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What are "balanced outputs/inputs", etc.

 

AVNovice
Unregistered guest
Just getting back into the AV arena and am trying to put together a high-end system. I have a Samsung DLP TV and, so far, Energy Veritas speakers. In choosing the components, I keep running into "balanced outputs," "analog vs. digital," etc. What are these from a practical standpoint and what should I keep in mind when choosing?
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest


Balanced lines separate the ground from the return or (-) leg of a signal cable. By placing the two legs at different potential, you can gain 6dB of S/N ratio if the balanced configuration is maintained throughout the signal path. Some units will incorporate transformers to facilitate the switch from unbalanced to balanced, this looses some, though not all, the benefits of balanced lines.

Analog is sine waves. Digital is 1 or 0.

What you choose should be dictated by a system approach. Sorry, the answer you desrire is too complicated to get much more specific. Find a dealer you trust. They will guide you.


http://harada-sound.com/sound/handbook/defa-d.html



 

New member
Username: Wpgtech

Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada

Post Number: 6
Registered: Jan-05
Just to add something to the above post:

Balanced lines use three conducting elements, like a tip-RING-sleeve on a 1/4" plug, or a 3-pin XLR plug for higher end stuff. Unbalanced usually has only two elements, like tip-sleeve on 1/4", or an RCA/phono plug. Unbalanced should not be run more than 6 feet, or you'll get unacceptable signal loss, or worse, RF interference. Run balanced wherever you can.

Analog signals are created by actual moving parts, like a turntable needle or a microphone, where, somewhere in the line, a core is moving inside a magnetic field. When magnetic tape passes over a recording head, there's a signal being passed through of varying strength. This results in a "waveform" trace when you look at the signal on an oscilloscope. Purists say that with an analog signal, you get pure reproduction of the sound. Problem is, analog signals breakdown after numerous reproductions/performances, and you get hiss, noise, or degradation. Digital signal is the result of a computer attempting to duplicate the "wave" with 1's and 0's. Today's technology is very good at doing so, but you'll still run across a purist who says he/she can hear the difference. That's fine, but for most normal humans, digital reproduction is fine. And, since it's 1's and 0's, it doesn't breakdown, and reproduces perfectly every time. Play an LP 200 times vs a CD 200 times, and compare...CD'll win every time. So, stay with digital signal for as long as possible, and use analog when you have "THE" perfect recording of "Hey Jude" that you're going to play once and never again.
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest

Not to rile Mr. Fickes, but the idea an unbalanced cable should not extend over 6' in length is misinformed. An unbalanced cable can extend several dozen feet (actually about 200 if need be) if the output impedance of the source feeding the cable is sufficiently low. Normally the value for a pre amp's output impedance of no more than 600 Ohms should be sufficient. The value of source component's output impedance will vary with the input impedance they see. A CD player's analog outputs can be run several hundred feet with minimal signal loss if the out to in ratio is proper.

Unbalanced lines are suceptible to more noise and ground problems that balanced lines. Balanced lines can run much longer distances than an unbalanced line before signal loss becomes a concern if the source impedance and cable capacitance values are low.

Though it may be splitting hairs, the concept of analog being sourced from moving parts ignores radio signals. And your copy of "Hey Jude" can be played more than once. The idea digital transfers perfectly is as valid as the slogan, "Perfect sound, forever", used by Panasonic in 1982 to promote CD. Analog will add 3dB of noise to each successive copy. Digital will have error correction problems in subsequent copies. It will take a while, but digital will eventually show it's weaknesses also.

Find a good dealer and they will guide you. If you don't understand something, stop the salesperson and ask for an explanation. There is a lot of jargon and, as you can see, disagreement, in audio. You should not be afraid to say you don't understand a term. Sometimes the salesperson doesn't either and is just trying to bluff their way through by using these terms.



 

New member
Username: Wpgtech

Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada

Post Number: 8
Registered: Jan-05
Oooops....here we run into a little problem.

Mr. Vigne is correct...unbalanced lines can be run several hundred feet. As an AV technician, I've had to run unbalanced for what seemed like miles to make a setup work.

But should that be done? Most manufacturers suggest six feet is the limit for BEST reproduction. I got that right out of a manual from Shure.

As for digital, I didn't ignore radio signals, because that's a transmission type. You can transmit digital, as well. But the originating signal is analog, in that someone is speaking into a microphone, causing a core to move through a magnetic field, causing an analog signal. That was what I meant by "moving parts".

Mr. Vigne is also correct that digital copies will not be as perfect as the original. It's just like taking a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy....eventually, you get reproduction errors combining. But a digital source, like a CD, should theoretically be perfect for a very long time. Back when they were called magneto-optical discs, they were usually guaranteed for 50 years or 1 million plays. That's because nothing SHOULD touch the disc...it's read via a laser.

I'm an AV tech, but at heart, I'm a cameraman, and discussions like this illustrate a prime point of my personal philosophy: EVERYBODY has an opinion about audio.....but you never see a bunch of video guys standing in front of a screen, debating whether or not a picture is in focus...it either IS, or it ISN'T.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll pick up my Betacam here, and shuffle off into the sunset. *grin*
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest

Well I certainly won't be the one to suggest radio broadcasts can be of a CD playing. NO moving parts, unless you count the CD, which could cause other problems with the theory.

6' huh? I don't remember seeing that in my Shure literature. If you use "Audio Engineering Handbook", you'll have the best information available.


 

New member
Username: Wpgtech

Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada

Post Number: 9
Registered: Jan-05
Sigh.

I tried to make light of it in my previous post, but to no avail. So I'll try to be more blunt, which I hate doing.

Here we have the original poster asking a question about balanced vs. unbalanced, and digital vs. analog. It's just a guess, but this person is probably just trying to get a little information.

Mr Vigne, you gave him some info. I read your post, and thought maybe I could pitch in a couple of points, just to help. I wasn't trying to be the end-all, high and mighty AV expert, I was trying to be neighbourly. I didn't attack your points, I only added my own.

When you replied to my post, you took issue with a few of them. In my response, I tried at the end to get out of this, because in the end, as I joked, EVERYBODY has an opinion about audio.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and debate who's manual is right. I'm not going to debate whether a CD player playing over the radio is analog or digital. I was trying to help out another human being, and now I'm stuck in yet another argument about who's right.

AVNovice, feel free to browse the forums and pick and choose what information will help. It may very well be that I'm wrong. If so, I apologize, and ask that you understand that my intentions were pure. You should also understand that I'm a veteran of many screaming matches between audiophiles. Ask me someday about one fight I came into in the middle, about whether it was right or wrong to insert an equalizer into a 24-channel mixer.

In the end, the sun will rise, the snow will melt, and I'll kiss my baby daughter and tell her how beautiful the world is. That, really, is all that's important.
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Mr. Fickes, please accept my comments in the spirit they were offered. I wasn't attempting to insult your intelligence or knowledge. Some things are opinion based while others are fact based. By pointing out that radio doesn't have to be a voice modulating a coil within a magnetic field, I was merely suggesting you might want to reconsider your basic description of analog and digital. While I realize you were presenting a simple concept, it has some flaws that should be considered. As an AV tech who has a first interest in video, it is not uncommon to have a few details that have been taken too simply in audio itself. I have no desire for an argument, I too was trying to help out another.

I certainly didn't intend to say you were wrong about the Shure manual, just that I don't remember seeing the passage. But, it has been twenty years since I had to use the Shure guide. My reference to the A.E.H. was once more an attempt to help another human being. If you haven't seen the book, and you are going to be working as an AV tech, I will suggest keeping a copy available in your shop to afford you and your coworkers an invaluable reference work when questions arise. I have been in the position of training techs and I realize that often important bits of knowledge get overlooked or assumed. In my experience having a guide such as the A.E.H. will be a time and money saver in the long run.

Enjoy your daughter and every sunrise/sunset. The time spent with both is too short to be engaged in frivilous arguments. The life of an AV tech seldom allows for contemplation of the quiet moments.



 

Bronze Member
Username: Canuckinapickle

TorontoCanada

Post Number: 63
Registered: Jan-05
AV Novice:

"Energy Veritas" .. nice speakers :-) One day I'll buy some.
 

AVNovice
Unregistered guest
Well, I certainly didn't intend to kick off a debate... Of course now it's clear as mud, although I appreciate the efforts.

In my time it was basically a Marantz receiver (as many watts as possible), a Dual turntable and a couple of massive floor-standing speakers. Things have become a little more complicated since.

Basically, I just want to make sure I pay attention to the correct details. For instance, I've been considering a B&K reciever but then heard that there may be a connection problem to a Samsung DLP. Then of course are the gazillion inputs and outputs, balanced vs. unbalanced, analog vs. digital, S-type, SACD, DAC, etc., etc., etc. My fear is putting together a system then finding out it won't work as a unit. Since I'm trying to buy mostly on-line to save cash, it's a concern.

Canuck, thanks, I listened to probably 15-20 brands and really liked how clean the Energys are.
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest

I'm certain this will upset you. If you buy on line to save a few bucks and things don't work, you kind of deserve what you get. You'll end up loosing any savings in shipping and restocking fees. If you spend a bit more up front with a good dealer, you will save money in the long run. There are too many items you don't understand to be guessing at. There are too many items you don't understand to be constantly guessing at whether you got the correct answer on this forum. As you can see, a simple question can get several answers and still not explain what you need. A dealer will either help you assemble the system correctly in the first place, or, at least, assume some of the blame if things don't work out to your satisfaction.


 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest

I'm curious now. If you're trying to save money; why buy the Veritas?


 

AVNovice
Unregistered guest
Thanks. No offense taken.

You're correct for the most part. There's no doubt that going through a dealer is safer and potentially more cost-effective. It becomes a balancing act. Just in buying the speakers, I've saved approximately 60% over suggested retail. A dealer may be safer, but with those degree of cost savings, I'd rather take some calculated risks.

The risks aren't totally cavalier. I've done a lot of research and have some contacts for advice, but even if a mistake is made I doubt it will even come close to costing what I likely will save.

As far as saving cash and buying items such as the Veritas line: it isn't really about saving money per se as much as it is about getting excellent products for the most value. I'm putting together a high-end system so it will definitely cost some bucks regardless of how I do it, but with careful selecting hopefully I'll save tons over the potential cost.
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