1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.

    Dismiss Notice

Single Ended and Balanced Chain

  1. ElCam1n0
    Help me please, despite googling I can't seem to nail the intrigues of the balanced and SE chain.

    Is it OK to mix balanced and single ended in the one chain?

    For example balanced DAC into an amp that has SE and balanced output but earphone is single ended and plugged into the single ended output of the amp?


    A SE DAC plugged into a balanced amp using RCA, and balanced headphone using balanced output of the amp?


    A balanced DAC that is plugged into a SE amp, with SE headphones?

    My knowledge of electronics is next to nil so excuse me. I'm thinking the minute an SE device is introduced into a balanced chain then the two separate -ve circuit of a balanced device is shorted? Yet I've read here and elsewhere of mixing balanced and SE devices in the one chain...this grasshopper needs wisdom.

    Thank you in advance.
  2. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    As long as you don't use a balanced amp output into an SE headphone cable you won't destroy anything.

    But then the questions is: WHY? Why bother with one balanced component that might cost more when you'll just run in SE at some point in the chain anyway? You might as well just run full SE. It's not like using one balanced output in the chain will be miraculously better than using single ended throughout, other than if you wanted a transportable rig with an SE input balanced drive amp or DAC-HPamp (that isn't balanced until the amp circuit) for convenient gobs of power for a full size headphone that you can easily pack in one case.

    That's not going to destroy anything but...WHY? Why would you spend on an amp that has basically double the circuit parts (assuming a comparable design) adding to more potential points of failure only to use its SE output? The SE output is there as a back up in case you break your balanced cable but still have your stock cable just lying around.

    That's like buying a V12 GT car and then running it with the engine mapping set to Economy Mode all the time you might as well just have bought a good hybrid with a V6 for the freeway and an electric motor on side streets.

    Won't break anything but again....why? Violectrics have balanced input in case you might use them with pro gear and probably run really long cables, but they have SE inputs for those who use them for hi-fi at home. Unless you're running long cables or getting a same price Violectric amp with balanced output, I'd just use SE.

    If you use a balanced amp and use a 4-pin XLR to SE TRS adapter (I wouldn't even know where you can find something like this) then you short the amp.

    Some SE amps like Violectrics have balanced line inputs but no balanced drive for the headphones, so it's safe to use a balanced DAC or console to send it a signal.
    PaganDL likes this.
  3. ElCam1n0
    Thanks PM,

    As to why? Just idle curiosity, and at times I've wondered whether a particular amp and dac combination 'might' sound different or better. I currently have two separate chains, one for classical (HD800s one a SE amp, because I love the clarity of this setup) and one for American rock, eg Neil Young etc, and it's on a Hifiman HE560 off a balanced amp, because of the warmth and the soundstage (but at times I wish forte piano notes do come out with more intensity like on the classical setup).

    Could you please elaborate as to why there's potential harm if a SE headphone is connected to a balanced chain but no harm if a SE dac is connected to a balanced amp, wouldn't the SE dac short the two separate -ve lines on the balanced amp?
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2018
  4. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Because some balanced drive amps have SE inputs with a circuit to prevent it shorting the amp, but you'll barely find any balanced DAC that has SE output since they're made primarily with the balanced amp in mind. At best you can find some DAC-HPamps that have both SE and balanced, but then it has both so I don't really see the point in trying another DAC or HPamp with such products unless 1) the DAC or its inputs conked out or have driver issues or 2) you need to hook it up to a single ended line input electrostat amplifier or a single ended amp for speakers.
    PaganDL likes this.
  5. PaganDL

    Always well said, can't add much more to this. :)

    Keep up the good work !

    Hope you have a great day !
  6. buke9
    As long as you are going from rca to rca or xlr to xlr there should be no problems.
  7. ProtegeManiac Contributor
  8. ElCam1n0
    Thanks Gang, confidence in rucksack I ventured into the unknown, trying different combinations, alas, no sweet treats to be had, I think I must be getting too used to my current rig, and any other combination just sound like watered down beer.

Share This Page