Sound Science Forum Moderator
- Jul 2, 2011
A bunch of possible issues in the way you link causes and effects. First, to get it out of the way, with most amps the balanced out will be clearly louder than using it single ended. Subjective judgements done without matched levels should be cautious ones. Because it's easy to mistake louder for many other subjective qualities. And given how long it takes to switch cables and put the headphone back on our head(hopefully the same way, but probably not), I encourage even more caution when considering your impressions/memories of your impressions.As an update to the Sundara headphones I now use as my main "daily driver", I just bought and tested out this balanced cable vs. the "upgrade" cable I had for the Sundara. Didn't have high expectations as usually upgrade cables don't do anything for me at all normally. However, I now have a very DIFFERENT take on this, mostly because balanced cables aren't about it using better materials (i.e., OFC or Oxygen-Free Copper), but b/c of the science behind balanced cables.
Essentially, the two main factors affecting sound quality are that each side (left & right) has an extra wire along with it (vs. just one wire handling both sides) and the polarity is reversed on the negative wire of each side (aka, a mirror image of the positive side signal is placed on the negative) until it reaches the amp/DAC (or headphones). If the amp/DAC or headphones are balanced-compatible, they will switch or invert the polarity of the negative wire of each side back to normal, resulting in the cancelling out of any additional noise/distortion from the positive wire of each side. (There's also a grounding wire on each side vs. the single shared one found in unbalanced. It carries some of the signal as well. By having a non-shared ground wire on each side, signal leakage ((aka crosstalk)) is eliminated.) This leads to a much cleaner sound, as my review details. The second factor is that balanced uses more power, which means more volume as well.
This diagram should help you visualize the above explanation better:
I wrote a review for the cable as well on Amazon. Click here if interested.
The diagram is real bad.
The noise is shown as having same amplitude and frequency as the tone/signal, which is silly. The output also fails to show that if the signals add up, the amplitude doubles.
And in any case, the noise showed is but one type of noise, the type coming into the cable along the way(which is more times than not, an irrelevant amount of noise to begin with). Noises from the amp or anything before it will be inverted along with the signal, and will come out intact.
So in term of explaining, the pic does a little. In term of misleading, it does a lot.
About crosstalk, with a low impedance headphone, I guess some amps could have a fairly elevated amount of crosstalk. I've seen it happen. Although I only remember one case where it was a clearly noticeable issue for me, but several other stuff we not going well so I might have noticed those and not necessarily crosstalk. Many single ended amps have low crosstalk into reasonable loads. In general, I believe people overestimate the impact of crosstalk.
Overall we get back to the eternal debate that isn't one, about balanced vs single ended. In many applications, balanced is an obvious advantage. With headphones, "it depends" is the most optimistic answer I can give.
With that said, if you're enjoying yourself with this cable and your amp balanced, that's a pretty cool outcome. ^_^