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balanced input for any amplifier
balanced input for any amplifier
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Old 1st December 2010, 02:35 AM   #1
atmasphere is offline atmasphere  United States
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Default balanced input for any amplifier

I have a simple technique that will allow you to use a balanced source with any tube amplifier. Here's how it works:

The easiest way to understand this is to set it up on a single-ended triode amp. You do this by first installing the XLR connector on the amp.

Pin 1 is ground and ties to the ground of the RCA connection. Pin 2 is the same as the center pin of the RCA.

Pin 3 is where it gets more interesting. In some amps, there will be a cathode bypass cap, in others, the value of this cap will have to be calculated and then obtained. In the case of the bypass cap, the negative side, which is tied to ground, gets moved to pin 3 of the XLR. For single-ended operation, a jumper is installed in the XLR between pin 3 and pin 1.

If the cap is being added, the minus side ties to pin 3 and the plus side to the cathode of the input tube. The jumper from pin 1 to pin 3 is not needed if you are running single-ended.

That's it- it really is that simple. The input is differential and does not change the character of the amp. It does make it more flexible though, as you can install the amp near the speaker and run a longer interconnect if needed, which is easy if you have balanced line operation
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Old 1st December 2010, 10:42 AM   #2
DF96 is offline DF96  England
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You have probably introduced DC to your input cable, as the cathode is used for bias. You may have disturbed a feedback loop (local or global), which often goes to the cathode of the input stage, and so may seriously change the character of the amp. The result is not balanced, as the impedances of the two sides will be very different.

At best you have described a pseudo-balanced technique which may work to a limited extent with some amplifiers, and create all sorts of problems with others.

There is a general rule for mature technology - if you think you have spotted something which others have not then:
1. they probably have spotted it
2. they probably know the snags so don't use it
3. so they don't bother to mention it
4. so newbies think nobody else has spotted it
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Old 1st December 2010, 10:57 AM   #3
SY is offline SY  United States
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balanced input for any amplifier
Atmasphere is hardly a newbie. But your main point is correct- this is differential (more or less) but not at all balanced. I would not try this on an amp with feedback unless I really knew what I was doing; there's a definite danger of shorting out the feedback loop, which will not make your day a pleasant one.
"You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is."
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Old 1st December 2010, 11:48 AM   #4
DF96 is offline DF96  England
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Sorry, I am as bad with online IDs as I am with real people's names! In my defence perhaps I could argue that with respect to the claimed idea which a person has just thought of he may be a newbie, even if quite experienced in other matters.
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Old 1st December 2010, 05:40 PM   #5
ChrisA is offline ChrisA  United States
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I think in short you are saying to float the first gain stage's ground on XLR's pin 3.

As others have said, tha problem is if some other signal also goes into this stage. Typically the negative feedback does go to this stage and it is referenced to ground.

Clasically there are two way to go

1) Use a transformer in the XLR input to convert balanced to unbalanced. this works perfectly. But results depend on the quality of the transformers and good ones cost almost $100

2) Design a true balanced amp. In #1 above the amp remains single ended. A tru balanced amp has a gain stage connected to each side of the balanced signal. This doubles the number of tubes required. But does it? No phase splitter is required. In most Hi Fi amps being able to loose the phase splitter more than makes ou for the added preamp tube. This design was not un-common in high end professional audio gear not not used in consumer HiFi likely because of the added cost.

This seems like an area were DIYers should be experimenting. Rather than building the same 50 year old designs, lets see what a true balanced amp sounds like

Here is a design of such an amp from the 40's. Using current terminology this is a tri-amped powered speaker with balanced input. You can ignore most of it. Look at the top "row". Where it reads "input from console" (g1 and g2) and follow it to the speaker on the right. It is very simple with no phase splitter. Negative feedback goes from a special secondary to the power tubes. This system when new sold for about 2X more than a new car and was about the size of a home type washing machine It was used in churches to reproduce organ music. A church would typically have two or more of these units.

In modern usage, we can copy a lot from this. Loose the spring reverb. Now you have a bi-amp where each amp has customized components for bass or treble (mostly a special bass or treble output transformer) and very short speaker cables but long XLR interconects going back to the source.

Many sources are inherently balanced, like phono cartridges and microphones. So you can keep it balanced all the way out to the speakers
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Old 1st December 2010, 06:15 PM   #6
Michael Koster is offline Michael Koster  United States
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A few comments:

Pin 1 on an XLR is not a signal pin and should not be used as such. It's just a shield return.

A proper balanced output can handle pin 3 being grounded. The easy way to do this is connect pin 2 to the RCA center pin and pin 3 to the RCA shield. Pin 1 can be left grounded at the driving end only to avoid ground loops if necessary.

Proper balanced inputs and outputs have balanced impedance to ground. This is where the noise immunity comes from. Balanced vs. single ended should not have a "sound" of it's own.


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Old 1st December 2010, 06:17 PM   #7
speakerfritz is offline speakerfritz  United States
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I like the transofrmer approach. It satisfies the differential requirement while providing isolation. I personally find transformers with high imput inductance work better. Low input inductnce transformers behave like 6db per octave high pass filters resulting in a bottom end thats cut off. Not a typo, i am talking about inductance rather than impedeance.

but we can get creative. use a pentode at the input stage and wire the XLR runs using ultralinear concepts. Avoids the issues below.
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Old 1st December 2010, 06:32 PM   #8
Wavebourn is offline Wavebourn  United States
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balanced input for any amplifier
There is so called "Impedance balanced input", where both 2 and 3 pins to ground have the same resistance, but input is taken from pin 2 only.
Single Ended Class-A-Holism is addictive!!!
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Old 1st December 2010, 06:56 PM   #9
speakerfritz is offline speakerfritz  United States
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two resistors tied in series, pin 1 to the center tie point, one open resister end to pin 2, the other open resistor end to pin 3.

normal unblalanced use signal from pin 2

Pin 2 = Signal +
Pin 3 = Signal –
Pin 1 = Ground

want to bridge an amp, normal pin 2 to one unbalanced channel, pin 3 to the other unbalanced channel, speaker connect across + terminals of each channel. nothing on the amp - terminals.
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Old 1st December 2010, 07:13 PM   #10
jrenkin is offline jrenkin  United States
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It seems to me that if you have a PP tube amp with, say, an LTP phase splitter as the input already have a potentially balanced amp if you just wire up the input appropriately.
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