Originally Posted by R Giskard
In theory, XLR connection should provide greater dynamics but this will only be noticeable at passagas that are highly dynamic in order to make use of the greater headroon offered by symmetrical signal path. It won't be as apparent as people would like to think, certainly not on music that is generally highly compressed.
I think that cable manufacturers/sellers should make this clear in order for people to make an informed purchase.
Originally Posted by Steve Eddy
What theory is that? That would only hold true if you were to intentionally design the single ended output to provide insufficient gain and/or output level. But there's nothing inherently preventing a single ended output from providing all the gain and/or output level that you would ever need. And provided you do that, the XLR output could never provide any greater dynamics. At least not in any meaningful sense.
...the dynamics have a top- and a bottom- end. What is in between is the dynamic-range and expressed in dB.
R Giskard's comment suggests that he more focuses at the top-end of it since he describes it with "headroom" and "passages that are highly dynamic".
In this context Steve Eddy is surely right, there is no inherent reason that would limit a single ended output from providing "gain and/or output level" in comparison to a balanced output.
Still, output level is not equal to dynamics: If we look to the other end of the dynamic range, the bottom end, the permanent basic background-noise level, I experienced quite remarkable differences between single-ended and balanced... but this might rather be owed to the possible usage of XLR cables instead of RCA cables than to the device and its output itself; always provided that both compared devices, whether balanced or single-ended, are equally well engineered.
A balanced XLR cable might possibly produce better results than a RCA by simply protecting the music-signal better from the impact of electromagnetic radiation that occurs along the signal's path through the cable. Especially over larger distances.
Those are some of the reasons why studios traditionally prefer balanced designs: Strong electromagnetic pollution due to tons of equipment in combination with long cables running between the pre-amp sections of the mixers to active studio monitors.
This difference in lower background noise will not "only be noticeable at passages that are highly dynamic". This is especially audible at such quiet passages that would suffer from background-noise. This is what many reviewers describe as a "very black background" against which the music is presented.
This does not as much apply for headphones as it does for very low output devices like moving-coil cartridges. Those of you who ever heard a balanced mc-cartridge / tonearm / cable set-up might agree to that...
Back to the HDVD800: Comparing the balanced and the single ended outputs on my HDVD800, of course by using the same headphone, yes, the results are slightly different, but I am not sure whether this is really owed to a higher dynamic range. To me the difference expresses in a little-noticed increase of clarity; not in the sense of more transparency, rather in the sense of less graininess (...don't get me wrong, not that the single ended output of the HDVD800 sounds grainy at all, more in the sense of clarity... well...and round and round we go, caught within the limitations of language to describe sound, or my lacking ability to articulate appropriately... :-) ...whatever...
Edited by musikaladin - 9/5/13 at 11:26am