Headphones & Amps: Balanced vs Unbalanced



mmm B-basis and A-basis (that’s how we define it in my work-world) calculations on normal tolerance distributions. We have a lot of sciencey/engineer types in here huh?


Tolerance stack-up can definitely lead to changes, I’d say. Quality engineering is a bit dry, but these types of things matter quite a bit – understanding what your end goal is and all the process capabilities of your design and process are and then dealing with how the tolerances of each and every component stack up and affect the end item.

On balanced vs unbalanced. Some times I hear a big difference and sometimes I do not. I go balanced as often as I can, because I can. At the very least, you get much more ample head room and power. At best, you get less interference/cross-talk and more magic audiophile powers. Nothing really wrong with that.

Go Science! Go Subjectivity!


Great discussion guys. I guess what we’re all saying in a roundabout way is that there are just so many variables to consider when asking for simple yes or no answers about sound. Of course there is measurable scientific data to backup sound theory and the physics that make up the music and gear we all love. But once you add the biggest variable of all which is humans then things start to get very hard to predict indeed. There’s just so much subjectivity in our hobby that all we can do in the end is ask advice and then listen for ourselves and come to our own conclusions.

At the end of the day it’s really good to have a place where we can discuss and argue our points of view without it degenerating into a shouting match.


Such a good post, totally agree - I’ve been yearning for an online place to openly talk about some of the more controversial topics like cables and such without it devolving into the “prove it” type conversation. Of course that requires civility and humility by the participants … and we just might have it here!

There’s some crazy stuff out there - like is it possible that a streamed files can sound different if they have the same source? Or can rips on different software sound different?

As for balanced, i think @Torq nailed it, is it worth the value? For example I’ve been looking at the Decware Taboo IV and the balance input option is $650! I’d love to have the input option but … $650? Or the Woo amps, where the WA2 is $1200 with the WA22 at exactly double $2400 … are you better off with the WA22 or the WA2 with some great tubes? For me, it’s not so much what’s in my budget as it is, is it worth the budget?? Probably not for me, but of course I’m in perpetual decision mode : )


That’s the downside to getting the balanced option, cost. I agree. It’s not as bad at the lower end of the spectrum I suppose but when you get into the pricier end of the market they sure do know how to charge for those extras. The Woo lineup looks very cool and is something to aspire to and to save up for especially the higher end stuff. You also need to factor in the cost of a balanced Dac as well as the cost of the cables. Then it must get real pricey.

I have gone onto other forums and been shouted down for mentioning aftermarket cables for my iem’s and talking about differences in the sound of Amps or Dac’s is wasted on some. They just get downright aggressive. I don’t go online to get hassle. I come online to talk to likeminded people who discuss their different opinions in a civilised manner. I have stopped posting as much on a certain forum for this very reason. It’s a shame really. I don’t mind anyone’s opinion. We’re all different people but some folks see it one way and shout loudly when their product or opinion is challenged. Oh well nevermind. Rant over.:slightly_smiling_face:


The prices of balanced systems are coming down fast. I would have never considered balanced except this feature was part of the FiiO Q5 at $350 (and balanced wasn’t the primary reason I got the Q5 either). Also note that in the Z Review of the Loxie P20 released today, he mentions this balanced desktop DAC at $330:


This forum sometimes seems to have less than 10 regulars, but they are all adults. I lurk at most other places for the reasons you mention, but participate here. Moderator? How are you marketing this place?


Yea would be nice to add some more selective people. I’ve done some personal invites to a few members on other communities – some have signed up. It’s hard to let go of the larger communities that you’ve spent a great deal of time on. I’m still regularly posting on HF/reddit, but I thoroughly enjoy the discussions here more. I lurk on SBAF, and never really feel comfortable posting on there – most for fear of getting bashed for not being audiophile enough.


SBAF folks are pretty chill, really. I consider that place like I would if a friend invited me to their friends house for a small gathering: be polite, mostly listen, chip in if you have something useful. Usually I don’t, so I mostly lurk there, but even so I do post and they’re quite tolerant of my noobiness. In other forums … it’s my absolute JOY to post with abandon!


'nuff said :neutral_face:


I couldn’t agree more. Were it not for phenomena (unexplained event(s), would be us being afraid of change. :wink: