“unbalancing” balanced equipment

    • September 19, 2023 at 3:16 pm #5945

        Hi, wondering if any of you can help/educate me

        first things first I’ve also posted this on the Newbies questions subform as I wasn’t sure where it should go, so please feel free to move it/amalgamate etc…


        I read a post on DiGiDo recently titled Balanced versus unbalanced connections and it’s got me interested in trying to run my setup unbalanced.

        this paragraph from a reply from Bob Katz has piqued my interest:

        “Here are the caveats: In a small room, where all the power is coming from a central source, and all the analog gear is plugged into that power and no analog audio enters or leaves the room, and you have your signal to noise and headroom issues all straightened out, then unbalanced is almost always better sounding than balanced.

        Exceptions: a) Equipment whose balanced stages are so-well-designed that it is impossible to design the same piece of gear with fewer stages unbalanced than the balanced version. b) Equipment which has completely balanced topology throughout, fully mirror imaged in its inherent design, and impeccably designed with the best components (example, Nelson Pass gear). But I’m not so sure it sounds better because it’s balanced or just because it’s better! I’ve removed 5 op amps from the front end of a certain well-known A/D converter, and removed 5 veils from the sound. Think about that. I’ve removed 3 tubes and an output transformer and several relays and resistor networks from the output stage of my Ampex MR-70 electronics, and been rewarded with “more tight,” definitely quieter and more transparent sound”.

        I’m wondering:

        A. If running my setup fully unbalanced would make a difference

        B. The correct way to interface each section of my setup correctly to be unbalanced throughout especially the wiring


        C. moving forward how I can work out from a schematic how to achieve B. so I’m more informed in the future.

        My setup is:

        MacBook M1 to a Prism Lyra2 via USB into a Cranesong Avocet into 3 sets of monitors for mixing:

        Auratones (70’s ones) powered by Auratone a2-30 Class D amp

        NS10’s powered by old Yamaha p2200 (unbalanced input)

        Amphion two 18’s powered by amphion amp500 Class D (based around Anaview AMS1000)

        Currently just using balanced xlr throughout except the outputs of the prism which are TRS balanced, so using TRS to XLR.


        The reason I want to make sure the wiring is correct and also get some opinions is that I have been having some problems with the setup, namely that on the Amphions (the other two sets are limited frequency-wise anyway) with this setup below 70Hz and above about 12KHz seemed sort of filtered/rounded off, and lots of low mid buildup, really tubby and quite nasally, completely different to any set of headphones frequency wise I would listen to to compare with a series of tracks I knew very well, I thought it must be room acoustics, as I tried a few other sets of monitors in place of the Amphions and all displayed this same behaviour. The low mid buildup was there in the NS10’s too which kind of made them sound great, but I digress.

        So……..I also have an RME UFX+ that I use for Live recording when out on tour (I’m a live audio engineer) and decided to hook that up to my MacBook via Thunderbolt one day then straight to the Amphions, the difference was night and day, all the top end “sparkle” was there, playback was more in keeping with the headphone frequency spectrum, there was depth and dynamics and mixing was pretty easy, so I came to the conclusion that it must be the Prism into the Avocet somehow causing a problem, which is a bit disappointing, as obviously that combination of gear in theory should be much “better” than the RME (or maybe not).

        I tried taking the avocet out of the equation, and running the prism direct to the Amphions using the built in digital volume trim, the same problem still persisted. I also tried Prism into the avocet via AES and the problem still persisted.

        Then I tried using unbalanced cables, so TS to xlr adaptors and this produced a similar effect to the RME, all the top end extension was back, the frequency range extended lower, the low mid buildup was gone and the “honkiness” was gone too, mixing was much more like mixing live and everything sounded more effortless and natural. It sounded more balanced than the RME though, easier to define depth, to hear verb tails, to place things in the stereo spectrum and front to back dimension, less “edgy” it also sounded pretty much identical to the headphone playback frequency-wise too.

        So, I’m not sure why going unbalanced would cause this much of a dramatic difference, or why going balanced from the Prism to the Amphions or Prism>Avocet>Amphions would cause the frequency response of the Amphions to sound so congested, but I was wondering if anyone here does know why or would like to hazard a guess?

        What I do know is that I’d like to try the Prism into the Avocet into the Amphions fully unbalanced and would like to know I’m doing that the correct way for these pieces of equipment.

        Any help is much appreciated


      • September 19, 2023 at 3:38 pm #5946
        Bob Katz

          Dear Russ: Welcome. The devil is in the details. Prism uses some kind of special bootstrap trick whereby if you unbalance the output of your Lyra, its output goes up 6 dB and its headroom goes down 6 dB. It’s the same circuit at that point, no additional nor fewer components. I would stick to balanced in that scenario. Only if you reduce the number of components in the chain POTENTIALLY the sound will be more transparent.


          Hope this helps,



          • September 19, 2023 at 3:56 pm #5947

              Thanks Bob for the speedy reply.

              Yea I read about the bootstrapping in the manual and sort of read it as you’ve described it.

              Weird that using the ts to ts cable to xlr adaptors into the amphion amp created such a difference though, although I have read that the navies ams1000 module is a bit picky/choosy on how it’s interfaced, so maybe the ts to xlr adaptor is doing something maybe the wiring of the ts-xlr adaptor is causing a loss of 6dB and the Amphion “prefers” it?

              I did notice that if I ran the output from protools into the prism lower, so peaking at around -14 and then increasing the volume of the Lyra via digital vol trim it sounded much better too and the amphions when pushed for a bit of fun volume would actually have cone movement, compared to having protools level higher into the prism and lower on the digital trim of the prism into the amphion, which would exhibit no cone movement and would also seem a lot louder even at lower volumes.

              The same with the avocet too, keeping protools higher -3dBFS peak into Lyra, bypass vol control into avocet and low level from Avocet into Amphion seemed much more congested and just louder than protools quieter, I thought this might be some weird internal core audio headroom thing for a minute as it was doing it wether I used prism Digital outputs into avocet or analogue outputs into avocet.

              I sound like a loon and it’s got me stumped.

            • September 19, 2023 at 4:27 pm #5948

                Thankyou so much for the welcome too, lovely to be here.

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