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  1. #1
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    What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    I have never had gear that utilized Balanced XLR connections until now. My Luxman has one input and the Rotel 1572 has both RCA and Balanced XLR outputs.

    Is there a big difference or is it a preference?
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  2. #2

    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowfax View Post
    I have never had gear that utilized Balanced XLR connections until now. My Luxman has one input and the Rotel 1572 has both RCA and Balanced XLR outputs.

    Is there a big difference or is it a preference?
    Objectively speaking (not subjective) balanced XLR connections are less prone to interference and noise. So yes there is a measurable difference and is why it is preferred for use in recording studios and in professional concerts.

    What is the quality difference between XLR and RCA audio connection? - Quora

  3. #3
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowfax View Post
    I have never had gear that utilized Balanced XLR connections until now. My Luxman has one input and the Rotel 1572 has both RCA and Balanced XLR outputs.

    Is there a big difference or is it a preference?
    If your equipment is set up right its a pretty big difference. By 'set up right' I mean if it supports AES48 or not. If it does not you may even prefer the RCA inputs.

  4. #4
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    For other's, Audio Engineering Society standard AES48 is about balanced interconnects using XLR connectors. In the standard, XLR pin#1 is the shield and it is attached to the chassis at the connector body. Pin #1 is NOT the audio circuit common (aka ground) although it will probably have some continuity to it.

  5. #5
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    For me the quality of the cables makes a larger difference than Balanced vs Unbalanced. That being said, all of my cables are balanced and so is my gear to take advantage of them. I do prefer the clicking connectors with balanced, too.
    Paul

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  6. #6
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    noise rejection is one of it attributes for sure, I run them on my IC's from my linestage to my amps(12' run). But if the topology of your components being connected are not balanced and your cable runs are short I don't know that there is any real benefit.
    Cheers ! …. Dave

  7. #7

    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikado463 View Post
    … But if the topology of your components being connected are not balanced and your cable runs are short I don't know that there is any real benefit.
    The key word here is “short”. For short cable runs, even though technically and objectively balanced XLR are proven quieter, you might not be able to (subjectively) hear a difference.

    It is worth knowing that not all components with XLR outputs are truly balanced design.

    I buy balanced-designed components only, by choice.

    I you place yours amps next to your speakers, you can run very long balanced IC from the preamp to the amps knowing that noise or RF interference will not be an issue.

  8. #8
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    I am not sure you will be able to tell the difference between a one meter balanced or a unbalanced cable from the same category from a manufacture.
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  9. #9
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by nicoff View Post
    The key word here is “short”. For short cable runs, even though technically and objectively balanced XLR are proven quieter, you might not be able to (subjectively) hear a difference.
    Yep. If the interconnects are short (say 3 meters/10 feet) and all the components are powered from the same AC mains wall outlet, it's doubtful that you will hear any differences. Note that in pro audio, long interconnects are sometimes 100 meters /300 feet long.

    It is worth knowing that not all components with XLR outputs are truly balanced design.
    While it's possible, I think that it will be a rare case.
    It's much more likely to find audiophile products with the 'pin 1 problem' (AES48).

    If you place yours amps next to your speakers, you can run very long balanced IC from the pre-amp to the amps knowing that noise or RF interference will not be an issue.
    This can be a great plan, especially if you have low impedance loudspeakers.

  10. #10

    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    What needs to be clear here is whether or not the OP actually has balanced gear or if he just has a pair of XLR inputs/outputs on his gear for convenience. If the circuits aren't truly balanced, there is nothing to gain by using the XLR inputs/outputs.
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  11. #11
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by mep View Post
    What needs to be clear here is whether or not the OP actually has balanced gear or if he just has a pair of XLR inputs/outputs on his gear for convenience. If the circuits aren't truly balanced, there is nothing to gain by using the XLR inputs/outputs.
    I just looked up the specs of both the Rotel and my Luxman and both say Balanced XLR. I don't think I will drop a bunch of cash to find out so maybe I can find someone to loan me a pair for a test first.
    -----------------
    Brian

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  12. #12
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Well in my Bryston BHA-1 Headamp, using L/R Bal or a stereo XLR instead of the normal jack, I get more wattage to my hard to drive phones. Just the way it was designed per Mike at Bryston.

    "The big advantage of using the balanced outputs on the BHA1 is the doubling in output voltage, because you have two class A amplifiers driving the output rather than one. This doubling in voltage actually results in a 4 times increase in power, since power is proportional to voltage squared."
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  13. #13
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    The first time I used XLR, was to see if there was any difference I could hear.

    I replaced a pair of 1.8M Shunyata Altair RCA with Altair XLR between my then Krell SACD player and my ARC LS25 line stage. The only thing I noticed was that the volume was louder at the same setting on the LS25.
    I have amps that only use XLR and have continued to use XLR for all connections in my system.
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  14. #14

    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowfax View Post
    I just looked up the specs of both the Rotel and my Luxman and both say Balanced XLR. I don't think I will drop a bunch of cash to find out so maybe I can find someone to loan me a pair for a test first.
    The specs might say you have a pair of balanced XLR connectors, but neither of your pieces of gear have truly balanced circuits.
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  15. #15
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowfax View Post
    I just looked up the specs of both the Rotel and my Luxman and both say Balanced XLR. I don't think I will drop a bunch of cash to find out so maybe I can find someone to loan me a pair for a test first.
    If all is well the cables should be cheap. We use Mogami Neglex and we also make up cables using it. You're talking maybe hundreds, certainly not thousands to do this.

    The benefit is there even if the cable is 6 inches long!

    Further, it does not matter what the internal circuitry of the amp or preamp is like, it can be single-ended as long as the input and output is handled correctly. A great example of this is the old Ampex 351 record/play tape electronics. It used input and output transformers. The record circuit was entirely single ended though and it worked fine. The playback side was single-ended too except right at the line drive it used a 12AU7 (IIRC) in push-pull driving an output transformer. But you could as easily use a tube to drive a single-ended output transformer- I've done that in a good deal of mic preamps we've made. You can also simply put a line transformer at the output of an existing single-ended preamp and drive a single ended amplifier with another transformer at the other end of the balanced cable. I've done that too with excellent results.

  16. #16
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Hi-fi manufacturers that do not use differentially balanced circuits typically might offer a XLR input/output for convenience but I doubt any audible difference could be heard between the two as the only difference is the connecter.
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  17. #17
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody View Post
    Hi-fi manufacturers that do not use differentially balanced circuits typically might offer a XLR input/output for convenience but I doubt any audible difference could be heard between the two as the only difference is the connecter.
    Agree. And manufacturers who go to the extra expense of offering fully balanced designs will sometimes recommend XLR cabling over single ended for better performance, which has been noted in some audio product reviews. A few manufacturers may offer XLR only in some products (e.g., Boulder high end). Single ended is less complex and expensive to implement, especially compared with fully balanced designs.

  18. #18
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    So are we saying that both the Lux and the Rotel have Balanced connections but not Balanced circuits?

    I guess both MFGs just added them in case tho opposites component only has XLR connections.
    -----------------
    Brian

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  19. #19
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowfax View Post
    So are we saying that both the Lux and the Rotel have Balanced connections but not Balanced circuits?

    I guess both MFGs just added them in case tho opposites component only has XLR connections.
    yes and for the noise rejection ability if and when longer IC runs are needed
    Cheers ! …. Dave

  20. #20
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by mep View Post
    What needs to be clear here is whether or not the OP actually has balanced gear or if he just has a pair of XLR inputs/outputs on his gear for convenience. If the circuits aren't truly balanced, there is nothing to gain by using the XLR inputs/outputs.
    This is incorrect. Several posts in this thread conflate balanced inputs and outputs with balanced internal amplifier circuitry.

    Balanced inputs and outputs, when designed properly to AES48, have advantages over single ended interconnects even if the underlying amplifier circuitry is not balanced.

    Balanced I/O doesn’t use the cable shield as an audio return. This prevents ground current induced hum between different pieces of gear. By being balanced, interference impinging on the cable will be cancelled out by the balanced input circuitry of the receiving piece of gear. Most XLR connectors offer a locking mechanism not present in RCA connectors.

    Balanced internal amplification circuitry has additional advantages in that certain types of distortion are cancelled out.

    To make things more interesting;
    You could have an amplifier with single ended inputs and balanced internal circuitry.
    You can also have a situation where a truly balanced amplifier has poor common mode rejection, making it no better than a single ended amplifier in this regard.

    As to which works or sounds better, it’s more how these circuits are implemented by the manufacturers than the actual configuration of the gear and weather you use a single ended or XLR connection.
    Tom

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  21. #21

    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by W9TR View Post
    This is incorrect. Several posts in this thread conflate balanced inputs and outputs with balanced internal amplifier circuitry.

    Balanced inputs and outputs, when designed properly to AES48, have advantages over single ended interconnects even if the underlying amplifier circuitry is not balanced.

    Balanced I/O doesn’t use the cable shield as an audio return. This prevents ground current induced hum between different pieces of gear. By being balanced, interference impinging on the cable will be cancelled out by the balanced input circuitry of the receiving piece of gear. Most XLR connectors offer a locking mechanism not present in RCA connectors.

    Balanced internal amplification circuitry has additional advantages in that certain types of distortion are cancelled out.

    To make things more interesting;
    You could have an amplifier with single ended inputs and balanced internal circuitry.
    You can also have a situation where a truly balanced amplifier has poor common mode rejection, making it no better than a single ended amplifier in this regard.

    As to which works or sounds better, it’s more how these circuits are implemented by the manufacturers than the actual configuration of the gear and weather you use a single ended or XLR connection.
    In other words, XLR cables are better. What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

  22. #22
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    LOL, glad I asked. I am now more confused than when I posted the question. Almost sounds like it is personal opinion and or preference more than anything. I won't sweat it, I will just keep using my old Synergistic Research Kaleidoscope ICs that I have been using for years. Thanks for all the input!
    -----------------
    Brian

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  23. #23
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by nicoff View Post
    In other words, XLR cables are better. What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?
    sometimes ...........
    Cheers ! …. Dave

  24. #24

    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    My system sounded better when I used single ended between my Ayon player and Cary SLP-05 preamp. When I re-read the Stereophile test on the preamp it showed better performance using single ended, go figure.

  25. #25

    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    If all my gear wasn't balanced, I wouldn't be using balanced cables. Pinning your hopes on an unbalanced piece of gear that happens to sport a balanced input or output connector being wired to AES48 standards and providing you with any sonic benefit when using a balanced cable is a crap shoot at best.
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  26. #26
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by stereogeek View Post
    My system sounded better when I used single ended between my Ayon player and Cary SLP-05 preamp. When I re-read the Stereophile test on the preamp it showed better performance using single ended, go figure.
    I own an SLP-05 as well and initially found the same thing. Single ended inputs and outputs were preferred. That was, until I had the "Ultimate Upgrade" completed by Cary. Since then I have compared single ended to balanced (both inputs and outputs) and have completely switched my thinking. Maybe it is system synergy as I have changed a few components, but balanced is now clearly superior.
    Morgan

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  27. #27

    What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikado463 View Post
    sometimes ...........
    It is not too complicated.

    Technically and objectively XLR cables are less noisy. They are engineered/designed to be that way.

    Subjectively (i.e., “my ears tell me”) it is whatever one prefers/likes.

  28. #28
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by mep View Post
    If all my gear wasn't balanced, I wouldn't be using balanced cables. Pinning your hopes on an unbalanced piece of gear that happens to sport a balanced input or output connector being wired to AES48 standards and providing you with any sonic benefit when using a balanced cable is a crap shoot at best.
    If it supports AES48, its going to be audibly superior, regardless of the internal wiring. You don't have to look any further than the Ampex 351 tape machines to know that- they recorded a good potion of the classic golden age stereo recordings and they were single-ended internally using transformers to interface to the balanced ins and outs. As you've already heard, those recordings are excellent and done without the benefit of a high end audio cable industry. Quite literally, the balanced line system is a high end cable system of its own.

  29. #29

    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by atmasphere View Post

    Quite literally, the balanced line system is a high end cable system of its own.
    Are you saying that if you use well-built balanced (XLR) cable you don’t need to spend a lot of money on interconnect cables?

  30. #30
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by nicoff View Post
    Are you saying that if you use well-built balanced (XLR) cable you don’t need to spend a lot of money on interconnect cables?
    Almost. AES48 is as much about how the signal is transmitted and received as it is about how the cable is constructed, but if the tenets of it are observed the cable need not be expensive.

  31. #31
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by nicoff View Post
    Are you saying that if you use well-built balanced (XLR) cable you don’t need to spend a lot of money on interconnect cables?
    why 'do you need' to spend a lot on IC's to begin with ? Granted it depends on ones definition of 'a lot' !
    Cheers ! …. Dave

  32. #32
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    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Actually Audio Engineering Society standard AES48 is about how the cable shield is attached at the chassis connectors.
    AES48 is only a small part of the Neil Muncy(RIP) 1994/5 paper.
    "Noise Susceptibility in Analog and Digital Signal Processing Systems"
    https://www.jhbrandt.net/wp-content/...ng_Systems.pdf

  33. #33

    Re: What do you hear different using Balanced XLR Cables?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikado463 View Post
    why 'do you need' to spend a lot on IC's to begin with ? Granted it depends on ones definition of 'a lot' !
    BJC makes good-quality, well-built XLR cables. Neutrik connectors, good quality cables (Belden/Canare), and fairly reasonable prices.

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