Are ballanced connections better?

Balanced has mostly a big ballsy sound.

Single ended has mostly a more nimble nuanced sound.

Not something I’ve ever noticed, nor is there any logical explanation fr such a difference?

Balanced usually has a higher gain that drives the preamp stage harder.

When used between pre and power amp the preamp is not driven by the balanced link… there may be higher gain meaning that in effect the preamp is “working harder” - however that may be balanced either by the volume control being set lower or by the power amp having lower gain. As a case in point my power amp, which has a choice of balanced or single ended inputs, says the following:

The 1v setting is used when the source is single-ended, or from a transformer coupled balanced source. Gain - 29 Noise -110 dB.
The 2v setting is used when the sources output is actively balanced.
Use this setting with any systems where the volume control rotation is limited to the bottom half of the control or less. Gain - 23 dB. Noise -113 dB.

Actually balanced outputs are always double the output of single ended outputs. Also balanced outputs usually will have a lower noise floor due to the noise rejection properties of balanced topology

1 Like

It depends. Balanced has noise rejection but the circuit is more complex. Single ended is a more direct signal path. So it really depends on how much noise there is to reject.

In the New Classic thread early on, Steve At Naim did mention the XLR balanced connections make sense to unify pre to power amp connections going forward. Especially in cases where power amps are some distance away. Though for inputs Naim still favour the simpler signal path of single ended unbalanced line inputs.

1 Like

Balanced are better when done correctly, end off really.

You only have to look at most hi end hifi to see what is used for connections, its not rca’s or din’s.
If you still think that’s just rubbish, then ask yourself this, naim even went Balanced xlr’s on the statement, and they didn’t do this just for fun.

But its got to be true balanced from source to amp to get the real results of a reduction in noise floor, plus you do also get the additional bonus of more power.


NVA does too.

1 Like

I think Naim was also thinking of having the power amps by the speakers and running long interconnects from the preamp

I always find this setup with big monoblocks on the floor by speakers really odd. Why have everything placed tidily on one or two racks when you can sprawl it all over the floor? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Each to their own.

But balanced preamp outputs is definitely needed for active speakers.

1 Like

The Naim Statement amps aren’t going to fit in a Rack are they… the big Bolder amps, big Audio Research amps etc, also it’s much better sonically to use short speaker cables and long Balanced interconnects. Keeping in mind the power amp controls the movements of the speakers drivers, that’s the main reason for active speakers. Naim excluding the Statement amps are the only company that recommends long speaker cables .

Is it though? The low level pre out signal is far more delicate in terms potential SN ratio than the much higher lever speaker outputs which would be subject to the same noise over the same length. While balanced offers noise rejection, it’s not perfect. The length still poses an issue as do non common mode forms of noise that balanced can’t reject.

While statement form fact amps won’t fit in a rack, Quadraspire and a few others make a “deep” version for monster amps.

I really don’t think there can be a clear winner between balanced vs unbalanced or long balanced short speaker cable vs short (balanced or single ended) and long speaker cable. Both methods have significant drawbacks as well as benefits. To assume otherwise is to not understand the complexities of topic. Manufacturers themselves are not in agreement. And to some degree there is following convention purely to satisfy the audiophile knowitall hoard. Remember 20 years ago when every speaker no matter how cheap had be bi/tri wireable? As a maker, you followed the pack or sales suffered.

And lately we see XLR on very entry level kit and there is almost no way some of it has implemented a good balanced circuit at their price point.

I’m curious, how many pieces of gear or systems have you run balanced? I’m just wondering about your personal experiences?

Quite a bit.

In the last few years none, though there haven’t been any ground breaking developments in balanced technology in that time. None of my home systems are balanced currently. That was not always the case.

And I used to work in hifi retail in the 90s and from there I couldn’t put a number on any type of configuration. There was a lot of everything. I do remember (digressing from topic slightly here) Linn’s first foray into balanced connections. It was very unusual and survived longer than it should have. Before they adopted XLR, they used CAT5 and RJ45 terminations. This was their early solution to multiroom audio before wifi - run CAT5 carrying balanced analogue audio between systems via their Linn Sneaky boards. There was quite a substantial claim made in the demos that it was totally loss free over 50m simply because it was balanced. Wasn’t true though it was unarguable vastly superior to running 20m single ended interconnects. Obviously as time went on, multiroom went the way fo networking and they moved balanced input to the more expected XLR.

Back onto topic though, my own experience has been hit and miss. These days, if something supported both, I’d borrow both single ended and balanced versions of the same cable for a weekend to try out. It’s not just the quality of the balanced stages that can vary greatly but also the environment. The amount of noise for a simple system located in cottage with no wifi over a 50cm single ended cable is likely to be less than in a big complex system with a rat’s nest of cables in a flat in a big city flooded by hundreds of competing RF sources and microwaves.

There is always the question; Is the effect of the balanced circuit itself greater or less than the common mode noise it is rejecting? And the answer to that questions is, I have to say, a variable, not a constant. 50cm in one environment could be significantly more problematic than 3m in a very low noise environment.

And this is probably why Steve at Naim posted on the New Classic thread that he personally slightly prefers single ended via DIN for source inputs.


Given that in most cases there is space behind the speakers, for the amps not to be placed less obtrusively behind (whether or not on racks/stands) suggests it is a deliberate desire to have on view.

1 Like

My ATC 40a seem to work fine connected to my Supercap

1 Like

Indeed. Poor choice of words of my part. Apologies. By “required” here I meant “a market need”. I’ve run some very long line level single ended cables in the past from a pre balanced era Linn amp. Obviously it does work.

No need for apologies! I do sometimes wonder if a balanced pre would sound better!

Some years ago my power amps were Musical Fidelity monoblocks. Pure class A and 65w, so they got seriously hot after being powered up for a while. I wouldn’t have dared to put them in the rack I had, so on the floor behind the speakers they went. Dusting was a right pain, though!


This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.