Balanced vs RCA between amp/preamp

Well I'm taking my first step into separate components with a Marantz SC-11s1 and SM-11s1. Would like to know about the +/-'s of using RCA vs balanced interconnects between the two. All my input sources are single ended.

I understand the Marantz components balanced connections have pin 2 wired cold and pin 3 wired hot. Does this mean I need to reverse the cables going to my speakers (if I decide to use balanced connections between amp/preamp).

I also understand the RCA connections conserve absolute polarity. But is there a performance "hit" taken by using singled ended connections between amp/preamp?

Thank you in advance......
This is simple. If both devices was designed for full balanced support then it is clear that XLR is preferable solution. If one of the device is single ended then RCA is perfectly normal.
I tested many cables and devices. This rule is in general pretty common. I I join my MC1.25 monoblocks with C2600 preamp with XLR and C2600 with Chord Dave with RCA since Dave construction is SE.
Simple as that.
Yea, sure. Different cables, hybrid devices, balanced architecture implementation can effect the sound eventually but the rule more or less remain.
One of the earliest posts was that XLR is for long distance connections. True, but super HIEND equipment will benefit from it as well. If I adjust the position of my speakers by half of inches and I hear it then why extra clarity provided by XLR should not have the same influence.
Over 20thy years of adventure with audio teach me that there are no boundaries in this hobby.
I began my transition from rca to diff balanced kit 2 decades ago.

Same nonsense appears here as back  then (that they are ONLY for long runs) I have heard differences between 0.5m and 1.0m XLRs

Dif balanced is basically 2 totally independent channels (hense doubling the cost), though they often incorporate the same output transformers. 

EVSs new EVS 1200 has 2 separate channels in it whereas most of the similar class D stereo amps do not. Appreciating his knowledge, I bought one

Buyer Beware:  I used to call out the hi end mag editors for giving dif balanced kit to 'reviewers' whose systems are NOT dif balanced. I finally gave up. 

A lot of kit has XLR I/Os but the kit itself is NOT dif balanced, therefore the listener will not hear the difference

RicEVS, wrenth,  and engineears have it correct
Also prefer balanced cause I’m not a fan of single ended cables use of the ground screen to carry 1/2 of the signal. I theorize that this is why there is so much more variation in sound from one type of cable to another vs balanced xlr where the shield is separate from signal carrying conductors
Engineears 8-2-2019

Horse puckey! I just got up, walked over to my handmade true-balanced end-to-end differential headphone amp, disconnected my Mogami XLR interconnect from my R-2r resistor ladder DAC and measured the pins on its standard Neutrik-branded male connector. ShOcKeR! All pins are the same length.

So I thought, well there’s *no*way* anyone would mansplain so authoritatively if they weren’t actually knowledgeable. Better give them the benefit of the doubt and find another cable with a non-Neutrik XLR connector on it. It took some digging, but I eventually found another cable with Amphenol XLR connectors. Nope. All the same length....

... Today, unless you can link to a whitepaper or standards doc that specifies a longer ground pin, I say we can safely assume the pins are the same length.

Apparently you didn’t read my post on this subject very carefully. I clearly said that the pin lengths on the male connectors of my XLR cables appear to be the same for all of the pins. It is the female connector for which I described a difference, which when mated with a male connector having equal length pins would result in the ground connection being made first, upon insertion, and removed last, upon removal.

-- Al

A lot of informative info before this summary in the link above.


Professional-grade balanced analog audio interfaces can provide a 12 to 16 dB SNR advantage over unbalanced interfaces due to the high +24 dBu signal levels used on balanced interfaces. Consumer-grade balanced interfaces can only provide 3 to 6 dB SNR advantage due to the relatively low +14 dBu (4 Vrms) signal levels.

In addition, the differential amplifier or transformer in a balanced input can provide an incredible 50 to 100 dB rejection of ground-loop interference. This is usually sufficient to reduce ground-loop interference to completely inaudible levels.

In an unbalanced interface, the shared use of the shield places ground-loop currents in the audio path. Unbalanced interfaces are very sensitive to ground currents flowing between audio components. This is not a problem with balanced interfaces due to the use of dedicated audio conductors.

Copper braid and foil layers provide shielding against RF interference. In a balanced cable, the shield does not carry the audio signal. The audio conductors are fully surrounded by the shield but are electrically isolated from the shield. In an unbalanced system, the RF shield also serves as the audio ground. This dual use of the RF shield, in an unbalanced system, causes a slight increase in susceptibility to RF interference.

Copper braid and foil shields do not provide any protection against magnetic interference. Magnetic fields easily pass through copper and foil. If star-quad cables are used in a balanced system, magnetic interference can be rejected by the CMRR of the balanced input receiver. In a balanced system, 4-conductor star-quad cables can reduce magnetic interference by 20 to 50 dB when compared to standard two-conductor balanced cables.

These numbers should be hard to ignore, but the hi-fi industry has been slow to change. Many high-end audio products still are not equipped with balanced interfaces. Others have consumer-grade 4 Vrms balanced interfaces. These are a partial step in the right direction.

The facts show that it is virtually impossible to achieve state-of-the-art audio performance using unbalanced interfaces. We see this in the lab when we measure balanced and unbalanced interfaces under ideal well-controlled conditions. Outside, in the real world, the advantages of balanced interfaces are larger than a set of balanced vs. unbalanced specifications would indicate on a product data sheet. The differences can be extremely large when ground loops, RF interference, and magnetic interference are encountered in a typical audio system.

Our recommendation? Avoid unbalanced (RCA) analog interfaces whenever possible! Look for professional-grade balanced interfaces when buying audio products. Look for CMRR specifications on balanced inputs. Consider replacing audio devices that do not support balanced interconnects. These unbalanced-only devices are probably a weak link in your audio chain.