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Balanced cable on an IEM - snake oil?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by Killcomic, Jul 31, 2019.
  1. bigshot
    A couple of questions... What is the measured difference between the channel separation? Because I haven't seen crosstalk anywhere near the audible range since turntables. And are you level matching your comparison? Because the volume level is going to be quite different, which will definitely skew the results in favor of the balanced.
  2. PopZeus
    The measured difference in channel separation between the 3.5mm single ended and 2.5mm balanced out is 44dB at 32 ohms, according to Shanling. And I didn’t match the volume precisely but I did match to normal listening levels with my ears, so the volume was very close, certainly within a 44dB delta. One thing that I’ve learned as I’ve gotten deeper into this hobby is... I’ve pretty much learned to trust my ears.

    And it’s not just Shanling. FiiO’s M11 has a 35dB difference and their Q5s has a 30dB difference. Even the THX AAA 789 has 37dB difference between single-ended and balanced. It turns out, just because something is theoretically possible, in reality implementation matters.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2019
  3. bigshot
    What I'm asking for is the channel separation specs between balanced and unbalanced. Are you saying the channel separation is -44dB with balanced? That isn't terrible, but most amps and players have specs in the range of -70dB or better. LPs were somewhere around -25 to -30dB as I remember.

    Volume matching is VERY important. Level imbalances as low as a dB or less can affect your results. Human hearing tends to perceive louder sounds as having better sound quality. Whenever you see people talking about soundstage width, you can bet that they didn't level match.

    I'm pretty sure that with a controlled test, you wouldn't be able to hear any difference between balanced and unbalanced. And I bet the channel separation on both is well under the threshold of audibility. The real reason to use one or the other is what kind of plugs your equipment has on it. Not sound quality.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2019
    CoryGillmore likes this.
  4. PopZeus
    The unbalanced is 65dB, the balanced is 109dB. And yes, I can perceive a difference. Maybe that spec isn’t entirely why the balanced out is audibly superior, but regardless my ears can hear a difference in terms of stereo separation. And it isn’t just me; every review of the M5s that goes into this detail has noted that the balanced out has much better soundstage and separation than the single-ended. But whatevs, I’m clearly not going to convince you of anything, and frankly, your default position that this is strictly a volume matching issue, and I don’t know what I’m talking about (even though Shanling themselves have published a spec with a 44dB gap) is not particularly persuasive.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2019
  5. bigshot
    -65dB is totally inaudible for the purposes of playing back recorded music in the home. Do a line level matched, direct A/B switched, blind comparison and you'll see. The music you're listening to has a noise floor higher than -65dB. And it has a dynamic range of under 50dB. You would have to turn your volume up to very uncomfortable volume levels to hear a noise floor of -65. And you wouldn't be able to hear it anyway because your ears would be blown out by the peaks.

    Reviews are often PAID FOR by manufacturers. Common knowledge in audiophile circles is often built on complete lies. I'm telling you something here that you should know.

    If you want to convince me, do a line level matched, direct A/B switched, blind comparison. These are the tools that negate any of my arguments. I'll believe you if you do a carefully controlled test and can hear a difference. I'll also be fascinated why you can hear things no other human being can possibly hear. If you pass that test, it would be worth submitting yourself for study by an audiologist.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2019
  6. PopZeus
    I have no interest in trying to convince you of anything. I can see by your sig that you’ve got it all figured out. I was merely responding to your replies in as honestly as I could based on the original post, which is that I feel there are times when I would want to use a balanced cable with my IEMs for reasons other than power requirements.

    Man I really don’t like the SS forum. It’s never a conversation, just a bunch of dudes gaslighting anyone who disagrees with them that they shouldn’t trust their own ears.

    I’m outta here.
    prfallon69 likes this.
  7. bigshot
    You don’t have to want to convince me, but aren’t you interested in finding out what really matters? You seem like you would want to learn. But you’re throwing roadblocks in front of yourself.

    By the way, I didn’t tell you not to trust your ears. I recommended doing a listening test. I just suggested that you not let your biases and normal perceptual errors affect what you hear. Why would that make you mad?
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2019
  8. castleofargh Contributor
    sometimes it's hard to separate all the variables and make sense of things, and sometimes it's not because we already have some pretty extensive data on some of the variables involved. in the case of crosstalk, you can create your own, you can measure the actual value out of the IEM, and of course you can test it for yourself and see how it feels. in my case I pretty much lost the ability to tell there was crosstalk when it reached -40dB. above that I could feel a small change, and TBH I thought it was kind of nice on many tracks and didn't change the placement in my mind like we intuitively image crosstalk should do. at least not until we reach really high levels.
    so if you end up with crosstalk at -65dB into your load(IEM/headphone), I'm with @bigshot and would find it very surprising if that was causing a subjective change in the "headstage" or anything else. doesn't mean you're not experiencing something, or that the balanced output isn't much better on that DAP. I can't know that.

    as you probably can't switch very fast between the outputs and have instantly matched levels, of course I can only suggest to try and improve on that before drawing definitive conclusions about how much difference there is and what caused it. how many people did it wrong and got biased the same way is not really a compelling argument about the validity of their feedback. a bad test is not conclusive and should not be. I say that only if you're concerned with finding out the truth for your specific situation. if you're enjoying the balanced output for whatever reason, you can also very much chose that you don't care why and just be happy to have found something cool. nothing wrong with that, most of my family would pick that solution instead of the bother of setting up more controlled tests, I love them anyway. ^_^

    now try saying crosstalk repeatedly very fast, I failed after the second one:sweat_smile:
  9. jagwap
    There are some other aspects to consider:

    Agreed that if the -65dB crosstalk is an exact version of the other channel then it is very unlikely to be audable. However if the -65dB signal is harmonics of the original, itermodulation, hum from the power supply, or other interference caused by the active channel this may be far more audable.

    The problem also is most crosstalk measurements ONLY measure the frequency of the other channel by processing the measured channel through a bandpass filter. So it is entirely possible for a measured -65dB crosstalk measurement at 1KHz to have far more signal on the other channel that isn't captured.

    So the statement that you cannot hear -65dB crosstalk has to be qualified, and needs some expertise rather than a blanket statement. But then you know that, but I hoping others read this too.
    castleofargh likes this.
  10. bigshot
    LPs have crosstalk that is MUCH worse than -65dB and people still swear they sound great. I think your definition of "audible" is being stretched a bit. That's fine. It's common around here. In general, I am talking about "real world audible", not "theoretically audible". Can you hear it in a living room with typical equipment and typical recordings? People are probably going to slap some kind of headroom on top of real world anyway. Broad strokes are more useful to people than extreme worst case scenarios that they're probably never run into.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2019
  11. SilentNote
    Do you even know what gaslighting means? No one is denying your perception that there is a difference, only that the perceived difference to balanced cables might be attributed to the wrong things. Is it really that difficult to do some basic variable control before you do comparisons? Or is it that eliminating variables and bias is simply not important enough for you to do before you go around preaching everyone about your subjective biased perceptions?

    Honestly I can say the same thing about idiophiles. All they want to do is spew subjective bias into everything they say and make other people buy overpriced expensive crap that serves no improvement.
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2019
  12. Killcomic
    Hey, quick question, if anyone knows...
    I bought the AZLA Horizon IEM. According to the documentation, it can take up to 20MW of power.
    My question is, if I were to plug it into a balanced source with a balanced cable, of course, would it burn out my IEM?
  13. castleofargh Contributor
    as the guy who doesn't capitalize most stuff when he should, I find it particularly ironic that I get to point out the significance between mW and MW ^_^

    now I've found somewhere 103dB/mW 27ohm, does that look like the IEM you're talking about? (they seem to have different versions so I'm not sure).
    if those specs are correct, 20mW means pushing the IEM to 116dBSPL at 1kHz. and that remains true whether you're feeding the IEM from a balanced source or a single ended one. let's say you have a device with both single and balanced output. let's say the balanced output when set at the same volume has twice the voltage and OMG 4 times the power output!!! what all that is saying is that the IEM will have the music 6dB louder. P=voltage²/impedance twice the voltage is the same as 4 times the power and the IEM playing music 6dB louder. into that same load(the IEM) all those stuff are really saying the same and being the same. so once you've plugged the IEM into the balanced output with your super duper balanced cable, the music in this example is going to be 6dB louder than your usual preferred level, so what do you? you turn down the volume by about 6dB and 'magic!' the IEM is now consuming 4 times less power again. you won't send more power without knowing, if it's not louder, it's the same power, and the dangerous level here(again if my specs are the right ones), is when you listen to music with peaks at 116dB. I don't know for you, but I don't do that too often, or ever. :wink:

    false alarm.
  14. Whazzzup
    do snakes like oil?
  15. castleofargh Contributor
    it's like the relation between cows and tennis string. we can't really talk about liking, and yet they do put a lot of themselves into it. :imp:

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