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i've had a home studio in one form or another since 82 starting with a Yamaha MT44 4 track cassette and to this day i have never owned a balanced 1/4" TRS cable.
what the heck do they do?

my zed r16 and onyx 1200f have mostly balanced in's and out's as well as my 4 outboard comps and 2 effect proccessors,pre's, what have you.
besides the XLR's,I'm using 15 or more "quality" 1/4" cables in my rig but none of them are balanced trs..all ts cables.

my room is dead quiet and everything sounds great so I'm having no issues, so why all the balanced jacks on this equipment?
if i swapped all these ts cables for trs, would i get a bit more overall headroom or a lower noise floor or some other kind of benefit. or is it just for longer cable runs like 20 or 25'.
i would appreciate it if someone besides a cable manufacturer could explain it to me.
thanks for any replies.


anonymous Sat, 05/29/2010 - 09:26

a balanced 1/4 in cable is the same thing as an XLR except with a different connector. Balanced means you have less interference and potentially better quality sound. That's it. There are two wires connected to the tip and ring in an unbalanced cable. There is one more connected to the sleeve in a balanced cable. Balanced jacks are more "professional", and most of us don't have the luxury of using unbalanced and everything still sounding great all the time. If it works for you, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with using unbalanced cables

Kapt.Krunch Sat, 05/29/2010 - 09:49

Simplified explanation:

Unbalanced. Two conductors. One +, one -.

Balanced. Three conductors. Two +, one -. One of the + flipped in phase from the sending unit, and recombined in the receiving unit. Running an in phase and the 180 degree out of phase signal in a cable helps reject externally-generated noise. It's called "cancellation".

To see this effect? If you have a synth or software to generate a sine wave or even noise, generate a mono track for a few seconds. Copy that track to a new track, with identical settings. "Invert" the second track. When both are now played together, you should hear pretty much...nothing. Solo one or the other, and you'll hear the noise you generated. Kind of the same principle.

Balanced cables are more desireable for longer cable runs, because there is more cable exposed to possible interference. Short lengths aren't that bad, but given a choice of keeping it balanced all the way through, even on patch cables...might as well. And, there are proper ways to balance/unbalance connections. Doing that wrong may cause problems.

Also, generally, a balanced signal will be higher in level.

Also, realize that not all TRS jacks on mixers are balanced. Some of them are "insert" points to run effects though, and may input/output via a TRS 1/4" plug, but that plug is split out to two separate 1/4" TS plugs.

If you are able to balanced-connect everything, might as well, if you have the cash to buy the extra cables. You say you're happy with the sound, now. Of course, you haven't tried it balanced, so you really don't know if it could be better until you try it. May not make a heck of a lot of difference in your case. May make a lot. In audio recording, sometimes a little IS a lot.

I keep everything I can balanced, and use the proper type of gear/cables to convert if I need to at any point.

That help at all?

boxcar Sat, 05/29/2010 - 09:57

thanks for the replies.
i know how trs is wired, i make my cables and have wired trs plugs for insert cables before(i know those are not balanced) but i was just wondering if i was missing anything sonically by not having them instead of all those ts cables.
maybe i'll get the iron out and make some.
if i can get an extra hair out of this rig,i might as well.
and yeah,that does help..those are the things i was wondering about.thanks

boxcar Sat, 05/29/2010 - 13:33

Kapt.Krunch, post: 348964 wrote: "Three conductors. Two +, one -. One of the + flipped in phase..."

Not really exactly like that. Should be "two flipped polarity, one shield". But, the meaning was there. 6 cups of coffee gets my signals out of phase.

Anyway...yeah...try it and see.


6 cups of coffee gives my internal clock jitter.

Speedskater Sat, 05/29/2010 - 15:32

When things get ugly (noise & interference wise) balanced is better, sometimes much better. But it's not just the cable, it's also the output circuit of one unit and the input circuit of the next unit. Now if it's an unbalanced system, I much prefer co-ax over two conductor shielded cable. For co-ax, I look for a cable with a heavy braided shield. (not Quad-Shield RG-6).

boxcar Tue, 06/15/2010 - 22:04

Im still trying to wrap my head around this... Bear with me,i can be thick in some areas.
I want to make some trs cables but now im wondering if it will matter.

Im sending 2 hardware effects/reverb boxes in stereo, out from aux 1,2...3,4.(aux outs 1,2,3,4 are balanced outputs).
And retuning them to stereo in 3 and 4 on my zed r16 giving me 2 parallel stereo send effects across the 16 channels.(stereo in 3 and 4 are not balanced imputs though).
I could use 4 channel strip line in's for the returns(they're balanced) but i would lose 4 pre's wich is not an option.

It works fine with TS cables but what im wondering is,would i still get that hotter signal or any noise floor related improvement by going with TRS cables seeing's the outputs are balanced but the imputs are not.


dvdhawk Tue, 06/15/2010 - 23:09


Personally, I think you might be worrying too much about this. If your cables are short (under 10ft long - about 3 meters for our metric friends) and you are not experiencing any noise issues, you can keep using unbalanced TS cables to and from the effects unit(s). If you want to return them into stereo unbalanced returns or channels that's cool, no need to give up the balanced input channels.

What 2 hardware effects/reverb boxes? Do they have level switches on both the ins and outs? (+4 / -10)
Some effects units have separate switches for the ins and outs - in which case, you could do a hybrid balanced into the effect and unbalanced out. Input switched to +4 and the output at -10 although I don't think it will make a measurable difference to the end result.

In a perfect world everything would be balanced mostly because it rejects cable-induced noise better. But if you're not having noise problems it's a non-issue. Lucky you!

boxcar Wed, 06/16/2010 - 07:00

dvdhawk, post: 350327 wrote: Hi,

Personally, I think you might be worrying too much about this.

What 2 hardware effects/reverb boxes? Do they have level switches on both the ins and outs? (+4 / -10)
Some effects units have separate switches for the ins and outs -

Thanks for the imput.
They are a Yamaha SPX990 and a lexicon 300
They do have +4/-10 but not separate for in and out.
The cables are 3 footers and i don't really worry about it but im always trying to get that extra hair out of things.
No point making 8 trs cables if it's not gonna make a difference though and it does sound fine so i'll leave it alone.