Outputs on DS

The DS has of course balanced and single ended outputs. My question is can I use them both without effecting the sound quality. I will use the balanced output to drive my preamp and speakers. I’d like to use the single ended to drive a headphone amp (STAX). So are the output stage(s) independent so one will not load the other?

BTW my Ayre preamp balanced output is harmed when I used its single ended outputs in this way.

Read this post:

Because DS has a transformer coupled output you don’t want to use both XLR and balanced at the same time.

On most of our units this is fine to do, just not on DirectStream.

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I have a different question about outputs on the DS. I currently have my DS connected to an old Plinius 9200 integrated amp with RCA interconnect cables. Would I benefit from buying XLR interconnect cables with the DS to Plinius ? The Plinius has no XLR cables so I would have get additional XLR to RCA connectors.

You would gain no benefit. Balance connections give you noise rejection and better signal to noise ratio. But only when connected at both ends.

Does the +6dB of gain from the xlr output go away as well if you convert to rca?

Yes, it does.


Are you saying what @tedsmith said in the post I quoted is wrong?

They are both right. Ted says the DS can have a dead short across the outputs. So I assumed that means that two parallel loads that drop the impedance will not have any effect….But Paul is saying that the output transformers are the actual D to A conversion stage so they are more then an output buffer.

So Paul if I shouldn’t use both outputs simultaneously can I put a simple rotor switch on the single ended outputs? There would still be a RCA interconnet that might act as an antenna but it would be open on the end.

Kenneth Eis

970-305-2038 cell

You can’t hurt anything and you just loose common mode noise rejection if you use both. That may or may not be a problem in your system. You should just try it, if you care about any difference in sound quality when you unplug either one then you can worry about how to address that. Paul (nor I) just can’t promise that there will be no difference.

Not too much if any. I always recommend XLR connections if both units have XLR out and ins. Sounds like in this case the Plinius doesn’t have XLR ins so there would be no advantage.

Paul McGowan | CEO

Boulder, Colorado

So Paul’s response is just incomplete and too general.

This is exactly why I provided a link to your post. It is exactly the right answer. You can use both at the same time, it causes no electrical issues, but you lose the common mode noise reduction that XLR otherwise offers. Losing that noise reduction may or may not be an issue so take a listen to see if it using both causes an audible reduction in sound quality.

That’s a lot better than “you don’t want use both at the same time” with no real explanation as to why.

Sorry about not providing a more complete answer. It’s generally not a good idea to unbalance the transformer. One could suggest many alternatives like making sure the load on each side is identical, and so on, but I have found over the years that sometimes
a little too much info can cause more confusion than problem solving.

That’s an incorrect statement. Based on what @tedsmith said, it’s neither a good idea nor a bad idea to unbalance the transformer from an electrical point of view. What one has to weigh is what one may lose by unbalancing it. As @tedsmith said, unbalanced connections most of the time are not a problem. We all get get caught up in the idea that balanced is always better but that is just not the case.

So, “It’s generally not a good idea to unbalance the transformer” only when balanced offers better sound quality over single ended.

Answering the OP’s question with the right answer is important and @tedsmith’s answer I quoted is the right answer. Especially considering what the OP wanted to do. Your answer was that he shouldn’t use both outputs when you do not know if it would cause sound quality problems for the OP. Yet you were willing to make the choice of him using his headphone amp for him even though it may have worked perfectly well in his situation.