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XLR or RCA for DAC to stereo


Ryno
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Hi folks 

 

seeking your input here 

 

I am connecting a high end DAC to a Yamaha AS3000 amp.

 

Both DAC and AMP have XLR inputs to connect to but currently I’m using a Van Den Hul RCA to connect the equipment. The cable length is 1m.

 

would I see a big improvement in sound going to XLR or should I save my money??

 

 

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45 minutes ago, Ryno said:

Hi folks 

 

seeking your input here 

 

I am connecting a high end DAC to a Yamaha AS3000 amp.

 

Both DAC and AMP have XLR inputs to connect to but currently I’m using a Van Den Hul RCA to connect the equipment. The cable length is 1m.

 

would I see a big improvement in sound going to XLR or should I save my money??

 

That's an interesting Qu, Ryan.  :thumb:

 

I suggest it depends on whether your DAC and the Yammie amp are actually built with a balanced circuit ... or whether they are built unbalanced but have bal-to-unbal converters at the inputs/outputs ), to cope with different interconnects).

 

If the former - then, yes ... using a balanced interconnect will be an advantage.

If the latter - then ... using balanced interconnects will not give you any improvement.  (And before someone jumps in and says "balanced interconnects are required for long lengths"- I ran 11m normal, unbalanced interconnects from preamp to active XOs in my last house, with no problems.)

 

Andy

 

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57 minutes ago, andyr said:

If the former - then, yes ... using a balanced interconnect will be an advantage.

 

Which doesn't exactly say if will be a big improvement (as asked).  My experience is that the improvement will be very hard to hear in most home setups.

 

5 minutes ago, crankit said:

Try It, may cost 15$ a pair xlr

 

Ah, forgetting where we are and how people spend thousands on cables  :)  

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both @andyr and @crankit answers are spot on.

Unless you know if the gear is truly balanced, you won't know if there will be improvement.

So why not try connecting with a cheap XLR cable and see if there is an improvement.

If it isn't significant enough  - and it should be if both items are balanced - then don't go that path. Your components are then not truly balanced, and hot and cold signals are achieved either by inverting op-amps or transformer (less likely these days)..

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Actually this thread has sparked an interest and a few tests done on my dac that has both rca spdif and AES inputs.  Dac is the Musical Paradise (balanced dac) and a DDC reclocker with both RCA spdif and AES.  And using a budget AES and spdif cable here from Blue Jeans, the AES connection provided a slightly fuller sound over the RCA spdif input.  To be honest, i could easily live with either, my ears just prefer the AES and how it sounds in my system.  

 

@Ryno based on what our esteemed, knowledgeable members have mentioned above, just try it out and see if you hear a difference. 

Edited by MrBurns84
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Just now, MrBurns84 said:

Actually this thread has sparked an interest and a few tests done on my dac that has both rca spdif and AES inputs.  Dac is the Musical Paradise (balanced dac) and a DDC reclocker with both RCA spdif and AES.  And using a budget AES and spdif cable here from Blue Jeans, the AES connection provided a slightly fuller sound over the RCA spdif input.  To be honest, i could easily live with either, my ears just prefer the AES and how it sounds in my system.  

 

@Ryno based on what esteemed, knowledgeable members have mentioned above, just try it out and see if you hear a difference. 

 

 

Sometimes going to balanced will mean a higher level signal being sent to the amp, and we all know that louder is often perceived as better, so when you test it, try to keep that in mind.  The quality may not be changing, just the level.

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18 minutes ago, aussievintage said:

Sometimes going to balanced will mean a higher level signal being sent to the amp, and we all know that louder is often perceived as better, so when you test it, try to keep that in mind.  The quality may not be changing, just the level.

That said, for gain reasons a higher level signal may well be helpful. Conversely it may also be harmful. This will largely depend on the voltage output differences from the source, the impedances at both ends, and how the gain structure all works out. In most cases it won't make much difference, but it can be significant if it's already critical in one direction or the other.

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The idea that XLR support has to be supported by balanced audio circuit is a typical audiophile myth that has no basis to support XLR.   The main reason for XLR is for long runs in cable in electrical noisy environments where it takes over where RCA is limited to support this property for it to work as intended.  The best audio circuitry isn’t balance,  it’s all single ended designs.   The added XLR is an added option  support and usually use Opamps.   Don’t let this fool you like many audiophile think it does,  certain Opamps are transparent as it gets.   As a test to see if XLR worked, I decided to buy a pair that was on special at Altronics because when I walked into the store it was heavily discounted: under $20 for a pair of 5mtr XLR!  It was all to ensure all the XLR worked on all the equipment I had that supported it.  I was totally stunned, that the XLR sounded better than ALL of my RCA cables going direct from preamp to amp, when I looked and traced the circuit I realised why,  the RCA has a capacitor in series with the input to block DC that’s standard on typical circuits, I no longer use RCA and will opt for devices that supports XLR.    
Not only that, Amir from ASR also supports the idea of using XLR even for short runs, the benefits are all there regardless of whether your circuits are single ended and not fully balanced, so give it a try and it may surprise you.

Edited by Addicted to music
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The good news is the A-S3000 is a fully balanced design (as is its little brother the 2000). So yes, give it a go. Best to start as suggested with a cheap pair. Good idea to to shop online from a music audio pro supply chain. It could well give you an immediate 6db gain – which can be a good thing if you need more gain, or a nuisance if you have to turn things down so much that it reduces the amount of range in the volume control to an unacceptable degree. If it's an improvement in any way (it wont be night and day except for the 6db), only then try more expensive cables. Then if you're really lucky, you'll get expensive ones on trial, do an A/B test, not hear a difference, and save the money. 😁 (nice amp btw)

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3 hours ago, Addicted to music said:

The added XLR is an added option  support and usually use Opamps.   Don’t let this fool you like many audiophile think it does,  certain Opamps are transparent as it gets.

That is true that adding XLR as an option is usually accomplished by fitting in opamps or transformers.

This is done because of low cost of such option.

Truly balanced gear has double the amount of components and cannot be retrofitted and be an option. Balanced gear has to be designed that way.

This is off topic, but I am yet to see a single ended design to be superior to the best, dual differential balanced designs.

Really top end gear is always balanced and in recent years it is beginning to creep into the mid-fi.

Other than lower noise during transmission which is important in commercial installations, in our hobby, it adds lower noise and distortion within a component and more slam.

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Hi All,

 

Without wishing to hijack this thread, I have a couple of questions to ask regarding my specific setup & what level of improvement I might achieve by switching to balanced xlr interconnects between my NAD C658 (preamp/streamer) & my Prima Luna EVO 400 poweramp. 

 

According to what I can find, the EVO 400 has 'true-balanced, transformer-coupled XLR inputs' & the NAD C658 has as far as I have been able to find 'true balanced XLR outputs' for connection to balanced in on power amp. The NAD manual does say 'It is recommended to use C 658’s BALANCED AUDIO PRE-OUT if the external amplifier has corresponding BALANCED input port.'

 

So, currently I use a pair of 1.5m RCA interconnects of reasonable quality (not stupid expensive but, not cheap & nasty either). I understand from reading above (as well as some other sources) that I should gain 6 dB & a drop in noise floor... so, I believe it might be worth an experiment to see what happens & whether it's noticeable.

 

My questions:

 

1. How cheap is too cheap in order to give this experiment some validity... Will a $15 pair of XLR interconnects be a fair & reasonable choice to actually determine improvement (or not) or should I set my budget a little higher?

 

2. What should I be listening for in particular in attempting to discern if there is an actual improvement vs a perceived improvement?

 

If I hear a worthwhile improvement then maybe I'll stump for something a little higher up the quality chain either by keeping an eye on the classifieds or, finding something new at a price I can justify.

 

Thanks for your thoughts/experience

 

Edited by FNQ Outcast
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3 hours ago, FNQ Outcast said:

EVO 400 has 'true-balanced, transformer-coupled XLR inputs'

This is not good news. If it is transformer balanced it means that the input is balanced and you can run 30m cable to it (that being the only benefit of it), but the rest of the amp is not.

 

3 hours ago, FNQ Outcast said:

Will a $15 pair of XLR interconnects be a fair & reasonable choice to actually determine improvement (or not) or should I set my budget a little higher?

Yes. If you get an improvement, it will be dramatic irrespective of any cable. If it is not, then one of the components (or both) are not really balanced.

 

3 hours ago, FNQ Outcast said:

2. What should I be listening for in particular in attempting to discern if there is an actual improvement vs a perceived improvement?

Dead silence when you crank it up to 100% (with no signal). I only heard the faintest hiss, when I put my ear 1" away from the tweeter when I connected my Electrocompaniet EC-4 & AW-100DMB with XLRs for the first time. I truly thought there was something wrong with my cables, for turning volume pot did nothing, as if the amps were off. There was a dead silence. Not that when connected with RCAs there was any discernible noise, but I did perceive some at 80 or more percent. Once I played some music, it came with huge slam and dynamics.

Then i bought the cheapest balanced output CD player I could find, Rotel RCD-991 and there was no difference at all whether it was connected by RCAs or XLRs. Years later I managed to get circuit diagram and found out why.

it was single ended player with cold leg derived from hot, by using inverting op-amp. It was always a disappointment.

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On 13/5/22 at 1:38 AM, rockeater said:

 

Truly balanced gear has double the amount of components and cannot be retrofitted and be an option. Balanced gear has to be designed that way.

 


im yet to see any gains with true balance, just because it has double the circuitry doesn’t equate to being better even if it was designed to be “better”.   It comes down to a number of things that’s not considered is that’s out of the scope of this thread.   Bear in mind that when you want XLR you need to take into consideration the cable characteristics, and this is where it matters.  

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In recent years I’ve become a xlr hothead and moved right up in quality, but after fitting up some Crystal Cable rca cables I feel I’ve been educated in the other camp and realised one can appreciate a smooth relaxed ambient presentation on rca, compared to an alive, fast, every last detail presentation Ive come to expect from xlr.

Interesting. 

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Appreciate all your feedback folks - I’ve done the following and thrilled with the outcome (the only new purchase was the XLR) 

1. IFI DSD PRO DAC connected to the Yamaha AS3000 amp with QED 40 XLR

2. IFI ZEN STREAM is connected to the IFI DAC with IFI Mercury USB

3. I then bi-wired the Paradigm speakers using Van Den Hul Magnum on the lows and Naim speaker cable on the Highs into the Yamaha A/B Bi wire 

 

the sound is amazing to be honest ! And whilst hard to do a side by side test you can hear a big uplift from the RCAs 

 

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4 hours ago, Anthony1 said:

fitting up some Crystal Cable rca cables I feel I’ve been educated in the other camp and realised one can appreciate a smooth relaxed ambient presentation on rca, compared to an alive, fast, every last detail presentation Ive come to expect from xlr.

But this has little to do with cables.

You are now back to using only half of your equipment and this is the difference you are hearing. 😉

It is like turning off 4 cylinders from your V8 engine and saying that you no longer have this brute force acceleration and instead you are enjoying this smooth, gradual speed increase of 20 seconds to reach 100k per hour... 

 

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