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Veteran user
368 Posts

Profile of Darius666
I have recently bought a new microphone. It has two different outputs know as Balanced and Unbalanced. Im having trouble understanding the difference between them (mainly due to the rubbish manuel).

Does anyone out there know what the difference is? Is one better than the other? I am looking to get a sound mixer and need to know which inputs I need, and I would rather go with the best. A lot of the sound mixer, in my price range, seem to be limited on what inputs they have.

Thanks in advance.

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Northern California
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Profile of Doughlas
Balanced and Unbalanced is just High Impedance and Low Impedance outputs. Balanced mics have a XLR connection, unbalanced use 1/4 inch connection. Usually it doesn't matter too much which connection you use, I use 1/4 inch connection on anything that is going to be less than a 6 foot cable run. If the cable is going to be longer than 6 feet, I go with the XLR balanced connection. The thing that's going to determine the best sound quality is really the microphone you have. I only buy the Shure mics and have had great success with them. They also have both outputs.

Hope this helps,
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Inner circle
4586 Posts

Profile of silverking
Always balanced if given a choice.

Unbalanced equipment is full of potential for RF and other types of noise.
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Inner circle
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Profile of Regan

Mister Mystery
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Profile of ScottRSullivan
The main difference actually depends on isolating the signal in the transmitter/receiver (via a transformer) and ALSO the wiring type of the cable.

While most XLR cables are balanced, there are exceptions. Just because you have an XLR cable doesn't mean that it's balanced. Check, as it will say on the cable if it's balanced or not.

And vice versa, a three-conductor phone plug (1/4" TRS or "tip-ring-sleeve") can be used for balanced signals.

In fact, technically you can even use certain high-end Cat-5 Ethernet cable as balanced audio cable for line-level signals. But let's ignore this for sake of discussion! Smile

Balanced cable works by reading the volt differnce between the two wires. Any noise from outside the cable (ie: power cords, RF) will affect both wires the same. So if there is a +1 volt signal in one cable and a -1 volt signal in the other, the difference is 2 volts. Add +1 volt noise to both wires and you've got 2 V in the first wire and 0 V in the second wire. The difference is still 2 volts. Although in real life, the signal will be switching polarity depending on the sound wave from the mic, but the math is the same.

Now here's where it gets tricky:

You can plug a balanced output into an unbalanced input without damaging the signal (meaning you will still be able to speak into the mic and hear yourself in the speakers), but it will destroy the balanced signal.

This means that your mic must be balanced, the cable must be balanced and the receiving mixer (or powered mixer) must be balanced.

This is the extent of what I know. Don probably would have WAY more detailed and accurate information. Do a search for some of his posts. He knows his audio better than most of us know the back of our own hands!

Hope this helps!
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Profile of Darius666
Thanks everyone for your help. Think I understand it a bit better now
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