A couple of comments. Despite having heard of shorting the balanced connectors, I wouldn't do it as they are usually active along with the rca connectors at the same time; i.e., they are always both on. The other is that it's really surprising to me why a rather new amp needed >1500 in repairs. What does ead say about the buzz? From what you say, it appears that the balanced mode is extremely effective in your setup in terms of it's ability to eliminate noise. Why not just use all balanced connections?
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