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Can you split an XLR or RCA signal?

  1. smoothb0re
    I haven't been able to find a definitive answer to this. The problem is; I'm running a Parasound Zdac. I'm working with 1x RCA & 1x XLR outputs, both going to an amp. Now, when I get more amps, can I use a splitter to split the XLR or RCA signal, so that I'll have the RCA or XLR output going to two amps? Note: only one amp at a time will be turned on.

    I have been told that I shouldn't split the XLR out, even if only one amp is powered on at a time. I've also heard the same about the RCA out. I never really got an explanation on why I shouldn't do it. It honestly makes no sense to me, especially if I only use one amp at a time and keep the other ones turned off. It would be nice to get a definitive answer. If you can't do that, why not?

    On a totally different note, is using a 3-meter balanced headphone cable extension okay? I don't think a cable that long, of decent quality is a problem. I assume a balanced cable is just about the same as SE when it comes to this?

    I'm sorry if these are all silly questions, but I genuinely have no idea. Despite having been doing the audio thing for 15 years now, I've never gone too deep into how the stuff actually works. Any help would be super awesome!
  2. buke9
    I would use a splitter box rather than splitter cables and don’t think it will effect the sound. Why someone told you not to do something or to do something I don’t know. My experience is with a Schiit Yggdrasil as it has 2 single ended outputs and 1 balanced and I have found if one of the amps is not powered up it effects the sound to the others. Why I don’t know and truly don’t care much why. I like to go to meets and have many amps so I use a Schiit Sys for the single ended ones and until recently have had only one balanced amp and have yet to get a box to split between them but there are several to choose from and I doubt little problem with a switcher box for balanced.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2019
  3. smoothb0re
    What kind of a box exactly would I need? How expensive of a deal is it? I figured I'd make absolutely sure before I even think of ordering anything. If possible, I'd like to keep it cheap.

    Thanks for the answer!

    edit: Here's another silly question; when buying XLR cables for my amps, are the "microphone cable" ones the right kind? It's honestly more than a bit confusing.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2019
  4. PaganDL

    Hi @smoothb0re,

    You actually ask reasonable questions.

    Depending on how many speaker pairs you're running & depending on what amp, it's better to get a monitor controller, eg Drawmer MC 2.1 then you can control up to three speakers at once with no loss or worry about audio signal.
    This is basically a dedicated audio signal splitter which allows for said audio signal to routed correctly through a system without issue.
    I use the MC 2.1 in my main setup daily, sometimes, I switch out one output to run balanced head amps.
    I also use the Presonus HP4 as a secondary controller, mainly to manage my single ended head amp connections.

    Splitting audio signals, be it XLR or RCA isn't necessarily a bad thing though it depends on how one does it, unfortunately the answers are potentially too long & convoluted to get into here but it basically comes down to making sure there is no distortion, clipping or improper signal paths, eg loose connections, bad grounds, feedback loops, etc...
    The concern also becomes if one switches on or off said amp not in sequence as this will cause feedback, eg sharp crackle, pop &/or buzz...
    There are such things as cable looms, in either XLR or RCA which allow for multiple inputs & outputs to be connected simultaneously which make multiple connections easier.
    Just out of curiosity, why do you need so many amps?

    3 metre lengths for headphone extension cables, either balanced or unbalanced are more than fine, though depending on specs, some manufacturers will state whether there is a signal cutoff or feedback loop, etc if more than 3 metres are added so it is important to check.
    As an example, Grado headphone extension cables can be daisy chained up to 3 times without problems.
    In this instance, Balanced cables are indeed similar though the only difference will be in the cable itself, there will be an added ground wire in the cable itself to help carry that signal without issue.

    No, XLR microphone cables are for microphones so I suggest not using those, pick XLR cables rated for audio only.

    As a final note, I suggest finding a good pro audio shop & making some friends there, not only will you potentially get good deals but you will get good advice too.

    Hope this all makes sense, feel free to ask more.

    Hope you have a great day !
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2019
    Monsterzero likes this.
  5. joseph69
    I split my XLR output signal from my KTE Spring DAC to both, my GS-X mk2 & WA33 using Y splitters on the amp side (powering either one or the other amp up at a time) without any issue whatsoever. Simple.
  6. smoothb0re
    Thanks for the answers, guys!

    @PaganDL I'm not running any speakers - it's all just headphone amps. As for having 3-4 amps, it's probably more of a "want" than "need", really. :) Right now it looks like I'll have two balanced headphone amps connected to the Zdac and one running off the RCA, so splitting the XLR-signal is what I'll need to do. I figured I should just try it with a simple splitter at first to see if it works ok. From what I can gather from the answers here and elsewhere, that should be reasonably safe to do. I will also make sure headphones are unplugged when powering stuff on and off, just in case. I do that anyway out of habit to begin with.

    edit: I forgot to add this; about the microphone XLR cables. I'm having trouble finding any that aren't marked as microphone cables. Someone else claimed they are the same as audio XLR, and recommended amazonbasics ones as a cheap but decent option. It's all damn confusing. :frowning2: Some seem to say they are microphone AND interconnect.

    @joseph69 Awesome, thanks! Knowing that gives me more confidence in trying this.

    I really appreciate the help from everyone here. The audio world is full of difficult stuff and snake oil, so information like this is invaluable.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2019
    joseph69 likes this.
  7. alvinsi
  8. joseph69
    As I mentioned, I use custom made "Y" splitters made by AQ (Mackenzie which are the XLR IC's I use) to split my DAC signal on my amp side, powering up either one or the other amp at a time. No need for another box in the chain.

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