The balanced wire configuration, and really the output/input circuitry that is balanced, avoids problems that single-ended wire tries to minimize by exotic construction and materials. Thus with the balanced configuration the wire itself is less of a factor, and so receives less discussion.
If you want an argument it is balanced vs unbalanced. While balanced is technically superior, and universally used in professional long line applications, it's advantage in the typical home audio system is questionable.
In my case, with 25 ft interconnects, I have used both balanced and unbalanced, and find no difference.
You may want to search AudiogoN's archives.
Yep, I searched the archives. Lots of threads about balanced vs. single ended. I did not see anything concerning difference in quality or sound from one brand to the next. If there is a difference, is it clearly noticable?
You are asking about one of the great debates in audio. In this regard, my thought is that all the same differences in the various brands of single-ended (RCA) cables also apply to the different brands of balanced (XLR) cables.
These differences may stem from anything from different materials, to different geometry, to different "skin" or "dielectric" effect (contributing to potential differences in capacitance, resistance or inductance) to different connectors to . . . yes . . . different hearing acuity and sonic preferences.
With interconnects, I'd have to say that anyone in this day and age who actually claims there is NO sonic difference between any interconnects may not have the hearing or system to differentiate that difference.
Although it may be intially helpful to read about any of our relative opinions on the differences in various cables, due to the huge amount of variables in our audio systems (ranging for example from the room, to the associated gear to the AC power, to our sonic preferences and priorities), in the end, the best method is for you to try and listen to as many different cables as you can and then make up your own mind if a certain cable fits your needs and budget.
I have written extensively here the last several years on my experiences with various XLR cables from Cardas, SilverAudio, Audioquest, Transparent, NBS, Kubala-Sosna, etc. There has been a huge difference with each of these along the way of continued system refinement.
Do a search for any of these brands, as well as Purist Audio and Nordost, and you will get a good idea as to the pros/cons of these cables in the context of varying levels of music systems.
Great responses! Now I know the balanced cables could and probably do matter. However, with such diverse opinions here I have to believe the difference is subtle. Especially to my untrained ears. I am in a major digital front end upgrade phase at the moment. I plan to focus on all cables once my gear is revealing enough for me to really hear the difference ( or not). The folks at Blue Jean really played down the need to spend big bucks on balanced cables. I just wanted to see what the 'Gon community had to say about it. As I get further into this hobby I am finding there are no absolutes. Only what you hear for yourself.....or think you hear. Thanks for your help.
Baffled...Our Guru, Albertporter, has recommended Blue Jeans cables. What more do you need to know?
You say "I have to believe the difference is subtle. Especially to my untrained ears. . . "
Yes and no. Here is the REAL problem so maybe you can get out of this crazy hobby while you still have any savings: The more you get into this hobby and listen both for enjoyment and critically, it is likely the better trained your ears will get - just like someone who just starts drinking coffee or wine or beer and thinks it all tastes the same at first. However, the more they drink (hopefully not ALL at once), the more refined their sense of taste gets and the easier it becomes to differentiate bewteen the various coffees or wines.
So, right now you may think the differences are subtle, but the better your ears get, the easier you will be able to discern and appreciate the differences (then you will be poor).
So get out while you can!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Trust me, the DON'T want to end up wacked out like me!!
My "guru" is my own ears.
I have tried several interconnects and I have found nothing that can touch Silent Audio Apollo A interconnects, under $1000 and more.
I have a very big revealing system.
Drrdiamond..My ears too, but for those who must have affirmation from a guru, Albert is the gold standard.
Short answer- yes. But if you try several and can't hear the difference, you can save a lot of cash.
PS- Power Cables sound different too...Shhhhhh.......Don't tell anybody!
When I first started reading threads here a year ago I thought you guys were a little nuts comparing the sound of a piece of wire and putting out mega bucks for the flavor of the month. I mean.....wire is wire, right? Then came the whole power cord thing. At that point I was CERTAIN you were all as nutty as a squirrel pantry! However, I am starting to be a believer....so what does that make me????
My new components should be in place in the next few weeks. Then I can do some serious cable comparisons. Actually, I have been wanting to get to the bottom line on this cable thing for quite some time. The suspense is killing me!
I'm fairly new at this, so forgive me if my question sounds silly. For the past three months, I've been swapping my balanced ICs back and forth, switching from a Kimber Kable KCAG which tended to be bright and sometimes edgy in my system, to a Monster Cable (which, though warm, lacks in detail and dynamics). Meanwhile, I've been wondering whether to buy another IC altogether.
A dealer who sells Audience cables warned me that many interconnects with XLR terminations aren't truly balanced, but that the Audience Au24s are. I wrote Audience who said that their Au24s and budget-priced Conductors are indeed "balanced" as well, but they cannot do so with their mid-priced Maestro wire, as that is of a different configuration which doesn't allow for balanced connections.
So, I've been looking at various ICs and putting the question to dealers and manufacturers regarding their being "balanced."
My system: Sonus Faber Grand Piano Home speakers, Electrocompaniet ECI 3, Cal Audio Labs CL-15 player, Audience Au24 speaker cables, Kimber Kable KCAG or Monster Cable interconnect, BPT L-10 powercord (amp), Audience PowerChord (CDP), Monument Reference speaker posts, Vibrapods.
Have I been given wrong information? What other balanced ICs should I consider besides Audience Au24, which, for me, is on the expensive side? Balanced Power Technologies IC-SL? Tara Labs RSC Vector? Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval?
Bblilikoi: What I suspect the dealer meant was that many electronic components with XLR connections are not truly balanced. However, it is very easy to determine if ICs with XLR connectors are balanced: verify with a multi-meter that all three pins are one to one from one end to the other and none are shorted to each other.
A friend also wrote that I may have misunderstood what the dealer was saying, though I do know that components with XLR connections may not be fully blananced.
Can you tell me what a multi-meter is and where to get one? This would be a useful check to run.
blilikoi: What I suspect the dealer meant was that many electronic components with XLR connections are not truly balanced. However, it is very easy to determine if ICs with XLR connectors are balanced: verify with a multi-meter that all three pins are one to one from one end to the other and none are shorted to each other.
What the dealer most likely meant is that not all XLR cables have a three-wire configuration. There are some cables on the market (such as the Audience Maestro) that are designed to be used in single-ended configurations. They are made of a single pair of wire - one for hot, one for ground.
In order to be used with XLR connectors, they use one wire for hot, one for negative, and use the wire shield to connect the ground pins.
These cables would, of course, pass a continuity test with a meter; however, using the shield to connect the ground pins is sub-optimal.
Rex, the cable you describe may be sub-optimal, but it allows the complimentary phases to be passed nevertheless, and therefore we have a truly balanced signal. Such a design simply ties the chassis ground to the signal ground....but this ultimately happens in the system anyway.
what is your system? balanced or not, can have different conclusions for different electronics (even if they offer both in terms of connectivity)...for example Ayre really does want balanced
I just compared 2 different XLR interconnects in my system - Acoustic Zen Silver Ref MkII and Audience AU24. They sound very different.
Can you describe the differences?
AU24 is a very good XLR interconnect.
But in comparison to AZ Silver Ref MkII, the AU24 appears to be a little closed in. Highs are a bit rolled off, bass is muddy and it doesn't have the attack and punch of the Silver Ref. Also, soundstage is flatter and kind of 2D with the AU24. Not as wide and not as deep of a soundstage.
I'd say that AU24 XLR compares to AZ Matrix Ref MkII, but the AU24 single-ended cable doesn't even compare to the Zen Matrix Ref II. At least in my system.
Acoustic Zen Silver Ref MkII is very resolving, detailed(but not hyper detailed), more precise imaging and soundstage is wider and deeper. Bass is deeper, tighter and more detailed than the AU24. Midrange is more open. Highs are sweet and detailed.
I have Silver Ref II from cd to pre, Matrix RefII from pre to amp, Satori ShotGun speaker cables.
Another thing....Audience powerChord is amazing. I'd take the powerChord over the AZ Tsunami Plus any day. But as far as the interconnects, just not my cup of tea. Don't get me wrong though, they are very good. It's just that the Silver Ref MkII is better...at least in my system.
Audphile 1 -- It makes sense to me that the AZ Silver Ref MkII would be much better in your system, which uses the AZ speaker cables. I recently experienced a dramatic demonstration of cabling synergy with Analysis Plus cables. Using AP Oval 12 speaker cables in my 2nd system (Sonus Faber Concertinos, PrimaLuna Prologue One amp, Audio Refinement Complete CDP, Shunyata Diamondback power cord on the front end, Atlas Eos power cord on the amp), I auditioned various RCA ICs--Audience Maestros, Atlas Navigators, and AP Copper Oval In and Solo Crystal Oval. While each IC was good, the AP ICs were best. Harmonic saturation, detail, imaging, and air all increased with the AP ICs and was dramatically better with the Solo Crystal Ovals. Playing the Huelgas Ensemble "Le Chant de Virgile," I could hear the bass enunciate and sing so well, it seemed he was in the corner of the room. It was chilling. And it made the point to me regarding synergy in a system among cables of the same make. Now, I'm very eager to try an Audience balanced IC in my main system as I've Audience Au24 speaker cables with an Audience PowerChord on my CDP. I also have Kimber Kable KCAG and an Atlas Navigator All-Cu on hand. We'll see.
Yeah AU24 balanced cables are better than AU24 RCAs. They are different cables altogether. XLRs are dual run in each cable. They cost double of what the AU24 RCAs cost.
Just wanted to mention i just bought a pair of blue jeans balanced and my system sounds a million times better over the rca's I had.