Originally Posted by TheManko
It took an awful long time, but I finally got a 4 pin balanced cable for the LCD-2 and HD 800. I've had the HDVD 800 for several months now and not heard it in balanced operation even once. I had read all the posts about it, but I've found that I can never truly prepare myself for what the difference will mean for my own listening experience, even if I know on an intellectual level exactly what to expect.
The experience is pretty much exactly as had been described. A wider stereo perspective and less distortion, resulting in a clearly more detailed and clean sound. The difference was immediately apparent with all music and not as subtle as I expected it to be. I'm finding myself as excited about the sound again now as I was just when I got the HDVD 800. The character of the sound changed enough when going to balanced operation that I don't know what to expect anymore when I listen to a song. I'd gotten used to how the HDVD 800 sounded unbalanced, and now it's making sounds I didn't know it was capable of.
This is what you would expect going to a balanced configuration. There are two main issues that change here. First, assuming that the amps are properly matched, the slew rate doubles. Given that a single amp can change it's signal output at a given rate, connecting the second inverted amp results in the inverted signal moving away from the non inverted signal at twice the speed as a single amp's output by itself. The results are a much quicker amp which can improve openess.
The second advantage is eliminating the common return path shared by the left and right channels. Even at very low resistances in the common return path (e.g., the sleeve of the stereo phone plug), some signal from one channel can commingle with the other. This can cause some sounds in the left and right channels to become a bit less distinct from each other.
Other aspects of sonic signature (e.g., how "warm" the sound is") are really based on the characteristics of each internal amp. Going balanced doesn't really improve those things (IMHO) and if the amps aren't well matched, it can degrade them in the final output. Timber might appear to improve, but my guess is that is also mainly due to the improved speed of the configuration letting you hear subtle nuances better.
By the way, I still have not determined whether or not the HDVD800 is fully balanced all the way through the DAC section as well. I.e., in addition to the 4 internal amps (2 for each balanced channel) there would be 4 DACs as well. I.e., 2 DACS for the left channel and 2 for the right. One DAC would handle the normal signal and one would handle the inverted signal for a given channel. These would each feed independently to the inverted and non-inverted amps for the output to the headphones.
At this price point, I would certainly hope this was the case and not just a single DAC feeding an inverter which splits the signal into a balanced set. This would be akin to taking a simple DAC and feeding it's output via RCA cable into the HDVD800's single ended input.
The DAC that HeadRoom makes for their triple stack use with the BUDA functions like this (i.e., 4 DACs feeding XLR balanced outputs).
Edited by wisemanja - 7/9/13 at 11:25am