Balanced or Unbalanced?

Hi, and thanks for stopping here. Re the post below, we’d really, really like to know what you think. Have you got time to leave a comment? Thank you.

Neil McCauley / HFA editor in chief


We spotted this on a US forum and it got us thinking about asking our readers about this. So ...

Hi-end should be about as few compromises as one's budget will allow.

It's a shame (or a conspiracy) that hi-end mags do not educate us on the basics, such as unbalanced circuit designs vs differentially balanced designs and XLR connectors/connections vs XLR connectors/connections and their relative impact on music playback. Why do I mention "conspiracy"? Magazines seem reluctant to bite the hand that feeds them- the majority of manufacturers are still in the dark ages selling unbalanced gear. Why? It seems you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Hi-end roots are based in unbalanced designs. When the few differentially balanced designs (XLR) first appeared on the market, they were too expensive for most of us. Today, several manufacturers offer XLR designs that are competitively priced with unbalanced designs.

Think about it, sharing the L/R signal on circuit boards and through parts cannot be a good thing. Adding insult to injury is the RCA connector. A system is only as good as it's weakest link and this is the RCA connection. In response, several manufacturers have improved the RCA connector, but to what ultimate result? You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig.

Reviewers (and I blame this on editors) typically allow balanced components to be reviewed within the confines of an unbalanced system. See The Absolute Sound August issue review of the Raysonic 168. Consequently, we are not informed on the components' ultimate sonic value.

If you are on a quest for best sound, begin to replace your RCA based components with differentially balanced. Most will accommodate RCAs or just buy RCA/XLR adapters until you fully transition.

So ... thoughts invited.

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