Are Balanced Cables Louder?

Cabling is such an important aspect in audio production equipment because it allows us to hook up all of the systems we need for our work station.

There are a number of different cables out there that usually fall under two categories which are balanced and unbalanced.

In this post we are discussing balanced cables. I’m specifically going to touch on whether balanced cables are louder because it is a question that I come across quiet often.

I therefore thought it necessary to write out a full blog post discussing this.

With that said, are balanced cables louder?

Balanced cables have 3 wires, the ground wire and two signal wires which carry out of phase identical signals to eliminate noise. This process gives balanced cables a louder output signal with more headroom because balanced cables are less susceptible to noise and signal loss along the cable run.

This also means your device need not be turned as high to achieve the desired volume, and the dynamic range of the source material will be maintained.

Balanced Cables

Balanced cables are made up of 3 wires.

These three conducting wires comprise of two signal wires and a ground signal wire.

The two signal wires both carry identical audio signal.

These signals are sent out of phase which is also referred to as reversed polarity.

The two out of phase signals are still identical, however one is the opposite of the other.

In mathematical terms we could say one of these is a positive signal or the ‘hot signal’ carrying a value of +1,

While the other is a negative or ‘cold signal’ carrying -1.

The ground wire is what protects the signal wires from noise and other electromagnetic interference.

The reversed polarity of the two signal wires is what eliminates noise and other electromagnetic interference on the other end.

Audio signals going through the cable picks up interference and other noise that might degrade the audio quality.

To get rid of the interference and noise, once the audio signals reach the other end, the cold signal that had a reversed polarity is flipped back to the original signal

Thus, the noise and interference picked along the way are also flipped and get a reversed polarity.

The result is that the noise signal cancels itself out with the noise signal from the hot signal.

As a result, the original signal is preserved, free of noise or interference.

This process of noise-canceling itself out is called common-mode rejection.

The noise canceling abilities of balanced cables allows them to run for longer distances without running into noise or interference issues.

Unbalanced

Balanced cables comprise of two wires that are inside a plastic casing.

Of these two wires, one is a signal wire the other is a ground wire.

The signal wire is responsible for carrying audio signals through, while the ground wire that surrounds the signal wire is responsible for shielding the signal wire from external electronic interference from devices such as lights, televisions, radios and transformers.

An unbalanced cable is one that takes the audio signal from a piece of equipment such as an instrument or stereo system and passes it straight through to a receiving or capturing device like a mixer or other any other device without manipulation.

 Leaving the audio untouched makes things relatively simple, but it also means that sometimes the audio can become distorted.

Final Thoughts

Balanced cables are essential tools for problem-free signal routing.

Its the best possible transmission for microphones. Which is why you’ll find that this cabling type is the go to option for music recording work.

If you’re looking to run audio signals through a cable for a long distance using balanced cables is the way to go.

Furthermore, balanced cables can supply the phantom power by mics like condenser microphones.

Basically, everything that revolves around the world of miking requires balanced cables.

A Guitar or bass players will for the most part rarely use balanced cables.

A guitar, bass guitar, pedal or amplifier always operate on an unbalanced signal.

When distances are a problem, then a buffer is preferred.

Balanced cables are necessary when miking an amplifier/cabinet or when the guitar signal is sent through a line-out on the mixer.

Keyboard players also normally use unbalanced cables, as their connections.