Balanced Cable Discussion


Thank you. I appreciate your help.


I have been bitten by the balanced connection bug. Recently bought 2 balanced amps (Schiit Jotunheim with a separate Bifrost Multibit DAC and Sennheiser HDV 820) and am using them with the 4 headphones I have with balanced terminations (HD650, HD660S, HD800S and Focal CLEAR). My experience to share with our group is that balanced cables can really, honestly, truly produce a dramatic improvement in sound quality. The most notable enhancement I’ve noticed is with the HD650, where there is an absolutely huge difference with the Cardas Cross cable (maybe 25-33%) and to a lesser (but still substantial) degree with Sennheiser’s stock cable. My question for the community, please, is this. Which specific headphones do you think get the most improvement from a balanced connection? Thanks…Lee


Since a balanced connection offers two technical benefits over a single-ended connection, it’s largely going to be those headphones which can take the biggest advantage of those technical improvements.

Specifically, a “balanced” connection should have completely separate signal paths for each channel, rather than the shared ground that you get with a single-ended headphone connection. And if it’s a “balanced differential” amplifier feeding them, then you’d expect to have twice as much power on hand as well.

So, headphones that benefit from more power will generally fair better with a balanced differential output. Things like the LCD-4, Abyss AB-1266 Phi CC, HE-6, Susvara are four definite examples there … though there are plenty more. Though, of course, if you have, say, 2 watts in SE mode, and 2 watts in BAL mode (i.e. not differential), this difference will not be there.

And then the effect of having completely separate left/right channels, with no shared ground, means less cross-talk which, depending on what level it was at to being with, will give a better stage, allow resolution of more detail and reduce smearing of micro-dynamics. The more competent dynamic headphones will really benefit here, and the more resolving they are the more likely you are to hear a real difference. So things like the entire Focal line, the HD8XX and HD6XX, almost any IEM, most electrostatics, and really anything that does micro-dynamics and resolution well to begin with.

Note, something like the Jotunheim is balanced-differential, so you get both the power and totally separate channel drive there, where as, say, the iFi Nano iDSD Black Label only has the separate channels, so it doesn’t get the benefit of more power.


Thanks Torq. Insightful and helpful–as always.


I concur about the benefits for the HD-600 family. My HD-600s were utterly transformed by a $20 eBay balanced cable. I concur with @Torq and have had similar experiences. There were big benefits for the Focal Elex, and my HE-560s sound fantastic on balanced.


you know…I have balance cables for the Elex and I never used them with them specifically…I went right to the clears with them…I will have to remedy that tonight! :thinking:


I have the HE560 to and like them alot (with Cardas Cross cable on the Schiit Lyr2). So maybe I’ll give them a try on balanced. What cable do you use?


Factory. The 2nd edition (gray metallic plastic housing) shipped with XLR-4 and single ended cables. I haven’t used the singled ended cable much.


Pick one also.

I also bought from, to complete the other connections

3.5 TRRS to 4PIN XLR
4.4 to 4PIN XLR


Potato quality but @generic I’ll be giving these a go tonight.


I’d rather have performance than looks. To me better to spend $$$ on high quality components


I’m usually that way also, function over form…but I do also like how certain things look :wink: these are Periapt cables, big fan, plus their Customer support is awesome!


definitely something i’ll consider once i upgrade my dac/amp from just the mojo
in a few months.

i wasn’t aware of the reasoning behind balanced vs unbalanced, only, like
many others that a good balanced approach ‘sounds better’
i found this youtube video from PS Audio’s Paul McGowan helpful.


Bear in mind that what “balanced” means for interconnects (and sources/amps) is a bit different to what it means for headphones and headphone cables.


thanks Torq (as always)…i’m still learning this and putting all the dots together
…so i appreciate your patience if i ever forward ‘incomplete’ info :wink:
this said, for those watching this, feel free to send me some links on helpful info.
i was reading that not only are balanced cables important but the amp’s circuitry has to be
truly balanced, too. (or something like that…)


Paul McGowan is a quirky kind of guy in a good way. I was looking at a video of i2s last night of his. He is extremely knowledgeable and tries hard to keep it down to earth so guys like me have a shot of understanding it.

I appreciate your your video link. It has me rethinking balanced vs non balanced again.


yes he sure is…
i know this is off topic but as an aside PS Audio is developing their own line of speakers (see their ‘listening room series’
as they build/reno their listening room…shows the 7’ speakermonsters that paul and his crew currently listen to)…wow!.)
i contacted them a few months ago…for now there will be 3 sets of speakers, all at nose bleed prices unfortunately, all with servo drivers…should be out in fall of 2019
…1st series will be in the US$20-30k range…2nd series in the $50-70k range…and then the $80-100k range…of course these prices can change in future…but how’d you like to listen to those puppies?




talk/rationalization with better half:
‘‘honey we’ve been talking about using the equity from our place and downsizing anyway, right?
our new 10x30 trailer park home will be the new trendy ‘japanese reductionist’ design…and so what if the audio takes up 30% of the space…the sound will be worth it…no please don’t dial the divorce lawyer…put the phone down…’’


Maybe some where in between your wedding preparations, vows or honeymoon.