Can Someone Explain Balanced to me?

Trying to understand this, and what the benefits are.

Depending on implementation it is typically more power, less distortion, and maybe a more robust connector. For iems a 4.4mm pentacon connector is bigger than a standard 3.5 or the prev. standard 2.5mm balanced connector. For sound characteristics it depends as well. You may notice a wider image to the sound as well since there may be more separation between channels as well, but that is controversial. Hope that helps with the basics, I’ll leave it up the the restout there.

Balanced cables basically run the same audio signal twice in reversed polarity as a noise cancelation technique. It can be super helpful for longer cable runs and for environments where there is a lot of electro magnetic interference that can get into the signal path. That’s why recording studios are going to use balanced cables exclusively. For home audio playback it’s not really necessary.

It depends on whether we’re talking about speakers or headphones. In the case of headphones, here’s an informative read:

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Ok I think I get it…thanks for the responses.

First and second diagram here explain the basics of what “balanced” is about on headphones:

The primary benefit is lower crosstalk because the common ground connection between the channels is removed. Will you hear the difference? Depends what system you’re coming from - a well-designed single-ended system will already give you lower crosstalk than is possible to hear (below -50/-60 dBr), so there should be nothing extra to hear when “going balanced”. I think only generic phones and computers still have crosstalk so high that you can hear restricted stereo separation because of it. Any decent external headphone amp should have no such problems.

Distortion is also not a clear benefit - sometimes it’s higher, sometimes it’s lower. Same story with noise - since you’re using more opamps instead of fewer, there’s no clear argument that “balanced” amps always have lower noise.

It has nothing to do with balanced lines and traditional balanced interconnects for long runs of cable in live/stage setups - your headphone cable is not long enough to suffer from EM noise in the audible band, so that kind of balanced connection would do nothing for you. As someone else noted, the headphone “balanced” connection does not actually balance any currents, so it’s a strictly wrong name for it, but it’s the name that stuck, and that’s what everyone calls it now. Technically it should be called dual-ground or differential drive or whatever, something to highlight that the channels have separate ground lines and (most often) are driven with a differential amp configuration.

Also it has nothing to do with higher power in the absolute sense - a single-ended amp that costs the same can give you the same max. power as a “balanced” amp. It’s just marketing when they say “double the power” - they mean relative to the same device’s SE output, not to other devices that cost the same. The only admendment to that is that these differential amps can give you more power than an SE amp if running from (and maxing out) the same power supply. So this might be relevant mostly in battery-powered devices, where you might get more power from something with the same battery size (but I haven’t seen any impressive examples of this so far).


Really the only solid case for switching to a “balanced” headphone amp and cable - beyond the “specs look better” argument, which can just as easily point you to an SE amp - is if you have such low-impedance headphones that the crosstalk remains disturbingly high no matter what high-quality 4-wire SE cable you get. (The SE cable voltage-divider crosstalk problem is outlined here: Cables: Do they make a difference, and if so, what do you like?)

So for something like a Verum 1 (8-ohm drivers) or in general for headphones with driver impedance of 16-ohm-or-lower, I can see the point of “going balanced”, because the circuit math shows the crosstalk might indeed never be satisfactory with any SE cable.

Thank you for this link, so much interesting information to be read on that site.

as a little side step… aint 6moons like the page where there are advertises and links to “god tier audio gear”?
RCA tuning tubes and little glittered wooden figures, moon dust and cold moonlight powered tubes and the rest of godly tier window attachment gizmo dismo stuff…
i’ll just bypass all of that thx.

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Oh yeah, you can already see that in the article I linked, if you keep reading below the diagrams to where they start trying to sell you various BS. :laughing: But I just thought those 2 diagrams of SE and “balanced” are the best-looking ones I’ve seen to date. Their link to the original article they got them from was broken, so I thought the original was gone. Fortunately it’s not, and I just found it now with a separate search - going back to put the right link in the post.

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