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Thread: What is the point of unbalanced outputs?

  1. #1

    What is the point of unbalanced outputs?

    ....apart from acting as an arbitrary inconvenience for people who buy cheaper equipment

    is there a logical reason why all equipment does not use balanced cabling such as TRS Jacks and XLRs?
    The unbalanced RCA's seem to provide no benefit that I can see
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  2. #2
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    Size, Space. They could use baby TRS... but they're newer and would change a system already well established. There's nothing wrong with good quality RCA connections, apart from when used to extremes or there's another issue with the electrics and your set up, in the building.

    It's not a case of it providing benefit, it's the standard connection. Balanced adds a feature to fix a potential issue (like adding lead to petrol). For small cable runs, CD deck to a mixer for example, it would be overkill and a waste of material.
    Last edited by mitchiemasha; 10-06-2019 at 11:11 AM.

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    Many of the DJs I now work with were used to connecting their mixer/controllers to the PA system via XLR outputs, some would go directly to a pair of mic inputs and some used DIs in between and both of these methods are wrong in the case of direct connection and unnecessarily complicated with DIs. When connecting a mixer or controller to another mixer that is only a few feet away there is no need or benefit to using balanced connections, if the connection is much further then yes balanced connections are warranted and if the 2 devices end up on different electrical outlets then a ground loop isolator is often needed(Art DTI). But when both devices are on the same table an unbalanced line level connection is all that is needed, there is no sonic advantage to using XLR or a disadantage to using RCA. An XLR main output is typically capable of much higher voltages than an unbalanced connection, and these high signal levels will easily overdrive a mic input... hence the need to use a DI to knock down the signal level again when using that method. So yeah RCAs are still useful... I use them every week at the events I do.
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  4. #4
    Moderator pete's Avatar
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    For home use RCA is used by most hifi amps.
    Also the runs are smaller so XLR would be overkill. Hifi quality XLR cabling would be very expensive.
    So for listening purposes RCA connects easier and generally gives better quality sound.
    Good sounding hifi is a lot cheaper than good sounding studio stuff.
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    Member Daniel S's Avatar
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    The biggest reason is cost. A balanced circuit uses twice the amount of components, hence it's more expensive, so in cheap equipment, that's a plus.
    Also, some argue that an unbalanced Circuit sounds betters, since there's fewer components to screw up the sound.

  6. #6
    Deez Beats! KLH's Avatar
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    RCAs are cheap and do the intended job.

    I've always wondered why the industry doesn't standardize on digital connections at this point. Using SPdif, HDMI, USB, or even Ethernet would be such an upgrade.

    The answer is probably because RCAs are cheap and get the job done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KLH View Post
    RCAs are cheap and do the intended job.

    I've always wondered why the industry doesn't standardize on digital connections at this point. Using SPdif, HDMI, USB, or even Ethernet would be such an upgrade.

    The answer is probably because RCAs are cheap and get the job done.

    Sent from my SHT-W09 using Tapatalk
    To achieve that you would be adding and a/d and a d/a conversion to your routing. You stand to lose fidelity and add latency with each conversion, as well as the potential for something to fail.

  8. #8
    Most DJs at a club who come in with a controller are plugging their controllers straight into the clubs DJ mixer, and that mixer almost always has RCA line inputs, so to have anything else won't help you. Older club mixers did have TRS line inputs, I have an old Soundcraft D-Mix 500 that does.. also the Xone 62/92 does... but mostly, you can count on having RCA. And that's usually fine. Sure I'd rather have balanced all the time.. less chance of a problem.. but for short range connections from a controller to a DJ mixer, it usually make no difference at all. As people pointed out already, proper balanced outputs are more complex, more expensive and use more power. For a USB powered controller you are probably better off with RCA. The main reason to have XLR/TRS on a controller is if you are a mobile DJ and you want to be able to go straight into your amp rack or powered speakers.


    As far as digital connections, Pioneer does have that and I use it from the decks to the mixer.. it eliminates two unnecessary digital-analog conversions, which is good. If the input to my rack supported digital input I'd go digital from the mixer to the processing.. but right now I go analog there... If you're made of money and/or do sound systems for huge festivals.. you may have the Pioneer DJM-TOUR1 mixer, in which case you've got an AES/EBU digital output on the mixer.. which is designed to go much longer distances.. in fact it uses a balanced signal on an XLR connector.. but totally digital. And from there you go to your console, which if you are playing in those leagues, is also digital.. and at some point you might end up in the analog realm.. but if you have your heart set on a full digital signal path you can have that right from the CDJ all the way through to the amps.
    Last edited by light-o-matic; 10-06-2019 at 10:48 PM.

  9. #9
    Deez Beats! KLH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Beep View Post
    To achieve that you would be adding and a/d and a d/a conversion to your routing. You stand to lose fidelity and add latency with each conversion, as well as the potential for something to fail.
    Only if you're using an analog sound source (like a turntable) and practically speaking, using one A->D step isn't even going to be noticed. If there were more, I'd agree, but so long as everything is in the digital domain, the sound quality is pretty pristine at this point.

    Quote Originally Posted by light-o-matic View Post
    As far as digital connections, Pioneer does have that and I use it from the decks to the mixer.. it eliminates two unnecessary digital-analog conversions, which is good.
    Amen.

    I come from the production world where I was in the digital domain ASAP. It was disconcerting to go back to the lowly analog RCAs. Now, who cares? Use high-quality sources, keep cables clean, and gain-stage. It's not rocket science.
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