I'm pretty sure the components you list are not balanced. If that's the case, you probably wouldn't hear any difference.
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I could type up a long winded response, but i'd recommend jumping onto this webpage which includes illustrations. The information was posted by a high end audio engineer with 25+yrs experience & is easy to read. Re: cable recommendations, I can't help you there as I play at a different level. Though i'm sure other members will chime in. Hope that helps. Cheers.
See the discussion of this question here.
Regarding selection of a modestly priced balanced cable, I suggest that you consider Mogami Gold Studio. I and a number of other A'gon members have obtained excellent results with it, and it is the de facto cable of choice for the majority of studio and other professional applications.
When the tool is really build ballanced inside there is a easily difference to be heard.I would suggest that the same could be said for RCA electronics... whatever that tool/component is...
Perhaps Audioquest RCA ICs could be better, especially for the prices being suggested... whatever those prices may be...
When the tool is really build ballanced inside there is a easily difference to be heard.
For me it depends on the RCA or XLR electronics and the quality of the RCA or XLR ICs not whether it is RCA or XLR... that's how I hear it :)
Unfortunately, XLR electronics remove 2nd order harmonics as part of the XLR noise filtering/cancelling process, which our ears like, but leaves the 3rd order harmonics in place including the noise, which our ears do not like... :)
"Perhaps Audioquest RCA ICs could be better, especially for the prices being suggested... whatever those prices may be..."
That's a little vague. How would you suggest they improve? And adjust their prices?
One thing that Bo didn't mention about AQ RCA IC's is that they are still balanced cables internally. All of AQ's IC's have 3 separate solid core conductors (unless they made recent changes that I'm not aware of). Most likely, that's why the price is the same for RCA and XLR. Also, AQ is very good about re-terminating. At any time, you can send them your RCA terminated IC's and they will change them to XLR's for you. It's been a while since I did this, but the price was not too bad. Now, if we could only get them to fix their power cords.
Next year they will come with all new powercords. I told them that they are not good enough. When you compare them with others they are still fine. But like I always say; audio is all about those products which are most convincing. Then there are better.
When a cable is sold in rca, the 3th is not used I guess.
I use tools for their properties. I compare many cables and I work with those who give the best results. With AQ I can compete very easily against many others. I judge audio on what I call Total sound. For cables the same thing. Read this when you want to know how I describe Total Sound.
When I bring in cables I explain all parts to my clients. You compare all the different cables he wants to test.
Often you win a shootout. why?
- more details against competitors
- more speed
- better control
- better blacks
- sharper individual focus
- more layers in the mid freq.
And that is why the best and most convincing tool always wins in audio.
These days I use 2 sets of the new Wel Signature xlr. I tested and owned many expensive cables in over 16 years of time. I never auditioned one with this precision. Voices are more open than with any highend copper interconnect. The level of physical apperance is the best I heard sofar. The same thing about differences in height. Music you thought you knew well is presented totally different. Much more exiting and involving. Next week I will recieve my Pass labs X350.5. I will write a review about these interconnects soon.
When you are aware of the properties of each single part in your system you understand better what you will get. Ayre has his own sound. This openness in the mid en high freq. is a lot different than others. I think the silver can cause a harsness in mid and high freq. The thing what it makes unique in my set is that is gives a stunning level ( new level) of differences in height. Beside this I never auditioned any expensive highend cable with this level of physical apperance.
Copper is more forgiving in sound than silver. But the best silver cables can reveal a lot more details than the most expensive coppercables. When you compare the MIT Oracle cabels with the Audioquest We Signiture in a well balanced highend set you will hear how huge the difference is in resolution, speed, blacklevel and physical and intimate image. It is a totally different world!
When you are aware of the properties of each single part in your system you understand better what you will get. Ayre has his own sound. This openness in the mid en high freq. is a lot different than others. I think the silver can cause a harsness in mid and high freq. The thing what it makes unique in my set is that is gives a stunning level ( new level) of differences in height. Beside this I never auditioned any expensive highend cable with this level of physical apperance."
He's right. I have an Ayre/Vandersteen system with AQ cables. I find that all silver doesn't always sound better. I use both copper and silver.
Audio is about understanding all the different properties a tool owns. That is why I test all the time. After this I know all the properties of the cable. After this I can use it a lot more easy. When you work this way you always will get a much higher endresult than they the way almost all people work and think.
When you use an create all parts in your set ( total sound) which need to be there it gets to a much higher level. Often I need to put in parts which are missing are parts which go wrong in a set. Even at shows I seldom audition a set which is complete and owns all parts of what I call Total Sound. In 10 seconds I can describe exactley which parts are there and which are missing!
For me it depends on the RCA or XLR electronics and the quality of the RCA or XLR ICs not whether it is RCA or XLR... that's how I hear it :)
If the Hot and Cold XLR electronics is not well matched then the noise filtering/cancelling process can be even stronger where even more 2nd, and even 3rd, order harmonics are removed. I guess that will provide a smoother, maybe warmer, sound :)
11-27-14: Bo1972Really? If I lived in your area I would be more than happy bring along my Jorma Statement speakers cables to a-b compare to any silver speaker cables you care to throw at them.
Bol, I think you would be impressed by the Jorma cables. I have owned Origo, Prime & now Statement. Going from Origo to Prime was a big step up in sound, but I think the biggest jump was moving up to the Statement sc's. Straight out of the box the resolution was amazing & in terms of the sound stage, a whole vista opened up.
So if you had a 100 dollars what xlr cable would you guys buy"
I would try to find a good pair of used AQ. I can't see you going wrong. They sound good with just about anything. If not, I would try a pair of Morrow cables. Never heard them before, but so many people rave about them, I'm curious. They're not expensive so the risk is very low.
Hi Thirsty93, At the caliber of componet's you are useing, Balanced cables will not do anything for your sound, Yping has explained everything very well and accurate, however, In this hobby, it cost thousand's of dollars to have a componet that is truly balanced from input to output, some componet companys claim they are, they are not, so be aware of that as well,, The one thing Yping did not cover is the fact that a true balanced componet will reveal better sound quality with just one-meter interconnects vs RCA-single ended, the noise floor is dropped, now this also has alot to do with the type and brand of cables being used, you can have a truly balanced componet, but if your cable is inferrior, you will not hear the difference, an example of what I am saying is that I have a modded Krell 700cx with balanced Tara Labs Zero Gold interconnects, I have a/b with RCA Tara Cables, with this true balanced amp, The Full power balanced 700cx, the listening exsperience is not subtle between XLr and RCA cables, I hope this helps, but if I were you, with what you have for everything, I would not be concerned at all, there will be no difference.
This comment is not directed at anyone in particular. But I find it interesting that in another current thread, as well as in similar past threads, a number of members, including some who are particularly experienced and well respected here, strongly assert that just changing the direction of a symmetrically designed cable (i.e., one that does not have its shield grounded at just one end) will perceivably affect the sound. Yet at the same time many knowledgeable and experienced audiophiles insist that if the components being connected are not internally balanced it will make no difference whether they are connected via their balanced or unbalanced interfaces. This despite the facts that regardless of whether or not the components are internally balanced changing from RCA to XLR interconnections will:
1)Change the circuit configuration that is being used to drive the cable.
2)Change the circuit configuration that is being used to receive the signal from the cable.
3)In many cases change the paths and the impedance through which the circuit grounds of the two components are interconnected.
4)In most cases change the cable type.
5)Change the connector type.
6)Reduce susceptibility to ground loop issues, which may affect high frequency noise and background blackness as well as susceptibility to hum.
7)In many cases reduce sensitivity to cable differences, depending on the output impedance and drive capability of the component driving the cable.
8)Reduce susceptibility to noise pickup in the cable, that perhaps being the most often mentioned but the least significant difference between the two interfaces, in most home applications.
Personally, while I am a skeptic when it comes to cable directionality (assuming the cable is symmetrically designed), I wouldn't be surprised if several of the foregoing factors were to result in audible differences in just about any decent quality system at pretty much any price point, regardless of whether the components are internally balanced or not. Which is not to say, however, that an XLR interconnection will necessarily be either "better" or preferable compared to an RCA interconnection. As I said in the link I provided in my post dated 11-23-14, "if the components provide both choices, and are not fully balanced, the only way to determine which interface will perform best in your particular setup is probably to try both of them."
I am going to give you as complete an answer as I can as I am a huge fan of Balanced ( XLR ) connections from one piece of audio equipment to another.
But although the real answer is simple ( it is just a better way to get a signal from one piece of equipment to another ) most people like you are seeking a much more complex answer. Please forgive me if a couple of my facts are not 100% correct. I am going to do this from memory without looking up any of the facts.
I think it is best to begin with why RCA connections and Single Ended Cables are not the best way to go.
Originally the signal from one source component to another was run on a simple twisted pair of wire. This is a good solution as the outgoing and the return signal path is rather symmetrical but had one huge flaw ( especially when used with high voltage tube amplifiers ), it was subject to HUM. So eventually it was found that most of the HUM could be eliminated by SHIELDING the WIRES with a ground shield. Over time the twisted pair inside the ground shield ( now again very popular and known as the SHOTGUN TECHNIQUE ) got replaced by a single inner wire as that was most manufactures thought was all that was needed to make the connection. One outgoing thin center wire and a return GROUNDED SHIELD WIRE, and this is true. However this wire set up, although it works well is asymmetrical. The inner wire is thin and has a relatively high impedance and the outer shield is broad and usually has a lower impedance. Also ALL WIRE has a certain electrical characteristic and can be always modeled by an LRC circuit. Because the connection is an asymmetrical one, and because each wire is different ( different LRC Model values ) each wire can potentially sound different. Thus you have claims ( some of which are true ) that my wire sounds better than yours. Exotic wires sound better ( possibly ). Or no wire is perfect ( likely ). And your choice of wire may influence the overall sound of your system ( probably true as well ).
The RESURGENCE of an inner twisted pair inside the outer ground shield ( with the outer ground shield only connected at the source end - SHOTGUN directional wires ) gets us a little closer to a more perfect symmetrical connection and goes a long way to reduce wire differences and starts to get us back to some of the advantages of the true symmetrical balanced set up, but is still not as good as a true BALANCED CONNECTION using XLR connectors.
I hope I have gone into enough detail to explain why RCA single ended cables came about and how they evolved into first very inferior products, and how they are now beginning to de-evolve into better ( abet still imperfect ) interconnects.
Now onto Balanced connections:
To start with many TRANSDUCERS like a phono cartridge ( and GUITAR pickups ) for example are BALANCED DEVICES. That is that under natural circumstances both sides of the transducer FLOATS and NEITHER SIDE is CONNECTED TO GROUND.
Grounding one side, by random, makes for easier interconnections but spoils the BALANCED SYMMETRICAL NATURE of the device.
You are taking a perfect BALANCED DEVICE and forcing it to operate in unbalanced single ended mode.
Talking about strictly BALANCED DEVICES they have many advantages over single ended unbalanced devices.
First they produce equal output on both the POSITIVE and NEGATIVE leads. Thus if one runs BALANCED CABLES from a BALANCED DEVICE one has less distortion as all the COMMON MODES are taken into account.
For instance COMMON MODE REJECTION RATIO is improved.
Any distortion products that are COMMON to both sides are balanced out.
What comes out the end of a BALANCED WIRE is just the difference between the signal at the ENDS of the wires.
Nothing else matters.
What the wire is made of no longer matters as long as the wire is made properly in a symmetrical manner.
I also believe Signal Loss is LESS and SIGNAL AMPLITUDE is higher ( some of this is a little less clear to me than I would like ) and thus overall Signal to Noise Ratio is also IMPROVED.
Finally since the only thing that comes out as signal is the difference between the two wires at the end of a balanced connection as long as the cable is made as symmetrical as possible what the cable is made of no longer matters.
Thus I regress, no matter what the cable is made of, even if it made of cheap non oxygen free wire, as long as both the POSITIVE wire and the NEGATIVE wire are made of the same substance and as long as the wire is designed in a completely symmetrical manner, the sound will be exactly the same as a cable made of more exotic wire, as all the common modes cancel each other out, leaving only the differences in electricity at the ends of the output of the cable as the only thing that matters. So what goes in one end ( the beginning ) is the exact same as what comes out the other end ( the output end ). Thus I would like to expose that all well designed BALANCED CABLES sound the same as long as they are made properly.
Some people have also pointed out the balanced XLR connectors are symmetrical ( another advantage over asymmetrical RCA connectors ) and in general are better made and more secure connection than most RCA connectors, and this is also largely true.
So in summary ( in general all other things being equal ):
Balanced interconnects are always the way to go if you have the option.
Balanced interconnects need not be made of exotic wire or cable as long as they are made properly and are of symmetrical design ( this can save you a lot of money ).
They give you higher fidelity, lower distortion and better signal to noise ratio, and also a more secure connection.
RCA ( single ended ) cables should only be used when there is no alternative
When you have to use RCA single ended cables they should be made using the proper shotgun design ( an inner twisted pair with an outer ground shield connected at only the source end ),
You also might find that different single ended cables sound different in your system and might have to try a few or even many different cables to find a set that complement your system perfectly ( and the only way to really do this is trial and error ) and if you change just one thing in your system ( even just the position of the speakers in your room ) you might have to adjust your choice of single ended cables accordingly.
Not so with Balanced Cables which theoretically if made properly will all sound the same.
Michael A. Marks, MD
Thoughtful and knowledgeable post by Dr. Marks; thanks!
I concur with most of it, but I would differ somewhat on a couple of key points:
1)Here is one example of how properly designed balanced cables can sound different: A balanced cable will have some amount of capacitance, both between the two signal conductors and between each signal conductor and the shield. If the cable is driven by a component having high output impedance at high frequencies, and if the combination of the length of the cable and its capacitance per unit length results in a relatively high overall capacitance, both of the signals in the balanced signal pair will be rolled off to at least a slight degree in the upper treble region. That will reduce the voltage difference between those signals at high frequencies, relative to what that difference would have been at lower frequencies, resulting in a corresponding rolloff at the output of the differential receiver circuit. The amount of rolloff will vary as a function of the capacitance per unit length of the particular cable.
In this post dated 3-22-13 Ralph Karsten of Atmasphere has described the circumstances under which, in his opinion (and mine), a balanced interface will result in elimination of sensitivity to cable differences. His post also provides what I consider to be a compelling proof of his contention. Also see his post in that thread dated 3-28-13, in which he responded to some questions I raised about his initial post.
2)Regarding "balanced interconnects are always the way to go if you have the option," my perception has been that there is a compelling body of anecdotal evidence supporting the notion that in many component designs, especially many of those that do not have "fully balanced" internal signal paths, the quality of balanced driver and receiver circuits that may be provided is often inferior to the quality of the unbalanced interfaces that are provided. With the anecdotal evidence suggesting that that difference will in many cases overshadow the potential advantages of balanced connection.