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unbalanced vs balanced with lots of volume attenuation

firestart3r

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Hi guys, I have a newbie question for you:

I was just wondering... let's say my setup looks like this: PC --> DAC --> HP amp --> headphones

Is it better to use a balanced cable for my headphones, even if I have to reduce the volume on the PC or DAC to use the amp normally ?
How much "digital" attenunation is too much that I should go back to using the unbalanced ouput ?

I'm asking, because I heard the balanced outputs have :
- More power (already have too much :p)
- Better crosstalk (maybe better imaging ?)
- Safer plug for the amp / less chance of electrical short the connection when plugging/unplugging (is this applicable to 4.4mm or only 4 pin XLR ?)

Keep in mind, I'm already using amp at the "low gain" setting and get plenty of volume...
The knob goes from 7 to 5 o'clock. With unbalanced I'm at around 10 o'clock and balanced 8 o'clock maybe ?

I'm probably overthinking about this o_O, I'm just wondering what's the "scientifically" best setup in that case:
- PC max volume + DAC max volume + unbalanced hp cable
- PC 50% volume + DAC max volume + balanced hp cable
- PC max volume + DAC at 50% volume + balanced hp cable
etc

Thanks!
 

ZolaIII

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Depends what you are driving. Best performance for headphones amplifier will be in - 6 to - 12 dB range (½/¼ of max voltage it outputs) and six more to that before it fall down and it fals faster than let's say stage that can produce less voltage to start with. Also crosstalk isn't that much guaranteed to be better with balanced it should be to small extent but more of how well amplifier is designed in that extent. That's more related to higher impedance cans are it should be higher but again you don't really need it to be very high and more so with headphones that are better isolated on their own not to leek much or to each other. In lot of mixes that where not done good where things are separated to different chenels actual problem is not leaking at all and that sounds bad. High impedance with not much current is actually easy to drive not the low impedance same current as amperage gets higher, same like with any amplifier but less of a problem with average of cuple mV to cuple of V with speakers.
And that's a state of art DAC to simple dirty cheap dongle. And ADI-2 EMI stage has pore crosstalk. So rule is -18 dB from full output for usual listening for best performance and +6 to that when you want to listen very loud. As long as multitone SINAD stays above SPL you are listening it can be considered as transparent.
 

Mr Swing King

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Balanced drive only really makes sense from a professional viewpoint imho. Maybe just maybe if you’re rocking a very hard to drive headphone and using equalisation, sure the extra juice will help.
For sound quality though it’s the same as single ended use. It’s only if you’re running your cables a 100-300 metres through a rock concert, a recording studio with all kinds of turned on electrical equipment…or similarly if NASA sets up shop in your backyard, that you’ll want some extra shielding from outside noise.
 
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firestart3r

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Depends what you are driving. Best performance for headphones amplifier will be in - 6 to - 12 dB range (½/¼ of max voltage it outputs) and six more to that before it fall down and it fals faster than let's say stage that can produce less voltage to start with. Also crosstalk isn't that much guaranteed to be better with balanced it should be to small extent but more of how well amplifier is designed in that extent. That's more related to higher impedance cans are it should be higher but again you don't really need it to be very high and more so with headphones that are better isolated on their own not to leek much or to each other. In lot of mixes that where not done good where things are separated to different chenels actual problem is not leaking at all and that sounds bad. High impedance with not much current is actually easy to drive not the low impedance same current as amperage gets higher, same like with any amplifier but less of a problem with average of cuple mV to cuple of V with speakers.
And that's a state of art DAC to simple dirty cheap dongle. And ADI-2 EMI stage has pore crosstalk. So rule is -18 dB from full output for usual listening for best performance and +6 to that when you want to listen very loud. As long as multitone SINAD stays above SPL you are listening it can be considered as transparent.
So basically, I'm looking to use the volume where the distortion is around -110db or lower ?

Can I adjust the DAC level to have my listening at approximately five 6th (5/6) of the volume pot and call it a day ?
Would 3 o'clock sound about right ? This amp doesn't have a screen so I cannot see the output levels...

index.php

Source: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...headphone-amplifier-review.13592/#post-410374

Thanks :)
 

Sokel

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Doesn't matter where you lower the level with digital attenuation,the SNR drop will be about the same (although distortion pattern seem to change depending where you lower it,but you can see that only testing the whole chain yourself) .

If you want to maintain that 110 db (why?) you can do it only by lowering the gain (not volume) of the amp creating a nice gain structure.

Here's a really good article with explanations and examples:


 

DVDdoug

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Either way should be OK. The only advantage to a balanced headphone connection is higher-output from a given amplifier. It's the same as "bridging" a power amplifier, but you can't have a common ground between left & right so a regular 3-wire headphone connection won't work.

A different unbalanced connection could equal it (or have more output) or there may be some headphone amps that have the same output balanced or unbalanced but that's unlikely because it also depends on power supply voltage.

...With line & microphone connections a balanced connection gives better noise immunity but you can't pick-up enough electrical noise to affect a (passive) headphone.
 

ZolaIII

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So basically, I'm looking to use the volume where the distortion is around -110db or lower ?

Can I adjust the DAC level to have my listening at approximately five 6th (5/6) of the volume pot and call it a day ?
Would 3 o'clock sound about right ? This amp doesn't have a screen so I cannot see the output levels...

index.php

Source: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...headphone-amplifier-review.13592/#post-410374

Thanks :)
No and not really, that amplifier has three gain settings and you use it accordingly to SPL of headphones per V, mW to impedance load. Analog pots are never a very good solution even in this case there is little variation between measured samples (Amir/Wolf) and little of imbalance between chenels.
Linear digital is better because there is no such a things and you have precise control and readings. While there is a big difference between high gain THD/V curve one between mid and low is in the margin of error, mid gain having more power of course so just use mid gain for can's that are not very hard to drive (lo SPL per V/mW). I doubt you will need balanced 8 V for anything. Remember as long SINAD (preferably multitone) is above actual SPL reproduced by specific can's you are good. You won't be listening on average programe of 110 dB (130 dB theoretical peek) ever or at least I hope so.
 
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