May 16, 2019

Anyone who has dipped his toes into the waters of live audio production knows that various small things have a huge impact on sound quality. This post will dive deeper into why balanced audio is important.

What is Balanced Audio

Balanced Audio is a method of interconnecting audio equipment using balanced lines. This type of connection is important in recording and production because it allows the use of long cables while reducing susceptibility to external noise caused by electromagnetic interference.  

Using the Right Audio Cables at the Right Time

The type of cables used has a major impact on the quality of sound while streaming or recording your live production. Audio cables, even if used properly, can add a potential noise and distortion. It is important to use the right cables for the task at hand.

The question is, what generally are the right cables to use to attain a balanced audio? Let’s take a look at that!

Balanced Cables

These cables have three wires inside the plastic casing - two signal wires and a ground wire. The ground wire surrounds the signal wires and shields against interference. But what makes a balanced cable signal special is the way it utilizes that extra signal wire.

The two signal wires carry a copy of the signal that are sent with reversed polarity. If you sum two signals with identical but reversed polarity, the signal cancels out which will leave you in silence.

So why would you want a gear that flips polarity of your signal? Eventually because the receiving gear will flip the inverted signal back into its original orientation. As the signals travel along the cable, both copies of the signal will pick up the same noise that are identical on both wires. Flipping the polarity of what arrives at the receiving gear produces the original signal intact and the noise will now have reversed polarity which will give you a welcome result. A signal that is preserved and noise that is cancelled.

Getting a good visualization of how it works is better however, if it’s too much to get in your head around, it’s enough to know that balanced cables reduce distortion in audio.



Types of Balanced Cables

  • XLR - This type can send balanced audio signals up to 200ft. It has 3 male pins inside the connector - the groundwire, one signal wire with positive polarity, and another signal wire with negative polarity. XLR cables are connectors typically found in microphones.
  • Quarter-Inch TRS - TRS stands for Tip (T) that has positive polarity, Ring (R) that has negative polarity, and Sleeve (S) which is the groundwire. TRS cable is a balanced professional audio cable that sends mono (balanced) or stereo (unbalanced) signals. TRS cables are connectors used for headphone jacks.

Although it is not very common, XLR and TRS cables are also capable of carrying unbalanced stereo audio from both left and right channels on one cable to a destination. They are susceptible to noise that unbalanced signals are prone to in this case.

How Will Balanced Audio Benefit You

There are a lot of questions, often confusion, surrounding balanced audio. Is balanced better than unbalanced? How will balance audio affect my system? What differences in sound quality can I expect to hear?

The ability of balanced audio to reject noise and interference offers measurable improvements to distortion in mixes. This results in vivid, life-like performances presented in a quiet background, while revealing music’s subtle textures and intimate details. This also  gives a sound that is transparent and accurate.

As high definition music becomes increasingly popular and more readily available, getting a balanced audio system is all worth it.


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