Do you often ask yourself what the difference between a balanced VS unbalanced cable is? Well so did I for a long time, in fact I went through a phase (no pun intended) of replacing a lot of my leads with balanced XLR cables, only to realise I had been replacing perfectly good balanced cables that had a TRS Jack connector as opposed to an XLR connector. So I was young and foolish, and always associated XLR with balanced signals – which isn’t always the case. So I am going to show you how to spot balanced VS unbalanced cables, what balanced even means, and how the magical-voodoo, that is is balanced audio actually works.
So, what’s a balanced cable? and why is it good?
The main benefit of balanced cables, compared to unbalanced guitar or patch cables, is their ability to transfer sound signals over much longer runs/distances without signal loss, or interference. Balanced cables have a very low signal to noise ratio, so will often give you a much better sound, especially over longer cables. The problem with cables in general, is the same thing that makes them useful – they are very good electric conductors and are very sensitive to electromagnetic forces. They are long runs of copper, and the copper acts much like an antenna. Though the cables likely have an internal screen or earth in order to try an mitigate the issue, over long lengths of cable the problem is compounded. This is why you probably need a balanced cable.