I believe that my Hybrid 3.5mm to Balanced connection results in 95% the same experience as an authentic Balanced Setup, so long as your portable source has a 3.5mm or coaxial line out function. No amp will output a true balanced signal unless all components are balanced. This interconnect is useless for a single ended headphone experience and is no different than a standard 3.5mm to 3.5mm. However, if your headphone cable is balanced, the experience is very close to an authentic and true balanced setup but at a fraction of the cost of a fully balanced portable setup in my opinion.
The benefits in my Hybrid setup are:
1. Cost. My Hybrid Setup cost $1800 total and is composed of the DX50, The JH16, The ALO International, HPL Balanced Cable, Moon Audio Black Dragon 3.5mm to Balanced Interconnect. To achieve a fully balanced setup, it would cost $2200+ with the new Cypher Labs 720 Dac and Amp that would replace the need for a separate amp, the JH16, special dock interconnect and an Apple music player.
2. Size. The Hybrid Setup is tiny and pocketable. A CLAS Setup is fairly large. The new 720 unit took away the need for the amp in the mix, but prior to that when I purchased my Hybrid cable, the CLAS was the only portable balanced setup and was three times as tall as my setup.
3. User friendliness. Due to the great new additions to the portable player world that use a 3.5mm line out, Portable Digital Output seems shoulder shrug worthy at best due to the need to stick with Apple Ipods. I enjoy the sound of my Studio V way more than a rockboxed iPod. Now, I enjoy the DX50 even more than the Studio V and Fiio X3.
4. Stability for Future products. You can't use a balanced adapter on the Cypher Setups on anything else but Apple products. Yet, more and more companies seem to be seeing the useful nature of a 3.5mm line out function. In the case of the DX50, the Phone Out works better for my preferences in sound than the Line Out. The DX50 is a forward sounding player which is very much to my liking, where as the International is noticeable more pushed back, less tall and appearing wider due to that effect when its actually not wider at all, its about the same. The International does a good job in cleaning up the signal and making the DX50 sound more clear, but it actually takes a noticeably dive in dynamics and stage depth. The DX50 simply has a better sound stage by itself, but the highs upper mid clarity is much better on the International.
5. Swag. Almost nobody else uses it and at their own loss. Not one person I've let listen to my rig has said a single bad thing about it. It costs $5 extra to outfit a Black Dragon interconnect with a Balanced connector instead of the stock 3.5mm. So why not do that instead if you are using an RSA or ALO Amplifier anyway? It looks awesome and has some quality benefits. I bought the International because the sound quality is beyond stellar and its a balanced USB Dac AND portable amplifier with a Balanced Output. It would be stupid to buy a 3.5mm to 3.5mm interconnect for portable needs just on general principals if the Amplifier has a Balanced input to begin with.
6. Sound preference. I dislike the Digital sound. I prefer the Analog sound of my Hybrid setup. Compared to the older CLASS Setup that I've heard with my JH16 and the International, the experience is sharper and more tonally refined, which is a sound that I dont like. I want a warmth to my music with a solid low end and a spacious feel. The CLAS setup lacks a sound stage and in my opinion only works fantastically well with headphones that are not known for great sound staging experiences.
Edited by 24Bit - 9/10/13 at 9:13am