Balanced to Single ended pre out?


I am a bit confused and would like some clarification.

I have a separate DAC and Amp that are connected together via XLR that output to XLR balanced headphones.

I want to connect a pair of active speakers via my Amps pre out.

My question is. Do I need to use single ended connections from my DAC to Amp then use the SE pre out or can I just keep the balanced connections and use the SE pre out to my active speakers?

What amplifier and what speakers are you looking to connct?

probably not, but it depends on the amp.
The amp can just drop half the signal for a pre-out because it has a separate common ground, you can’t do that on a 4pin XLR headphone cable because it doesn’t carry ground.
If it’s an expensive amp it might do the conversion from balanced to SE differently/better, but most will output SE from a balanced in.

I am currently using jotunheim Amp and Bitfrost2 DAC and I want to use the pre out on the Jotunheim to a pair of active swan speakers

Is there anything specific that one should look for in the specs of an amp to see if it does what you described?

If it has a balanced in and RCA pre out, and they are active when using the balanced in you should be fine.
You can make a safe adapter from 3Pin XLR to RCA, BUT every commercial cable I have ever seen like this is wired in such a way it will short out the amp. I think @ericg used such an adapter on the balanced out of his Bifrost2, but he had to modify the cable before use.

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I’m not sure I’d need to go that route since the Bitfrost2 and Jotunheim have options for bother balanced and unbalanced. I know I can setup as

Usb -> XLR (Bitfrost2 DAC) -> XLR (Jotunheim Amp) -> balanced headphone


Usb -> SE (DAC) -> SE (Amp) -> RCA (pre out) -> Active speakers

I am not sure why the below wouldn’t work…

Usb -> XLR (DAC) -> XLR (Amp) -> RCA (pre out) -> Active speakers

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The bottom one should work fine, unless the amp prevents it (and it’s trivial to implement for the amp).
Trying it won’t hurt anything.
In fact I’m pretty sure I’ve used an original Jot in a similar configuration (feeding monoblocks) FWIW.

My setup currently:

BF2 > RCA > Bottlehead crack
BF2 > XLR to RCA > SW51+

On the XLR to RCA cable, I had to snip the ground from 1 & 3…

Thank you. I’ll try it out, just wasn’t sure if I’d do any damage.

Any particular reason why you went that route? The BF2 has RCA outputs

It’d be pretty irresponsible of an amp manufacturer to allow you to hurt the amp just by plugging something it’s intended to be connected to into it.

The BF2 manual specifically says not to use an adapter like the on Eric used above, because it can hurt it, because generally those adapters are designed to be used in the opposite direction where the input is RCA, and they need to be modified to be safe the other way around.


He’s needed a second set, so it was either what he did or use a splitter.

Mostly because those cables are meant to feed unbalanced into a balanced input.

The “correct” way from balanced to unbalanced is to use a DI-box (or specifically, a level converter).

Ahh I see that makes sense. Thanks for the help, really appreciate it.

Yeah exactly what Poly said. I wanted to feed another amp w/o using a splitter. :+1:

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