Unbalanced Interconnect length

Some of you might know that I have upgraded from my Emotiva XPA-2 Gen 2 amp to a beautiful pair of Odyssey Audio Stratos monoblock amps.

Anyway, I’ve known for some time that these amps do not utilize true balanced inputs, they are just convenience XLR’s tapped into the standard unbalanced RCA connectors. That said, many owners of Odyssey amps claim that unbalanced interconnects actually sound better. This is all fine and dandy except for the fact that I need a 30 ft run of cable to reach from the XP-20 to the Stratos amps.

I’ve never run unbalanced cables that long other than in car audio, and that was usually 17 ft to 20 ft at most, and with an AudioControl line driver up front right off of the head unit to boost the head unit’s preamp voltage (usually 2v t0 4v) up to 9.5v rms (13v peak).

Considering the XP-20 has a max output of 7v (nearly 15v or so around clipping which I would never run my system that hard), I think that I should probably be fine running 30 ft of cable in the house.

My question is, what are your experiences running a good length of unbalanced interconnects in your systems? Did you find one brand or series better than the other?

Since the majority of my cables are Wireworld, I think I’d like to keep with them, and most likely upgrade some of them as well along the way.

Many thanks in advance!

You say 30 feet, well I’d go balanced XLR. 3-4 feet, single ended is fine IME. I’d suggest a check-in with Galen Garis.

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Hey Chops…

While my Wyred4Sound STP preamp is passive/active with max 9v output
differing from your XP20. and my run from preamp to my Parasound JC5
is only 9ft by comparison to your 30 ft run, I use Nordost Red Dawn xlr
balanced to the balanced input of my JC5…

For my ears there is a worthwhile improvement in sound quality with xlr
balanced connectors. In the past have run rca ics…to my ears xlr
balanced yields the better sound…

Hope this helps you.

Best wishes

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The other question is, at that length for unbalanced, is there any inductance or capacitance limitation or risk going into the amps? Some amps have very sensitive input stages and can perform badly, or worse blow, with high L or C induced by long cable runs. Don’t ask me how I know. :roll_eyes:


The only thing is, the XLR inputs on the amps are not balanced, just tapped into the single-ended RCA inputs.

With that said, I agree with you guys and feel that there shouldn’t be any degradation in sound quality or noise using balanced, not to mention even higher rms and max voltage going to the amps. If anything, the higher voltage potential alone should improve things regardless of the amps inputs being balanced or not. At this point, it’s only a different physical connection type.

You know I’m tempted to ask… LOL :crazy_face:


Hey Chops…

Why not use the cable company’s cable lending library
to give the xlr balanced cables a tryout…if they don’t
work out return them.

Best wishes

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While that’s a good idea, I already have those “pro audio” grade Pig Hog XLR cables that have proven to be really good. Very flexible, solid construction, quality connectors, and from what I hear, they sound good as well. Not saying that I wouldn’t mind upgrading them eventually to something better of course.


I have 32’ RCAs with no discernible issues (to my ears anyway). Blue Jeans

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For a couple years I ran 30ft RCAs with no issues. They were Zu Audio Event.

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In terms of voltage drop I am pretty sure you are not gonna have a problem! Wise to pay attention to total capacitance and keep that as low as you can. But you’ll probably be just fine. In my office setup i run 35 feet of interconnect and it sounds perfectly OK to me. using canare L-4E6S for that run. I have also used a Pig Hog product or two - really never listened to them very critically but agree that they are well-built and use decently large wire gauges, so probably not at all a crazy idea.

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Hey Chops…

How would you compare going from:


Odyssey Audio Stratos monoblock amps.

What differences do you find, you like better?

Best wishes

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Hi David,

Over in the “System Photos” page, post # 7923 I mention my first impressions of the Odyssey amps over the Emotiva. https://forum.psaudio.com/t/system-photos/8910/8080

And to add to that post, something else that has become quite apparent with these amps… They not only make the Maggie 1.7i’s sound like larger, more powerful Maggies, but also the same can be said about the SVS subs.

The Maggies sound fuller/larger as in the mid-bass and bass have filled in. mind you, it’s not fat or bloated, it’s just there now. Before there seemed to be a bit of a recess in the frequency range between say 50 Hz on up to around 120 Hz. With the Odyssey amps in place, that range has filled in nicely to a pretty flat response now.

This also makes the Maggies sound more powerful and forceful, giving a bit of a weighty punch in the chest that just wasn’t there before, which can also be clearly felt through the couch.

This is all with the subwoofers gains turned all the way down!

Now the subwoofers, which are crossed over at 37 Hz, are still being fed speaker level signals from the amps (which they always have been), and the Odyssey Stratos monoblocks have made the subs also sound more powerful and forceful.

The bass extension of the Maggies and subs have remained the same, but they both seem to extend further, but I think that’s because there’s now more energy and control provided in those frequencies, allowing there to be a little more output at those same frequencies. I didn’t in fact drop the gains on the subs by one or two dB.

The thing is, these amps have such a huge damping factor (at a constant 800), that the bass quality, texture and detail is quite extraordinary. There’s more air and space within the sound stage and within the room itself.

I can only imagine how all of this (plus everything mentioned in the other thread) will improve even more once I get those dedicated 20amp lines in this room. And it won’t be just dedicated lines, but also a dedicated sub-panel and it’s own dedicated ground.

One last thing I want to mention, these Odyssey Stratos monoblock amps just barely run warmer than room temperature. In fact, I was listening to a 130 minute long Simple Minds concert the other night at around 92 to 95 dB, and these amps were still considerably cooler than the Emotiva amp sitting idle!

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Appreciate your sharing…


Best wishes

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Sounds like you have a wonderful upgrade…


Best wishes

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Use the root tech the device is designed around. An XLR used as an RCA (PIN 2 hot and PIN1 ground) is a terrible RCA cable. Improper capacitance than the proper RCA and a far higher loop DCR that RCA’s absolutely require for low noise. I won’t even get into the poor RL, return Loss, performance of a cheater RCA compared to a true RCA cable.

The longer run, up to 100 feet per the specification, of an XLR is in no way used properly as an “unbalanced XLR” cable. It becomes a really poor unbalanced run. The noise reduction and long length properties are only available with a balanced signal and at both ends.

Use the Odyssey amps, nice amps by the way, with true RCA. Your situation is typical, so we at ICONOCLAST designed the BAV, Belden Audio Video, series RCA that is far cheaper yet has excellent UNBALANCED (what you need) RCA electrical. Use a cable like that or equivalent RCA design.

You want;

  • Very low shield DCR. This is critical to low noise in RCA systems!
  • Smaller center wire for Vp alignment (lowest loop DCR signal loss is mitigated by the heavy braid shield).
  • Low L and C.
  • True unbalanced design.

The BAV and ICONOCLAST RCA and XLR have the exact same reactive impedance and phase (see the data graphs) used properly, so there is no reason to not use the RCA. Few do this reactive electrical matching, but we do so this “problem” isn’t one using BAV or ICONOCLAST Series cable. Both have the same sonic signature.

My recommendation from the data, is to use the root I/O your stuff is designed around. One or the other cable in no way can emulate the other properly and is an electrical downgrade. Use a good quality RCA. There is no technical argument that can justify using a cheater XLR except you happen to have those cables and needed to use them in a pinch. But that isn’t technical is it. It’s the economy stupid, I agree. But convert over when you can.

RCA and XLR can both be premium I/O designed properly and using the proper cable. Both can be made to be less optimal using the wrong cable.



Galen–thanks for that perfect explanation of a very misunderstood subject.


Thanks for chiming in Galen, and yes by all means use the interconnect type your devices are designed for. XLR for long runs is fine when both devices are designed for balanced input and output.

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So without putting down a larger sum of $$$ at the moment (trying to reserve cash for other upgrades including the dedicated 20amp lines) on 30 ft of ICONOCLAST unbalanced cables, which of these would you or others following this thread recommend?

Keep in mind, I’m not trying to “cheap out” on cables, far from it. There’s just other things that I want/need to get done for this room/system in the not so distant future, so just trying to conserve money for those as well as trying to solve this issue at the moment.

I’d hate to spend $1k or more on a pair of 30 ft cables and them to not make any difference/improvement.

For the time being, if I just go with the standard offerings from BJC, which would you or anyone else recommend, one that most closely matches your requirements for…

Would it be the LC-1, 1505F, or 1694A?

Look at the BAV RCA air core design or the LC-1. The BAV uses a more “not there” dielectric. The BAV cable is smaller because the dielectric is so good. - Belden "BAV" Power and Audio Cables from Iconoclast Cable


1x1 = RCA
1x4 = XLR



I can verify that the BAV lineup of products are very, very good for the money. I have used RCA, XLR, and 120v power.