Difference between single-ended and balanced outputs?


#1

Today I took home a preamp (Spectral DCS-30SS) from a local shop as a loaner demo. My current preamp is entirely single-ended (as is my amp), but this loaner has a balanced input, as well as a balanced output. I tried connecting my DirectStream via balanced XLR, but the sound was kind of disappointing and lacking in dynamics. I switched over to the single-ended output and all the punch and dynamics have returned; it sounds as close to plugging the DirectStream directly into my power amp as I’ve ever heard a preamp sound. Is there any explanation for what could be going on here? Today was literally the first time I’d ever used the balanced output of the DS… do I have to break it in separately from the single-ended output?

I should probably mention that I don’t think it’s likely that there’s anything wrong with the balanced input on the Spectral; it was hooked up to a dCS Vivaldi stack in the store before I took it home and it sounded pretty spectacular.


#2

Were you using a balanced cable of similar quality to the unbalanced interconnect and was it broken in? (My experience is that you don’t need quite as good of an balanced cable (all other things being equal) as an unbalanced cable, but there are limits.)

Did you disconnect the unbalanced cable when you connected the balanced?

The DS’s unbalanced output is 1/2 of it’s balanced output. I suspect that the other side of the balanced implementation is as broken in as the side you’ve been using.


#3
Ted Smith said

Were you using a balanced cable of similar quality to the unbalanced interconnect and was it broken in? (My experience is that you don’t need quite as good of an balanced cable (all other things being equal) as an unbalanced cable, but there are limits.)


Yes. Both interconnects were well worn-in Shunyata interconnects of the same grade and length (Viper, I think?)
Did you disconnect the unbalanced cable when you connected the balanced?
Yes

The DS’s unbalanced output is 1/2 of it’s balanced output. I suspect that the other side of the balanced implementation is as broken in as the side you’ve been using.


Hmm. Any ideas, then? For the purposes of demoing the preamp, I’ll just keep it hooked up single-ended. I’ll try the same comparison with the DS and a headphone amp with both SE/balanced inputs later tonight and report back with results.

#4

No good ideas :slight_smile: I don’t think anyone else has reported a worse experience with balanced than single ended. Unlike some systems the DS literally puts the RCA in parallel to two legs of the XLR so there’s no expected difference in quality one to the other (some systems are inherently single ended and have to have extra circuitry to drive a balanced connector or conversely they may be balanced and have extra (or different) circuitry to drive the single ended output.)


#5

Hi Ted, does the NuWave do the same thing with the RCA in parallel with the XLR adn thus no expected difference in quality one to the other?

Or is the XLR inherently superior - design wise - to the single inded connections in this DAC? Or perhaps Paul might know since I believe he was more intimately involved in the design of the NuWave…

I’m split between considering a preamp with either single-ended only or one with XLR’s. I know from watching Paul’s videos that he much prefers balanced to unbalanced, but if I can get away with unbalanced in my setup it would definitely help cost-wise. All of my components are stacked right next to one another with my interconnects being less than 1 meters each, so that might help might cause…


#6

I’m sorry but I didn’t have anything to do with the NuWave. Often for short runs an unbalanced connection is close to or as good as a balanced connection. In many systems the common mode noise is small so there’s not a big advantage with balanced. I just keep a set of extra cables lying around and I listen to a few different cables anytime I put something new in the system.


#7

Thanks, Ted. That’s what I’ve “heard” too, and that path would be easier to go in my current set up. Thanks again for the help with connecting my NuWave, Node 2, and preamp.