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HD650 - to use balanced (XLR) cable or not?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Pretty new to headphones still. 

 

For the HD 650 and have an amp that can supply both balanced (2 XLR) output and the traditional 1/4" jack.  

 

Curious what the advantages are with both types of cables. Is there a compelling reason NOT to go with the balanced? 

 

Thanks,

UL

post #2 of 13
Going balanced will only give you an increase in volume. I tested this a while back with a ton of different headphones including the HD-650, LCD-3, and Denon AH-D5000. All sounded identical to my ears going between balanced and unbalanced. If anyone else can show me some charts showing otherwise I would be glad to give it another try, but unless you need the extra volume it is just another money pit. I conducted my tests with said headphones using a Grace Design m903 running balanced and unbalanced modes as a DAC. I ran that signal into the HeadRoom BUDA both balanced and unbalanced. Went from single ended and dual XLR balanced cables. I challenge anyone to find me a headphone graph, that a ton of us use to compare headphones, that shows a change between going fully balanced and not.
Edited by NA Blur - 4/24/13 at 1:58pm
post #3 of 13

I am not doubting your findings in any way, NA Blur, but just humoring your request ;)

 

http://www.headphone.com/buildAGraph.php?graphID%5B0%5D=4061&graphID%5B1%5D=2321&graphID%5B2%5D=&graphID%5B3%5D=&graphType=0&buttonSelection=Compare+Headphones

 

http://www.headphone.com/buildAGraph.php?buttonSelection=Compare+Headphones&graphID%5B0%5D=283&graphID%5B1%5D=1693&graphID%5B2%5D=&graphID%5B3%5D=&graphType=0

 

http://www.headphone.com/buildAGraph.php?buttonSelection=Compare+Headphones&graphID%5B0%5D=2891&graphID%5B1%5D=1683&graphID%5B2%5D=&graphID%5B3%5D=&graphType=0

 

According to these graphs, the balanced HD800 seems smoother in the treble than non-balanced. The balanced D7000 shows a more hefty bass presentation and, again, what looks like smoother highs. The balanced D5000, on the other hand, looks identical, save maybe some better extended highs.

 

I've never heard a balanced setup, so I have no idea, myself. I would take NA Blur at his word, though. The differences in those graphs could be just as much due to production variations / inconsistencies, or even due to margins of error in the measurements. I think more interesting would be to see distortion and impulse response measurements between balanced and non-balanced - if that's possible.


Edited by Biscuitz - 4/24/13 at 12:54pm
post #4 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Biscuitz View Post

I am not doubting your findings in any way, NA Blur, but just humoring your request ;)

 

http://www.headphone.com/buildAGraph.php?graphID%5B0%5D=4061&graphID%5B1%5D=2321&graphID%5B2%5D=&graphID%5B3%5D=&graphType=0&buttonSelection=Compare+Headphones

 

http://www.headphone.com/buildAGraph.php?buttonSelection=Compare+Headphones&graphID%5B0%5D=283&graphID%5B1%5D=1693&graphID%5B2%5D=&graphID%5B3%5D=&graphType=0

 

http://www.headphone.com/buildAGraph.php?buttonSelection=Compare+Headphones&graphID%5B0%5D=2891&graphID%5B1%5D=1683&graphID%5B2%5D=&graphID%5B3%5D=&graphType=0

 

According to these graphs, the balanced HD800 seems smoother in the treble than non-balanced. The balanced D7000 shows a more hefty bass presentation and, again, what looks like smoother highs. The balanced D5000, on the other hand, looks identical, save maybe some better extended highs.

 

I've never heard a balanced setup, so I have no idea, myself. I would take NA Blur at his word, though. The differences in those graphs could be just as much due to production variations / inconsistencies, or even due to margins of error in the measurements. I think more interesting would be to see distortion and impulse response measurements between balanced and non-balanced.

 

I swear I will remove all audio graphs from this planet if it is the last thing I do.  

 

All balanced does is separate the two ground wires in the headphones to minimize crosstalk. If the cable is a good quality cable, and the amp is properly grounded, then the chance of AUDIBLE crosstalk is 0. 

 

Plus, any "factual" evidence that exists is pure and utter bull crap right from the start. To have a balanced headphone, you need a balanced amp and a balanced dac. So that means for you to use the same dac an amp, to test the balanced vs unbalanced debate, you will need to plug your headphones into different jacks. That in of itself is enough to introduce error into the findings. The quality of the connection, the material of the connectors, and just simple human error can easily account for the changes in the graphs that head room presents. 

post #5 of 13
Those graphs show that the balanced system is more noisy ( seen in the harmonic distortion plots ) and is not consistent on its affect on different headphones. The D5000 gains a hint of treble, the D7000 gains bass, and the HD800 has its top end smoothed out? Is there any consistency at all? I do highly appreciate the graphs, however. I wanted to hear differences in my balanced setup. At first I even thought I did, but then when confronted with the truth I more rigorously tested the difference. To my ears I heard no difference. If you look at the fad a few years back in going balanced you will see that is was pretty much that...a fad. If the results were stunningly different or even significant enough for those using a balanced setup, going balanced would be recommended much much more. So many engineers who build balanced amps will tell you that the significant differences between balanced and unbalanced mode are: Balanced setups give capability of running long cables due to the lack of grounding. Balanced setups will help remove crosstalk, but almost always increase other sources of noise due to the increase in component architecture Balanced headphone amps typically give 6dB more volume over their single ended counterparts. Take it from someone who owns a "Truly Balanced Headphone Setup" that the cost just is not worth it.
post #6 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by NA Blur View Post

Take it from someone who owns a "Truly Balanced Headphone Setup" that the cost just is not worth it.

Haha, that's good to hear. I've heard the same from other users, and I was inclined to believe just that. I just thought the graphs were interesting, more so than revealing.

post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the comments so far.  Sounds like there's some concensus that there's no difference. 

 

I did hear a difference when shopping for the amp and tested HD650.  it was clearer, more detailed.  i wonder if it is amp dependent. Problem is that I did not test it significantly to have a definite sense. 

 

Love to hear more comments. 

 

Thanks
UL

post #8 of 13

Have a "truly balanced"headphone system(Audio GD Phoenix + NFB17.32 DAC)and had the HD600/HD650/HE400/HE500/LCD2Rev1/LCD2Rev2 and HD800 going through this setup with stock and balanced aftermarket cables.

I am also one of the guys who is not at all interested in graphs,curves etc and I only judge by my ears but when I first heard my HD650 through a balanced Black Dragon it was like....exactly,like DEEEAR MEEEEE!!!

I guess it is the better cable and balanced gives you a bit more"authority and meat";the picture that comes to mind is going to the movies and watching all the commercials and trailers and suddenly the main film starts and the curtains to left and right of the screen open up a little bit more.....it is the subtle MORE you have with balanced and my ears!
 

post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by silversurfer616 View Post

Have a "truly balanced"headphone system(Audio GD Phoenix + NFB17.32 DAC)and had the HD600/HD650/HE400/HE500/LCD2Rev1/LCD2Rev2 and HD800 going through this setup with stock and balanced aftermarket cables.

I am also one of the guys who is not at all interested in graphs,curves etc and I only judge by my ears but when I first heard my HD650 through a balanced Black Dragon it was like....exactly,like DEEEAR MEEEEE!!!

I guess it is the better cable and balanced gives you a bit more"authority and meat";the picture that comes to mind is going to the movies and watching all the commercials and trailers and suddenly the main film starts and the curtains to left and right of the screen open up a little bit more.....it is the subtle MORE you have with balanced and my ears!
 

I just think that if more people heard this and actually were able to do the A/B testing faster ( i.e. not taking long to change cables and switch between balanced and unbalanced ) the results would be much less drastic.  If you take too much time between tests your brain is going to try to force the results.

post #10 of 13

It's all subjective. By the way going fully balanced is extremely costly. It's a good thing I went fully balanced from the beginning for my stuff rather than later on.

post #11 of 13

When talking about balanced, it's best to refer to it as a balanced SYSTEM and not reduce it to just a cable.

 

Most balanced amps are going to be better in quality of build as it's most manufacturer's flagship product compared to their run of the mill single entry stuff so it's not going to be comparable regardless. Most of the time a brand's balanced output rig is going to sound generally better. Whether or not the topology has any merit is still left to you guys buying the stuff, but it's really comparing apples to oranges. As a consumer it's natural to suspect that all this crap is pretty useless and they're going to need to really sell us on it, but some of the people building amps REALLY do know what they're doing.. just as long as you know who it is haha.

 

Headroom invented it, and more or less has run with it since then and many other manufacturers are doing it now. I'm not sure where their amps stand now, but when I started in the hobby they were tops in the game and we were fuelling some pretty thirsty cans back in the day too.

 

The "benefit" of running balanced is yes, separating the two channels, It's not just the cable, but by as much as possible starting from the source onwards to the cans. Usually a balanced amp will be basically double the amp so you're getting more power naturally going to each channel. Is it better than single ended? Honestly I still have yet to have an idea resembling that. I just know that cables are expensive and not everybody is down to buy a $1000 superamp, but it's probably one of the last things you should worry about while shopping for gear. Just buy whatever you can comfortably afford as long as it comes from good people who've been in the business for a while, and worry about graphs and nomenclature later. A hungry audiophile is an unhappy one :)

post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris_Himself View Post
 A hungry audiophile is an unhappy one :)

I'm always hungry!

post #13 of 13
If I had to suggest a great amp that is unbalanced, but sounds and measures great, it would be the HeadRoom Ultra Desktop. The build quality and sound are superb and it weighs hardly anything at all. The crossfade is a bit outdated, but the Ultra Desktop Amp is one of the best sounding amps I have tried. As Chris mentions above sure there are ways that balancing a signal may help, but what he lacked to include is that in balancing a signal you introduce 1.5 times the components. This is 1.5 times the components that may fail, develop or contribute to noise, and add the the cost. Going balanced to me was not like going from an ATH-M50 to an LCD-3 and the changes were not audible with my system.
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