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Is it worth to make balanced cables for unbalanced gear? How to improve sound quality Recorders, Players & Tape Machines
Old 1st February 2019
  #1
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saresu's Avatar
 

Is it worth to make balanced cables for unbalanced gear? How to improve sound quality

I'm recording stuff with an Yamaha Electone EL-100 connected to a Tascam stereo comp DL-2000 and straight to a Yamaha MT4X cassette recorder.

There are no noise issues, but I'm concerned about losing sound quality and too much brightness in a "bad way" due to cabling.
The RCA to 1/4 TR cable (from Electone to DL2000) is about 3 meters. The 1/4 TR to 1/4 TR cable (between DL2000 to MT4X) is about 80 cm.

I believe RCA cables cannot be balanced, (at least I can shorten them as much as possible), but how about making a XLR to TRS cable to connect the XLR output of the DL2000 to the unbalanced input of the MT4X?

Electone outputs are RCA only, and the DL2000 is the only balanced device here with its XLR inputs and outputs but I'm not sure if the 1/4 inputs and outputs are balanced as well.

Care to share your experiences here?

I'm I sweating too much?
Old 1st February 2019
  #2
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filipv's Avatar
There's absolutely no point (and it's also conceptually impossible) to make balanced cables for unbalanced gear.

If, as you said, there are no noise issues, then – by the very nature of things – you're not losing "quality" either.

Relax and carry on making music.
Old 1st February 2019
  #3
Quote:
There are no noise issues, but I'm concerned about losing sound quality and too much brightness in a "bad way" due to cabling.
The RCA to 1/4 TR cable (from Electone to DL2000) is about 3 meters. The 1/4 TR to 1/4 TR cable (between DL2000 to MT4X) is about 80 cm.
You said it, "you have no noise issues" so there is nothing to fix. I'm concerned about a plethora of things, and its good to be concerned, but if you are having "no issues", then you are having "no issues".
Quote:
I believe RCA cables cannot be balanced, (at least I can shorten them as much as possible), but how about making a XLR to TRS cable to connect the XLR output of the DL2000 to the unbalanced input of the MT4X?
Unbalanced will still be unbalanced, even you use balanced cables.
Old 1st February 2019
  #4
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You can do it but it would require Impedance matching transformers.
This for example is a dual channel DI box which will cost about $15.



They work bi directionally and will get you from a high impedance TS to a low impedance balanced output. Its got an attenuator switch to adjust the gain too.
I use one for my Interface which only had 2 line level inputs and I need 4 for recording so I use the DI box into two mic inputs.

As others said however, you aren't having an issue with noise, and unless those unbalanced cables are over 25' long where the smallest amount of capacitance begins to become measurable, then you're barking up the wrong tree. If you got fidelity issues switching to balanced will have zero effect. In fact many pieces of gear simply install XLR cables and connect unbalanced wires to them. Found that out back in the 70's when Tapco was first popular. All their mixers, EQ's and anything else have all the mic connectors wired for high impedance. It shorts one of the balanced legs to ground right on the connector.

You'll find this with the outputs on many pieces of gear. The inputs may use a differential circuit that accepts a balanced signal or even a transformer, but on the outputs you can simply pop the cover and look to see if the output XLR or 1/4" TRS is connected to 3 wires or 2. If its two, its unbalanced and doesn't matter if you use a balanced cable or not. Many compressors have both type connectors coming in an out but many aren't truly balanced. It keeps the price down and because its typically inserted between a preamp and power amp, or recording device it doesn't need to be balanced. They just add those connector to make it easy to connect to an existing setup. Price usually tells you the story. If the price is too good to be true it usually is.

If your fidelity sucks when using a compressor, that's pretty much par for the course. The job of a compressor is to rude the volume and decrease dynamics. Your overtones get steamrolled in the process and the signal takes on an abstract timber different then the original signal because of this dynamic reduction.
In short, you want an instrument to sound smaller then life and often times have its frequency response decreased, then you're getting that by using compressor. You want to make it sound larger then life, you need to increase the dynamic range by using an expander to make a mouse sound like an elephant.

I'd suggest unless its absolutely necessary, add your compression when mixing, not when tracking. There are very few instruments besides a very loud snare that need compression when tracking. you have over 120dB or headroom between the floor and ceiling. Its only when you cant get the instrument to sit above the noise floor and below the ceiling when compression becomes important. you'll find many plug in compressors do a much cleaner job compared to most hardware compressors too, plus you can use them like a doctors scalpel when taming tracks and not smear it on blindly like a thick coat of grease.

Compression, Rule of thumb. If you can hear it working, you're using twice as much as you actually need. If you aren't sure, adjust it to where you hear it kicking in, then dial it back 50%. you can also add more later. if you overdo it tracking you simply wasted all that time recording and the only fix is the trash bin and starting over from scratch. If you don't use it at all tracking, you do have to be a better musician when recording. No doubt its more difficult maintaining the volume when playing by singing the notes or hitting the instruments notes consistently. Thing is you'd have to maintain the dynamics playing live too so if you aren't ready for playing live you probably aren't ready for recording and vice versa. No one said recording is easy. My thing is, if you don't sweat a bit tracking then you probably didn't capture anything worth listening to, and adding effects is like putting lipstick on a pig. Its only going to squeal at you when pushed.
Old 3rd February 2019
  #5
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saresu's Avatar
 

Guys, thank you for your inputs! Much appreciated

and wrgkmc, thank you for your extensive response!



Quote:
Originally Posted by wrgkmc View Post
and unless those unbalanced cables are over 25' long where the smallest amount of capacitance begins to become measurable, then you're barking up the wrong tree. If you got fidelity issues switching to balanced will have zero effect.
So, if hooking my gear with up to 25 inches TS or RCA cables there wont be anything to worry about loss of fidelity, right? this is as good as it gets with unbalanced connections, correct?


Quote:
Originally Posted by wrgkmc View Post
If your fidelity sucks when using a compressor, that's pretty much par for the course. The job of a compressor is to rude the volume and decrease dynamics. Your overtones get steamrolled in the process and the signal takes on an abstract timber different then the original signal because of this dynamic reduction.
In short, you want an instrument to sound smaller then life and often times have its frequency response decreased, then you're getting that by using compressor. You want to make it sound larger then life, you need to increase the dynamic range by using an expander to make a mouse sound like an elephant.

I'd suggest unless its absolutely necessary, add your compression when mixing, not when tracking. There are very few instruments besides a very loud snare that need compression when tracking. you have over 120dB or headroom between the floor and ceiling. Its only when you cant get the instrument to sit above the noise floor and below the ceiling when compression becomes important. you'll find many plug in compressors do a much cleaner job compared to most hardware compressors too, plus you can use them like a doctors scalpel when taming tracks and not smear it on blindly like a thick coat of grease.

Compression, Rule of thumb. If you can hear it working, you're using twice as much as you actually need. If you aren't sure, adjust it to where you hear it kicking in, then dial it back 50%. you can also add more later. if you overdo it tracking you simply wasted all that time recording and the only fix is the trash bin and starting over from scratch. If you don't use it at all tracking, you do have to be a better musician when recording. No doubt its more difficult maintaining the volume when playing by singing the notes or hitting the instruments notes consistently. Thing is you'd have to maintain the dynamics playing live too so if you aren't ready for playing live you probably aren't ready for recording and vice versa. No one said recording is easy. My thing is, if you don't sweat a bit tracking then you probably didn't capture anything worth listening to, and adding effects is like putting lipstick on a pig. Its only going to squeal at you when pushed.

Actually the reason I'm using compressor/limiter is for sound design. With extreme ratio and threshold settings to squash and dirty drums sampled sounds and tune the attack and release to see if I can get something "fresh" or exciting to drive the music I have in my head.

I dont mind to desfigure the sound because of unbalanced cheap/old gear and tape. I just cannot accept losing any little sonics due to cabling/connections, if there's something that could be done to change and improve... for my consciousness.
Old 3rd February 2019
  #6
Quote:
So, if hooking my gear with up to 25 inches TS or RCA cables there wont be anything to worry about loss of fidelity, right? this is as good as it gets with unbalanced connections, correct?
No, going through RCA will degrade your sound somewhat.

RCA is at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to audio integrity. But that is what you have, so there is no way to undo it.
Old 3rd February 2019
  #7
If you made a list of all your gear, including your room and your monitoring, in order according to how much it influenced your sound, I’m sure that cabling would be at the very bottom.

If cables work and aren’t excessively long, then they’re the first thing to stop worrying about in your kind of setup.
Old 3rd February 2019
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
No, going through RCA will degrade your sound somewhat.

RCA is at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to audio integrity. But that is what you have, so there is no way to undo it.
Typically where connections are clean and stable they're good. There are a lot more suspect/flaky than RCA out there.
Old 15th February 2019
  #9
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saresu's Avatar
 

Got it! Thank y'all!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #10
Quote:
Typically where connections are clean and stable they're good. There are a lot more suspect/flaky than RCA out there.
That can go for everything in this world. But i would rather use 1/4" than RCA. Its just smart to do, as there is a reason why RCA is not used anymore and they are not used in higher end gear. The only ones that use it, are the cheap bottom of the barrel products
Old 4 weeks ago
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
That can go for everything in this world. But i would rather use 1/4" than RCA. Its just smart to do, as there is a reason why RCA is not used anymore and they are not used in higher end gear. The only ones that use it, are the cheap bottom of the barrel products
If you actually read the OP you will find that he/she needs RCA to connect his Yamaha organ. Pros or cons of RCA is not relevant here.

You could of course be suggesting that the organ is whipped open and the RCAs replaced with jacks but I hope that is not the case....
Old 4 weeks ago
  #12
Quote:
If you actually read the OP you will find that he/she needs RCA to connect his Yamaha organ. Pros or cons of RCA is not relevant here.
LOL ,if you actually read it, then you would see my post acknowledging the he is using RCA. LMFAO at you!! As you put your foot in your mouth.

Next time you try me, you better know what you are talking about @thedberg
Old 4 weeks ago
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
LOL ,if you actually read it, then you would see my post acknowledging the he is using RCA. LMFAO at you!! As you put your foot in your mouth.

Next time you try me, you better know what you are talking about @thedberg
Well, your did say that you’d “rather use 1/4” than RCA” which in this context isn’t possible. But if it feels good for you to laugh your ass off then go ahead - it’s fine by me
Old 4 weeks ago
  #14
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by wrgkmc View Post
You can do it but it would require Impedance matching transformers.
This for example is a dual channel DI box which will cost about $15.



They work bi directionally and will get you from a high impedance TS to a low impedance balanced output. Its got an attenuator switch to adjust the gain too.
I use one for my Interface which only had 2 line level inputs and I need 4 for recording so I use the DI box into two mic inputs.

As others said however, you aren't having an issue with noise, and unless those unbalanced cables are over 25' long where the smallest amount of capacitance begins to become measurable, then you're barking up the wrong tree. If you got fidelity issues switching to balanced will have zero effect. In fact many pieces of gear simply install XLR cables and connect unbalanced wires to them. Found that out back in the 70's when Tapco was first popular. All their mixers, EQ's and anything else have all the mic connectors wired for high impedance. It shorts one of the balanced legs to ground right on the connector.

You'll find this with the outputs on many pieces of gear. The inputs may use a differential circuit that accepts a balanced signal or even a transformer, but on the outputs you can simply pop the cover and look to see if the output XLR or 1/4" TRS is connected to 3 wires or 2. If its two, its unbalanced and doesn't matter if you use a balanced cable or not. Many compressors have both type connectors coming in an out but many aren't truly balanced. It keeps the price down and because its typically inserted between a preamp and power amp, or recording device it doesn't need to be balanced. They just add those connector to make it easy to connect to an existing setup. Price usually tells you the story. If the price is too good to be true it usually is.

If your fidelity sucks when using a compressor, that's pretty much par for the course. The job of a compressor is to rude the volume and decrease dynamics. Your overtones get steamrolled in the process and the signal takes on an abstract timber different then the original signal because of this dynamic reduction.
In short, you want an instrument to sound smaller then life and often times have its frequency response decreased, then you're getting that by using compressor. You want to make it sound larger then life, you need to increase the dynamic range by using an expander to make a mouse sound like an elephant.

I'd suggest unless its absolutely necessary, add your compression when mixing, not when tracking. There are very few instruments besides a very loud snare that need compression when tracking. you have over 120dB or headroom between the floor and ceiling. Its only when you cant get the instrument to sit above the noise floor and below the ceiling when compression becomes important. you'll find many plug in compressors do a much cleaner job compared to most hardware compressors too, plus you can use them like a doctors scalpel when taming tracks and not smear it on blindly like a thick coat of grease.

Compression, Rule of thumb. If you can hear it working, you're using twice as much as you actually need. If you aren't sure, adjust it to where you hear it kicking in, then dial it back 50%. you can also add more later. if you overdo it tracking you simply wasted all that time recording and the only fix is the trash bin and starting over from scratch. If you don't use it at all tracking, you do have to be a better musician when recording. No doubt its more difficult maintaining the volume when playing by singing the notes or hitting the instruments notes consistently. Thing is you'd have to maintain the dynamics playing live too so if you aren't ready for playing live you probably aren't ready for recording and vice versa. No one said recording is easy. My thing is, if you don't sweat a bit tracking then you probably didn't capture anything worth listening to, and adding effects is like putting lipstick on a pig. Its only going to squeal at you when pushed.
F**king impedance. I don't know why, but I have a hard time wrapping my head around this spec (please, no more plumbing analogies). So, I wanna connect a buncha unbalanced synths to my balanced mixer. I thought all I needed to do was disconnect the shield at one end of the cable. Do I need to worry about impedance?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #15
Quote:
your did say that you’d “rather use 1/4” than RCA” which in this context isn’t possible.
If you would have read again, it quoted and was referring too this below. But i guess you do not like to read!! Or you just do not get what context means.
Typically where connections are clean and stable they're good. There are a lot more suspect/flaky than RCA out there.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #16
Lives for gear
 

Just to chime in again re 'RCAs and TS/TRS, I've gathered along the way, RCAs -the connectors.. are pretty decent. Compare for instance the single tip spring connect point on TS for example. Generally 'robust enough, but not particularly.
I see the main dif tends to be the cables associated with each, and (mostly) many RCAs'. [add.. for example / mistake; Some TRS/dual TS insert cables with the molded connectors -turned out to be total crap. (that being at the wire/jack point.)

That and keep them all clean! Especially when having not been in use. (ever noticed the dust that collects in your open jacks..?
When you get down to it even ones in use could be 'broken out' occasionally for the re-seat/wipe action.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #17
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By the way, OP may find this interesting..
Star grounding question
Old 4 weeks ago
  #18
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Richard Crowley's Avatar
 

@saresu you appear to have no problem except unfounded, free-floating anxiety about "sound quality".
If you have "too much brightness in a bad way" then apply equalization to your audio signal. That is what it is there for..
You have innocently poked at a hornet's nest of opinion and myth about cable, connectors and interfacing.
No "improvement" to the "sound quality" can be achieved by changing connectors or cabling in your scenario.
Yes, you are "sweating too much".

Can balanced connections solve problems of picking up noise/interference along the path of the cable?
Yes, in very many cases. That is why it is so extensively used.
Especially for microphones where essentially 100% of all modern microphones use balanced connections.
Is that a problem with your scenario as revealed here? No.

Are there ways of balancing an unbalanced signal to provide these benefits?
Yes, there are several different ways and they are typically quite effective.
But you said "There are no noise issues". So there appears to be no point in doing this.

Are RCA connectors "inferior" to TRS or XLR?
There can be problems with RCA connectors
But then there can be problems with TRS and XLR connectors also.
But you have revealed no symptoms that would implicate problems with ANY connectors.

Can "too much brightness in a bad way" be caused by connectors? No.
Can "too much brightness in a bad way" be caused by cabling? No.
If "There are no noise issues", will changing connectors or cable have any effect? No.
Can changing connectors and or changing cable remedy "too much brightness in a bad way"? No.

Are there conditions where cable makes a difference in "tonal quality" or "balance"?
Yes. If you were using an electric guitar with a high-impedance pickup.
In that case, cable capacitance could attenuate high frequencies.
Exactly the opposite effect that you are complaining about.
That is why there are special "instrument cables" designed to have low capacitance.

IF you had a high-impedance output from your electric organ (WHICH YOU DO NOT),
then using low-capacitance cable would actually make your symptoms WORSE.

Do you dislike the sound you are getting from your electric organ? Perhaps.
But cabling, connectors and interfacing between you gear plays NO PART in your phenomenon.
At least not as you have revealed the symptoms of your scenario.
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