Single Ended vs Balanced output with SE converter

My Ayre CX7e-MP CD player has both SE and balanced outputs. My preamp is only single ended. I've been using the SE outs on the CD player, but recently looked and saw that the balanced output has a higher output voltage, so should push a stronger signal and have lower S/N, I would think.

But will a balanced-SE converter for the RCA cables cause a degredation in sound? It is basically a wash or should I expect an improvement? And of what type (better dynamics, blacker backgrounds)?

Which converter would you recommend?

The balanced output spec of 4.5 volts maximum most likely reflects the voltage DIFFERENCE between the inverted and non-inverted signals in the balanced signal pair. Each of those signals is probably no different in amplitude than the single-ended output, spec'd at 2.25 volts maximum.

If you are envisioning the possibility of using a simple mechanical XLR-to-RCA adapter you would be using only one of those 2.25 volt signals. And any such adapter will essentially negate the benefits that a balanced output may provide.

Also, most simple XLR-to-RCA adapters, while routing the non-inverted signal on XLR pin 2 to the RCA center conductor, short the inverted signal on XLR pin 3 to ground (pin 1). Some output stages have been known to be unhappy with that; see this thread for example. I understand, though, that Cardas adapters do not do that.

A better way of adapting XLR outputs to RCA inputs is with a Jensen transformer/audio isolator. See this paper. I wouldn't want to predict, though, whether or not investing in one of their devices (which generally cost a bit more than $200) would provide a benefit compared to your present single-ended connection.

If you are interested in pursuing their devices further, model PI-2XR, similar to PI-2XX shown near the bottom of this page except with RCA output connectors, would probably be a suitable choice. As indicated in its manual, it would be used with a very short RCA cable at its output, and an XLR cable at its input that is as long as necessary.

-- Al
Bob, I don't think you will hear an improvement.
If both the cdp and preamp are not truly balanced there will be no benefit.
I'd stay with the RCA interconnect until both components are truly balanced.
If I recall in the Stereophile review of this and other Ayre players they claim a SIGNIFICANT sound quality difference between the SE and balanced outputs (balanced being better) BUT you would need to have a true balanced preamp/integrated amp to hear the difference (as per Lak's post).

Again this is per a review not any direct experience and would require you to purchase a different preamp.