I'm just using patch cables.
My question is, how do I know which sort of cables I have? In the absence of a label on them saying 'I am balanced/unbalanced' I don't know how to tell.

Thanks.
Old 21st October 2017
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by baward View Post
My question is, how do I know which sort of cables I have? In the absence of a label on them saying 'I am balanced/unbalanced' I don't know how to tell.

Thanks.
Start with the question..
https://www.google.com/search?q=bala...hrome&ie=UTF-8

With a few exceptions to watch for- i.e. 'specialty or modified balanced connectors with a wire lifted or jumpered to modify them to unbalanced.

And this one- which everyone should have in their kit :>)
Sound System Interconnection
Old 20th March 2019
  #12
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I am not very experienced, but my understanding is that two connections carry an unbalanced signal and three carry balanced. RCA carries unbalanced signal. TS 1/4" jack carries unbalanced signal. TRS 1/4" and XLR carry balanced signal. Please, if I am wrong, someone correct me.
Old 20th March 2019
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ridotta View Post
I am not very experienced, but my understanding is that two connections carry an unbalanced signal and three carry balanced. RCA carries unbalanced signal. TS 1/4" jack carries unbalanced signal. TRS 1/4" and XLR carry balanced signal. Please, if I am wrong, someone correct me.
You are correct.
Old 20th March 2019
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ridotta View Post
I am not very experienced, but my understanding is that two connections carry an unbalanced signal and three carry balanced. RCA carries unbalanced signal. TS 1/4" jack carries unbalanced signal. TRS 1/4" and XLR carry balanced signal. Please, if I am wrong, someone correct me.
Unless TRS (and XLR in rare cases) is stereo.
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