Balanced AMP set up with Cobalt DAC

Hello all, I am new to the headphone scene but in the last 3 months I have speant countless hours learning and watch Z in his office reviewing headphones, Amps and DACs.

I am currently using a Hifiman Sundara but I am not loving it and the open back doesn’t work for me in a house with my wife stuck together in quarantine.

Sound wise they may be better than my current set up allows for, I currently use an iPhone with a AudioQuest Cobalt AMp/DAC so I decided to try an Amp from Cavalli Carbon x and here is where my novice knowledge is killing me and I never see this question answered.

How do I go from my Cobalt that works as a preamp 3.5mm to balanced XLR on the Cavalli Amp, I see 3 options:

  1. An XLR to 3.5 adapter: I think this would only get me left or right sound not both.

  2. An XLR dual connecter splitter to 3.5: I’m afraid this could cause damage or cause a mono signal.

  3. A XLR balancer that takes the Cobalt as a source and balances the signal to the left and right XLR of the Cavalli.

I am trying to not buy another DAC for now that would probably fix the issue, I spent a lot on the Cobalt and I like to use it as my main amp on for my Starfields my nightstand and while traveling.


With the Cobalt being a single ended output, you really don’t gain anything from splitting to balanced input on the Cavalli. Outputting from the Cobalt using a 3.5mm TRS to RCA adapter should yield the same results.

Thank for the help, I am still a bit confused I found the balancer that takes unbalanced inputs and balances them, are you saying that will be a waste since the source is not balanced?

The Cavalli has more watts when balanced so I hope this at least gives my Sundaras more power.–art-cleanboxpro-2-channel-balanced-unbalanced-level-converter

You would still be able to use the balanced headphone output to take advantage of the higher power and sound quality. The biggest difference in using balanced input is higher input voltage and typically lower crosstalk numbers. IIRC, the Cavalli is not balanced end to end anyway, so whether you use the balanced or single ended input won’t likely make much of a difference on what you get from either the balanced or single ended headphone out.