Hegel H80 Balanced vs Unbalanced Inputs


I am looking at some options for getting an outboard DAC for the H80. I think the amp is great but the DAC, using an older TI/Burr-Brown 1754 chip and old school USB input, could use some improvement.

Some of the DACS I am looking at have balanced outputs but I am wondering if this matters much. Seems that some amps show a difference when using balanced inputs, and some don’t.

Does anyone has experience with the balanced inputs (XLR) on the H80 (or Hegel Amps in general) and in comparison with the unbalanced (RCA)?

Based on pics, I would say the Hegel H80 is not balanced internally. That being said, I am going to assume that the balanced inputs would be a benefit because the XLR would (typically) drive both the positive and negative lines on the input circuit (possible an opamp). The input circuit would convert the signal to "single ended" internally inside the Hegel.

That being said, it would really only be truly beneficial if the DAC you chose had real balanced (differential) output circuits. There are DACs that do have an XLR output, but the negative polarity pin is not really generating any signal -- usually it is just shunted to ground, possibly through a resistor.

Thanks for the response. 

I was unsure about the internals of the H80 though their product page does state "The H80 features 5 digital inputs with 24 bit technology, 1 true balanced analog input and 2 unbalanced analog inputs". Does "true balanced" mean that it is balanced internally? Hard to really tell and I can't dig anything else up from the internet other than 1 poster on this site that said that the soundstage really opened up with balanced connections - but the gain is also know to be higher and so hard to say if it was not just louder.

Good point on the DAC outputs - I know that the Schiit Gungir *is* a real balanced design, but one of the other DAC's I am looking at, Gustard X20, might not be. Again, it has twice the gain on the balanced outputs so looks can be deceiving.

We can only assume stuff on the Hegel balanced input. It’s entirely possible that it is using all pins on the XLR. This means that it will use both the positive and negative polarity signals on the XLR, as shown in this op amp example:


However, I highly doubt that the signal is balanced after this. The op amp will convert the balanced (+/-) signal to a single-ended "unbalanced" signal internally. The amplifier part of the Hegel is not going to be fully balanced/differential. It’s difficult to see, but it appears that there are 4 transistors mounted to the amp heatsink. This means it’s only single-ended. The amp will use 2 transistors per channel (one transistor for positive side of waveforms and a second transistor for the negative parts of the waveforms.  There aren't that many amps that are truly balanced internally. They are usually monoblocks, but ATI and Theta have models that use balanced amp cards.


That being said, I have always had superior results using balanced connections, even though the source/preamp device is not truly balanced.

Thanks for the insight. So while they state they are 'true balanced' inputs that only goes as far as the inputs. So I am assuming I would gain *something* by using a truly balanced source. Question is how much and weighing that against other factors.

I am down to two DAC's - Schiit Gungnir Multibit "Gumby" (balanced design) or an Audio-GD DAC-19 10th anniversary (R2R single ended). From what I have read some people feel that Gumby in Balanced out is about equal to the DAC-19 but falls behind when used SE. DAC-19 is $400 cheaper and while very very well built, it isn't as easily upgradeable like the Gumby, nor US based. Decisions, decisions .... 
nquery - FWIW, I'm running a Hegel H200 with XLR connections (AQ Columbia) from a Schitt Gungnir.  I think the sound is sweeter and clearer than it was using RCAs (Morrow Audio MA4s, as I recall).  

Ok thanks! I am guessing that you didn't notice any difference in soundstage. The only other concrete report of XLR/RCA comparisons for Hegels that I have seen said that the soundstage "exploded" with balanced out of his Oppo, even when adjusted for volume gain.
I have asked Hegel to confirm (though they are bad about responding to emails), but based on their separate pre-amps/amps, their design methods across various products, and their use of "true" when describing the balanced inputs ... my best guess is that the pre-amp section of the H80 (and H160) is electronically balanced, but the amp section is obviously not balanced/differential.
n - I'd be lying to you if I said, "absolutely YES" about the soundstage.  BUT along with the greater clarity, both imaging and soundstage depth might well be a little more evident...imaging for certain.  Whatever the contributing factors, musicality took a step forward for me.  I always used to wonder what people meant when they said, "musicality".  What it is to me in this context is a an increased listenability - a greater ease in the presentation.  I ain't going back to single-ended in any case.  If it is just placebo, what's so bad about that?  It's all about what happens between your ears anyway!

Schiit does have a return policy (you will get bit for restocking and return freight)  so you could order, compare XLR and RCA outputs, if you don't hear a difference send it back and get the Audio GD.  Shouldn't matter if the Gungnir is not fully broken in in terms of hearing a difference between SE & balanced (or so I think).  Good luck with your decision.