Why some mastering engineers insist on using unbalanced lines…
Do any of the engineers on the list use balanced interfaces at all?
>Balanced is for Mics and Telephones, wrote Dave Collins of A&M Mastering on the mastering list!
and I replied
It’s nice to meet with another engineer who subscribes to that. All other things being equal, unbalanced is better. Now just what does that mean? Well, basically, it boils down to the “less is more” philosophy.
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.