Difference between TRS and TS cables...

Discussion in 'Accessories / Connections' started by jazzy655, Oct 27, 2005.

  1. jazzy655

    jazzy655 Guest

    Yo guys, i've got a real newbie question here.
    What is the difference between TRS cables and TS cables??
    The reason I ask is because I just realized that I've been using TRS cables coming out of my Roland Synth, straight into me cheapo patchbay, then from there into a pair of TS cables on the other side of the patchbay into whatever pre i'm running the synth to.

    Am I losing signal , and should I be using TS cables out of my synths?
    What broght this up is I just got a RNC and it makes a big deal about balanced and unbalanced signals and stuff like that.

    I've never really paid any attention to this kind of stuff. If I plugged in a cable, and got a sound, i figured it was all good?

    Thanks for any info....
  2. Seedlings

    Seedlings Active Member

    Sep 13, 2005
    Kansas City, MO
    TRS (tip, ring, sleeve) implies it carries a stereo signal. TS would be mono.

    Tip-sleeve is one channel
    ring-sleeve is the other channel

    Does your "cheapo patchbay" have configurations for TS and TRS?

    I'm not sure TS rather than TRS (or vice-versa) would invite noise. If you have a mono signal, you just don't use the other conductor in a TRS cable. Someone else will clarify further.

  3. IIRs

    IIRs Well-Known Member

    Oct 23, 2005
    TRS cables can be used to carry stereo or balanced mono signals.

    Your RNC probably uses them to provide balanced IO: it may be designed to work correctly with balanced TRS cables or unbalanced TS (like my little Mackie mixer), but best to check the manual if in doubt..
  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    TRS is balanced.

    TS is unbalanced.

    The ONLY pro-audio oriented device that I'm aware of that uses a TRS configured plug for stereo is a pair of Headphones. No Pro-Audio device uses it for stereo.

    The TS can invite in additional noise as the unbalanced cable is not actively shielded/grounded. As well, balanced and unbalanced signal levels are different. They are not always compatible.

    As for the FMR, you must enter the unit with an unbalanced signal and leave with an unbalanced signal. Or, in the case of an insert (TRS - Tip=Send, Ring=Return) you can simply patch a standard TRS patchcable between the insert and the input of the RNC as their inputs also provide output across a TRS cable.

    If you go into your patchbay balanced but come out unbalanced into your FMR, you are actually doing the right thing. This will unbalance the signal prior to sending it to the FMR and then you can bring it back to the patchbay and then patch back out as either balanced or unbalanced.

    Hope this helps.

  5. 43hertz

    43hertz Guest

    I'm pretty sure this is not correct.

    Once you unbalance the signal, running it back through the patchbay will not make it balanced again, even if you use a TRS cable. The only way to "re-balance" it, for lack of a better word, is to run it through an active circuit or a transformer.
  6. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    Sorry - lack of wording on my part.

    You're correct - you cannot make an unbalanced signal balanced except through a balancing device. I simply left this out - if you come directly out of the patchbay, even over a TRS, you're still unbalanced (in level that is) - however, if you choose to, you can re-balance the signal. (Aphex makes a great device to do this with and it's not expensive. Of course, chat with Kev for 5 minutes and he'll sell you on the merits of making your own...)

    Thanks for catching that!

  7. 43hertz

    43hertz Guest

    No offense, Cucco, but balanced or unbalanced has bigger consequences than loss of level. Balanced cables use seperate hot, cold, and ground connectors versus unbalanced that only use hot and ground. If you come into a balanced patchbay with an unbalanced cable and back out with a balanced cable you've not only lost the level but you've lost all the benefits of noise reduction that a balanced signal provides. That's my biggest gripe about the RNC. It is otherwise a pretty cool peice of gear, but I refuse, strictly on principal, to patch it into an otherwise balanced signal chain.
  8. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    No offense taken. I also referenced the noise issue with unbalanced vs. balanced in my first post. However, in a racked situation where cable runs are short and compressors are often patched as inserts anyway, the RNC does a fine job. I have 2 of them myself and haven't ever had any problems with excess noise.

    Would I say it's the finest compressor on the planet? No, of course not, but it is quite nice on several things. Regardless of balanced/unbalanced, it's still nice.

  9. dwoz

    dwoz Guest

    erm...no. TRS CAN be balanced, and TS is ALWAYS unbalanced, but TRS can certainly be unbalanced as well, and often is.

    dangerous assumption. would you stake your dinner on it?
    oh, my goodness, how PREPOSTEROUS! "TS cables" are most CERTAINLY shielded/grounded! balanced/unbalanced has NOTHING to do with signal levels!!!!
    actually, I think it helped very little. Perhaps a little refresher on just what "balanced" means would be in order? Great:

    A "balanced line" is merely a transmission configuration that consists of two signal-carrying lines, and a shield. The shield carries NO INFORMATION. The two "hot" signal carrying lines exhibit the exact same impedance referenced to shield. Typically, the shield is connected at both ends to earth, but might only be connected at one end.

    At the input of a balanced line, a differential amplifier amplifies the DIFFERENCE between the two lines. Since noise such as RFI and hum typically manifests the same on both lines (because the impedance WRT ground is exactly the same), then the "common mode" signal...the signal that is the same on both lines, is rejected.

    A balanced line makes no distinction whether the signal is passing on one line, or the other, or both...as long as there is a differential, then it works.

    A "true balanced" line typically has a signal on one line, and the inverse signal on the other line. When passed through a differential amplifier, the resulting signal is 3db higher than what one leg or the other are separately.

    A "psuedo-balanced or electronically" balanced line typically has signal on only one side, and both sides are tied to ground through resistors, so both sides "see" the same impedance to ground, so the common-mode rejection works.

    There is no requirement about signal level. it can be mic level, line level, speaker level, whatever.

    Again, the main benefit to balanced line, is that it allows for COMMON-MODE rejection of noise that may be induced on the connecting line.

  10. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    erm...uh - now you're just picking small semantics battles. This is ridiculous. Of course you could run an unbalanced signal over a balanced cable. This is the old "a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not necessarily a square" game.

    Yeah, in most cases I would. Very few components actually use a TRS as a stereo output. Even fewer make it into a standard studio.

    Well, I'm referencing construction of the cable and its two-pole nature, not the design of a balanced or unbalanced circuit. Notice, the question pertains to TS vs TRS - not balanced vs. unbalanced circuits.

    Okay, great, you know how a balanced circuit works. Congratulations. Now, one of these days you'll acquire some personal skills and instead of being a grade A a$$hole to answer a question, you'll simply answer it. As for my reference to level, I'm simply referring to the common practice amongst manufacturers to differ the output levels of balanced versus unbalanced signals. A practice which is rather standard.

    If you feel like being a DICK on the internet, do it somewhere else. If you would like to contribute not just answers but a meaning to something resembling a society, then fix your attitude.

    Now, before you feel like you have to reply and be an even BIGGER Dick - ask yourself, is it worth it? Frankly, I'm sick and tired of a$$holes like you coming around here insulting folks acting like you have something to prove. Go do it somewhere else.

    Oh, and by the way, before you come around here insulting individuals or telling people they don't know what the hell they're talking about, why don't you post some

    Like a Web-site or some of your clients or ANYTHING that tells us who the hell you are. I'm afraid no one can be taken seriously if all they do is insult others and not even tell us what kind of background they have.

  11. dwoz

    dwoz Guest

    Cucco, to me its very simple.

    You were very definitely implying that TRS MEANS balanced and TS MEANS unshielded and TRS vs. TS MEANS particular signal levels, and these thing simply aren't true.

    As far as I can tell, the sort of person who posts questions like this about cables, would not be the sort of person who would be able to parse all the "mixed metaphors" you're putting down.

    A "naive" reader coming away from your post could very well assume that BECAUSE they plug a stereo plug into the hole, it is balanced. Clearly, such a misconception wouldn't get them killed, but it certainly wouldn't serve them well. They could also EASILY assume that their guitar cable is unshielded, and again this wouldn't get them killed, but it could easily make them the "brunt of the joke" in situations where they decide to show off their knowlege.

    Unfortunately, it is very different to say "TRS is balanced" rather than "balanced is TRS". Not a trivial semantic exercise. It confuses the "causality" behind the statement.

    I said, "oh my goodness, that's preposterous". and you take personal offense? oh my goodness, that truly IS preposterous. I believe the way this "all went down" is that I posted a correction to your post, accusing you of being imprecise at best, inaccurate at worst, and you in turn posted a rebuttal accusing me of being an asshole.

    I can understand how you don't like being corrected "in your own house". That, however, would be your problem, not mine. Feel free to debate the accuracy of anything I say in here. Over in my own forum on PSW, I just recently had to eat a big spoonful of poo that was handed to me by John Hardy, after I had said something rather inaccurate about his M-1 pre. Its all good.

    So, is it this:
    or is it this:

    All the best!

  12. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    I have no problem being corrected. My problem comes when someone not only corrects, but attempts to discredit.

    My answer regarding cable construction is legitimate and correct.

    A TRS Cable is a Balanced cable. Period. Can you send unbalanced over it? Yes.

    As for shielding - I didn't say that the TRS is unshielded. That, in fact, would be preposterous. What I stated was a VERY oversimplified view of how a balanced cable works in relation. I used the term "active shielding/grounding." What I'm referring to here is the physical connection and the use of the shield to determine common mode rejection. The only difference is, I didn't launch into a dissertation about how a balanced circuit works.

    Seeing as how the question asked was...

    I felt only the need to describe, minimalistically, the difference.

    Simple, eh? Well, I do try to stay as simple as humanly possible. If the gent in question here wanted to know more about how a balanced signal works, then fine - I could have provided that information (and you did - thanks for the post.)

    My problem is not that you try to explain how things work, it's that it appears that you try to get folks to eat spoonfulls of POO rather than elaborating or assisting.

    My point is, try to leave egos out - were not interested in them.

    As for my post regarding the welcome - I fully stand by my original post. However, just because you are a "legend" over in PSW (fully acknowledging that's MY quote) doesn't mean you have any credentials here. Post them. If not, don't expect a lot of credence.

  13. Mr-Nice

    Mr-Nice Guest

    TRS is 'balanced' and CAN carry 'balanced' and 'unbalanced' signals.

    TS is NOT 'balanced' and CANNOT carry a 'balanced' signal.

    And for the record the original question was quite simple and didnt (at least to me) seem to require a total complex and in-depth answer. If anyone wants and in-depth answer about something either google it or goto the library there are plenty of books on this stuff. :)
  14. dwoz

    dwoz Guest

    Ok, I'll try this one more time.

    I posted a little bit about balanced lines, so that the guy posting his original question would have some background, and be able to decide for himself just exactly what it was about the whole system that made something "balanced" and what made something "unbalanced". Yes, I could have sent him out to google, or to http://www.rane.com (where he should go anyway!!!!!) But does anyone really resent that it was presented here?

    If you want to break it down to the simplest explanation, you HAVE to say "TRS" has three connectors/conductors, and "TS" has two.

    Now, as we all know, you can use the three conductors for lots of things...for balanced connections, for stereo connections, for inserts...and clearly, once you understand what balanced lines are all about, you can see intuitively that the two conductors in a cable with a TS connector cannot support balanced connections.

    saying that a "TRS cable is balanced" is FLAT OUT WRONG on the face of it. Saying it perpetuates a misconception that is NOT doing ANYONE any favors.

    A cable becomes balanced or unbalanced depending on what SYSTEM it is part of. "A TRS cable is a three conductor cable" is ALWAYS true, and "A TRS cable can make balanced connections" is always true.

    A cable with a TRS connector on it that is plugged into an unbalanced connection is then NOT a balanced cable, because the impedance to shield is not the same for both conductors. I suppose if you wanted to get pedantic, you CAN say that the same cable sitting unused in a storage box IS balanced, because both conductors "see" equal, infinite impedance to shield...

    ....So, I guess ya got me there.

    As far as Mr. Nice's complaint that I'm making this simple subject so complicated, I'll tell a little story. My kids (age 4,7,9) think that money comes from my wallet. I mean, it just magically appears there or grows there. In the context of their needs, which is for me to remove money from my wallet to pay for a sweet or a little treat, the fact that money comes from my wallet is all they need to know. There's no need to bother them with the whole big thing about working/wages/economy/banking system/markets. Someday, when they ask me to cough up more money than happens to BE in my wallet, then we have to start getting into some of the deeper background. But today, all they need to know is that money comes from my wallet.

    Our illustrious thread creator, has asked a question that shows he is now beyond the "money comes from my wallet" stage, and has to begin to delve into the more subtle intricacies.

    so...how about them SOX, eh?

  15. Mr-Nice

    Mr-Nice Guest

    I see your really getting into semantics too much with this, he asked a simple question on what is the "difference" between the 2 cables. And it is quite difficult to give him an answer that takes in all the contingencies of using 'balanced' and 'unbalanced' cables.

    There was no reason for you to say:

    It is STILL a 'balanced' cable it just wont carry a 'balanced' signal. It goes without saying that the whole chain should be 'balanced' from source to your speakers for maximum effect. But some mixers, soundcards dont have 'balanced' connections. TRS cables are more expensive so to use them in conjunction with some unblalanced connections might not be justified, it wont hurt but it certainly might not help.

    You are going to confuse the poor guy by thinking that if he plugs a TRS cable into a TS connection that the TRS cable is no longer a 'balanced' cable. A balanced cable is a balanced cable period.

    I am sure you know quite a bit about the dynamics of a balanced and unblanaced circuit but this thread isnt the place to start explaining it. He asked a simple question and I think Cucco explained rather well, and I wasnt going to jump in here and repeat things that other people said but then you jumped in and started to add intricacies to an already confusing matter for the original thread starter.

    Lets not get into a text brawl over this.... That is un-ethical and ridiculous.
  16. dwoz

    dwoz Guest

    you're right, Mr. Nice, let's cut all the crap, just read this:


    that's got all the info you'll ever need on the topic.
  17. JWHardy

    JWHardy Active Member

    Jul 5, 2004
    Home Page:
    You were at least a couple of levels away from poo-time. If I recall, you just had some model numbers a bit scrambled. In fact, I liked the way you put it later ("filtered through several years of buzzword bingo model numbers...").

    But I would still love to see a picture with the kilts.

    John Hardy
    The John Hardy Co.
  18. You got the right idea, from the wrong direction my friend. The fact of the matter is, things like this SHOULD be a text brawl.

    You folks need to first realize what kind of power the Internet and forums like this have. The guy asking the question is honestly looking to you people as EXPERTS in this field and to provide expert answers. Cucco's answer was the type of thing somebody would get from reading someone ELSE on a similar forum saying the same thing. That's how imprecise information gets transmitted, and the fact that anybody thinks it's ok shouldn't be giving OUT information.

    See, what you have to remember is that this little practice of commiting sound to tape (disk, whatever) is called audio engineering not "audio approximating" or "audio close-enough-for-rock-and-rolling" or "audio I don't understand how it works but I plug $*^t in and say big words-ing". Of course, we have to expect this kind of crap from Cucco because he's a mook that doesn't understand the difference between "free" and "you have to pay me back later". How COULD we expect him to understand the difference between balanced and unbalanced?

    However, anybody else should strive to understand their craft to the utmost of their ability and then have the maturity and humility to defer to greater knowlege when theirs runs out. Bully for trying to help the kid out, that is, but when it comes to things that you only understand generally, then saying "well, I don't NEED to understand it any better" is not a valid excuse for giving imprecise and incorrect information. Would you feel good if you went and read a civil engineering message board and some guy was asking about moment connections and another "engineer" replied with "well, if you put 12 bolts in, it's a moment connection, but if you only put 11 it's not. Doesn't matter how big they are or what the pattern is though"? Would that make you feel good about driving over a bridge? Obviously, like Dwoz said, this balanced/unbalanced thing isn't going to kill anybody, but there's no sense sending this guy off with wrong information so that he gets made fun of AND doesn't know how to patch his gear together.

    Bottom line...never trust Cucco on technical or financial matters, always be as precise as you can and never miss an opportunity to shut up when somebody knows more than you. These three things will take you far in audio engineering.


    Mookboy, I've heard Dwoz' "credentials" and I've seen your website. Don't ask him for credentials. Or, if you must, wear a belt because you may find your pants at your ankles.
  19. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    Okay, so I normally don't reply when someone becomes an OVERT dick like this but okay, here goes:

    Dwoz -
    I concede that, yes, I should have actually worded my statement better in that TRS is not necessarily balanced, as it can carry ANYTHING. That is in fact a correct statement. My statement(s) simply were to answer the original question and to make it clear that TRS is NOT in fact a "stereo" plug as was stated. I used more simple terms in referencing the balanced circuit, and you did in fact very accurately and consicely describe a balanced circuit.

    IOW - no beef here.

    Shotgun -

    WHAT the F*CK is your problem? Why attack me and state:
    What the hell motivated that attack?

    Where the hell do you get off attacking my credentials? I have no doubt that Dwoz does have good credentials. That's not my point. If you're going to use a psuedonym, the least you could do is fill out your profile enough to let us know who you really are. It's really friggin easy to hide behind anonymity, all I'm asking is tell us who you are.

    BTW - I never said -
    So, where ever the hell you pulled that from, I have no clue. In fact, I have provided several lengthy and VERY in-depth (and accurate too) explanations of many things physics and math related. The fact is, I do understand how audio and sound work and when appropriate, I do defer to those with more knowledge. For things digital, I definitely defer to Nika on this site. For things acoustic, I defer to many of the gentlemen on this site.

    And also, where the hell are you getting this:
    I don't even understand what you're saying! How do I not understand this?

    Where the hell is your hostility coming from?

    I have a question (or three).

    Who the hell are you?
    Where are you from?
    Does anyone here actually know you? (I mean, have they met you, do they know OF you, have they seen your face?)

    How can ANYONE take you seriously when they don't even know who you are?

    You may feel free to attack my credibility all you'd like. The fact is, you are one of a small handful of people who will. I can name 4, including yourself, on this board who would do so. Just because I devote a lot of time to recording schools and the like, I must be a Mook? Is that it? Because I don't do a lot of work with snot-nosed bands who do nothing but beat on their instruments, I must be worthless?

    How about this - I volunteer in the school systems on a weekly basis. I go to local schools and help the band/orchestra/choir directors by working with their students, volunteering at school functions and YES, recording schools for no charge (but selling their discs to make profit). Oh, and all this work I do (which I proudly display on my website) I do for FREE! (Not "pay me back later!")

    Something I've done has obviously hit a nerve with you. Either tell me what it is that I may apologize or I'll have to assume that you're simply an ass and that there is no cure/solution.

  20. The answer to your question is exactly my point, sir. The fact of the matter is, you don't NEED to know who I am. You don't NEED to know what albums I've worked on or what bands I've worked with or anything of that sort. If I told you my name was Alex DeLarge, would you know any more than you do now? I certainly don't know any more about you knowing your name is Jeremy.

    What we are judged on in forums like this, and what we *should* be judged on, is the accuracy, usefulness and verifiability of the information we give. That is, anonymity does not, as you seem to feel, provide mystery, it in fact provides a level playing field upon which no one can flaunt a credit or resume bullet point as support for a point of fact. That's the beauty of this type of exchange.

    So, what would eventually happen is that the person asking the question would eventually get corroboration on Dwoz' information from either a book, or a trusted source, or whatever and you'd wind up looking like a jabberwocky. Doesn't matter how much time you donate to the South-East Virginia School of the Arts for Left-Handed Lesbian Eskimoes. Your answer was JUST as incorrect regardless of what you know or don't know or what you do or don't do. So, when the guy comes back looking for more information, he's going to be less likely to trust yours. His thought will be "That Cucco mook was pretty shaky on what balanced and unbalanced was, he may not have what I need on -10/+4."

    So if you're so knowlegeable on math and physics, why is it you seemed so confused? And why, if you did know the complete and correct answer, would you give such a confusing mish-mash as you did? Quite honestly, if I had asked that question I'd feel insulted that you felt like I wasn't "technically adept" enough to be able to stomach the real answser rather than the boiled down version, as you claim. In short: I *can* handle the truth, and so can this thread's originator. Or, at least if he can't, give him the chance to say "hey guys, back off on the technobabble, just say "do it this way" please".

    That'd be from this thread:
    (Dead Link Removed)

    Where you first said:
    Then you said:

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