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Balanced vs unBalanced

Discussion in 'Recording' started by audiokid, Dec 6, 2013.

  1. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    My new Millennia NSEQ-4 arrived today. Its a beautiful sounding eq. After hearing this, I'd love to a have a few of these now. Actually, more like about 12 of them (one for each channel).
    It has an optional unbalanced in/outs.

    Hopefully this isn't confusing. I've never used unbalanced gear before.

    My Neos console is all balanced except for the Master Bus loop, which is (only) unbalanced.
    I've never used it because its only unbalanced. I therefore, pass all hardware mastering tasks over to the Dangerous Master, which has 3 inset paths, one being an M/S option. I would possibly insert the Dangerous Master in that Neos Master bus loop if it was balanced.

    Coming out of the Neos main outs into the Dangerous Master is just fine , I'm by no means complaining.
    Basically, I sum the Neos channels into the Dangerous Master and from there, insert all mastering hardware through its inserts. Everything is balanced, super quiet and it works well.

    Okay, hopefully that made some sense. ,

    Because the NSEQ-4 has unbalanced options, I'm now wondering what the unbalanced benefits would be for me other than louder? Would I benefit sonically in any way inserting it as the Neos master EQ ?
    My cable length is less than 6ft runs to the console.

    Just to be clear, I'm not asking about "before or after" in the chain. I'm only wondering what or if there are sonic pros or cons to unbalanced gear at this level.

    Thanks for any insight!

  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    At this level of gear, there should be no sonic difference between balanced and unbalanced. Once connected up correctly, the difference between the two comes in things like interference rejection. You will never get more output with unbalanced. With balanced, you can get twice the maximum amplitude of signal from given power rails.

    The main thing you have to check is the configuration of the outputs that drive the NSEQ-4 inputs. If these are floating transformer balanced or electronically balanced, you do nothing, and connect up as though balanced. If they are balanced but not floating (i.e. separate + and - signal drive amplifiers), then you should wire it up to use only the +ve signal into the unbalanced inputs. You will lose 6dB of amplitude, but you will avoid short-circuiting the -ve drive amplifier outputs.
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Thanks Bos, that makes perfect sense. I am getting +6 gain unbalanced which is what the spec sheet notes "should happen" to make up for long cable signal loss.

    There is an optional button on the NSEQ that switches to unbalanced. The Spec sheet doesn't say much other than push the button for unbalanced. So, I used standard balanced cable, plugged directly into the unbalanced NEOS mastering bus, hit the unbalanced switch on the NSEQ-4 and it sounds great. No smoke!

    If I unswitched the NSEQ-4 to "balanced" , would that short circuit s m o k e ? I should no doubt be asking Millennia Media.

    Here is the basic sheet on it.

    http://www.mil-media.com/pdf/NSEQ-4 Quick Start Manual..pdf

    The 6db boost into the Neos seems to sound really lush. Like an added voltage vibe that is really pleasing. Is it just my imagination, a reaction from loudness or does the gain boost instill something from the boost you think?
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    My guess is that it's not a bal/unbal switch but simply a gain switch, allowing you to compensate for the 6dB gain loss you might get from having to unbalance the input. What I saw from the full manual was that pin 3 (the -ve signal) on the input XLRs was grounded, hence my suggestion not to drive the Millennia box from non-floating balanced outputs. My reading is that you have to get the wiring right and then make up the gain if necessary, depending on what you are driving it from. The gain boost would be done by active circuitry, so it could indeed make a slight change to the sonic character.

    The NSEQ-4 manual is quite rightly written by someone who knows intimately what's inside the box, and it's never easy to anticipate the questions a new user might have. I've frequently been in that position myself. An email to Millennia would clear the point up.
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    The response I got back was:

    Although it sounds stellar like this, I'm not feeling overly confident with the unbalanced Neos bus anymore (seems pointless the more I think about it) so I'm simply going to put it into the Dangerous Master Chain and continue everything balanced, plus its more useful there. I'm expecting it to sound just as impressive.

    Thanks Bos,
  6. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Wow, what a beautiful sounding product. I want more of these.
  7. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    It looks from the reply that you got that Millennia didn't quite pick up on your question and assumed you were asking about the output driving capability rather than sorting out the confusion over the input.

    If your unit has the standard unbalanced inputs and outputs rather than the optional balanced configurations, you can treat the Millennia outputs as though they were balanced, since the -ve output is a true signal ground. This arrangement will drive short lengths of standard XLR cables into a standard balanced input with no problems.

    It's the drive into the Millennia box that you have to think about carefully unless you have a fully floating source to drive it from. The standard NSEQ-4 input is single-ended on XLR pin 2, with chassis ground on pin 1 of the XLR and signal ground on pin 3. The ideal would to connect the signal ground on the input to the signal ground on the driving equipment. To be safe on this, I would wire up an XLRM - XLRF cable with pin 2 - pin 2 (active signal) and pin 1 of the drive (XLR-F) taken to pin 3 of the XLR-M at the NSEQ-4 end. Connect the cable screens to pin 1s as normal. Leave pin 3 on the drive end (the XLR-F) open circuit.

    Sorry about being picky over this, but it's my professional designer instincts punching in. I really think that when Millennia decided to have unbalanced inputs as standard on this product, they should have fitted a push switch to open or ground pin 3 of the input XLRs so that standard XLR cables could be used that would work with either floating or non-floating sources.
  8. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I know I'm not the best writer so its why I asked here first. I figured, if you got it, then I must have explained it good enough for them. I was hoping you would chime in with advise like this, thanks. :)

    I agree.

    This is what I was thinking/expecting NSEQ-4 Channel 1 and 2 input buttons did this. Which I'm still thinking they do because it worked?

    There isn't enough info on that part of the product for guys like me who aren't the soldering type to say the least. SPL's reason not balancing the Master Bus is also annoying. It was a cost factor for them on that master bus.
    I would like to push the Dangerous Master through the Neos master bus but that would mean soldering cable once again, and then what happens to the balanced (1/2/3 )inserts of the Dangerous inserts. (mains unbalanced but the inserts balanced) ? Does this make sense?

    This bal/unbal gets all goofy for me. Its easier just keeping it all balanced and flowing along from the Neos mains I suppose. If there was any sonic advantage doing this, I would be all over it but there isn't right?

    I've switched the NSEQ to the NEOS Main out ( which is balanced) and it seems to sound the same so,

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