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Do balanced headphone amplifiers really not make an audible difference?

MiloTheFirst

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I have been meaning toa ask this for a bit, thanks for spending some of your time looking into this.

In the disccussions related to this topic I was able to find in the site, the general consensus seems to be that the only real benefit from choosing a balanced headphone amplifier is the larger power output, fair enough, but I have not seen any extended argumentation regarding the matter of channel crosstalk. is it really unadible?

looking at the specs fot the Topping A50s, for instance, SE indicates a meassurement of -86dB, while Balanced states -128dB. even if we cap our hearing at 120 dB of dynamic range , 34dB difference seems like a lot to me. is this really not relevant enough to be brought up as an argument more often?
 

Joachim Herbert

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Just consider 86dB signal in one channel (which is more than recommend level for extended listening) of a closed and 0dB in the other. Or consider that level via and ambient noise of 20 to 30db.
 

sergeauckland

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No it's not audible. 20dB separation is quite enough for decent stereo, so 86dB separation is already into overkill territory.
Also, balanced drive has nothing to do with output level, any SE driver is capable of just as much drive as balanced, it just has to be designed that way.
Balanced headphone drivers are just another con on the gullible and/or technically ignorant who don't understand the technology, and it's not in the interests of the balanced drive purveyors to educate them.

S
 

levimax

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I have been meaning toa ask this for a bit, thanks for spending some of your time looking into this.

In the disccussions related to this topic I was able to find in the site, the general consensus seems to be that the only real benefit from choosing a balanced headphone amplifier is the larger power output, fair enough, but I have not seen any extended argumentation regarding the matter of channel crosstalk. is it really unadible?

looking at the specs fot the Topping A50s, for instance, SE indicates a meassurement of -86dB, while Balanced states -128dB. even if we cap our hearing at 120 dB of dynamic range , 34dB difference seems like a lot to me. is this really not relevant enough to be brought up as an argument more often?
An interesting experiment might be to get REW (free). It has a signal generator you can add distortion to any tone at any level and any order. Try to see how low you can go and hear the other tone. Even under the best conditions I can not hear another tone at -60 db. For music it is way more difficult to hear noise and distortion than on pure tones. The other interesting thing to consider is that phono cartridges are lucky to have -30dB of crosstalk yet that does not seem to effect much of anything even imaging. I would say crosstalk @ -86 dB is not remotely an issue but the advantage of trying an experiment yourself is you will get perspective on what -86dB actually is and gain a lot of confidence on what may or may not be important.
 
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MiloTheFirst

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Just consider 86dB signal in one channel (which is more than recommend level for extended listening) of a closed and 0dB in the other. Or consider that level via and ambient noise of 20 to 30db.

I think you are mixing up dB as a meassure of SPL, with dB as a ratio between two signals. these two are unrelated
 

amirm

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looking at the specs fot the Topping A50s, for instance, SE indicates a meassurement of -86dB, while Balanced states -128dB. even if we cap our hearing at 120 dB of dynamic range , 34dB difference seems like a lot to me. is this really not relevant enough to be brought up as an argument more often?
Crosstalk is frequency dependent so you can't make comparisons this way using just a single number. Also, since music spectrum drops rapidly as frequencies go up, residual crosstalk sinks with it just the same.
 

MRC01

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... Balanced headphone drivers are just another con on the gullible and/or technically ignorant who don't understand the technology, and it's not in the interests of the balanced drive purveyors to educate them. ...
That goes a bit too far. Unlike some snake oil BS sold to gullible audio-phools, balanced drivers actually do have measurable benefits. Higher SNR (relatively lower noise), lower distortion (differential signalling naturally attenuates 2nd order harmonics), higher power output, better channel balance.
However, it is true that these benefits may not be audible. Well designed & built single-ended amps / drivers can be audibly transparent.
 

sergeauckland

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That goes a bit too far. Unlike some snake oil BS sold to gullible audio-phools, balanced drivers actually do have measurable benefits. Higher SNR (relatively lower noise), lower distortion (differential signalling naturally attenuates 2nd order harmonics), higher power output, better channel balance.
However, it is true that these benefits may not be audible. Well designed & built single-ended amps / drivers can be audibly transparent.
Exactly, so why bother with the added complexity and non-standard connectivity of balanced connections if it's not a con to get the technically ignorant to think it's somehow better?
Any 'benefits' are inaudible, and so is a poor (as in unnecessary) engineering solution and therefore without merit.

S
 
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Dunring

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I've found the only practical benefit is if your amp has much more power in balanced mode (most I've had aren't internally balanced, just more power) then you can stay in medium gain a lot more. Then it's just from staying in a lower gain though...Using an SMSL HO200 and I'll probably never need to use high gain on it.
 
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MiloTheFirst

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Crosstalk is frequency dependent so you can't make comparisons this way using just a single number. Also, since music spectrum drops rapidly as frequencies go up, residual crosstalk sinks with it just the same.

thanks for the feddback Amir. however, I am afraid that I am not educated enough to fully understand what you are saying. would you mind elaborating a bit?

"Crosstalk is frequency dependent so you can't make comparisons this way using just a single number"

what do you mean by "single number"? are you refering to me neglecting to indicate that the crosstalk dB was meassured at 1khz?. or do you mean that since both channels will have different frequencies at an exact instance of time the phenomenum becomes more complicated?

"Also, since music spectrum drops rapidly as frequencies go up, residual crosstalk sinks with it just the same."

here are you talking about crosstalk caused by capacitive coupling? to behonest I had not even considered it, I thought the diference between the meassured crosstalk between SE and balanced was just cause by "fixing" the common-ground coupling
 

MRC01

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Exactly, so why bother with the added complexity and non-standard connectivity of balanced connections if it's not a con to get the technically ignorant to think it's somehow better?
Any 'benefits' are inaudible, and so is a poor (as in unnecessary) engineering solution and therefore without merit.
On the contrary, balanced is an objectively superior engineering solution. The benefits are measurable. One may (or may not) hear the difference, only because the single-ended approach, which is inferior from an engineering/measurement perspective, may be good enough for most people, most of the time. :)
 

sergeauckland

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On the contrary, balanced is an objectively superior engineering solution. The benefits are measurable. One may (or may not) hear the difference, only because the single-ended approach, which is inferior from an engineering/measurement perspective, may be good enough for most people, most of the time. :)
Completely disagree. Good engineering is fitness for purpose, using the least resources and/or lowest cost. Balanced operation for headphones is neither.

An engineer is that person that can make for a fiver what any damn fool can do for a tenner.

S
 

maverickronin

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Balanced headphone outputs are a much more reasonable choice for mobile/portable devices where voltage rails are limited.
 

MRC01

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Completely disagree. Good engineering is fitness for purpose, using the least resources and/or lowest cost. Balanced operation for headphones is neither.
An engineer is that person that can make for a fiver what any damn fool can do for a tenner.
...
That's one definition, and it's certainly valid, though not the only one.
My point is that balanced/differential operation does improve the quality of an amplifier in a measurable way and is based on sound engineering principles. Even if one thinks it is unnecessary, it's in a different category from other audiophile BS like expensive cables, NOS digital filters, green pens, cable lifts, and the like, which have either no measurable impact or make audio measurably worse.
 
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