Newbie: unbalanced versus XLR on DAC

I have an Arcam rDAC that I'd like to hook up to some monoblock amps and Thiel PCS speakers.

I know the consensus is that XLR > unbalanced inputs, but is the difference so great that I should go out and get a new DAC? Or all other things being equal is balanced okay?

(And consensus is also that long interconnects and short speaker cable runs is better than the other way round, right?)

Thanks very much!

there is no consensus


never has been


never will be

I would not get a new DAC just to be able to run balanced interconnects unless I had a very long run; like maybe 20' or more, UNLESS my amp was designed specifically to run balanced.
Balanced connections are usually twice the power being passed, besides the other considerations.
IF you already have enough gain, you really do not need twice as much gain balanced provides.
This is one aspect of balanced few pay any attention to, but should!
I have pretty much abandoned balanced because the extra gain is just a waste of time. And the unbalanced often sounds better anyway. Unless the product is a true balanced design, the balanced out is accomplished by a cheap op amp. and then it is usually wasted anyway because most amps are not really fully balanced.
It is a 'marketing tool' in the worst sense.
IF you have true, fully balanced multi tens of thousands of dollar stuff, then yeah use the balanced is a no brainer, if not, forget it.
(it is very much like 'biamping' plenty of catchphrase and cachet, but little substance for most uses.)
Balanced generally has a lower noise floor.
The rDAC looks like a neat unit that has elements from some very high-shelf designers (dCS and Wolfram). Arcam also has years of experience producing top source gear without balanced outputs.

Suggest you might want to

- Use USB (with length of 8 feet or less - and forget using any wireless) to take full advantage of Asynchronous mode.

- Experiment with feeding it battery power, to replace its stock, inexpensive, switched power source.

Let us know how it works out for you.
Great answers by Herman and Elizabeth.There`s much hype and theory, but unless you have to run very long IC cables, some of the very best sounding systems do just fine with un balanced components and IC cable. Now when it comes to Balanced AC power, that`s a different story you`ll certainly hear a difference for the better.
Charles1dad brings up an interesting point i would like to expand on.
(since i own four balanced output powerline conditioners)
What is meant by "balanced A/C power" is that the usual power (in America) is 120 volts (or so) coming from the wall in the form of one wire/side is 120volts, and the other wire/side is neutral, or 0volts.
If you have played with electricitty, you know the 120Volt side can produce 120volts via the ground wire, just as well as the 'neutral' wire'. The neutral cannot do anything without the 'hot' 120volt wire.

Well balanced A/C changes that to being 60 volts on the hot side, and another 60 volts on the neutral side, so the neutral is also hot now.
This is called 'balanced power' or also 'technical power' And is ILLEGAL inside residential walls in the USA, and only allowed with special signage in commecial properties.

Many audiophile power conditioners convert the standard 120v/0v A/C to balanced 60V/60V power.
Nearly every audio product made will function just as well on balanced power as regular power, and many sound better with balanced power.
Any TT motor, preamp, tube devices, amp CD players. My entire system is run on balanced power.
Even if you don't want a power conditioner, various transformer based products create balanced power with no other cnditioning. (One I know of, but do not own, is the Goertz balanced transformer. (from $250 or so up to $450 or so)
Anyway, a different kind of 'balanced' worth investigating IMO.
"Anyway, a different kind of 'balanced' worth investigating IMO."
Good point, but remember that the stock rDAC under discussion uses a 6V DC feed from a very cheap external switching transformer.
In this case, a battery or other non-switching DC feed might be worth trying first.