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Balanced vs unbalanced

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#1
I know a bit of this but not very sure so for the benefits of the newbies can anyone answer me these:
1) Is it true balanced is the "gold standard" if so why are there still unbalanced?
2) Balanced gives higher output and lower noise floor, again why are unbalanced still around?
and 3) some earbuds with detachable cables can switch between 3.5mm and 2.5 mm , recommended?

Thanks
 

Speedskater

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#3
At the budget end of the spectrum, lower costs and less panel space.
At the high end, less panel space and audiophiles want to mix and match.
* * * * * * * * * * *
While it's true that for short interconnects (say 10 feet/3 meters) powered from the same AC outlet the differences are trivial, this goes out the window when they connect to the internet or cable TV.
 

March Audio

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#4
I know a bit of this but not very sure so for the benefits of the newbies can anyone answer me these:
1) Is it true balanced is the "gold standard" if so why are there still unbalanced?
2) Balanced gives higher output and lower noise floor, again why are unbalanced still around?
and 3) some earbuds with detachable cables can switch between 3.5mm and 2.5 mm , recommended?

Thanks
In itself balanced does not sound better than unbalanced or vice versa.

However unbalanced single ended has a fundamental flaw. The low signal wire (shield) can also connect one component chassis to another and can be connected to mains safety earth. This leads to currents flowing in the signal wire leading to noise. The worst symptom is the infamous audible ground loop hum. If you are looking for the highest signal integrity It's really a dumb idea to connect signals from component to component in this way.

Balanced has a separate shield wire so this cannot happen. Balanced also has the advantage of common mode noise rejection. This is why ALL professional applications used balanced, including the studios that recorded the music you are listening to.

Ignore those that say balanced has more components and is therefore inferior. It's all about specific design and implementation. As mentioned above, the music you listen to was recorded with balanced equipment.

Whilst most of the time in domestic situations unbalanced does not create overt problems I would always use balanced if available.
 
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Doodski

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#5
Unbalanced single ended has a fundamental flaw. The low signal wire (shield) can also connect one component chassis to another and can be connected to mains safety earth. This leads to currents flowing in the signal wire leading to noise. The worst symptom is the infamous audible ground loop hum. It's really a dumb idea to connect signals in this way.
It's also veryyy common in car audio when the ground of one component is lifted that another component then seeks ground through the RCA cable and the other component(s) then fry the PCB because it can't supply the current through the RCA cable. It's a real money maker for techs. :D
 

DonH56

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#6
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#7
1) Is it true balanced is the "gold standard" if so why are there still unbalanced?
Who said balanced is the gold standard? Never heard that one. There’s nothing inherently wonderful about it, unless you need really long signal runs.

In addition, there is the connection issue. Speedskater mentioned panel space, which is certainly an issue compared to RCAs. That can be alleviated with female TRS panel connectors, but 1/4" cable ends are about as long as XLR connectors, so a lot of clearance behind the gear is required. Basically, no one has invented a reliable compact balanced connection system. (Don’t talk to me about 3.5 mm – those are cheesy for the most part.)

2) Balanced gives higher output and lower noise floor, again why are unbalanced still around?
Again, says who?

It largely depends on the components involved. Signal output for source components is relatively fixed; I don’t know that it’s hugely higher for balanced vs. unbalanced components. Pre-amp outputs can be several volts, which is way more than the typical professional power amp needs.

As far as noise floors, again it depends on the component. There is no shortage of professional equipment with balanced connections that are inherently noisy, especially at the lower end (although not exclusively). By contrast, my unbalanced system is so quiet you can turn the volume all the way up on an unused input, put your ear to the speaker, and hear nothing.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt
 
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#8
Unbalanced single ended has a fundamental flaw. The low signal wire (shield) can also connect one component chassis to another and can be connected to mains safety earth. This leads to currents flowing in the signal wire leading to noise. The worst symptom is the infamous audible ground loop hum. It's really a dumb idea to connect signals in this way.
I’ve never had anything but mid-fi gear at best, and I’ve never had any hum problems, so it doesn’t seem to be an issue with equipment that is reasonably-well designed. Ground loops are caused by other things. I’ve heard balanced PA systems with ground loop noise, so they’re not automatically immune to ground loops.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt
 

March Audio

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#9
I’ve never had anything but mid-fi gear at best, and I’ve never had any hum problems, so it doesn’t seem to be an issue with equipment that is reasonably-well designed. Ground loops are caused by other things. I’ve heard balanced PA systems with ground loop noise, so they’re not automatically immune to ground loops.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt
It actually has little to do with being well designed. It's a fundamental problem of using a signal conductor in this way. It will cause problems. Not always overt but nonetheless there. It will affect cheap low quality and expensive high quality kit just the same.

It is NOT caused by "other things" . Please read Don's post and links above. It will give you a detailed technical explanation.

Also the modern manifestation of this problem is people hearing "computer noises". See that quite regularly in posts here.

If people are concerned by the things they see in Amir's plots at - 100dB then they should be concerned about this.
 
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#10
I've never had any problems with noise from unbalanced connections, nor to I see it as a perennial problem. It gets virtually no discussion on any audio forum I've ever participated in, at least in systems that don't involve computer connections.

The "other things" with ground loops I was referring to is often from duplicate grounds from satellite dishes, CATV service, etc.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt
 

March Audio

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#11
Who said balanced is the gold standard? Never heard that one. There’s nothing inherently wonderful about it, unless you need really long signal runs.

In addition, there is the connection issue. Speedskater mentioned panel space, which is certainly an issue compared to RCAs. That can be alleviated with female TRS panel connectors, but 1/4" cable ends are about as long as XLR connectors, so a lot of clearance behind the gear is required. Basically, no one has invented a reliable compact balanced connection system. (Don’t talk to me about 3.5 mm – those are cheesy for the most part.)


Again, says who?

It largely depends on the components involved. Signal output for source components is relatively fixed; I don’t know that it’s hugely higher for balanced vs. unbalanced components. Pre-amp outputs can be several volts, which is way more than the typical professional power amp needs.

As far as noise floors, again it depends on the component. There is no shortage of professional equipment with balanced connections that are inherently noisy, especially at the lower end (although not exclusively). By contrast, my unbalanced system is so quiet you can turn the volume all the way up on an unused input, put your ear to the speaker, and hear nothing.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt
It has the advantages already mentioned. Long runs are only one aspect.

Connection space is a non issue. TRS is barely any longer than a quality RCA and you can fit pretty much just as many in thecsame panel space.

images (7).jpeg


Domestic balanced is typically double RCA voltage, 4 as opposed to 2 volts rms. Professional levels are up to 12.28 v rms.

.... and there are plenty of unbalanced designs that are noisy.....
 
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March Audio

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#12
I've never had any problems with noise from unbalanced connections, nor to I see it as a perennial problem. It gets virtually no discussion on any audio forum I've ever participated in, at least in systems that don't involve computer connections.

The "other things" with ground loops I was referring to is often from duplicate grounds from satellite dishes, CATV service, etc.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt
It's a very well documented and widely experience problem. Your survey of one is quite irrelevant. Plenty of posts here on "computer noises" and a number on hum.

The other things you mention become a problem precisely because of this issue.
 
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#13
Right - my survey of one reading tens of thousands of forum posts over the past 20 years of so, and reading dozens of audio magazines a decade or so before the internet.

If that were true, there would be no such thing as ground loops in balanced systems. But my survey of one has heard them.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt
 

Speedskater

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#14
Who said balanced is the gold standard? Never heard that one. There’s nothing inherently wonderful about it, unless you need really long signal runs.
Compared to all the problems associated with RCA unbalanced interconnect systems, it's by default the gold standard.

Bill Whitlock of Jensen Transformers for one. Even thou he was in the audio transformer business, he worked hard to develop balanced interconnect op-amps with THAT Corp.
 

March Audio

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#16
Right - my survey of one reading tens of thousands of forum posts over the past 20 years of so, and reading dozens of audio magazines a decade or so before the internet.

If that were true, there would be no such thing as ground loops in balanced systems. But my survey of one has heard them.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt
Ok

:facepalm:

Black is white, earth is flat....... Yawn. So tedious.

Jeez..... Why is it that people who are simply not technically informed insist on arguing based on their ignorance, limited knowledge and experience?

I find my patience and tolerance for dealing with this sort of BS is very limited these days. Gone very Doc Martin

Look up pin 1 problem if you want to understand issues in balanced systems. It's a wring issue not a fundamental problem with balanced design.
 
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maverickronin

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#18
What about mini-XLR?
Everyone else seems to have forgotten those even exist.

This is especially bizarre in the headphone world where several different brands use mini XLRs to connect cables to the headphone cups, but no one ever uses it as a connection to amplifier. There have been full size XLR in 2x3 pin and 1x4 pin for desktop gear. Portable products have been saddled with weird camera molex/automotive style plastic snap connectors, and 2.5mm TRRS.

Now we have these $DEITY forsaken pentacons... 4.4mm TRRRS. (Yes that's 3 "R"'s)

Meanwhile 4 pin mini XLR's have been perfect for this application and completely ignored.
 

March Audio

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Everyone else seems to have forgotten those even exist.

This is especially bizarre in the headphone world where several different brands use mini XLRs to connect cables to the headphone cups, but no one ever uses it as a connection to amplifier. There have been full size XLR in 2x3 pin and 1x4 pin for desktop gear. Portable products have been saddled with weird camera molex/automotive style plastic snap connectors, and 2.5mm TRRS.

Now we have these $DEITY forsaken pentacons... 4.4mm TRRRS. (Yes that's 3 "R"'s)

Meanwhile 4 pin mini XLR's have been perfect for this application and completely ignored.
I have used them for various projects but they are a fiddly PITA :). Not saying that other small connectors are any better in this respect
 

SIY

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