Long balanced interconnects vs. buying a second set?

Hi!

I’m in the process of renovating an old house. So far I’ve reserved some space for all the hifi gear from the basement, which is conveniently just below the living room on the 1st floor; I will be able to just run some 5 m speaker cables there, and have all the 19” stuff hidden.

Now I’ve faced a dilemma. My office space, with my headphone amp and headphones are located on the 2nd floor. I have a pretty nice Xindak DAC (in the basement), and I’m considering upgrading that to a better one some day (a PS Audio one even if I’m lucky). I’m trying to decide between having a single quality DAC for both setups, and just running something like 30 m of balanced interconnects to the office space, or just buying second (lesser) DAC for the office setup.

What would you do? The things I’m conserned here are the cost (the cables can cost the same as an USB DAC) as well as SQ (will longer balanced runs affect SQ). But is there something else I should consider as well?

Thanx for your help in advance!

Hi @kaplas. Welcome to the forum.

Try sending @rower30 or @BobBJC a PM on the forum or an email or phone call here:

https://www.iconoclastcable.com/contact.htm

I have a 32’ long set of Belden BAV XLR’s and although they are not cheap they are a very good performance bargain. There may be issues with a 30m length and either one of those guys can and will help.
Vern

Welcome!

A 30 m balanced cable will happily carry a line level signal. While recording, such runs are common (and longer) carrying a much lower signal from a microphone.

I would go with a separate DAC for the headphone system because I would prefer it to be self contained and you retain flexability. But this is merely a preference.

Having once been a custom installer as a side gig, a couple of thoughts. Firstly - I’d agree with Elk.

But (and this may help with the math on the above) if you did prefer to run analog - if you buy finished cables, you have to get the big-ish XLR ends through the wall, which means you need pretty good-sized holes, and a way of fishing them through. I’m guessing you can do that since you’re renovating.

Does the DAC or your pre have an additional set of XLR outs for the office, and will it handle the added load? How will you control it from up there? IR repeaters, iDevice, etc?

As much as I like the Iconoclast line (I have $5k worth) I didn’t find the SQ difference between the BAV cables and Mogami to be worth the price differential. And while they’re nowhere near as stiff as Iconos, they are significantly stiffer than Mogami (which are used in studios around the world).

And - really 30m? Is your house very large, or the upstairs room is on the opposite end of the house? That’s a long run. Most houses, 50’ cables would do it. I’d experiment with some old wire and measure it that way rather than discover you bought an unnecessarily long run, particularly if you’re buying finished cables.

Thank you for the warm welcome @Baldy, @Elk and @badbeef :slight_smile: Finding a friendly discussion board it not too easy nowadays.

There was a lot of things going on in your messages, so I will divide this into a few parts.

The practical newbie question (as I’m not too familiar with balanced connections)

Is it possible for an XLR run of about 30 m to affect the sound quality in any meaningful way? The main driver for the original question of mine is the possibility for reusing a nice DAC in multiple places around the house. But based on my experience the difference in DACs can quite often be described as subtle ones (compared to eg. amps), so it possible that whatever I have gained by buying a nice DAC, I could lose by connecting it via a long XLR run? Or is it so that the noise rejection is such a wonderful thing, that I would not hear a difference between a 1 m run vs a 30 m run, given the cable is the same?

The philosophical subjective question for fellow audio enthusiasts

Would you go with a separate DAC for the office setup? I’m actually using most of my time there at least now during the pandemic.

The details of the possible build, just in case there is something absolutely awful in this one :slight_smile:

Yep, I’m renovating a '49 log house with a basement and two floors. The middle floor has the bare logs visible, so if I want to run something from the basement to the second floor, I only have a couple of places where I can do this hidden from sight. Another complication is that me and my family are living here all the time as well, so I’m doing the renovation one room at a time. Because of this I have to plan quite a much in advance; I for example had to plan and do last fall for some floor heating runs beneath the kitchen floor, even though I will most probably utilise in 7 years or something like that :wink:

I’ve also understood that running balanced interconnects parallel to AC lines is a bad idea, so that takes one possible path out of the picture. Anyway, I can make the balanced runs if I want to, but those just need to take a bit longer route, thus resulting in something like a 25 m or 30 m run.

The Xindak DAC-8 that I currently own has one set of XLR outputs as well as two sets of RCAs. As far as I’ve tried, I haven’t noticed any problems with utilising those at the same time (based on my vague understanding of electronics each of the outputs seem to have their own output stages). And yes, I understand that the Xindak is not super fantastic (even though I have to say I find its SQ lovely), that all of this would be wortwhile just for it. This is more about preparation for an upgrade path.

As I’m a software developer by profession, I was thinking about some kind of custom Arduino/ESP32 control schema with IR blasters. It will be weird, but I’m confident that I can make that work if I want to.

Because of budgetary things, I was thinking DIY cables with some Mogami type + Neutrik connectors. Makes running those easier as well, as well as reduces the problem of “excess wire”.

But all in all, is this really worth it? I could just buy something like Schiit Asgard 3 with a multibit card (I’ve read quite a bit of praise for it) for the office and call it a day. Most probabely the interconnects will cost the same in the end :wink: Am I out of my mind here? :slight_smile:

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This is generally a very good place to hang out. I have been here just under a year or so and have never felt the need to leave and never come back. FWIW this is the only group I hang out with on the internet. I do not do Twitter, Facebook, or any of the other current social forums.
If anything you will get more well meaning advice and information than you might expect. There is a lot of very knowledgeable and friendly people here who genuinely want to help.
My personal advice based on nothing in particular is to just buy the 2nd DAC and keep it simple or maybe go with your IT project as it sounds interesting and you obviously have deep personal knowledge of the process. Hot rodded computer and stereo stuff is always cool.
A 1949 log cabin is genuinely an interesting project. Imagine the range of technology that house has seen since '49.

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Agreed, this is a great forum, the only one I hang out in for sure :slight_smile:
My thoughts - don’t bother running analogue, even though long balanced runs are fine with the right preamp or whatever to drive them.

You don’t say (I think) what is driving the DAC downstairs?
If it is disc players etc. then yes analogue and some sort of remote control may be best,m but if you are using a streamer, and a separate server with your music files on, then just put another streamer (whether it’s expensive “posh” or a raspberry pi running something) and run ethernet or wifi up to the top floor streamer.
If I’ve missed your detailed description of your sources, excuse me, I’ll take my meds and go to bed, and see what the sensible folks have suggested later when I’m up again :wink:

p.s. why oh why oh why is TOSlink still relying on plastic fibres?!
If decent lengths of glass fibre (have to be bundles of them I think to fit the connectors) were available we could just flood the house with that and have digital audio distributed wherever we wanted, and a DAC in every room…
…or an adapter that takes a standard ethernet optical connector and puts a TOSlink plug on the end.
…or just put us all through the pain and switch digital audio transmission over to standard ethernet optical connectors.
I’m dreaming I know.

Thanx for joining the discussion @joma0711 :slight_smile: Based on this first interaction with this forum, I must say I’m already delighted!

Would you mind elaborating this a little bit? Is it somehow harder for a preamp to drive long balanced runs?

RPi3 & Hifiberry Digi+ Pro at the moment. I know it’s nothing fancy, but for the price/value it’s a mind-bogglingly good piece of gear. Now it’s more a question of just waiting for Qobuz to launch here in Finland. But no vinyls or even CDs for me anymore, thank you :slight_smile: As a matter of fact I was just running a CAT6 ethernet cable to the office, so anything related to the network or getting another of those el-cheapo streamers is not a problem.

But good comments from all of you, thank you so far! I think this all started in my mind as a “what if I end up buying a DirectStream DSD DAC at some point” kind of thought-process. As you are most probably aware, @Paul can be quite convincing in his videos about how superior that one is to anything else :wink: But I think the wisest move now would be to

  • Just buy a second DAC for the moment
  • When the related rooms are going to be renovated, I will make sure to run some big enough cable conduits (or whatever those are in English) from basement to 2nd floor to accommodate possible future XLR cables/connectors
  • Think about the balanced runs again if I ever find myself possessing a really good source+DAC
  • Use the remaining time to enjoy a bit more music :slight_smile:

As far as I’m aware of the history of this particular house, before I came here as a nerd, the biggest technological advancements that have ever been situated here have been fireplaces, electricity and a water boiler. And possibly a radio, but I can not be sure of that :laughing:

I think that’s an excellent list.

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Raspi 3 and HiFiBerry Digi + Pro is exactly what I have as my main source too :slight_smile:

Are you using Logitech Media Server on a Storage appliance somewhere? I’m interested to know where your files are kept (or is it all over the internet)?

A long run of analogue cable is harder for a preamp to drive than a short run, and cable quality becomes (even) more important. the preamp needs to have a low output impedance and be able to cope with high capacitance (simply because of the long cable, it’s measured in pF per metre), some can, some can’t, but easily avoided by just buying a second DAC - plus it’s another gadget - shiny :slight_smile:

I have a couple of glass Toslink cables. Pretty sure they’re a single strand. You’re still plugging them into whatever 5-cent female connector they installed in the device. Though in something like Ted’s upcoming DAC, that will be done right. It does sort of amaze me that fiber isn’t everywhere by now, given how long it has been possible to replace cable with it, but the issue I think has been cost compared with coax, and who pays for and owns the infrastructure - then there’s the last mile to your house. And distro in your house.

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At the moment I’m running DietPi + GMediaRender on the RPi, and controlling it with Audirvana on my Mac via UPnP. The files are on a NAS-kind-of-setup + streaming from the webs. I just used Volumio for a long time, but now during the pandemic I’ve looked into other OSes and other players. So far I’ve been most impressed by how much Audirvana has contributed to the SQ. I also really liked Plex, but the problem with that one is that I did not find a way on how to make a headless audio player for it. I’ve looked into LMS as well, but I just feel it’s a bit too much '00s piece of SW for my taste. But yeah, a lot of trial and error going on here… :slight_smile: I was planning on perhaps making a blog post or a Youtube video out of these experiments, if it would be valuable to someone else as well.

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Yes - it is certainly possible, but on the other hand, many/most of the best recordings you’ve ever heard were recorded through comparable lengths of XLR. Including world-class orchestras. Perhaps ESPECIALLY world-class orchestras, as it can be a ways from the stage of a great hall to the recording equipment, even if it is located beneath the stage.

On the other hand, we’re talking reproduction and audiophilia here - so you would tend to get a lot more argument in the other direction in this neck of the woods :man_shrugging:t2: :cowboy_hat_face:

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From a practicality standpoint, purchase a separate DAC. You have more flexibility and could repurpose or sell it if you change directions/ setups.

I never thought about that aspect of a big orchestra recording before.
Signed,
More confused than ever. :thinking:

Its a trope we like to trot out. It does not mean that there is not a potentially audible difference in long runs say, from a highly resolving pre to an amp. Or that all components will deal with the spec of a given run of all types of cable equally.

Indeed, LMS is a bit oldy worldy - i remember running it on CentOS 4…
But it serves my needs well, and is free :slight_smile:
I run a Plex server too, which is pointed at the flac library, so my wife can (in theory, she never bothers) play the music from her iPad, plus a bunch of films and TV shows of course.

I think you can build a pi-based player, and just not hook up a monitor, and use plex app from an iPad to control it, but it seems overkill for music, it isn’t its primary focus, and it costs money that is mostly ploughed into the video side of it, plus they keep changing the apps around and pushing Tidal and various video services on me, so I dumped it.

A lot of political pressure to not mandate it too (at least in the UK) since the 80s, so the comms companies can “sweat the copper assets” (i.e. fleece the customer for crap speeds) - at least that has been my take on it.