• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

Connectors and cables, inputs and outputs, balanced?

Joined
Jul 17, 2020
Messages
14
Likes
3
#1
Next question - re: connectors and cables. I've never had the option for a "balanced" connection until now. I hope this won't be too confusing. (picture, if you will, speakers: NHT SB3, and my "Listening Room," which is also "Our Apartment", i.e. I'm a picky listener, but not yet an Audiophile)

Lets say I have Balanced IN (XLRs) – on both my Integrated AMP (Audiolab 8300a) and my DAC (pretend its a Monolith 124459). And lets say I also have coaxial and optical IN and RCA IN and OUT on the DAC..

Is the BEST! connection, starting from my computer (music library, CDs, AIFF and WAV rips,)–
– to go from computer's 3.5mm or USB to XLR IN on the DAC, then OUT from the DAC's RCA to the amp's XLR IN?
So I need a cable that is RCA male (DAC's OUT) to split XLR male (Amp's IN)?
(The DAC, to make things even more confusing, also has AES3 IN and optical IN)

Will I really notice the difference between XLR balanced vs RCA, optical, or Coax? Does the DAC really "make" the signal from the computer Balanced, and do I retain that balance coming out through the DAC's RCAs?
 
Joined
Mar 14, 2016
Messages
234
Likes
158
Location
Corpus Christi, TX
#2
A signal path is not balanced unless there are balanced connections on all associated inputs and outputs.

If you have 3.5 mm to XLR and RCA to XLR, you don’t have a balanced system. Both of those are unbalanced, irrespective of the presence of an XLR connector.

Now, a component can convert an unbalanced input into a balanced output. However the signal only remains balanced after that point if everything downstream has balanced inputs and outputs.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt
 

Zek

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 17, 2018
Messages
326
Likes
156
#3
to go from computer's 3.5mm or USB to XLR IN on the DAC
You can't do this, because signal from computer's usb is digital, not analog. Also connecting computer's 3.5mm to DAC is not posible.
It would be best to show the back panels of the DAC and amplifier to see what connections they have.
 
OP
K
Joined
Jul 17, 2020
Messages
14
Likes
3
Thread Starter #4
A signal path is not balanced unless there are balanced connections on all associated inputs and outputs.

If you have 3.5 mm to XLR and RCA to XLR, you don’t have a balanced system. Both of those are unbalanced, irrespective of the presence of an XLR connector.

Now, a component can convert an unbalanced input into a balanced output. However the signal only remains balanced after that point if everything downstream has balanced inputs and outputs.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt
Thank you, very helpful
 
OP
K
Joined
Jul 17, 2020
Messages
14
Likes
3
Thread Starter #5
You can't do this, because signal from computer's usb is digital, not analog. Also connecting computer's 3.5mm to DAC is not posible.
It would be best to show the back panels of the DAC and amplifier to see what connections they have.
You can't do this, because signal from computer's usb is digital, not analog. Also connecting computer's 3.5mm to DAC is not posible.
It would be best to show the back panels of the DAC and amplifier to see what connections they have.
Thank you. Why would a DAC offer Balanced IN XLRs (I would understand if they were OUTs)? The amp connections, which I understand, are simply all analog - Balanced IN or RCA's, pretty straight forward. Here are screenshots from the two pieces. My music source will be a 2015 MacBook Pro running Catalina, Apple Music, with outboard HD full of rips (mostly AIFF) in addition to turntable, tuner, and CD player.
 

Attachments

solderdude

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
6,386
Likes
11,857
Location
The Neverlands
#8
Is the BEST! connection, starting from my computer (music library, CDs, AIFF and WAV rips,)–
– to go from computer's 3.5mm or USB to XLR IN on the DAC, then OUT from the DAC's RCA to the amp's XLR IN?
So I need a cable that is RCA male (DAC's OUT) to split XLR male (Amp's IN)?
(The DAC, to make things even more confusing, also has AES3 IN and optical IN)

Will I really notice the difference between XLR balanced vs RCA, optical, or Coax? Does the DAC really "make" the signal from the computer Balanced, and do I retain that balance coming out through the DAC's RCAs?
PC/Mac via USB connected to the DAC. From there on use the balanced out (XLR) from the DAC to the amp (XLR in)
 

Blumlein 88

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 23, 2016
Messages
9,931
Likes
13,495
#10
There is NO balanced out from the DAC - only balanced IN.:facepalm:
Facepalms indeed. So my suggestion is get a different Dac.
 

RayDunzl

Major Contributor
Central Scrutinizer
Joined
Mar 9, 2016
Messages
10,193
Likes
8,912
Location
Riverview FL
#11
USB (or coax or Toslink) to DAC

RCA from DAC to integrated amp

Is there a problem?
 

solderdude

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
6,386
Likes
11,857
Location
The Neverlands
#12
There is NO balanced out from the DAC - only balanced IN.:facepalm:
Ah... its not a DAC it is a headphone amplifier with an onboard DAC and balanced inputs with an unbalanced RCA out.

so PC/Mac via USB connected to the DAC. From there on use the RCA out to the amp (RCA in).
You don't need balanced and it won't have any advantages in your case.

edit: Ray beat me to it.
 
OP
K
Joined
Jul 17, 2020
Messages
14
Likes
3
Thread Starter #13
Thanks again everyone. I think I have it figured out. Balanced is Balanced. Until it isn't. :p I think I will go from computer USB A OUT to USB B on the DAC. Then RCA OUT from DAC to Balanced IN on the Amp. Apparently RCA to XLR cables are available. And that DAC I'm looking at is hard to find, and a bit more than I wanted to spend. Just connected my brand new, open-box Audiolab 8300a, for what its worth, it sounds darn good through these NHT speakers. Next step, buy a decent DAC, and get to restoring that Thorens turntable..
USB (or coax or Toslink) to DAC

RCA from DAC to integrated amp

Is there a problem?
USB (or coax or Toslink) to DAC

RCA from DAC to integrated amp

Is there a problem?
No problem, I was just trying to use the balanced inputs on the amp, but reality tells me that chances are I won't hear a difference.
 

solderdude

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
6,386
Likes
11,857
Location
The Neverlands
#14
The RCA to XLR connector will do exactly the same as the RCA input of the amp.
In fact the RCA input may technically be better.
The RCA to balanced adapter does NOT make the signal balanced.

You either need and active device for this or a transformer. In both cases fidelity will arguably be lower.

Just use the RCA inputs on the amp.
 
OP
K
Joined
Jul 17, 2020
Messages
14
Likes
3
Thread Starter #15
Ah... its not a DAC it is a headphone amplifier with an onboard DAC and balanced inputs with an unbalanced RCA out.

so PC/Mac via USB connected to the DAC. From there on use the RCA out to the amp (RCA in).
You don't need balanced and it won't have any advantages in your case.

edit: Ray beat me to it.
thanks Solderdude. Your answer presently holds first place.
 
Joined
Jan 3, 2020
Messages
74
Likes
86
Location
MN
#16
The RCA to XLR connector will do exactly the same as the RCA input of the amp.
In fact the RCA input may technically be better.
The RCA to balanced adapter does NOT make the signal balanced.

You either need and active device for this or a transformer. In both cases fidelity will arguably be lower.

Just use the RCA inputs on the amp.
I keep telling people that unbalanced is better if you are free from ground loops and really we typically are free of loops in a small stereo systems.
 
Joined
Jul 16, 2020
Messages
57
Likes
34
#18
Use what you have if the dac is good, balance out in your case to amp and USB from computer to dac.
I would use XLR if the electronics have XLR ports.
 
Last edited:
OP
K
Joined
Jul 17, 2020
Messages
14
Likes
3
Thread Starter #19
Use what you have if the dac is good, balance out in your case to amp and USB from computer to dac.
I would use XLR if the electronics have XLR ports.
yes. seems to be the most popular and logical. Thanks!
 

AnalogSteph

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Nov 6, 2018
Messages
770
Likes
560
Location
.de
#20
In the case of the Audiolab 8300A, it wouldn't matter much as it clearly sports a 2-prong mains connector and as such must have a floating audio ground.

A lot of other gear with balanced inputs has its circuit ground tied to protective earth, however, including most things studio / pro audio. It only takes a PC and some common active monitors (JBL 3xx, KRK Rokit etc.) for ground loop issues to arise when (effectively) unbalanced connections are used between them - nothing complex or exotic at all.
 
Top Bottom