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teodorom 15th November 2008 09:30 PM

Balanced vs/ Umbalanced (cables, inputs, ans so on ...)
Hi all,
I have first bought a CD player that has both unbalanced and balanced outputs. Then I bought an amplifier that has both inputs.
It then appeared to me that the balanced stuff is MUCH better that the unbalanced one.
I say better, but it could be only DIFFERENT, so I need your help.
When the connection is balanced the Music is more dynamic, has more contrast. When I switch to unbalanced, Music seems to die.
It could be that
1. Nothing is strange in that: the balanced stuff is intrinsically MUCH better than the balanced one
2. The balanced output of the CD player is MUCH better that the balanced output, or the balanced input of the amplifier is MUCH better than the unbalanced one
3. The unbalanced output of the CD player is MUCH worse of the balanced output, or the unbalanced input of the amplifier is MUCH worse of the balanced one
Anyone has any opinion ?

SY 15th November 2008 10:53 PM

Gain. Try comparing with tight level matching.

Where balanced really can make a difference is in noise-prone situations, like phono cartridge to preamp. At line level, low impedances, normal interconnect lengths, not so much.

Burnedfingers 15th November 2008 11:29 PM

I think gain is where you are seeing a difference. Balanced can be and usually is hotter than unbalanced output in pro units. This makes the unbalanced seem lifeless.

Being that I deal with equipment everyday that is mostly balanced I will take balanced everytime when considering length of cable runs and so forth.

teodorom 16th November 2008 04:56 AM

Thanks to all.
Level is for sure an issue: switching from unbalanced to balanced requires a volume adjustement.
Given that, I'm experiencing the same phenomenon I had when developing b&w photographs on different grades of paper. There are less contrasted papers, and more contrasted papers. These have more "life", but the price you pay is less details in the "high lights".
In audio, difference is so huge that I'm wondering if I'm listen to artifacts of the encoders/decoders.
Line is 1m long.

analog_sa 16th November 2008 05:42 AM

Typically, it's quite unlikely the cdp balanced output is better executed than the unbalanced. You have to examine the particular circuit in order to establish if it's "genuine" balanced taken from the output of a balanced dac chip or "faked" balanced. In either case it's quite possible both outputs pass through the same type of output devices. The difference won't be night and day.

The cables are a completely different issue of course. Unless you enjoy pretending that cables make no difference. Are they the same brand? Obviously connectors and geometry are different. Balanced cables have the potential to sound better and this is probably the main source of improvement you hear.

jan.didden 16th November 2008 08:32 AM


Originally posted by analog_sa
[snip] Unless you enjoy pretending that cables make no difference. [snip]

Yes, it's a great pasttime. Sometimes I even indulge and enjoy pretending that cables *do* sound different.

But not too long; I normally get overtaken by reality pretty quickly.... ;)

Jan Didden

teodorom 16th November 2008 11:22 AM

It would be helpful if someone did/will do my same experiment: connect the same CD player with the same amplifier with both cables. And then adjust the level and ... switch ! and listen.

rabbitz 16th November 2008 11:56 AM

Tried it with a Cambridge 840C using balanced and SE.

First was tried with the new Yamaha A-S1000 which is supposed to run balanced throughout and even converts the SE input into balanced.

The second was a Cambridge 840E pre but going into a SE power amp, in this case a AKSA 55N+.

Overall the balanced did have a very, very slight edge on transparency and bottom end extension. Wasn't worth it as the additional gain in balanced made the system overall gain too much.... the Yamaha already had around 45dB gain and then add the balanced at around 6dB. Talk about a trigger hair volume control. The 840E was better as the gain could be adjusted if required but since it had a resistor ladder volume control, it wasn't an issue as -95dB was available in 1dB steps and normal listening was done on -65dB.

For home use I found balanced a waste really as the cables were only 0.5m-1m so the main benefit of balanced was not used.

cbdb 18th November 2008 05:03 AM

First the basics. Unbalanced outputs(inputs) send signal down one wire, the positive one. the negative signal wire is grounded usualy at both ends. consumer level is -10dbm Ballanced outputs send signal down 2 wires the negative wire carring the neg. signal. Pro level is +4dbu The main advantages are noise rejection by the CMRR of the input and the extra 14 db of signal over the noise, and less chance of ground loops because the signal wires dont refrence to ground. The cables become less of an issue ( which IMO isnt an isue in small home systems ). If all the gear in your signal path is switched to from consumer to PRO level you should not hear a level chage at your speakers (if perfect, but even if not it willl only be a couple of db) the inputs and outputs both change and counteract any gain change. If you have a choice and can set ALL of your gear to PRO then do it. Its a beter system and I wonder why more high end consumer audio dosnt have it.

cbdb 18th November 2008 05:07 AM

One more word, if you have any gear that dosnt have PRO level outs (buy the way Ballanced and +4dbu outs are 2 different things and sometimes a ballanced out is at -10dbu so check your device specs for both) switch everything to consumer level or overload or underdrive an input somewhere.

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