Author Topic: Cables:  (Read 5455 times)

Offline dflee

  • Obsessively Audiophilic
  • ****
  • Posts: 572
« on: November 27, 2020, 10:21:43 AM »
Please help me out guys.
If a headphone is in essence a pair of speakers on your head, how are they different than regular speakers. I'm not talking about the types of speakers but the supply to speakers. Those that make and sell aftermarket cords for headphones tout balanced, balanced, balanced and yet I've never heard or seen any push to make bookshelf or tower speakers balanced. Does not speaker cable run the same current as a headphone cable?

"Enjoy pleasure, not because it is fleeting, but because it exists at all." Sacrament, Clive Barker.

Offline tmazz

  • Out Of My Speaker Cabinet
  • ******
  • Posts: 12088
  • Just basking in the glow of my tubes.....
Re: Cables:
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2020, 09:08:36 PM »
Don balanced cables will only do you any good of you have true balanced electronics to hook them into. Cables themselves are not balanced ot unbalance, but they can connect components that are designed with balanced (differential) circuit topography. So if you do not have balances electronics the cables will not do much for you.

I could go on further about balanced design advantages (mostly lower noise)  and disadvantages (mostly higher costs), but the Moon Audio web site does a good job explaining balanced design issues:

Remember, it's all about the music........

• Nola Boxers
• Sunfire True SW Super Jr (2)
• McIntosh MC 275
• ARC SP-9
• VPI HW-19 Mk IV/SDS/SME IV/Soundsmith Carmen Mk II ES
• Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC/Rasp Pi Roon Endpoint
• DigiBuss/TWL PC&USB/MIT Cables

Offline dflee

  • Obsessively Audiophilic
  • ****
  • Posts: 572
Re: Cables:
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2020, 06:55:12 AM »
Thanks tmazz.
Thanks for the reading material. It still leaves a lot to discern.
How does one know if the equipment is truly balanced vs just having the connections?
And if dac to pre and pre to headphone amp are balanced but the headphone out isn't,
does that just screw up the whole balanced thing?
I think I'm going to stick with what I have and enjoy.

"Enjoy pleasure, not because it is fleeting, but because it exists at all." Sacrament, Clive Barker.

Offline rollo

  • Industry Participant
  • *
  • Posts: 6957
  • Rollo Audio - Home demo the only way to know
Re: Cables:
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2020, 08:29:04 AM »
  One would know if balanced design from Manf. Second question , yes it screws it up.

contact me  at or visit us on Facebook
Lamm Industries - Aqua Acoustic, Formula & La Scala DAC- INNUOS  - Rethm - Kuzma - QLN - Audio Hungary Qualiton - Fritz speakers -Gigawatt -Vinnie Rossi,TWL, Swiss Cables, Merason DAC.

Offline Vincent Kars

  • Seeking Help
  • **
  • Posts: 10
Re: Cables:
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2020, 09:12:13 AM »
Traditionally we use a TRS to connect a headphone to an amp.
You can replace this by a TRRS connection so separate grounds for L&R
This is exactly how we connect our speakers to an amp and nobody calls this “balanced”.
This has of course nothing to do with “balanced” as we know it e.g. a 3 wire connection between and DAC and an amp where there is a hot, a cold and a ground.
At the receiver the hot and cold are compared and any difference is rejected (common  noise)

The reason why in de headphone world a normal 2 wire connection is called  “balanced” is probably because with a TRRS you can connect it to a balanced amp.
This is an amp requiring separate terminals for L&R
Using a "balanced" wire on a headphone won’t do you any harm, some even claim a small benefit (less crosstalk) but I haven’t seen any hard evidence.
In general the “balanced” out of a headphone amp doubles the power (2 amps per channel) but this might come at the expense of more distortion.

All the pro's of a balanced headphone amp:
All the cons:

Offline steve

  • Audiologist
  • *
  • Posts: 1262
Re: Cables:
« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2021, 09:24:35 PM »
Balanced circuits, transformers rarely cancel more than 40db down. And transistors etc alter characteristics over time. Poly caps, and high quality resistors are quite stable if used properly. Even then matching is rather limited.

Balanced interconnect cables (ics) have higher capacitance, and wire is not 6N pure, nor plugs/jacks in most cases.

Personally, I never touch balanced, only work with single ended designs. Only time I would consider balanced
is a very very long run of interconnect cables (ics) with limited fidelity.


« Last Edit: December 21, 2021, 09:38:19 PM by steve »
Steve Sammet (Owner, Electron Eng, SAS Audio Labs, Ret)
SAS "V" 39pf/m 6N copper ICs,
SAS Test Phono Stage
Acutex 320 STR Mov Iron Cart
SAS 11A Perfect Tube Preamp
SAS 25 W Ref Triode/UL Monoblocks
2 way Floor Standing Test Speakers

Offline dflee

  • Obsessively Audiophilic
  • ****
  • Posts: 572
Re: Cables:
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2021, 08:49:03 AM »
Thanks for the input Steve. I found it very insightful.
The curiosity has gotten the best of me. Purchased the Moon RCA to Balanced adapters and ran them with the single ended cable from pre to amp. Left them there for a while since everything audio in the house goes that route (around nine hours a day). Took them out and stuck them between the dac and pre to see what they would do closer to the source. This position revealed a lot more of what was going on. First the good: the bass got a little cleaner and more pronounced, kept the mids fairly close to the same and were a little more quiet in the grunge department. Second the negative: sound overall became bland in a way that it lost its dimension. It became flat almost as if listening in an anechoic chamber. I also noticed a decrease in detail.
This was an interesting experiment and while not getting the most expensive adapters (the Moons were 80 bucks) felt that they would be of quality to determine what I was trying to find out without breaking the bank. I did this to see if the balanced sounded better than the single running through the equipment. May try them in longer on pre to amp to see if the equipment breaks in running through the different arrangement in the equipment. I'm also trying to compensate for my speaker purchase. They do have the potential to sound really good but I can't afford the equipment that will do it. Just need to live with what I have until I can put the monies together to get a better pair of speakers (and quit using it on tweeks to try and get there).

"Enjoy pleasure, not because it is fleeting, but because it exists at all." Sacrament, Clive Barker.

Offline P.I.

  • Industry Participant
  • *
  • Posts: 1954
  • Silence is that blackness beneath the music
    • P.I. audio group, LLC
Re: Cables:
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2021, 05:42:45 PM »
Balanced cables.

I'm not a fan for 2 - channel audio.  They work great in pro audio where there are 100' - 200' runs or for undersea communication cables.

Like Steve said, the additional components, doubled capacitance and generally crappy, high mass connectors with ferrous screws and inferior dielectrics add up and take their toll.

Give me a pair of low mass RCA connectors, high purity wire (pick your metals),  good solder and very little of it... combined with an intelligent lay.  That is the recipe for superior interconnects.

More than once I have taken a balanced piece of gear, removed the connectors, gone in, bridged the ground and cold and taken an unbalanced connection out.  That ALWAYS sounded better.

There is no magic involved in superior SQ.  It all boils down to intelligent design, proper materials selection, a great lay scheme and excellent execution.
"A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument." - Hilmar von Campe