Headphone Reviews and Discussion - Head-Fi.org
Rdwng1975
Rdwng1975
I still struggle to see the value in a device like this. Is this the my phone does not have a headphone jack workaround? I know it can do multiple things it just seems like a dap deals with everything.
Currawong
Currawong
@revand Of course, if a product is optimised around the balanced output, then that will perform better. My point was, they could have made a just as good (as powerful, and with just as good sonic quality) single-ended output, and for people who are on a budget, saved them the need to buy a balanced cable to get the most out of the device.

People have been sold on the "balanced is better" hype, and manufactures have to cater to that belief. That has not been to our benefit.
Yukicore
Yukicore
Maybe I'm wrong, but balanced cables sounded better separated on BTR5. Most likely due to the technical design of the device, not the cable itself. Sounds great either way, with either jacks, but obviously better with 2.5.
I even purchased a new 2.5 cable just for this device, and oh so good looking and seemingly durable. It definitely sucks that I wouldn't be able to use the headphones on other devices which have only 3.5 jack.
Steelsix
Steelsix
Great review thanks. I've gotten serious use out of my ES100 but have been waiting for Fiio to offer something with more punch and features. Glad I checked in! Now to find one. Want!!
Kentajalli
Kentajalli
I have tried the balanced output, the stereo image seems wider somehow. I like it, but it almost sounds as though there is a feeling of some sounds being "out of phase" can't describe it.
Bass gets a little lighter, but has more definition to it.
BTW, I just resoldered my IEM's existing cable to a Jack I had lying around - so didn't cost anything.
@ Yukicore
There are 2.5mm to 3.5mm adaptors available, this one is £1.50 only.
3.5mm unbalanced to 2.5mm balanced can not be, but the reverse is easy.

25mm-4-pole-male-plug-to-a-35mm-stereo-socket-all-metal-adapter-008682.jpg
T
Turbulance
Warning. Do not use that adaptor!

Balanced output signals on all four wires, right, -right (180° out of phase), left and -left. There is no common ground. Single ended does have a common ground and output, right, ground, left, ground. Joining the active -right and -left outputs (which is what that adapter might do — balanced cables have no fixed standard) is not going to work and might just damage the DACs and/or amps in the BTR5
T
Turbulance
Balanced output have some advantages over single ended outputs.
  1. Each channel (left and right) get two driven signals (one being shifted 180° out of phase) and this allows for twice the power output
  2. Because there is no common ground between left and right channels there is vastly better channel separation
  3. Because the speakers (drivers) ignore a common voltage across their inputs, any introduced noise, picked up by the cable, will be mostly unheard
szore
szore
Other than being more powerful, the sound difference between bal and unbal can be left up to personal preference. The fuzziness and fullness of unbalanced may be preferred. But at the same time, if you don't like bal out, don't use it. I have Valkyrie customs with 2.5 cable and the bal out is a win for me.
Kentajalli
Kentajalli
Just clarification:
You can use an adaptor with a male 3.5mm stereo to female 2.5mm balanced headphone, as all the adaptor will do is connect the two cold (-ve if you like) wires together on your headphone wiring side only (as well as offering the correct size).
As explained by others before me, the reverse does not apply and can actually damage your DAC/amp.
So - a balanced-wired headphone can use an adaptor in order to be plugged into an unbalanced output, that's OK.
BUT - a balanced output socket can not be converted to unbalanced with a mere adaptor, that's NOT OK.
Kentajalli
Kentajalli
@Turbulance
You would have been correct on your 3rd point - but since there is no earth wire, induced noises shall remain - although it is of no concern since it would be in order of -200dB (just a guesstimate).
Balanced wiring was extensively used (and being used) for long runs of microphone cable, specially for stage, as the induced noise you were refering to was comparable to the signal and impedances of the mics being used, but you need a ref. (earth) wire to cancel the noise out.
Same does not apply here.
On a slightly irrelevent point, I actually connect my home hifi DAC/preamp to my monoblock valve (tube) amplifier using balanced cables.
This is not to fight noise, but rather it allows me to forgo "phase splitter section" inside my amp design!
You see my Dac/preamp uses multi DAC chips also, and it's output is naturally balanced, why turn it into unbalanced and then use additional circuits to split it back into balanced.
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szore
szore
Kentajalli, do you find that using the balanced cables out of DAC/Amp improves sound as opposed to using unbalanced cables? Can you please tell us what cables and equipment you are using? I find this rather interesting!
Kentajalli
Kentajalli
On this very page I had reported that I have used the balanced out. I have also reviewed this equipment, just check those out.
In brief, I don't believe it is the cables that do it, but rather the equipment. I am mainly using q-Jays in ear monitors, which I cut the stock 3.5mm jack out and soldered a 2.5mm balanced jack instead myself (as in my review). I also made my own miniature OTG USB cable which I use.
I have reported that the sound opens up a bit, the stereo imaging gets improved, but tonality and general definition does not alter.
One thing I had not reported, is the effect of filters in balanced mode! in particular "minimum phase slow roll off" seems to widen the stereo to the point that bass almost sounds out-of-phase. For me "linear phase slow roll off" sounds best.
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T
Turbulance
To be honest — other than volume, I really can’t tell that it makes a perceptible difference which output I use.

My brain says: “this is just got to be better because it’s got all this extra tech goodness, which makes me feel good, in it.

my ears say: “sounds great to us no matter which output you use, sorry.”

So into the end I mostly find having the two outputs comes down to the convenience of not having to use an adapter on my balance cables.

I use:

iPhone 11 Max Pro
Tidal (Masters and HiFi)
NeutronMP
FiiO BTR3
FiiO BTR5
Ultrasone NAOS (DAC — 3.5 mm)
Dragonfly Black
iPhone Headphone Adapter

KZ ZS10 Pro
Shuoer Singer
NFJ N300
Smabat ST-10 (Green)

Sony PlayStation Platinum Headset
Ultrasone Performance 820
Ultrasone Signature Studio

Various aftermarket cables both balanced and single ended.
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Kentajalli
Kentajalli
I hear you and agree.
But tell me - is this not the pursuit of HiFi excellence?
It only moves an inch at a time, but these "inches" will add over time.
stay with it.
T
Turbulance
I think it has come down to this for me:

Turn all the dials to 11 and then I can stop worrying if my music could possible sound better if I had only done ‘x’ to it, before I started listening.

Problem is I just know I don’t have enough dials.
szore
szore
If you are looking for an elevated hi-fi experience with a $109 BT dac you will probably be disappointing, but with my Valkyries the differences are obvious and notable!
Kentajalli
Kentajalli
compared to my Huawei USB dongle - it is HiFi excellence.
Besides the cost does not dictate quality. BTR5 in USB mode is as good as any average $500 alternative.
Take you for example, connecting a $1500 (from Google) earphones to a $100 match-box, what's wrong with you. :L3000:.
szore
szore
I am between daps at the moment, currently looking at a sp2000, but the BTR5 sounds phenomenal!
Kentajalli
Kentajalli
looking at a sp2000, but the BTR5 sounds phenomenal!
There you go!
HiFi excellence ....

Make sure you listen to A&K before you buy - I have, at a HiFi high-end show - they are excellent, but at those prices they leave a lot to be desired.
Besides, everyone carries a phone these days, so there is no need for a music player and storage. Just an external DAC/amp will do, and they are more value for money.
Why carry an extra heavy item? and miss an important phone call in the process?
I challenge anything a topflight DAP can do, a modern phone with Neutron (software) can't do better.
All one needs is the output.
Neutron is jRiver for mobiles.
szore
szore
Thanks. I've owned AK Jr, SE100 twice, sr15, 1000M, and SP2000cu. I love A&K, detailed neutral sound, and stunning styling. No way in hell I'm listening to a $100 dac! Especially with my custom Valkyries! Enjoy your phone! 😉

So it's up to the individual preference!
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