Mixing balanced and unbalanced inputs/outputs on Ayre preamp - amateur question!


Hello,

I have been enjoying my system for a few years but I am now in the position to start upgrading. I have a pretty basic question that I can't seem to find a good answer to. I am looking to upgrade my preamp to an Ayre K-5xeMP that accepts both balanced and unbalanced inputs/outputs. I will also be upgrading my DAC and it will likely also have balanced output as an option. I will also be adding a phono preamp (currently integrated with my pre) that will be unbalanced. My amp is an old Mcintosh MC2125 that is unbalanced. I would prefer to not upgrade the amp for a while.

Could I run both balanced and unbalanced inputs into the Ayre followed by unbalanced output to the Mcintosh? Or does the entire system either have to be balanced or unbalanced? I understand I may not be getting the best quality by mixing, but if I can mix the inputs/outputs it allows me to slowly upgrade all components to ones that accept balanced connections.

How my system may look in the near future
DAC balanced output -> Ayre balanced input -> Ayre unbalanced output -> Mcintosh
Phono preamp unbalanced output -> Ayre unbalanced input -> Ayre unbalanced output -> Mcintosh

Is this possible? Or is it all balanced or all unbalanced or it may cause some damage to the preamp? Of course eventually I hope to upgrade the amp and phono section, but I can't do it all at once.

Thank you for the help! I know this may be a silly question, but it's my first experience with balanced connections.
blefevre
Whether a particular input is better than another is equipment dependent.

But yes, you can mix/match input types and output types.

Usually people like to use balanced for their most important DAC, and then run RCAs for everything else.
For instance, I usu balanced inputs for my DAC, RCA for my DVD player (movies only) and out everything via balanced.

That seems to be enough for most people.
Since the Ayre has both connections its no worries.
Some tips:
The Ayre converts all single-ended sources to balanced due to its differential operation. So no worries on the input side.
All phono cartridges are balanced sources FWIW; the tone arm connection is where things go single-ended. Usually you can just replace the tone arm interconnect to restore balanced operation.
The advantage of balanced operation is not only longer cable can by used, but whatever cable used will have less artifact. For example in the phono you don't have to have an expensive cable for it to sound right, just one that is properly built.
Balanced operation is also a way of preventing ground loop hum. 
Thank you everyone for the responses. I appreciate the help. I definitely want to go full balanced eventually, but in the meantime I will have to have mixed input/output.
I dont know about how the circuits of the Ayre sound but my bryston sp2 connected to a classe cav150 sounds better unbalanced than balanced.  Remember, internally, all throughput is unbalanced.  The balancing and unbalancing happens at the input and the output of the line level connections.  In short runs theres no benefit unless the transformer or balancing circuit affects the sound in a positive way.  In longer runs balancing becomes a big advantage.  Source: current pro audio engineer with an EE degree, former professor in music technology.