XLR-RCA: Adapters or Custom Cable?

Greetings all!
I have a new Lavry DAC which will arrive shortly and I need to find a way to go from the balanced outs on the DAC to the unbalanced inputs on my integrated amp. There are of course two ways of doing this, using an XLR to RCA adapter such as the ones that Cardas makes or use a cable that has been built to go from XLR to RCA. In a singular cable this is a fairly rare item and although they exist I would expect that the resale would be difficult. Regardless of that point, I am wondering if I am safe using the adapters or if there will be real sonic benefits to using a single XLR-RCA cable. DIY would be a possibility although I would like to have something at least close to comparable to the Zen Silver Ref II cables that I am using in the rest of my system. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated...
It is always better, theoretically, to avoid adapters. Will you hear a difference? I doubt it but you might.
Yes buy an inordinately expensive cable made to order with the most expensive connectors known . I am sure that AN Japan has some hand carved in platinum with a hand carved tiger eye and bonsai wood cover that costs as much as your house(they only use the timber of those 300 year old mini tress that die naturally from overwatering). Then change your mind about the DAC because it might not be the best you can get and it just sounds like junk to you.
Resell the whole kit and kaboodle as a package -Low Ballers cheerfully ignored. It will sell in one day, on this site, to another very intense audiophile, who means business and takes his equipment seriouusly.
Little uptight there Mechans?
Id call the manufacturers to get their opinion. YOu could do damage. Adapters alway ruin the sound...a custom made cable with RCA on one end and XLR on the other is just a longer adapter.
Tighter than a (fill in the blank) Ass. Oh come on. That joke took a bit of creative effort. "that naturally die from overwatering" that's a killer. Gee what a tough crowd.
Which Lavry Dac do you have, some have SE outputs. Adapters do not "always ruin the sound." That is audiophile paranoia taken to the extreme. How can you make such a statement when you can't test it? If you can't use the DAC without an adapter how can you tell how it sounds without one?

If you are one who will sit and fret the whole time you are listening about what you might be missing by using an adapter then you should get a DAC with SE outputs. Otherwise get one and enjoy!

A balanced DAC has two output signals per channel. If properly designed they are exactly the same except one has inverted polarity. Feeding one of them to an SE input on your preamp will work just fine. You just need the proper adapter. Look at the link below. What do you have to lose? It will be $12 for 2 adapters. You could use one on either end of the cable but I think putting it at the DAC will be more solid and you won't have to buy a balanced cable.


Thanks for the responses(for the most part). The Lavry is a Black DA10 so it only has balanced outputs. Others have reported that the Cardas adapters work well so I may end up going that route. From a technical standpoint, having a single piece of cable would seem to have an advantage but if that advantage isn't really audible then it's of no concequence. That was really what I was trying to find out. At any rate, I'll just have to play around with it and see what works best.
The main thing that you should make sure that you get right is the wiring configuration of the adapter or cable . . . the characteristics of 'balanced' outputs aren't exactly standardized.

If the DAC has a transformer-coupled or "active floating" output, then pin 3 needs to be grounded. If it has an active symmetrical ground-referenced output, then pin 3 shouldn't be grounded, it should be left floating. In either of these cases, ground goes to pin 1 and the unbalanced output positive goes to pin 2 . . .

. . . unless of course if it's wired to European standard (or "pin 3 hot"). Then the above applies, but with pins 2 and 3 reversed.

If you're unsure, it's best to contact the manufacturer of the DAC for their connection recommendation, and make sure that your adapter or cable complies with it.
If resale value is a major concern then you might consider an external transformer based balanced to singe ended converter. The downside is that you'll need two sets of cables.
Good point Kirkus, The Lavry DA10 manual shows how to configure the outputs for SE operation. It does show pin 3 as the non-inverted output. If the adapter I linked to connects pin 2 to the middle pin on the phono jack then you would be stuck with the inverted output but this could be corrected at the speakers by reversing red and black leads. Of course if you go DIY then you can configure things any way you want.
Herman...that's absolutely silly. I have always had a system that was good enough so that adapters always made a difference. YOu can quote numbers all day long...just listen and be enlightened. The real issue is that audiojedi should call the makers of his components with their evaluation. As I said before, damage can be done.
The unit will not be damaged, the manual shows you how to set it up. Even if it didn't there is no way to damage the output of a DAC if it is done properly. Anything can be damaged if you don't.

Your position is the silly one. How can one listen to the difference and be enlightened if the only way to use the DAC in the system is with adapters?

If you have to use adapters, you have the wrong component. I once blew up a Rowland amp with an adapter because of a non=standard ground termination with the xlr, Rowland interface. By all means...try it...
>>If you have to use adapters, you have the wrong component<<

Totally untrue.

Often times, convenience dictates the use of adaptors. I use them in a couple systems here and the components are fine thank you.

Furthermore your previous assertion that "adaptors always ruin the sound" is bogus as well.
It is curious that Lavry would detail how to configure the DAC for SE use if doing so will blow it up. Perhaps a clever plot to generate extra revenue by getting people to blow up their DACs and then not covering it under warranty?

It is also impossible to "blow up" an amp by grounding an input. If it were then using a passive volume control would blow it up everytime you turned the volume to zero because that does ground the input.


Not trying to "toot my own horn" here but there is a set of XLR-RCA cables I built a while ago up for sale right here on Audiogon for a very reasonable price, I believe $95. Do a search for KCI and you'll find them. Hope this helps ya.

Hi Kirkus,

"If the DAC has a transformer-coupled or "active floating" output, then pin 3 needs to be grounded. If it has an active symmetrical ground-referenced output, then pin 3 shouldn't be grounded, it should be left floating. In either of these cases, ground goes to pin 1 and the unbalanced output positive goes to pin 2 . . . "

May I know how does these affect the sound if not "connected" as said?

Many Thanks!
Thanks again for all of the input everyone. I had to think long and hard before buying the Lavry unit which only has balanced outs knowing full well that there's no way that I'm replacing my current integrated which is single ended only. In the end, I really wanted to hear the Lavry so I decided to live with the fact that I would have to go balanced to unbalanced. There were a number of people reporting having used the Cardas adapters with good success but my thought was that using an adapter might degrade the sound. It probably is only a matter of a few percent or splittng hairs, not the end of the world. The fact that you can configure the Lavry unit for pin 2 or pin 3 hot going unbalanced ensures that the unit will not be blowing up unless you configure it incorrectly.

All that being said, I am currently using a female XLR to RCA made from Kimber PBJ which is doing an OK job but as I am using Zen Silver ref II in the rest of my system, it's not quite the same. The plan now is to get a set of Neotech cables custom made in an xlr to rca configuration. The NEI-1002 that I am trying to get uses OCC 7n silver which is at least similar to what is in the Zen cables that I am already using and am quite happy with overall. At any rate, the upcharge for getting balanced ends on the cable was about 1/3rd of what the Cardas adapters are and significantly less than the BAT's so I figured that it was worthwhile to have a single, constant connection. Thanks again...
May I know how does these affect the sound if not "connected" as said?
If you get the pin-2-hot/pin-3-hot connection schemes switched around, then the phase will be reversed . . . refer to all the classic arguments for absolute phase as to whether or not this matters.

If you have a transformer-coupled or "active-floating" output and you don't ground the low-side (usually pin 3), you'll know it . . . you'll get very little sound.

But if you're grounding one side of an "active balanced" (balanced ground-referenced output), everything will still work, but the output driver circuit for the grounded (unused) half will be operating permanently in an overload condition. If it's designed correctly it won't be damaged, but this still isn't good. If feedback for the entire output stage is taken in a balanced, symmetrical fashion, then you may get a very obvious, horrendous clipping. But at the very least, distortion harmonics and half-wave currents from the overloaded half of the output stage are likely to flow through ground traces and bypass capacitors that also serve the side of the circuit that you ARE using, degrading its distortion performance.
..just a reiteration that damage can result from adapters. That doesn't mean it does do damage, just that it CAN do damage. I remember clearly my Rowland 120 lbs. Model 7 having to go back to Rowland because of the non-standard use of XLR with either the amp or the adapter (I don't remember). My post was a word of caution to contact the manufacturer. Any snide and stupid remarks from dealers may be addressed to the local mirror.
Mr Jedi, as I alluded to earlier whoever makes the adapters should be aware that on your unit pin 3 is the non inverted (plus) output. There are jumpers that allow you to internally ground the unused output pin but not to reverse which is plus or minus.

Your builder should use pin 3 to the center pin of the RCA and pin one to the outside ring for ground.