Why don't we see more balanced inputs & outputs?

jtc

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As my search begins for a decent preamp for my system (preferably a good valve-based option for not too much money) I'm disappointed that more than half of all possible contenders don't have balanced inputs or outputs.

I'm just curious why this is, as most of what I've read or been told suggests that balanced connectivity is generally better, and balanced cables are the norm in professional audio, where they don't have any time for 'audiofool crap' (a quote I remember reading somewhere).

j

 

i_should_coco

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There is absolutely no reason why balanced connections sound better.

Balanced connections have the advantages that they tolerate ground loops and and more resistant to interference and that's about it. Neither of these advantages is significant in domestic circumstances. (In pro audio, you don't want to be chasing hum loops, and they can use very long runs, especially with mic cables, so the resistance to interference is important)

 

GR1

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If a balanced output sounds different [better?] than a single ended then one or both have not been implemented properly.

HiFi manufacturers put balanced connections on domestic kit because it is something they can do and it gives them something else to sell to hobbyists - it's another form of Foo really. If they can get away with them sounding different that is really Foo.

As Paul mentioned when gain settings are accurately matched improvements should disappear.

 

crimsondonkey

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People can be easily fooled by the louder output from balanced cables - louder = better (apparently)

 

jon

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There is absolutely no reason why balanced connections sound better.Balanced connections have the advantages that they tolerate ground loops and and more resistant to interference and that's about it. Neither of these advantages is significant in domestic circumstances. (In pro audio, you don't want to be chasing hum loops, and they can use very long runs, especially with mic cables, so the resistance to interference is important)
Though occasionally balanced equipment avoids issues with hum and other interference in home settings - can be easier than finding and dealing with the source of the problem!

 

bluedroog

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I've been thinking about upgrading to something like event opals at some point but my preamp, a Croft 25 is unbalanced RCA only, what are people's thoughts on using a pair RCA to 6.35mm jack cables between them?

 

NAM

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That's exactly what I do between pre-amp and monitors in one of my own systems, I use a 5m unbalanced pair with no tangible issues. :^
Likewise- I use a 7m rca> 6.35mm jack pair between my Squeezebox Touch and active speakers

 

boneman

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People can be easily fooled by the louder output from balanced cables - louder = better (apparently)
In many years of playing music for a living I'm always amazed by the reaction to "higher, louder, faster". Can't even begin to count the amount of times I've heard two soloists back to back, one playing his/her **s off but with taste, the other spewing a stream high loud notes or just playing a bunch of useless runs, and the audience generally seems to go nuts over the latter. There are times when high loud and fast are amazing (Coltrane or Brecker come to mind to name a few) but not as much as audiences seem to indicate. To me that usually says people are not really listening.

 

Tenson

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The thing is, ground noise doesn't just humm or not, it introduces various levels of noise and at all sorts of frequencies. There is absolutely no point trying to get the best DAC your money can buy then feeding it through an unbalanced cable that in your particular setup introduces mains harmonics at -80dB.

Many times I've seen the difference between balanced and unbalanced connections equal the difference between a cheap dac and a good one.

 

Stills

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There is absolutely no reason why balanced connections sound better.Balanced connections have the advantages that they tolerate ground loops and and more resistant to interference and that's about it. Neither of these advantages is significant in domestic circumstances. (In pro audio, you don't want to be chasing hum loops, and they can use very long runs, especially with mic cables, so the resistance to interference is important)
As he/she stated, lots of advantages, especially with longer cable runs to active speakers or power amps. I use balanced 10m connections in my domestic setup between my pre and power amps due to 10m single ended sounding utterly shit. If you've spent the cash on Active Atc 100 I think the least you can do is use the best connection on them as they are pro.

 

hifinutt

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  1. Yes
I use a tom evans vibe , rca only its pretty dam good and can power very long interconnects

I have no problems with rca only

 

uncl_nigel

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[...]Many times I've seen the difference between balanced and unbalanced connections equal the difference between a cheap dac and a good one.
I might even dare to say a cheap balanced cable can sound very nearly as good as a very expensive single-ended one.

I have been experimenting cables between my Aesthetix Rhea phonostage and MFA passive pre (with the pre > power (Aesthetix Atlas) link being balanced but the same also held true with a SE cable in the pre > power link with my previous Avondale power amp.

In my set up with my ears and music a pair of £30-£40 xlr cables is very nearly as good as a pair of £900+ single-ended interconnects.

This is why I am slowly changing all my interconnects to balanced. Pre > power done, DAC > pre purchased awaiting delivery and phonostage > pre anticipated next month.

 

hcanning

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Whilst I agree that there are no sound quality advantages, balanced connections can and do help lower the noise floor. I noticed a complete reduction in hiss and hum when I went from unbalanced to balanced. It's simply a better, more resilient connection method. I suppose you could compare it a little bit to Composite Video versus RGB SCART.

In my set up with my ears and music a pair of £30-£40 xlr cables is very nearly as good as a pair of £900+ single-ended interconnects.
That's because the fact that £900 interconnects are a colossal waste of money is a gigantic under-statement.

 

Clubsport911

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I noticed a complete reduction in hiss and hum
I have both excellent hearing and very efficient KEF references fitted to my 450w mono block amps.

I've got no hiss or him at any volume... How can it get lower than "can't hear a sausage?"

 

eastsoutheast

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There is absolutely no reason why balanced connections sound better.Balanced connections have the advantages that they tolerate ground loops and and more resistant to interference and that's about it. Neither of these advantages is significant in domestic circumstances. (In pro audio, you don't want to be chasing hum loops, and they can use very long runs, especially with mic cables, so the resistance to interference is important)
I am not saying I am correct as I am not technically savvy enough to claim otherwise but,,

Many years ago and not too long after Dr Zucker purchased Audiolab creating Tag Audio I auditioned a PA20R pre amp. To cut a long story short the dealer told me it had balanced outputs, I purchased balanced cables but when I set it up the be lanced outputs did not work. After discussing with the dealer Tag agreed to take back my pre amp and use it to develop the balanced outputs and provide to me at cost. Apparently the balanced output sockets were fitted as it was anticipated it would be a popular option in the German market.

The cost of the upgrade was approx £1500 but I had to pay approx £500. When I questioned this (spent a lot of time talking to someone technical at Tag) I was advised that developing and then fitting the output transformers etc was very expensive but the SQ improvement would be worth it.

This led me to believe that a proper balanced output is driven differently to your normal single needed outputs and better technically. I was told a lot of manufacturers add balanced outputs to their amps for wider appeal in foreign markets but these were not usually implemented correctly due to the increased manufacturing costs.

accept I could have been hoodwinked!!!

 

johnniebaby

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Whilst I agree that there are no sound quality advantages, balanced connections can and do help lower the noise floor. I noticed a complete reduction in hiss and hum when I went from unbalanced to balanced. It's simply a better, more resilient connection method. I suppose you could compare it a little bit to Composite Video versus RGB SCART.That's because the fact that £900 interconnects are a colossal waste of money is a gigantic under-statement.
You seem to be contradicting yourself there.

 

SergeAuckland

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I would be very happy if ALL equipment had balanced I/O as it would get over hum loop problems and make certain things like bridging very easy, but as long as equipment has a mixture of balanced and unbalanced, we'll never have the full benefits. I have a mixture just as many people have, but I keep four transformers in a box with phonos on one end and XLRs on the other to use whenever hum problems arise. It's got me out of trouble many times.

However, if you don't have hum problems, then balanced I/O is a bit pointless in domestic situations where cable lengths are short and RF interference not too severe. Still would be nice if everything was balanced.

S

 

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