Balanced to rca

If you run balanced out of a Dac but use a cable with a rca into the amp, will that improve anything?

I saw such a cable and was wondering if itcould be used on a tube amp, but I have a hard time seeing that it will improve the sound.

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Only if there is like 100ft between the DAC and the AMP… :slight_smile:


I’m using a TS cable from the balanced out from a Scarlett interface into a Liquid Spark RCA. Just note the following. My balanced out is 16 dBU (very hot signal). I noticed the clipping of the input stage in the LS amp in more recent recordings (loudness war). Work-around is to back off the volume out a bit.

To answer your question, probably just the volume.


As balanced audio does not share a common ground, there is a chance you may kill your DAC with such a cable.


TLDR: Don’t attempt the impossible. Don’t risk damaging your equipment.

A while back (when I didn’t know better), I bought an XLR3-to-2.5mm cable with 6 connectors on one end and 4 connectors on the other end. While waiting for the shipment to arrive, the vendor sent an emergency “Do Not Use The Cable” email and refunded my payment.

Upon receipt of the cable, I cut it open to see what they’d done. There were two phantom ground wires that started from twin XLR3 connectors and carried through the sheaths, but then 2 of the 6 wires were just floating there. They’d make random contact with the functional wires at the 4 wire end. I tested these with my multimeter and couldn’t get stable readings.

IMO the risk of damage is greater than the potential for improvement.


Thanks guys, there is no need for taking such a risk, so I am glad to have asked :+1:


People fighting for balanced outs in these days and you wanting to downgrade one to unbalanced: :see_no_evil:

I forgot to mention that in my case is a temporary solution. And, 1/4" jacks are much easier to do it as well. As long as you stick to TS cables. But even if it was a 3-pin XLR to RCA, I’d grab a multimeter and do some continuity testing first, before start plugging around. Once again, on a temporary basis.

For regular balanced to unbalanced, I also have a PRO D2 (from my guitar hobby) that can be used in reversed as well. So no need for custom cables.

In your case, just get another $100 DAC. :smile:

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There is no danger connecting XLR (balanced) outputs to RCA (unbalanced) inputs. (Edit: see post two down before doing so)

The dangerous part is connecting amplified balanced outputs to single ended headphones, that is a very good way to damage an amp.

To connect XLRs to RCAs, you sum up the cold and screen at the RCA end (edit: or leave pin 3 unconnected, again, read further posts)

However, there is absolutely no benefit to doing so. It will not sound better and it won’t help avoid interference etc.

The reason you do it is when you only have a balanced output and an unbalanced input.

Just for safety’s sake, I will repeat, do not connect the balanced output of an amp to a single ended headphone!


Unless you know for absolute certain the output stage of any device is made up of short-circuit resistant Op-Amps, I would strongly advise against “unbalancing” something by shorting the Colds (L-/R-) together.

You would not short L+ and R+ together either, would you?

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In 99% of modern equipment it will not cause an issue, however, if you want to be 100% sure, you can leave pin 3 of the XLR floating.

In 25 years of Pro audio installs, I haven’t yet found any of the 1% equipment, but it is true that it is better to be safe than sorry, for which I apologize.

I did not say at any moment anything about connecting two hots together, which is also possible with the correct resistors.

However, back to the original question, it will not improve anything, in fact, it is more possible that it degrades rather than improve.


Right. Same understanding here. Common sense is to use just two wires per cable. That’s why is much simpler to explain with TS -> RCA cables.

Another source of confusion is line level vs amplified level. OP question referred to the former.

Discussion probably went a little out of phase here. :smile:

PS.: not to mention shorting the H+ with H- should lead to phase cancellation, assuming a short cable distance and common ground. But that is way another story.


Since you’re probably one with tons of tools as well, have you seen the SB-6? Very handy. It does all the conversions seemingly. They promise a clean signal by only impacting signal volume. I can’t hear a difference either.

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Hobby electronics tinkerer here. Don’t have access to my unis labs/equipment else I would “prove my point” with scope shots.

In balanced audio, Cold and Hot are basically the same in reference to Gnd. So by the logic of shorting - to Gnd, shorting + to Gnd should also be fine (which it is not because the first one is not fine either).

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As I said, the safe way to do it is to leave pin 3 (cold) disconnected, this resulting in less voltage but safe for all unbalanced inputs.

Connecting cold to ground results in a cross-coupled balanced circuit, this can result in noise, distortion or even the connection not working. When this happens (noise, distortion, malfunction etc) then the first step is to lift pin 3 to see if it has cured it. However, I have not yet seen any equipment damaged as a result of this, obviously YMMV.

I have not been in the headphone world for very long, so I have no idea if any of the manufacturers follow different procedures that could result in damage by a cross-coupled circuit.

In fact, it wasn’t until I started in headphones that I found out about balanced and unbalanced outputs on amps, in my line of work amps are amps and you would never think of connecting two negatives together (or positives) on the outputs.

Radial make a lot of decent stuff that can be life savers onstage.

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This would not be advised.