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Mixing unbalanced and balanced, isn't that asking for trouble?

DanielT

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Or? Considering this thread:


To the overall, general questions: When, how and why mix balanced with unbalanced? In general, what should you think about when are you going ( if are you going...do not do it?) to do it?
 

edechamps

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The "Sound System Interconnecion" Rane note is a well-known reference on this topic. You should find the answers to your questions there.

Generally speaking, unbalanced output to balanced input (quite common when combining a consumer DAC with professional active speakers) can be made to work, although you might have to mess with the ground connection to avoid noisy ground loops.

Balanced output to unbalanced input tends to be trickier.
 

djtetei

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In principle, a balanced output should be connected to a balanced input and an unbalanced output should be connected to an unbalanced input, in order to maintain the signal integrity and level.
Mixing unbalanced and balanced connections doesn't mean cross connection between the two.
You can, however, connect both unbalanced and balanced sources to a device, like a mixer, with inputs (TRS jacks) specifically designed to accept both unbalanced and balanced sources.
Alternatively, one can use an active level converter, which convert an unbalanced signal to a balanced and a balanced signal to an unbalanced one.
There is no point in using makeshift connection cables like RCA to XLR/TRS (lazy people do it) as long as you care about the signal quality and can use a good mixer, studio controller or an active level converter, like the ones made by ART Pro Audio.
 
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DanielT

DanielT

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The "Sound System Interconnecion" Rane note is a well-known reference on this topic. You should find the answers to your questions there.

Generally speaking, unbalanced output to balanced input (quite common when combining a consumer DAC with professional active speakers) can be made to work, although you might have to mess with the ground connection to avoid noisy ground loops.

Balanced output to unbalanced input tends to be trickier.

In principle, a balanced output should be connected to a balanced input and an unbalanced output should be connected to an unbalanced input, in order to maintain the signal integrity and level.
Mixing unbalanced and balanced connections doesn't mean cross connection between the two.
You can, however, connect both unbalanced and balanced sources to a device, like a mixer, with inputs (TRS jacks) specifically designed to accept both unbalanced and balanced sources.
Alternatively, one can use an active level converter, which convert an unbalanced signal to a balanced and a balanced signal to an unbalanced one.
There is no point in using makeshift connection cables like RCA to XLR/TRS (lazy people do it) as long as you care about the signal quality and can use a good mixer, studio controller or an active level converter, like the ones made by ART Pro Audio.
Thanks for the reply! Interesting.:) Aha, good link by the way edechamps I will study it further.

So hm..it is important to keep track of how and what you plug into what and how BUT if we start with an absolute base line. And now I'm really talking base line. Could something break (I know we're not talking about many V's but still)? What is the worst that can happen in case of mismatched in case of mixed balanced unbalanced or vice versa connection?

Edit:
By worst, I define it like this in a descending scale:
1. Things break
2.No sound
3. Sound but with a lot of noise. That sounds really bad
 
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djtetei

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What is the worst that can happen in case of mismatched in case of mixed balanced unbalanced or vice versa connection?
Having a crappy sound and reversed polarities isn't enough?
In case "something happens" one should provide for that possibility in advance knowing that he is using a system with both balanced and unbalanced devices.
Bottom line: never cross connect balanced and unbalanced, unless the devices are designed to handle it.
Personally, I use both unbalanced and balanced sources, but the master outputs to the amplifiers are always balanced, to ensure signal integrity, freedom of placement and lower amplification gain (the best signal to noise ratio starts at the source).
 
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DanielT

DanielT

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Having a crappy sound and reversed polarities isn't enough?
In case "something happens" one should provide for that possibility in advance knowing that he is using a system with both balanced and unbalanced devices.
I added in the post above. :)

Can add point 4. Works but sometimes there seems to be a bit of noise, something that doesn't really work as intended. If it can work like that? With connections that one hopes would work painlessly.

Edit:
I haven't been doing PA. Well, I bought a PA power amp last year. Check output to speakers. Talk about being confused, he he.:)

IMG_20220813_065556.jpg
 

djtetei

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sometimes there seems to be a bit of noise
Noise is the enemy of amplification and good sound quality! Fight noise infiltration in the signal chain anywhere, anytime!
Is it worth using the best DAC you can afford and then skimp on a cable with proper connectors?
 

djtetei

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I haven't been doing PA
Balanced input/output connectors are not reserved to PA equipment. Balanced connections are always used and preferred during studio sessions (recording, mixing and mastering).
 
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DanielT

DanielT

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Noise is the enemy of amplification and good sound quality! Fight noise infiltration in the signal chain anywhere, anytime!
I don't joke. It's the thing that annoys me the most with HiFi and it happens to me from time to time.:oops::facepalm:

When do you hear distortion at X %.. blah blah ..never mind now we are talking about things like REALLY can piss me off: Noise, ..which can be a pain in the ass. Pain in the ears more correctly.

I've also had my fair share of vintage amps/receivers with mechanically humming transformers but I don't really care about that. It's like something you just have to take into acount. The ravages of time break down and so on. Noise with modern gadgets, on the other hand!
 
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DanielT

DanielT

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Balanced input/output connectors are not reserved to PA equipment. Balanced connections are always used and preferred during studio sessions (recording, mixing and mastering).
Okay, but it's still professional you mean? Everything regarding professional sound reproduction, recording, playback, PA live, and so on there I cannot comment. If they need balanced, they need it. I assume they are professional, but for home HiFi?
 

djtetei

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If they need balanced, they need it. I assume they are professional, but for home HiFi?
It's not like you can't work on unbalanced connections, but as long as balanced equipment is available you might as well take advantage of it.
 
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DanielT

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Simple solution: if it's noisy, get rid of it!
Well I know, but sometimes I'm like a naive fool and think it won't screw up but sooner or later...:D

The solution, for me anyway, is pretty simple. Because this annoys me the most with HiFi so ..preventive measures, balanced.

I like your answers by the way. Thank you for your response. I might sound a little sour but I'm not that on you but on myself.
 
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tonycollinet

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I bought the balanced minidsp Flex because I intend to have balance amplification in the future. I currently don't.

So I have an unbalanced analogue source (Turntable) connected to the balanced Flex input.
And I have the balanced outputs of the flex connected to an unbalanced amp. (Actually an AVR).

Both work perfectly. Minidsp tell us that connecting an unbalanced source to the balanced analogue input costs us 15dB of SINAD. It still far outperforms the turntable/vinyl playback. So that doesn't worry me.

For the output to the amp - not a problem. Balanced hot to RCA center pin and ground to ground. The amp can't tell the difference.
 

LTig

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So hm..it is important to keep track of how and what you plug into what and how BUT if we start with an absolute base line. And now I'm really talking base line. Could something break (I know we're not talking about many V's but still)? What is the worst that can happen in case of mismatched in case of mixed balanced unbalanced or vice versa connection?

Edit:
By worst, I define it like this in a descending scale:
1. Things break
2.No sound
3. Sound but with a lot of noise. That sounds really bad
Depending on the circuit design of a balanced output (output transformer, floating, non floating) the way how you connect it to an unbalanced input could have negative impacts:
  • output stage breaks if one output is shorted to ground (non floating)
  • sound is distorted if one output is shorted to ground (non floating)
  • no sound (transformer output and one output is not shorted to ground)
  • sound is distorted because balanced output level is higher than what the unbalanced input can handle (transformer output or floating)
 

djtetei

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That is an unbalanced (single ended) RCA cable with an additional grounding fork, used for connecting turntables to mixers or other devices.
 

Soandso

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Just to screw it up. What is this:

View attachment 224063

By the way what is this floating and hot you are talking about in the thread?
"Floating" is leaving one end of the shielding ("shield") surrounding the wire conductors unattached to it's other end's fitting. The shielding is what manufacturers place around the cable's central conductors, so it can just be cut back a little at one end without damaging the signal conducting wires.

Your balanced application aim is to send a signal and in this design the shield is always best just connected at one end. Twisting up the shield braiding and soldering that shielding to the equivalent of an XLR fitting's #1 PIN at just one end gets the external electro-magnetic waves (noise) the shield picks up directed away from your audio signal path. (But, if also the opposite XLR fitting's #1 PIN is connected to the same shield that would make the shield an audio "signal"ground, which is not the same as an equipment chassis ground, thus introducing crosstalk.)

Edit: I personally "always" float the shield at the connector of a balanced cable where it goes into a balanced amplifier. (Some float the shield at the other end, where a balanced cable comes out of the music's source.)
 
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Lambda

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What many here don't seam to understand is, You can Perfectly fine connect a unbalanced source to a balanced input.
With the Proper Cabel:
XLRphono2.gif

you even get a lot of the benefits like common mode noise rejection from the balanced connection

of cause there is many ways to even improve this,
for example impedance matching or ground lift:
1159657-pseudo-balanced%20cable%20image.jpg


but even without extra resistors the unbalanced to balanced concretion with impedance mismatch is better then unbalanced to unbalanced.
 

tonycollinet

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"Floating" is leaving one end of the shielding ("shield") surrounding the wire conductors unattached to it's other end's fitting. The shielding is what manufacturers place around the cable's central conductors, so it can just be cut back a little at one end without damaging the signal conducting wires.

Your balanced application aim is to send a signal and in this design the shield is always best just connected at one end. Twisting up the shield braiding and soldering that shielding to the equivalent of an XLR fitting's #1 PIN at just one end gets the external electro-magnetic waves (noise) the shield picks up directed away from your audio signal path. (But, if also the opposite XLR fitting's #1 PIN is connected to the same shield that would make the shield an audio "signal"ground, which is not the same as an equipment chassis ground, thus introducing crosstalk.)
Doesn't just apply to shield. Floating simply means to leave a terminal unconnected.
 
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