Unbalanced and Balanced Clarification

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by exsion, Jun 10, 2017.
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  1. pinnahertz
    After my demo I decided I'll keep my iPhone and get a real Toblerone bar.
    Niouke likes this.
  2. bigshot
    That is true of a lot of audiophile formats. If you look at SACD, blu-ray audio and multichannel, it's heavily skewed towards mid 1970s album rock and art rock- overblown, noodley, pretentious and recorded with mediocre technology. There must be a lot of guys in their mid-50s who buy tons of expensive stereo equipment, but never graduated beyond the music they listened to in high school. It's like marketing bologna as if it's filet mignon.
    upstateguy likes this.
  3. scorp32
    Hi, I know this is an old thread and my question is probably stupid.

    I am looking for a DAP and I've noticed many have the 2.5mm TRRS balanced out. I have already bought some cables that are unbalanced with a 3.5mm TRS plug. Would there be any consequences in plugging my cables into a balanced output using a 2.5mm male > 3.5mm female interconnect?

    Will the SQ suffer anything?

    I don't want to purchase another set of cables (balanced) just for my DAP's. And of course I can always use the unbalanced 3.5mm output as well, but after some heavy reading, it seems that balanced output has better soundstage and clarity?

    Thank you for your expertise and time!
  4. castleofargh Contributor
    you shouldn't use unbalanced wiring into balanced amp. just an adapter isn't enough, the "ground" needs to be a different wire for left and right channel all the way to the headphone. when you use an adapter to use the typical TSR plug of your headphone, you join the "ground" into one single wire. I can't tell about damages, but it's just not a good idea.
    I think I mentioned it in this topic before, I personally got rid of my balanced portable gears because having to re-cable every IEMs was just too expensive for what I thought being balanced brought to the party. some have the opposite view and believe it's better than sex. it's fine too. preferences don't have to be objectively right or wrong.

    but I suggest being very very cautious about people's feedback on balanced vs unbalanced. when you start asking questions, you usually realize that most of them drew conclusions from tests nobody should consider valid in the first place. among the list I can think of all the times the balanced output is louder and they don't properly level match so anything they feel could come from the level difference. or all the times the balanced output will have a different impedance and they're using IEMs that have a wild frequency response variation when plugged into amps of different impedance. so now they're talking about audible signature changes and how it makes them feel, which has nothing to do with balanced or not. but worst, the impact on the signature would change if they were using a different IEM as the IEM itself is most of the cause for the change in signature. and of course the classic we can always be sure to find on the menu: placebo as they almost never test anything without knowing at all times which output they're using. ^_^
    so I'm not saying everybody is wrong all the time, but you'd be surprised by how many will think "I plugged into balanced, this change occurred in sound, therefore balanced does that to sound". which is one of the trickiest case of correlation does not imply causation. they just don't know about too many things to see how what they experience is unrelated to the actual balancing of the circuit. now if you have the same device and the same IEM, then it's very possible that the feedback will work for you(that in proportion to how much value you put in sighted tests).
    just don't take any confident fool at face value is all I'm saying. :wink:
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2018
    fokta, JaeYoon and scorp32 like this.
  5. pinnahertz
    The 3.5mm TRS is an unbalanced connector. Plugging that into a balanced output may or may not cause a problem, it depends on the design of the output stage, and if the designer planned for that circumstance or not. At best, no problem (no advantage either). At worst, increased distortion.

    But no matter, just use the unbalanced 3.5mm output. The benefits of soundstage and clarity attributed to balanced outputs are depend on several things, the first of which is really tiny gage headphone wiring with very high resistance, the second is that you have very low impedance drivers. If all that is true (and that would be very unlikely indeed), and then you rewired for fully balanced wiring all the way from the drivers to the amp, and the amp can drive low impedance loads well, then there's a small possibility of improvement. But pay very close attention to all of those conditions. Change even one of them, and all possible benefits vanish.

    The single biggest improvement of balanced headphone amps is psychological. Balanced is such a nice word, and unbalanced sounds very bad. It's one of the reasons I prefer "differential", and "single-ended".
    fokta likes this.
  6. scorp32

    Thank you for your input.
    So I guess I'll just go your route and just use the unbalanced out for saving the cash on changing my cables!
    JaeYoon likes this.
  7. scorp32

    Thank you for your response.

    I was reading posts describing a larger soundstage & clarity with a blacker background, so I thought if I have TOTL gear, then maybe I should use the balanced TRRS for them.

    I am currently looking into getting a DAP at the moment, such as Astell & Kern, Onkyo, Pioneer, Sony and all their new flagships have a balanced out. I have a Hugo 1 setup at home for DAC, but I wanted something portable DAP > IEM. I have a Noble K-10, Tia Fourte, with 4 different custom unbalanced cables. I didn't want to waste more money on a new set of cables again...

    I think I'll just use the unbalanced out if the differences are so minimal.

    Again, thanks a bunch to castleofargh and yourself! I should've just asked on this forum.. I spent 2 full days doing reading and searching, but came up with a bunch of methods and tutorials to wiring details... :L3000:
  8. castleofargh Contributor
    the differences can be much more than minimal between outputs on a DAP(if only because of impedance change as I mentioned above). to be perfectly clear, what I contest is that the balancing has much of anything to do with said changes that may or may not occur for many reasons. I don't claim that using the balanced output on a particular DAP and IEM will sound the same. depending on the DAP and the IEM it could be the same, or it could be very clearly different. so I can't make such claims about the expected result in general (and so can't anybody).

    I realize that I'm not helping posting this, but better that than you one day try a balanced output, it sounds clearly different and you think I was full of crap ^_^.
    if curiosity is eating you alive at some point, maybe consider getting a soldering iron and learning to do your own cables. or look for some fellow audiophile who would be willing to do something for you at a fraction of the cost of some balanced cables with specific plugs.
  9. scorp32
    Haha. Yes, I am again back to the curious side. I will have to try to find an audio place in Beijing to check it out for myself. I am a foreigner here so I haven't found an audio shop for audiophiles.

    Thanks again for your honest input!
  10. pinnahertz
    Just be very careful when you do that. It's VERY hard (ok, impossible) to do an honest and unbiased comparison of anything in an audiophile shop!
  11. scorp32
    Thanks for the advice, but I don't think there are any HiFi shops at all in this city of Beijing....
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