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Instead of connecting RCA preamp output to XLR pwrd speakers, could I use balanced 4.4 mm headphone jack to XLR?

JanesJr1

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I would like to connect my Topping A50s headphone amp to powered speakers, which have only balanced combo XLR/TRS jacks. The Topping's pre-amp out is unbalanced RCA, but it also has a balanced 4.4 mm headphone jack. Instead of running an unbalanced RCA-to-XLR connection, could I instead run a balanced connection from the 4.4 mm jack to the speakers' XLR inputs using this cable: https://www.amazon.com/4-4mm-Balanced-Headphone-Adapter-Silver/dp/B07WSRRN1X? Or are the levels or some other electrical attributes of the headphone jack unsuitable for such interconnection?
 
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kongwee

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Never encounter 4.4 mm. Double check Topping A50s polarity so that is matches the one in amazon to your powered speakers. All three checking their polarities. For me, I will just email Topping to clear my doubts.
 
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JanesJr1

JanesJr1

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Never encounter 4.4 mm. Double check Topping A50s polarity so that is matches the one in amazon to your powered speakers. All three checking their polarities. For me, I will just email Topping to clear my doubts.
Thank you. If you hear back favorably from Topping, I will need help understanding your comment about checking polarities. I have no knowledge of electrical circuits. Thanks again.
 

kongwee

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Thank you. If you hear back favorably from Topping, I will need help understanding your comment about checking polarities. I have no knowledge of electrical circuits. Thanks again.
You need to send the amazon link and the brand and model of your active speaker. If you using those studio monitor, normally your will see a small XLR connection pin diagram some like this :
kbmedia

on manual or the monitor plate itself. Capture them. Any device should able provide this kind of XLR diagram. This is the most important diagram especially you don't intend to exposed your speaker brand and model.
I had never deal with Topping and their customer service. This kind of query you can just email them.
 
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JanesJr1

JanesJr1

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You need to send the amazon link and the brand and model of your active speaker. If you using those studio monitor, normally your will see a small XLR connection pin diagram some like this :
kbmedia

on manual or the monitor plate itself. Capture them. Any device should able provide this kind of XLR diagram. This is the most important diagram especially you don't intend to exposed your speaker brand and model.
I had never deal with Topping and their customer service. This kind of query you can just email them.
Got it! Thanks.
 

EdTice

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I would like to connect my Topping A50s headphone amp to powered speakers, which have only balanced combo XLR/TRS jacks. The Topping's pre-amp out is unbalanced RCA, but it also has a balanced 4.4 mm headphone jack. Instead of running an unbalanced RCA-to-XLR connection, could I instead run a balanced connection from the 4.4 mm jack to the speakers' XLR inputs using this cable: https://www.amazon.com/4-4mm-Balanced-Headphone-Adapter-Silver/dp/B07WSRRN1X? Or are the levels or some other electrical attributes of the headphone jack unsuitable for such interconnection?
If those are the "Pentaconn" jacks, you will need an adapter. However, a pair of them will probably cost you close to a hundred bucks.

The maximum output voltage of the headphone jack might be higher than the maximum input voltage of the speaker. You can either find out both values and do some calculations or you can just play at sane volumes. Or if you do feel the urge to annoy your neighbors, back off the volume at the first sign of distortion.

You probably won't harm anything by cranking the volume as both devices will have protection mechanisms but this is not an experiment you want to try. But as long as you buy the right adapter, you'll get the benefit of balanced inputs. (That may or may not improve the audio quality)

Most studio monitors have an input sensitivity of +4dBU or 1.2V. The Topping A90 was pushed to 2V in Amir's measurements via the RCA output. So it's clear no matter how hard you connect things up (unless your monitors can take a 2V input), you will need to set gain structure to avoid overdriving the input on the monitors (or at least avoid severely overdriving it).

If your monitors have a volume or gain control, of course, you can lower it to get to a 2V input sensitivity but given the quality of the A90 its probably better to set the monitors to where they sound the best and just use your head with the volume control.
 
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JanesJr1

JanesJr1

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If those are the "Pentaconn" jacks, you will need an adapter. However, a pair of them will probably cost you close to a hundred bucks.

The maximum output voltage of the headphone jack might be higher than the maximum input voltage of the speaker. You can either find out both values and do some calculations or you can just play at sane volumes. Or if you do feel the urge to annoy your neighbors, back off the volume at the first sign of distortion.

You probably won't harm anything by cranking the volume as both devices will have protection mechanisms but this is not an experiment you want to try. But as long as you buy the right adapter, you'll get the benefit of balanced inputs. (That may or may not improve the audio quality)

Most studio monitors have an input sensitivity of +4dBU or 1.2V. The Topping A90 was pushed to 2V in Amir's measurements via the RCA output. So it's clear no matter how hard you connect things up (unless your monitors can take a 2V input), you will need to set gain structure to avoid overdriving the input on the monitors (or at least avoid severely overdriving it).

If your monitors have a volume or gain control, of course, you can lower it to get to a 2V input sensitivity but given the quality of the A90 its probably better to set the monitors to where they sound the best and just use your head with the volume control.
Thank you for a reply that is not only thorough, but well-written, and written for a non-tech person. I get it.

I am interested in running it balanced, because I have audible noise at times here, and I don't know if it's EM interference from nearby air-handlers or some ground loop thing. However, since writing my question, I noticed that the pentacon-to-XLR cable I was interested in is out of stock, and the available alternative is more expensive. It also occurs to me that even if I hook up the speakers on a balanced circuit, the source/DAC/amp end of things will remain unbalanced; I don't need power from the balanced circuit and the noise benefit is iffy. I will research the questions you mention in case I need them, but will try RCA-to-XLR first, with less-expensive cables, and see how it goes. Thanks again; I learned a couple of things from your answer that I will use again.
 
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EdTice

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Thank you for a reply that is not only thorough, but well-written, and written for a non-tech person. I get it.

I am interested in running it balanced, because I have audible noise at times here, and I don't know if it's EM interference from nearby air-handlers or some ground loop thing. However, since writing my question, I noticed that the pentacon-to-XLR cable I was interested in is out of stock, and the available alternative is more expensive. It also occurs to me that even if I hook up the speakers on a balanced circuit, the source/DAC/amp end of things will remain unbalanced; I don't need power from the balanced circuit and the noise benefit is iffy. I will research the questions you mention in case I need them, but will try RCA-to-XLR first, with less-expensive cables, and see how it goes. Thanks again; I learned a couple of things from your answer that I will use again.
Just to be a bit more specific, there are some DACs and amps that are "fully balanced" or "fully differential" internally. But most consumer-level equipment will be "unbalanced" internally. The DACs will use a small circuit on the output to convert the unbalanced signal to balanced. The amplifier will then take the balanced input and use a reverse circuit to produce single-ended or unbalanced output that then gets amplified.

However, having the balanced transmission can still be beneficial because it's less susceptible to noise (ground loop or otherwise) being picked up by the interconnects.

For short cable runs (1 or 2 meters), you aren't going to pickup much outside noise and you can solve ground loop issues (usually) by simply plugging both devices into the same outlet. If the cable runs are longer (say 10 meters to your rear speakers), balanced signals can help (even if there are unbalanced devices on both ends). And in that case you probably can't use the same outlets.

If you have a noise problem that you can't figure out and the option to use balanced connections exists at a relatively low cost, it's certainly worth a try. But if it is going to involve considerable time or expense, it's better to first diagnose the cause of the noise!
 

Veri

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I would like to connect my Topping A50s headphone amp to powered speakers, which have only balanced combo XLR/TRS jacks. The Topping's pre-amp out is unbalanced RCA, but it also has a balanced 4.4 mm headphone jack. Instead of running an unbalanced RCA-to-XLR connection, could I instead run a balanced connection from the 4.4 mm jack to the speakers' XLR inputs using this cable: https://www.amazon.com/4-4mm-Balanced-Headphone-Adapter-Silver/dp/B07WSRRN1X? Or are the levels or some other electrical attributes of the headphone jack unsuitable for such interconnection?
It should work, but it's a bit hacky to use the A50s headphone out for this purpose. If the cable is cheap enough, I would say give it a try.
 

kongwee

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If you fall into the dark of audiophile world. Single end and differential doesn't offer sonic advantage on one and other. Normally, you can read their description. Those who are good in differential will boost in their description. While those good in the single ended will give warning not use their differential side.
 
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JanesJr1

JanesJr1

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Just to be a bit more specific, there are some DACs and amps that are "fully balanced" or "fully differential" internally. But most consumer-level equipment will be "unbalanced" internally. The DACs will use a small circuit on the output to convert the unbalanced signal to balanced. The amplifier will then take the balanced input and use a reverse circuit to produce single-ended or unbalanced output that then gets amplified.

However, having the balanced transmission can still be beneficial because it's less susceptible to noise (ground loop or otherwise) being picked up by the interconnects.

For short cable runs (1 or 2 meters), you aren't going to pickup much outside noise and you can solve ground loop issues (usually) by simply plugging both devices into the same outlet. If the cable runs are longer (say 10 meters to your rear speakers), balanced signals can help (even if there are unbalanced devices on both ends). And in that case you probably can't use the same outlets.

If you have a noise problem that you can't figure out and the option to use balanced connections exists at a relatively low cost, it's certainly worth a try. But if it is going to involve considerable time or expense, it's better to first diagnose the cause of the noise!
I have assumed that the noise is EM interference because it is intermittent or at least variable. It sounds like a distant, crackly halo around the signal, like a thin bit of wax paper stretched over a speaker cone. Maybe that's not a decisive diagnosis.

My speaker cable run is 2 meters. Interesting about the idea of using a single outlet: I assume that makes using a power strip for the amp, DAC, and two powered-speakers a good idea, just to prevent existing or new ground loop problems?
 

EdTice

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I have assumed that the noise is EM interference because it is intermittent or at least variable. It sounds like a distant, crackly halo around the signal, like a thin bit of wax paper stretched over a speaker cone. Maybe that's not a decisive diagnosis.

My speaker cable run is 2 meters. Interesting about the idea of using a single outlet: I assume that makes using a power strip for the amp, DAC, and two powered-speakers a good idea, just to prevent existing or new ground loop problems?
Yes to the power strip. See if it makes a difference. Yeah the EM noise might be from a nearby electronic device. (Hopefully not from one of the audio devices.) You don't sit your phone on top of the DAC do you?! :)
 
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JanesJr1

JanesJr1

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If you fall into the dark of audiophile world. Single end and differential doesn't offer sonic advantage on one and other. Normally, you can read their description. Those who are good in differential will boost in their description. While those good in the single ended will give warning not use their differential side.
Thank you for the advice. The reason I have an amp with only a balanced circuit on the headphone jack was simply to get the benefit of higher power for two inefficient headphones, without having to pay the extra cost of a fully-balanced setup from end to end. Maybe that was a good idea, maybe not.
 
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JanesJr1

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Yes to the power strip. See if it makes a difference. Yeah the EM noise might be from a nearby electronic device. (Hopefully not from one of the audio devices.) You don't sit your phone on top of the DAC do you?! :)
No. As far as EM interference, I am in an office building with all the HVAC equipment next door and beaucoup PC's, printers, and even a server room spread around the floor.

I may despair of sourcing the noise, but on the other hand, I am retiring (at least from this career) in a few months, and will relocate then.
 

EdTice

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Thank you for the advice. The reason I have an amp with only a balanced circuit on the headphone jack was simply to get the benefit of higher power for two inefficient headphones, without having to pay the extra cost of a fully-balanced setup from end to end. Maybe that was a good idea, maybe not.
The Topping A50 is a great device that was highly reviewed here at ASR and an excellent choice regardless. If we have problems to solve it isn't due to your headphone amplifier choice!
 
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JanesJr1

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It should work, but it's a bit hacky to use the A50s headphone out for this purpose. If the cable is cheap enough, I would say give it a try.
I will see how well inexpensive RCA to XLR cables work, and fall back to the more expensive option if necessary. "Hacky" is a good word for it.
 

EdTice

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No. As far as EM interference, I am in an office building with all the HVAC equipment next door and beaucoup PC's, printers, and even a server room spread around the floor.

I may despair of sourcing the noise, but on the other hand, I am retiring (at least from this career) in a few months, and will relocate then.
In offices, Class A equipment is common and that poses an additional challenge. There are RF shielded enclosures. Is the Topping A50 hooked up to a computer? What are you feeding it with?
 
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JanesJr1

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In offices, Class A equipment is common and that poses an additional challenge. There are RF shielded enclosures. Is the Topping A50 hooked up to a computer? What are you feeding it with?
Two laptops connected through USB A connectors, and neither is immune to the noise problem. The USB cable seemed like it might be a source of EM interference, so I replaced it with a foil and braid cable with ferrite cores. I also replaced headphone cables with balanced versions. I think things are better on the whole, although the noise recurs unpredictably. There are also over a dozen routers that show up in my Wi-Fi list, not to mention the previously-mentioned air handlers and the server room.

What is "class A" equipment?

I'm not sure how to shield my equipment unless with a huge erector-set Faraday cage. I can live with it for a few more months.
 

kongwee

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Thank you for the advice. The reason I have an amp with only a balanced circuit on the headphone jack was simply to get the benefit of higher power for two inefficient headphones, without having to pay the extra cost of a fully-balanced setup from end to end. Maybe that was a good idea, maybe not.
I have no ideal about headphone, for me headphone is just for work. Normally I don't put on headphone or earphone.
 

EdTice

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Two laptops connected through USB A connectors, and neither is immune to the noise problem. The USB cable seemed like it might be a source of EM interference, so I replaced it with a foil and braid cable with ferrite cores. I also replaced headphone cables with balanced versions. I think things are better on the whole, although the noise recurs unpredictably. There are also over a dozen routers that show up in my Wi-Fi list, not to mention the previously-mentioned air handlers and the server room.

What is "class A" equipment?

I'm not sure how to shield my equipment unless with a huge erector-set Faraday cage. I can live with it for a few more months.
Class A equipment that is designed for commercial use is allowed to produce more radio frequency emissions than Class B equipment designated for residential use. Your microwave won't cause your TV to flicker. But commercial microwaves in the office cafeteria might cause the same effect for your computer monitor!

Edit: My example was intentionally a bit fanciful. Just to be clear, any interference from a commercial microwave would be from the power supply not the heating radiation leaking out!

 
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