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Thread: To balance or not to balance . . .

  1. #1
    Join Date: May 2018

    Location: Woking

    Posts: 366
    I'm Chris.

    Default To balance or not to balance . . .

    I'm considering building a fully balanced system (well working backwards from the pre/power amp which are balanced).
    My question is where exactly I may start to hear benefits from having the balanced signal, as it may require me to replace less of the system.

    Starting with digital, the chain will potentially look like this:


    Streamer - SMSL DP-3 (new) --- AES/EBU output to:

    Digital EQ - Behringer DEQ 2496 (already own) --- AES/EBU output to:

    DAC - Topping DX7s (new) --- Balanced XLR outputs to pre/power amp.


    If I can skip replacing the streamer and get the same results using spdif (Toslink) out from my current streamer into the DEQ and "start" the balanced signal from there, that would be more appealing (at least financially!).

    Even better if I could skip replacing anything and get (as near as makes no difference) the same result having an unbalanced signal up until the pre-amp then I will stick with that as I fear the point of diminishing returns may well have been reached!

    Interested to hear thoughts and opinions.

    Of course there are further benefits to replacing my current setup with the kit mentioned, not least the ability to play 32/bit and DSD files so a bit of future proofing is also part of the equation.

    Cheers,

    Chris
    System 1: - Amp: Ming Da MC 368B -
    - Source: Linn LP12 (Denon 304) - Arcam rPhono - Pioneer N-30K - Musical Paradise MP-D1 mkII -
    - Speakers: Quad 63's - REL T3's -

    System 2 - Amp: Musical Paradise MP-701 - Neurochrome 686 -
    - Source: Audio Technica LP5 - EAR834p clone - Pioneer N-30K - Musical Paradise MP-D1 -
    - Speakers: Cambridge Acoustic "Grand Master Evolution"

    System 3: - Amp: Custom N-core 300B SEP -
    - Source: Novafidelity X12 - Jolida Glass FX III -
    - Speakers: Loth X BS1's - REL T3 -

  2. #2
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Sheffield - UK

    Posts: 6,814
    I'm Mark.

    Default

    To be be blunt, I don’t think you’ll hear any real benefit at all unless you are running lots of very long cables (as may be found in a studio).

    100% Analogue

  3. #3
    Join Date: May 2018

    Location: Woking

    Posts: 366
    I'm Chris.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by YNWaN View Post
    To be be blunt, I don’t think you’ll hear any real benefit at all unless you are running lots of very long cables (as may be found in a studio).
    Thanks Mark, the thought had occurred to me but I'm a sucker for a tweak (even when things are sounding very nice).

    Plus I don't think my listening room is particularly susceptible to enough RFI interference etc to justify the change. I think I just like the idea of nice chunky plugs and using the balanced inputs on my pre, but if the performance jump is low to nil I know there's better areas to spend (waste!) money on!

    Now, my schuko plugs should turn up any minute now along with my new half filtered half unfiltered power strip . . . .
    System 1: - Amp: Ming Da MC 368B -
    - Source: Linn LP12 (Denon 304) - Arcam rPhono - Pioneer N-30K - Musical Paradise MP-D1 mkII -
    - Speakers: Quad 63's - REL T3's -

    System 2 - Amp: Musical Paradise MP-701 - Neurochrome 686 -
    - Source: Audio Technica LP5 - EAR834p clone - Pioneer N-30K - Musical Paradise MP-D1 -
    - Speakers: Cambridge Acoustic "Grand Master Evolution"

    System 3: - Amp: Custom N-core 300B SEP -
    - Source: Novafidelity X12 - Jolida Glass FX III -
    - Speakers: Loth X BS1's - REL T3 -

  4. #4
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Essex

    Posts: 21,690
    I'm openingabottleofwine.

    Default

    I run a fully balanced system, because I have power monoblock amplifiers located directly behind each speaker, in order to minimise the length of the speaker cable (< 1m). The power amplifiers, which have a balanced input, are fed by balanced-line cables running back to the preamplifier, itself having dual differential inputs and outputs. The cables are 15m long, running underneath the floorboards.

    On a technical level, balanced line connections have the advantage that the signal return is completely separate from the shielding and safety earth. IMO with unbalanced connections, the combination of signal return with the 0V rail and the equipment safety earth, means that minute earth currents can interfere with the signal; which is why, again IMO, some unbalanced cables can sound different to one another.

    For the vast majority of installations, I doubt if moving to balanced interconnects would make much of a difference.

    If you want to try out using a balanced-line cable, the best place to would be between the source (phonostage, if it has a balanced output, and CDP or DAC). I am in the middle of trying out a number of balanced-line cables between my CDP and preamp, both of which have true dual differential connections, but so far I cannot hear any real and repeatable difference between them; which is what I would expect.
    Barry

  5. #5
    Join Date: Nov 2015

    Location: Wolverhampton

    Posts: 10,157
    I'm Oliver.

    Default

    Balanced is a PITA

    Now, I know people think I'm mad but I hate the connections. There is no helping me here but I loath the cheap shit brass pins and sockets.

    I am a disciple of the merits of copper and its use in connections especially. Trouble is with balanced gear, its all gold plated brass unless you're willing to drop serious cheddar on plugs and sockets, which I am, if I had the money available.

    I thought I'd found a really good plug recently only to discover its 100 to get a set of plugs here now, as the supplier id just found dropped them from their stock.

    Theres no doubt its a better connection imo and that's all that we should worry about.......right?

  6. #6
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Sheffield - UK

    Posts: 6,814
    I'm Mark.

    Default

    A friend runs a fully balanced system (in fact it may be two friends), the move from non, to semi, to fully balanced had no benefits I could detect.

    100% Analogue

  7. #7
    Join Date: May 2018

    Location: Woking

    Posts: 366
    I'm Chris.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Barry View Post
    I run a fully balanced system, because I have power monoblock amplifiers located directly behind each speaker, in order to minimise the length of the speaker cable (< 1m). The power amplifiers, which have a balanced input, are fed by balanced-line cables running back to the preamplifier, itself having dual differential inputs and outputs. The cables are 15m long, running underneath the floorboards.
    Given your setup here Barry, I can certainly appreciate why balanced might be beneficial. My runs are not that long (yet). Looks like my "need" for balanced connections is not as great as those with technical requirements (such as length of signal run).

    Cheers
    System 1: - Amp: Ming Da MC 368B -
    - Source: Linn LP12 (Denon 304) - Arcam rPhono - Pioneer N-30K - Musical Paradise MP-D1 mkII -
    - Speakers: Quad 63's - REL T3's -

    System 2 - Amp: Musical Paradise MP-701 - Neurochrome 686 -
    - Source: Audio Technica LP5 - EAR834p clone - Pioneer N-30K - Musical Paradise MP-D1 -
    - Speakers: Cambridge Acoustic "Grand Master Evolution"

    System 3: - Amp: Custom N-core 300B SEP -
    - Source: Novafidelity X12 - Jolida Glass FX III -
    - Speakers: Loth X BS1's - REL T3 -

  8. #8
    Join Date: May 2018

    Location: Woking

    Posts: 366
    I'm Chris.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigman80 View Post
    Balanced is a PITA

    Now, I know people think I'm mad but I hate the connections. There is no helping me here but I loath the cheap shit brass pins and sockets.

    I am a disciple of the merits of copper and its use in connections especially. Trouble is with balanced gear, its all gold plated brass unless you're willing to drop serious cheddar on plugs and sockets, which I am, if I had the money available.

    I thought I'd found a really good plug recently only to discover its 100 to get a set of plugs here now, as the supplier id just found dropped them from their stock.

    Theres no doubt its a better connection imo and that's all that we should worry about.......right?
    Hmmm . . . I hadn't really considered the inferiority of the "cheaper" connections vs good RCA's.

    As we know though Oliver, it ALL matters (to a greater or lesser degree).

    Thanks for the reply's so far chaps, interesting stuff and more to think about.
    System 1: - Amp: Ming Da MC 368B -
    - Source: Linn LP12 (Denon 304) - Arcam rPhono - Pioneer N-30K - Musical Paradise MP-D1 mkII -
    - Speakers: Quad 63's - REL T3's -

    System 2 - Amp: Musical Paradise MP-701 - Neurochrome 686 -
    - Source: Audio Technica LP5 - EAR834p clone - Pioneer N-30K - Musical Paradise MP-D1 -
    - Speakers: Cambridge Acoustic "Grand Master Evolution"

    System 3: - Amp: Custom N-core 300B SEP -
    - Source: Novafidelity X12 - Jolida Glass FX III -
    - Speakers: Loth X BS1's - REL T3 -

  9. #9
    Join Date: Nov 2015

    Location: Wolverhampton

    Posts: 10,157
    I'm Oliver.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Opti-cal View Post
    Hmmm . . . I hadn't really considered the inferiority of the "cheaper" connections vs good RCA's.

    As we know though Oliver, it ALL matters (to a greater or lesser degree).

    Thanks for the reply's so far chaps, interesting stuff and more to think about.
    Well, according to those with education, it shouldn't make a blind bit of difference.

    Me, a bona-fide numpty, just can't accept brass connections.

    As I say, the connections on a balanced plug are better and have more surface area than rca so that's a bonus but I want copper!!!!

  10. #10
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Winchester, Hampshire

    Posts: 300
    I'm Steve.

    Default

    I don't really have a choice as Conrad Johnson don't believe there is any advantage in using balanced circuitry/connections, so my CJ preamp and power amp are single-ended only! The specification of my CJ preamp (using valves and mosfets) specifically states that it can drive long cable lengths. I certainly have no problem with 3m interconnects between pre and power amp!

    I can see that in Barry's specific application, that balanced connects with long cable runs would be appropriate.
    Last edited by Snoopdog; 09-12-2019 at 12:12.
    Steve.

    My System:- dCS Vivaldi Transport + dCS Vivaldi 2.0 DAC + dCS Vivaldi Master Word Clock + dCS Vivaldi 2.0 Upsampler, Melco N1ZH60/2 Digital Music Server/Streamer, TW Raven One tt/Graham Phantom II/Transfiguration Orpheus L, Whest PS.30RDT SE, Conrad Johnson GAT Series 2 preamp, Conrad Johnson Premier 350SA power amp, TAD CR-1 MKII loudspeakers, MIT Oracle MA/MA-X interconnects, MIT Magnum MA speaker cables, Tellurium Q Black Diamond USB cable, Tellurium Q Ultra Silver power cords, Ziro Disclosure & Vertex Roraima Hi-Rez power cords + Furutech FI connectors, Stillpoints ESS racks/component stands, Vertex Aletheia PSU2 balanced power supply, Coherent Systems RTZ3 ground box + CR/BD cables, Acoustica Applicata DaaD room treatment, Mutec Ref10.

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