New TT : Balanced vs. Unbalanced Connection?

I am in a six-month process of assembling a system will last me for the next 5-10 years. I’m set on the components, so please do not try to talk me out of my selections. My question here is a technical one.

I have purchased a Thorens TD–1601 and a Nagaoka MP–200 cartridge. I am trying to decide on the Integrated amp between Yamaha’s A-S3200 and A-S2200. The key difference for this question being the A-S3200 has two balanced inputs and the A-S2200 has one. I will use the first balanced connection to connect a recently purchased HiFi Rose RS-150b Streamer/DAC.

Now to my real question. The semi-automatic Thorens TD-1601 has both balanced and unbalanced outputs. I am considering buying a Schitt Skoll phono pre which has balanced in-and-out. In that case, I would buy the Yamaha A-S3200, needing two balanced inputs.

So, ASSUMING the phono preamp on the Yamaha A-S2200 is comparable to the Schitt Skoll, will I get markedly better sound by going fully unbalanced, with the Skoll and the much more expensive A-S3200, or unbalanced direct from Thorens TT into the highly regarded phone pre of the A-S2200?

What benefits will I get by going balanced? How much benefit? It is worth the complexity, extra box, cables, $2,000-3,000? I can afford it if much better, but don’t want to spend money unnecessarily. The TT and the integrated will be right next to each other, so distance is not a factor. Or is the A-S3200 that much better? …I like the BIGGER meters.

My current speakers are Paradigm Reference Studio 40 v2, which I love and have two pair, a super sleeper. They are not likely to be changed…one day Fyne Audio.

To reiterate, this is a technical question about the merits of balanced turntable connections. Thanks for the input. I have learned much from this forum over the last few years.



I suggest looking for posts by 'Atmasphere', -Ralph was one of the first manufacturers to provide a 'true' Balanced design to audiophile equipment- which entails abiding by the AES 47 standards.

He often chimes in to Balanced/Unbalanced discussions. But, if he doesn't, then PM him. Honest, free advice from a really nice person.


The biggest difference you’ll experience is most likely using balanced from turntable to the phono amplifier. Since that has balanced outs as well I’d give the phono signal preference and use short RCA wiring from DAC to integrated and save the money.

OTOH, if you expect long runs from component to component, or are in an electrically noisy environment (like a high rise) or money is not object, then the XLR inputs for your CD and phono amp will make sense.

Honestly, given how delicate signals from a phono cartridge are I'm amazed more turntables and preamps don't have balanced inputs for them.  Of all source components in consumer gear, a phono cartridge to me seems to benefit the most from a differential input that is separate from the ground.

Right question, wrong reason. You need to find out for yourself if induced noise from unbalanced interconnects is objectionable to you or not. 

That aside, unbalanced (using one of the signal conductors as the signal ground for the other signal conductor) is not best practice. Take the way the headshell wiring brings both signal conductors for each channel through the tonearm tube that is grounded fo the phono stage chasssis (not the turntable chassis). Using shielded twisted pair preserves and extends the tonearm tube shielding all the way to the phono stage. 

Oh, and one more thing, phono cartridges produce a differential signal that is not referenced to any ground, so the signal is neither balanced nor unbalanced, but it works best with balanced interconnects. 

To tag onto  what @gdnrbob mentioned. I recently bought gear that is truly fully balanced. This is the best solution for when you need to run long cables. The mfg. (Atma-Sphere) also suggested I convert my Rega P6 turntable from RCA to fully balanced. I did it it and it’s awesome- quiet and sounds great! I have their tube pre with tube phono stage and class d mono blocks and loving it more every day! In case you haven’t already, I suggest you read up on the posts from Ralph @atmasphere. He has lots of good posts that explain the interesting tech side of truly balanced vs just XLR and not actually balanced.