What is balanced? What are balanced amps? Do they sound better? Discussion for noobs and boobs.

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by purr1n, Dec 5, 2015.

  1. Resolve

    Resolve Facebook Friend

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    It has a hiss even without inputs plugged in. It's either the amp or the balanced cable I just got. The hiss doesn't really change with volume. It gets much louder with high gain but that's to be expected. When I use low current mode, the hiss becomes a much more noticeable hum on the left side.
     
  2. johnjen

    johnjen Doesn’t want to be here but keeps posting anyways

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    I'd contact either the dealer or factory (depending on which is best) and see what they recommend to do.

    And since the 2 channels don't behave the same and switching gain makes the problem much worse they would be the ones to deal with it.

    And do you have another pair of headphones and or a different cable to try, even a non balanced cable just to see if the same problem exists under different conditions.

    Just a few things to try.

    JJ
     
  3. Resolve

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    I don't have another balanced cable, but all my headphones perform fine on the single ended output of this amp (and my other amps).
     
  4. GoodSchiit

    GoodSchiit Acquaintance

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    I like the comment "choose the sound, not the topology".

    To me, it's a very personal choice. I am new to balanced outputs and the sound vs single ended. First experience was a Pono in balanced mode with Cardas IE8's. Compared to the Pono with single headphone out to the IE8's wasn't even a fair comparison. The balanced sound seemed much fuller with the same song 24bit 48 kHz.

    I am wondering if end to end balanced is something you can differentiate with a human ear? Say with a DAC as a source with balanced outputs to an Amp with balanced inputs but the speakers are traditional passive technology? Or would balanced powered studio monitors make a big difference? I am trying to decide if buying a pair of studio monitors to go along with my Jotunheim being an end to end solution would be a desirable solution? Thanks.
     
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Balanced studio monitors are a nice choice, but the only reason they are balanced is because of studio requirements, e.g. long cable runs, avoiding ground loops, minimizing interference and noise.

    Keep in mind that many studio monitors have built in ADC and DAC with DSP in between to linearize the output. This renders individual choices of external sources, amps, etc. to much less effect on the resultant sound.

    If you want to use studio monitors, a Schiit sys volume control from a DAC's SE output will sound more transparent than having an Jot in the middle of the chain. Jot just makes it more handy.
     
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  6. GoodSchiit

    GoodSchiit Acquaintance

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    Thanks @purr1n

    That's the type of feedback I was looking for. The monitors I've looked at and listened to were near field Yamaha 5 1/2" and Adam 7X's. I can't imagine the cable run to be > 3m from the DAC/Amp. I obviously have more questions for the sales rep in the local store.

    Given the showroom was 3x the size of my listening space, it was difficult to discern how they may sound at home.

    By the way, I got the Jotunheim with the multibit DAC built-in. So my three inputs are DAC from MBP, Pono Balanced and Schiit Magni phono pre-Amp on the single ended input.
     
  7. Mike_WI

    Mike_WI Rando

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    I have the Sys at home but use it as a switch.
    How good is the volume control on the Sys vs other Schiit (or other) options?

    In recent experimenting with my Vali 2 I noticed some R/L imbalance when using IEMs.


    Mike
     
  8. Darren G

    Darren G Friend

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    Different use of the word 'balanced'. I don't doubt you do hear some channel imbalance (that can be especially audible with sensitive IEMs), but it's not covered by this topic ;)
     
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  9. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    If using IEMs, most pots have channel imbalance at lower ranges, first 1/8 of turn.

    Sys is good.
     
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  10. Mike_WI

    Mike_WI Rando

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    Thanks. I realize different balance. Just referring to Sys as a volume adjustment. Likely a non-issue for (as @purr1n) noted in next post if in middle of volume adjustment range.

    Mike
     
  11. nickwin

    nickwin Acquaintance

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  12. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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  13. nickwin

    nickwin Acquaintance

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    Haha, thanks but I have read the thread. Those initial posts allude to the fact that balanced is preferable to single ended if available "Great balanced > Great SE". The Benchmark article says that balanced is inherently worse than SE technically.

    Those two don't really seem to jive, what am I missing? Is the assumption that additional distortion is beneficial? Or that the benefit of the additional power outweighs the additional distortion? Some other benefit that Benchmark overlooked? Benchmark is full of shit?
     
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    Last edited: Feb 1, 2019
  14. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Benchmark is full of shit. Instead of making gear that sounds great, they make gear that measures great with a limited set of steady state measurements and spend the rest of their time writing papers.

    Evidently, they forgot to pull that old white paper and write a new one when the HPA4 came out. The HPA4 which has balanced headphone outputs.

    EDIT: it looks like the white paper (updated recently) was written as a lame ass explanation for why the 4-pin is not balanced on the HPA-4 because customers started to bitch that it wasn't, and their marketing materials don't make this clear.

    P.S. Better gear sounds better regardless of balanced or not balanced.
     
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    Last edited: Feb 1, 2019
  15. Skyline

    Skyline Double-blindly done with this hobby

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    @nickwin Your experience with balanced being better than SE on the Liquid Platinum isn't because balanced is automatically better, but because that particular amp was designed to be balanced.

    You won't find these results to be universally true for every amp all the time.
     
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  16. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    I get where you're coming from, but unfortunately there's a lot more at play than just these variables - so much so that the wisdom in post #2 still stands. Industry players isolate and amplify or distort certain aspects to sell more gear.
     
  17. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    @nickwin:

    On a technical level, the Benchmark paper is correct, but wrong in practice with some omissions.

    Certain types of amplifier noise and damping factor may double, but these are not realistic concerns:
    1. While it would be dumb to balance x2 BH Crack because it has 120 ohm output impedance, most headphone amps have an output impedance below 1 ohm. Coupled with the fact that headphones have high nominal impedances from 30 to 600 ohms, the power loss from the doubling of damping factor will be infintesimally small. Correspondingly, the amount of increased distortion will also be infintesimally small.
    2. While it's true we will get increased noise, we will also get increased gain. The white paper woefully forgets to mention that a balanced output will have higher CMRR. Little things that are common to both legs of the signal like hum or higher frequency spurae will be better cancelled out.
    3. The whitepaper handily ignores that when x2 amps are driving a differential signal, we get up to x4 (in practice x2) the power. The better argument would that it would be a more effective use of resources to increase the power with a single x1 amp rather than double up to x2 amps.
    tl:dr: Fuck Benchmark and fuck John Siau and his lame marketing whitepapers.
     
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    Last edited: Feb 1, 2019
  18. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    All things being equal, which they never are, generalizations about balanced vs. unbalanced are a Bad Idea(TM).
    There are really good implementations of each, and some really bad implementations of each. Most folks at our can meets carry adapters or cables to accommodate either. Just don't be the shithead with the balanced XLRM to unbalanced TRS jack adapter or balanced connector on a 3-wire cabled headphone.

    *edited* for clarity.
    Unbalanced TRS plug to balanced XLRF adapter is fine.
    Balanced XLRM to unbalanced TRS jack can cause damage on bridge tied outputs such as ECP Audio DSHA3F.
     
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  19. Skyline

    Skyline Double-blindly done with this hobby

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    Wait. Why?

    My 650s are balanced, but I have an XLR to 1/4" adapter so I can use them when I listen to my TT setup or try out gear at a friend's house.

    Is this inferior to having a separate 1/4" cable?
     
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  20. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    Balanced XLRF to unbalanced TRS plug is fine.
    TRS jack to Balanced XLRM is asking for damage.
     
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