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XLR output to RCA input done properly?

nyhifihead

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not vouching for an increase in fidelity etc, but I recently bought one of these ISO-200 to feed a pro amp (crest audio vs1500 for my subwoofers from a sun pre out on my preamp. clean signal and it works in both directions.

I don't have ground loops in my system so I can't speak to its abilities to remove those but I get a super clean signal to my pro audio amp allowing me to lower the gain pot than usual to match subs w/ speakers.

costing as much as the conversion cables themselves I figured I would try. I am using monoprice XLRs and blue jeans rca cables. great sound

looks like sold out on amazon but they have a b stock for $21.

 
D

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If I want to connect my DAC's XLR output to a preamp or integrated amp's RCA input, what are my options?

This Emotiva adapter cable seems to do it "properly" https://emotiva.com/products/balanced-xlr-female-to-unbalanced-rca-female-adapter-interconnect but it'd be nice to have a cable wired the same way but with a male RCA end to avoid more connections then necessary. Does anyone know of any? (or perhaps someone who could wire a custom cable this way?)

I'm also seeing people talk about using a "1:1 transformer" to do the conversion? https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...le-ended-converter-xlr-to-rca-bal-to-se.9506/

Not sure what to make of all this and which way to go.. your insight would be much appreciated, thanks!

This should do your job ....

1) I never use "hard" adaptors since they tend to stick out quite a ways and may contribute to damage.
2) These adaptors typically use the shield and Hot from the XLR to produce a single ground referenced signal.
3) There's no reason to buy anything complex or expensive.
 

ADU

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Fwiw, I have tried various solutions to this, including simple XLR to RCA adapters like the one above. With and without passive attenuation or pads, depending on the direction you're going. And they can work... sort of. But they're a nuisance because of the mismatches in levels, grounding, and what have you. So I don't recommend them.

The best solutions imo are still to...

1. Reconfigure one or two components in your setup to simply avoid these kinds of balanced to unbalanced connections.

2. Use a decent balanced to unbalanced line level converter or transformer (like the Radial J+4 and J-Iso mentioned in my previous post).

3. Use a mixing board.

Of these three solutions, the first is the best, the easiest and probably also the cheapest imo for a home audio setup. If I were in a studio though, then I'd use the third option of a mixing board, because that's precisely the kind of thing they are designed for. (And I would generally not use a simple XLR to RCA adapter like the one shown in the Amazon link above!)

Dedicated line-level converters/transformers like the Radials are another option. But they will run into more $$. So they'e not as good as the first option for home use imo. And are generally unneeded in a studio or pro audio environment.

If you don't mind getting more creative with the levels in your system, then it's possible that there may be some other solutions that might work almost as well as some of the above. But the additional hassles involved in getting any of them to work correctly and reliably would put them much lower down on my list. Just my 2c fwiw.
 
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D

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Fwiw, I have tried various solutions to this, including simple XLR to RCA adapters like the one above. With and without passive attenuation or pads, depending on the direction you're going. And they can work... sort of. But they're a nuisance because of the mismatches in levels, grounding, and what have you. So I don't recommend them.

A little tip ... the 4 volt balanced signal is actualy 2 2volt signals in opposing polarities... it only ends up being 4 volts because the op-amp integrators on the inputs sum signals of opposing polarities... 2 + 2 == 4.

When you pick off either the hot or the cold signal on it's own you get a CLL compatible signal.

I appreciate your concerns but most of the time the simplest solution is the best.
 

ADU

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A little tip ... the 4 volt balanced signal is actualy 2 2volt signals in opposing polarities... it only ends up being 4 volts because the op-amp integrators on the inputs sum signals of opposing polarities... 2 + 2 == 4.

When you pick off either the hot or the cold signal on it's own you get a CLL compatible signal.

I appreciate your concerns but most of the time the simplest solution is the best.

Agreed on the simplest solution... And this is what I've attempted to give in my above posts in this case, Douglas, based on my experiences with similar gear.

I've tried using XLR to RCA adapter cables like the one in your link for this. (I might even still have a few of them here, though I think I probably sold them.) And have not found them to be the best or easiest solution, due in part to the mismatches in the nominal signal levels, and other factors...


...So I can't recommend using them. Compensating for all the differences between the two types of signals and cables requires more than just a simple connector or pin fix imho. Perhaps you will come to a different conclusion after also giving it a try though. IAC, I welcome hearing more of your input on this, whatever conclusion you reach.
 
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Dunring

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I've got a question in case anyone else has done this. I have an SMSL SP200 with a Topping d10b DAC and really happy with it. I've read before the SP200 does better with RCA inputs since it doesn't have to go across a converter (not balanced internally). Also the tests I saw I think an SMSL rep said it scored best with 5 volts input. I just got in a SMSL M300 DAC with both outputs to check out and test. Has anyone tried an XLR to RCA cable on this amp from a balanced DAC? My theory is to get the additional power, and the benefit of RCA on the amp. I've been using it on XLR with the D10b, but the last couple of hours had the M300 DAC using RCA on the amp, it really does sound good, but not sure if I could pass a blind test volume matched if it's better.
Not sure which to keep, but haven't really gone into the filter selection that much. Going to take the M300 for a spin this weekend, but wanted to see if anyone has had good results on this amp in particular doing this before ordering another pair of cables (turning into a cable hoarder).
 
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I've got a question in case anyone else has done this. I have an SMSL SP200 with a Topping d10b DAC and really happy with it. I've read before the SP200 does better with RCA inputs since it doesn't have to go across a converter (not balanced internally).

That "converter" is a special circuit usually done with very low distortion op-amps that both reintegrates the two balanced signals into a single audio waveform and cancels noise off of the cable so it does not get into the next stage. That's not a disadvantage...


My theory is to get the additional power, and the benefit of RCA on the amp.

RCA feeds have no hope of noise rejection or blocking of interference. Trust me, they are not better.

 
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...So I can't recommend using them. Compensating for all the differences between the two types of signals and cables requires more than just a simple connector or pin fix imho. Perhaps you will come to a different conclusion after also giving it a try though. IAC, I welcome hearing more of your input on this, whatever conclusion you reach.

The balanced signal sent and received by most audio gear is simply two copies of the audio signal itself. The "HOT" copy is in phase with the device input the "COLD" signal is inverted. In all other respects they are the same signal, there's no magic. Picking one of them off to do an unbalanced signal has virtually no legacy effects, except that with unbalanced cables you lose all of the noise cancelling features of the balanced feed.

It's fair to not recommend doing this ... but there are situations where there is no choice, and a simple adapter cable does the job just fine.
 

Dunring

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Yeah I see, thanks for the info. I've been on the RCA for the M300 and SP200 and maybe it measures a little better, but I can't tell an audible difference. Going to stick with the XLR for this setup as the extra power helps stay in low gain mode with more headphones. With the DT990 600ohm I have now it's easy on XLR but hard to stay in low gain on the RCA. I'll keep the RCA's plugged in for testing stuff that comes in, but stick with XLR.
 
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Yeah I see, thanks for the info. I've been on the RCA for the M300 and SP200 and maybe it measures a little better, but I can't tell an audible difference. Going to stick with the XLR for this setup as the extra power helps stay in low gain mode with more headphones. With the DT990 600ohm I have now it's easy on XLR but hard to stay in low gain on the RCA. I'll keep the RCA's plugged in for testing stuff that comes in, but stick with XLR.

Whenever you have the option ... use the balanced feeds.
 

levimax

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In order to keep the noise rejection of balanced connections I like either transformers or a simple active circiut. THAT chips are great but here is a cheap and easy discrete solution that works very well https://sound-au.com/project87.htm just use closely matched resistors and you can get 60 dB or more of noise rejection.
 

ADU

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Very nicely written article, Douglas. Thanks for posting a link to this.

The balanced signal sent and received by most audio gear is simply two copies of the audio signal itself. The "HOT" copy is in phase with the device input the "COLD" signal is inverted. In all other respects they are the same signal, there's no magic. Picking one of them off to do an unbalanced signal has virtually no legacy effects, except that with unbalanced cables you lose all of the noise cancelling features of the balanced feed.

It's fair to not recommend doing this ... but there are situations where there is no choice, and a simple adapter cable does the job just fine.

Once again, I disagree. :) And so (it seems) does your own article on balanced audio above. Here's a quote from it...

If you need a more permanent solution when connecting balanced and unbalanced equipment, you should look into proper adaptors that will adjust the levels, give you truly balanced signals and all the benefits of noise cancellation. Cable tricks are not the way to go in a long term setup.

I would agree with this. And it's why I've made some of the recommendations here that I have.

I think a better, and more cost effective, and also a more permanent solution though is to simply reconfigure one or two components in your setup so that the balanced to unbalanced connections simply aren't necessary.
 

ADU

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I've got a question in case anyone else has done this. I have an SMSL SP200 with a Topping d10b DAC and really happy with it. I've read before the SP200 does better with RCA inputs since it doesn't have to go across a converter (not balanced internally). Also the tests I saw I think an SMSL rep said it scored best with 5 volts input. I just got in a SMSL M300 DAC with both outputs to check out and test. Has anyone tried an XLR to RCA cable on this amp from a balanced DAC? My theory is to get the additional power, and the benefit of RCA on the amp. I've been using it on XLR with the D10b, but the last couple of hours had the M300 DAC using RCA on the amp, it really does sound good, but not sure if I could pass a blind test volume matched if it's better.
Not sure which to keep, but haven't really gone into the filter selection that much. Going to take the M300 for a spin this weekend, but wanted to see if anyone has had good results on this amp in particular doing this before ordering another pair of cables (turning into a cable hoarder).

This is just my 2c. The benefits of balanced XLR cabling for home audio is greatly overhyped imo. They are useful in pro audio for longer runs, because of common mode rejection. And may have some limited uses in home audio as well. But are generally unnecessary for shorter runs.

I deliberately bought a headphone amp with both balanced XLR inputs and unbalanced RCA inputs, btw, so I could use either one. And more easily connect the amp to some pro audio gear. But have rarely ever used the XLRs, since the normal DAC and headphones I mostly use at home both have unbalanced connections. And the internal circuits on the amp are also unbalanced (aside from the XLR input).

Also, an XLR to RCA cable will NOT give you a true balanced connection. So I would not recommend connecting the XLR outputs of your DAC to the RCA inputs of an amp with one. I assume (or hope!) that when Douglas recommends using the balanced feeds whenever possible that he means balanced at both ends. And not just one. IOW, balanced XLR to balanced XLR.
 
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Very nicely written article, Douglas. Thanks for posting a link to this.

Thanks .... and you'e welcome

Once again, I disagree. :) And so (it seems) does your own article on balanced audio above. Here's a quote from it...

Where did I say the simple adapter was permanent?
For that matter when the the OP say it was?

I would agree with this. And it's why I've made some of the recommendations here that I have.

Naaa ... I figure you're just a contrarian by nature.
 
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Yeeessss. And I received some additional training here...
Not exactly the best way to have a constructive conversation....
especially when my essay showed you that we are actually in agreement.
 
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Dunring

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This is just my 2c. The benefits of balanced XLR cabling for home audio is greatly overhyped imo. They are useful in pro audio for longer runs, because of common mode rejection. And may have some limited uses in home audio as well. But are generally unnecessary for shorter runs.

I deliberately bought a headphone amp with both balanced XLR inputs and unbalanced RCA inputs, btw, so I could use either one. And more easily connect the amp to some pro audio gear. But have rarely ever used the XLRs, since the normal DAC and headphones I mostly use at home both have unbalanced connections. And the internal circuits on the amp are also unbalanced (aside from the XLR input).

Also, an XLR to RCA cable will NOT give you a true balanced connection. So I would not recommend connecting the XLR outputs of your DAC to the RCA inputs of an amp with one. I assume (or hope!) that when Douglas recommends using the balanced feeds whenever possible that he means balanced at both ends. And not just one. Iow, balanced XLR to balanced XLR.
Yeah I agree, I gave up on balanced a long time ago since hearing Chord and Reference don't use it, and reading the article explaining it on the Reference site. The idea was to output the higher voltage to the SP200 which scored higher in the RCA connection just because it's not internally balanced. Ive got the SP200 amp and M300 DAC on XLR now and can stay in low gain mode even on the DT990 600ohm. The combo is really good for testing stuff I get (to make sure it works, not measurements) since it's got all the inputs and the same power on single ended or XLR for headphones. The Topping D10b will be missed though, simplicity itself and sounds excellent.
 
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OP1M.DR3M

OP1M.DR3M

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Thanks for all the great info everyone :) Some of this stuff is a little over my head but my takeaway is:

*Transformers (ie DI boxes?) work well, can help with ground loops/noise, but inherently introduce some level of distortion/affect the frequency response.

*Conversion cables are simplest but won't help with ground loops and choosing how to have them wired depends on what type of balanced output they're plugged into?

*Conversion boards/chips which work but inherently introduce some level of noise? Because they have to be plugged into power?

Honestly, why I'd like to try this is largely because there are a lot of reports (anecdotally) of various DACs sounding better out of their balanced outputs vs their single-ended. I figured I'd just try it out and see if I notice any difference, and to satisfy my nervosa... Also any method that best retains any benefits of balanced/differential seems most appealing.

I'm now currently running a Denafrips Ares II which I hear is "true balanced" (again, the meaning is a bit over my head) and my integrated amp is an SMSL VMV A1 https://shenzhenaudio.com/products/...icate-class-a-high-resolution-power-amplifier

Now I'm leaning towards a Schiit Lokius to handle XLR to RCA conversion (then I'd also have the option of playing with tone controls and having inputs for another source) https://www.schiit.com/products/lokius
Some words I don't understand from Schiit's site:

"Lokius uses Schiit’s own two-stage load-invariant “superbuffer” topology to drive a single discrete current-feedback gain stage, with a passive inductor-capacitor and gyrator-capacitor network in-between. Lokius features super-high-quality parts, including sealed Alps potentiometers, Wima and Panasonic film capacitors, dual-stage regulation with HF smoothing, 0.5% thin-film resistors, and quality Neutrik connectors."

"Topology: discrete, all-bipolar, symmetrical current-feedback design with matched parts throughout, DC coupled, with DC servo, plus dual-stage discrete superbuffer"

It seems to be pretty transparent when in "bypass" mode from Amir's testing https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/schiit-lokius-review-equalizer.27334/
Though that was with XLR in/XLR out. Any reason why XLR in/RCA out should differ much? Any reason why this method would be more or less ideal than the previously discussed options? Also, my Denafrips has a rather high output impedance of 1250ohms via XLR but the Lokius is rated at 47k ohms input impedance with 75 ohms output impedance. My integrated amp is 47k input impedance. So from an impedance matching standpoint, this chain should work fine yeah?
 
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