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unbalanced audio output

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whiz115

Member
Hi

i would like someone to explain... what is "unbalanced audio output " "balanced audio output" i did a small google search but proved not much helpful to me.
 
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Thunderchild

New Member
how do you mean exactly ? with a DC offset ? with left and right channels very different ? I think without more information knowone can help
 

Nigel Goodwin

Super Moderator
Most Helpful Member
It's just like a scope, either a single input (un-balanced), or using two inputs in differential mode (balanced).

Un-balanced input the signal is measured with reference to earth, balanced it's measured between the two signals.
 

whiz115

Member
these terms were unkown to me until recently that i heard about an audio DAC IC which has balanced outputs and i didn't knew what exactly that is.

so it can become more clear to me...a typical PC sound card has un-balanced
outputs?
 

Nigel Goodwin

Super Moderator
Most Helpful Member
these terms were unkown to me until recently that i heard about an audio DAC IC which has balanced outputs and i didn't knew what exactly that is.

so it can become more clear to me...a typical PC sound card has un-balanced
outputs?

Yes - it's mostly only professional sound equipment that uses balanced signals, because they cancel out common noise picked up on the cables. Almost all microphones now used for PA, bands, recording studios etc. are balanced and low impedance as it gives better performance and lower noise.

It's trivial to convert from balanced to un-balanced, you just connect one of the conductors to the shield on the cable.
 

whiz115

Member
It's trivial to convert from balanced to un-balanced, you just connect one of the conductors to the shield on the cable.


hmmm... some photos and maybe some more infos explaining these things would be perfect! i hope you do have something available...
 
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Sceadwian

Banned
Nigel's explanation seems pretty good to me. It's really very simple as he said. Standard PC or consumer audio is generally unballanced. One side (the shield usually) is grounded, the other carries the actual audio information. With a balanced signal both signal lines will have a varying voltage, but the difference between those two voltages will carry the audio signal. It's advantagous for noise immunity because passing by other EM fields or signal lines will induce a current (hence voltage) in both lines at the same time canceling each other out. Virtually all modern high speed data and analog lines nowdays use balanced signals, sometimes with the two signal wires run through a separate shield for added noise immunity.
 

whiz115

Member
Sceadwian i don't mean Nigel explanation is not enough it's just i've never heard of such term concerning audio... i only knew that audio is carried on the one wire and the other is the ground so the balanced way is highly unusual to me and i wanted to make sure i got it right.


It's trivial to convert from balanced to un-balanced, you just connect one of the conductors to the shield on the cable.

two conductors represent one channel? and four represent stereo?

P.S wikipedia was one of the few links i found about this matter but your words are much more helpful... thank you guys! :)
 
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Nigel Goodwin

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Most Helpful Member
I strongly agree.

Balanced is usually always an XLR connection (microphones, speakers etc.)
Unbalanced is typically instrument connections (guitars, basses, keyboards etc.)

Actually keyboards quite often have balanced outputs, and a Fender keyboard amp I have has balanced inputs to match. I've never really understood why though?, there seems little need for it at line levels - unless the idea is to have the keyboard a long way from the amp?.

It also doesn't apply to speakers - the reason why they may be grounded or not is due to circuit configuration, if the amplifier is bridged or not - although a bridged amplifier has a certain simularity to a balanced output, that's not why it's done.
 

Dean Huster

Well-Known Member
Most, if not all, consumer-grade home electronics such as stereo amplifiers, turntables (remember those), tape decks, tuners, equilizers, televisions, computers, VHS players, DVD players, etc. all use unbalanced inputs/outputs -- the familiar RCA phono connectors -- so is why you're more familiar with those.

Professional audio/PA equipment such as mixers usually use balanced inputs (the XLR connectors) for microphones, but also usually have unbalanced inputs as an option on each channel. Unbalanced inputs are usually realized as 1/4-inch phone jacks and plugs, e.g., the inputs to a guitar amplifier. I don't know of any balanced phone jack/plug configuration whether 2.5mm, 3.5mm or 1/4-inch.

Dean
 

Sceadwian

Banned
Yeah, it'd be two wires per channel. Unbalanced audio setups often use a common ground, but on longer wire runs this results in crosstalk. What you use really depends on how freakishly high in performance you want to be. Mind you often times the extra steps high end audio takes result in massive cost increases (not to mention insane markups) and little to no perceivable difference in the quality of the audio. Audiophiles can sometimes take things well beyond the realm of sanity in the pursuit of some absurdly high level of quality which the human ear can't even perceive. I often think that they just think it sounds better because they know they spent a lot of money on it so it must be of higher quality.

In the end, the components used inside the equipment itself are going to result in more of a quality improvement than weather or not you use ballanced or unbalanced I/O
 
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Nigel Goodwin

Super Moderator
Most Helpful Member
Professional audio/PA equipment such as mixers usually use balanced inputs (the XLR connectors) for microphones, but also usually have unbalanced inputs as an option on each channel. Unbalanced inputs are usually realized as 1/4-inch phone jacks and plugs, e.g., the inputs to a guitar amplifier. I don't know of any balanced phone jack/plug configuration whether 2.5mm, 3.5mm or 1/4-inch.

You've not been looking very hard then :D

The 'un-balanced' input on a mixer is normally a stereo 1/4 inch jack, and is a balanced input. By placing a mono plug in the socket this shorts out one channel and ground, making it mono.

The output on my Yamaha keboard, and the input on the Fender keyboard amp, are also both stereo balanced 1/4 inch jack plugs.

It's really a very common facility, and the self-shorting with a mono plug is VERY convenient.
 
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