XLR out on a tuner?

I'm new to hifi and not an audiophile yet but learning a lot lately.

I'm following a Denon DN-300H tuner on the big auction site. It looks very clean and has a remote. I also noticed on the rear it has XLR cable outputs as well as RCA out. Is this sought after? Worth paying extra for? My pre-amp (Acoustic Research LS16) has two open XLR input ports marked Bal1 and Bal2. The price on the tuner is okay and if using XLR cables through the balanced input on the pre-amp is an advantage I might just buy it.

Any assistance much appreciated.

I have an MD 105T with both balanced and RCA outputs. I've tried both, with no discernable difference, as the distance between the tuner and preamp is very short.  IMO, balanced lines are good over longer distances; however, since the 300H is meant for rack mounting, you could go with balanced interconnects throughout. 
Thanks for that. In my case the distance will be no more than a foot or two. I've got some good quality RCA cables that I can use for this application. A good set of 3' World's Best Cables XLRs would add another $30 to the total if I felt like I needed them.

If I did go with the XLR cables then the whole system (other than CDP) would be balanced, if that matters. It would be XLR from tuner to pre-amp and it is already XLR from pre-amp to amp.
@n80. Did you relocate your ARC pre and CDP away from your amp and speakers?  
Not really. Got a 4 bay rack with spiked feet. Amp is on the bottom shelf and has plenty of room to breath.  The shelf above it does not get hot. It makes heat but it has huge open heat sinks. Pre-amp is on top shelf. It makes a lot of heat that goes straight up so I have it on the top shelf up on some walnut blocks with sorbothane pads underneath. It has great airlfow around it now. CD player is on sorbothane disks also.

So at least I got the pre-amp off of the CDP. This Sony CDP does not make nearly as much heat as the Arcam.

I know this isn't ideal but for now it is the best I can do. With the room configuration there is no good cheap way to get the components out from between the speakers but at least the speakers are well out in front of the components. When I build the bookshelves I'll be able to get the components separated much better.

In regard to this thread I did buy the Denon tuner. Like new for $120. I'll use the World's Best Cable RCA cables for now but might consider their XLRs when I have some extra cash ($30). 

None of this is pricey but I'm buying CDs now so there has been a constant stream of audio stuff coming to the door and my wife is starting to roll her eyes a bit.

Anyway, when this tuner gets here I'm pretty much set and will just be buying more CDs and hopefully nothing else.....but I know that isn't the audiophile way and I'm trying to avoid the feeling that I just need that something a little better........

I think digital/streaming/PC will have to wait a while.
If the Denon-DN 300H is truly balanced then it is worth it. Just because you have XLR  in puts or out puts does not mean you are truly balanced.
Again, I’m new to all this so I don’t understand what balanced really means. I’m assuming its a good thing and that might be all I need to know from a technical standpoint.

From a practical standpoint I do have a couple of questions:

First, assuming ’balanced’ is a good thing, how important is it? In other words, what should I expect to hear from unbalanced(?)/ single ended vs. truly balanced?

Second, if the system is not truly balanced, is there any advantage whatsoever to 3 foot long high quality XLR cables over 3 foot long high quality RCA cables?

Third, is my system truly balanced? (I don’t know how to find out.) It is an Acoustic Research LS16 tubed pre-amp feeding a Madrigal Proceed (Mark Levinson) HPA2 amp via Transparent Balanced MusicLink Super XLR cables from the "Main 2" outputs (the Main 1 outputs are RCA).

There are 2 sets of balanced XLR inputs on the back of the LS16. Both are empty for now.
A little research reveals that the Audio Research LS16 is a truly balanced pre-amp and that the Proceed HPA2 is also a truly balanced amp. So if this tuner I've bought is also truly balanced, and it says that it is, then I should be getting whatever benefits are to be had from a fully balanced system from tuner to pre-amp to amp for what that might be worth. I'll probably go ahead and get some good XLR cables. I probably would not be able to tell the difference between that and single-ended but at least I'll know that I have things maximized.

My CDP does not have balanced output.
Given the price point of this tuner, I strongly suspect it is running its XLR outputs in an “unbalanced” configuration (that is, both return and shield are running to ground, like in a RCA interconnect).
Given the price point of this tuner, I strongly suspect it is running its XLR outputs in an “unbalanced” configuration (that is, both return and shield are running to ground, like in a RCA interconnect)
That is extremely unlikely because if such a signal were connected to a true balanced (differential) amplifier using a balanced input, severe damage could result. What is probable is that the tuner uses op-amps at its output to create balanced signals from the tuner’s otherwise unbalanced circuitry.
The tuner in question is made by Denon’s Pro division, and is described as providing balanced outputs. Both of those facts make it likely that its XLR outputs provide a balanced pair of signals. Given its low price, it is also very probable that as Cleeds said it uses an op amp (operational amplifier) integrated circuit at its outputs to create at least one of the two signals in the balanced signal pair, by inverting the other signal.

However, even if the XLR outputs provide just a single unbalanced signal it would not do any harm to connect them to the preamp’s balanced inputs. RCA-to-XLR adapters do essentially the same thing. A risk of damage might arise in some cases when using an XLR-to-RCA adapter on an XLR **output,** because most such adapters short the signal on pin 3 to ground (pin 1). Also, some Audio Research fully balanced power amps, which provide only XLR inputs, will not work properly if they are provided with unbalanced inputs. In those cases, though, the consequence would be a large reduction in power capability, and an increase in distortion. The only means by which damage might occur in that situation is if the amp were overdriven relative to its reduced power capability, the resulting clipped output waveform perhaps causing damage to tweeters.

Whether or not an XLR connection would be preferable to an RCA connection in this particular case depends on the specific design of the tuner, and perhaps also on the design of the preamp and the interconnect cable. Given the likelihood that the tuner uses an inexpensive op amp to generate at least one of the signals that is provided to the XLR connectors, though, I would expect that the odds are against it sounding better, and it very conceivably could sound worse.

-- Al

What Al said.One other example of this was the now vintage Sony flagship CD player, the model name of which escapes me (SCD1?).  It too used an op amp (or possibly discrete devices) to create a balanced output.  The scuttlebutt was that the standard SE output sounded better than the balanced output via XLR, probably for the reason Al cites.  (I used to own its slightly less expensive brother, the SCD777ES, which differed from the SCD1 mainly in not providing balanced outputs.)
Thanks for the explanations guys.

Not that it matters in my case, but it seems a shame that Denon, or anyone else, would market a component aimed, presumably, at higher end buyers and include connecters and the description ’balanced’ when 1) they may be abusing the term for marketing purposes and 2) might sound worse or at least no better than the standard SE connector.

In fact, it seems down right deceitful to go to the trouble and expense of adding XLR connectors when the only real benefit is marketing. Not that I’m surprised, this goes on in the photography world (which I’m well versed in) but to a lesser extent with "pro" level gear. Which makes me wonder if Denon’s "pro" level stuff is really just average midfi stuff actually aimed at midfi buyers who won’t know the difference between truly balanced and some version of ’balanced’ which conveys no benefit.

Having learned all this I’d say I’m unlikely to spend another $30 on XLR cables to find out if there is a difference. I already have good if not very good RCA cables in hand and at this point in my audiophile ’career’ I have no confidence that I’d hear a minor difference anyway.

All very interesting stuff and thanks again.

And for the record, I don’t regret the purchase (yet, it hasn’t arrived) since the balanced XLR output didn’t impact my decision to buy it.
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Based on the Denon specs sheet, output voltage is the same regardless of the output selected. That’s not usually the case if the XLR outputs derive from a balanced circuit. Compare with the MD tuners having balanced XLR outs vs their RCA outs. The balanced outs are always 2x the voltage. 
Thanks. I did not know how to tell from the specs. Sounds like a gimmick then. Certainly will not buy XLR cables. Shame that Denon would resort to that sort of bait-and-switch.

I guess if you just happened to have XLR cables lying around and no RCA cables it would actually be a 'feature'.

Anyway, can't wait for it to get here. I still enjoy listening to the radio. Even though I'm not real into classical we have a superb classical station here well worth listening to.
As Cleeds said, if they used an op-amp on the XLR outputs to “split” the signal for balanced output, then each signal conductor would carry 1/2 the voltage. So that likely explains the equivalent voltage outputs from both balanced and single-ended outputs. (Or it could be simply a typographical error in their specs, and the balanced outs are rated with an higher voltage.)
Based on the Denon specs sheet, output voltage is the same regardless of the output selected.

Dan (Celander), where do you see that? What I see here is simply a reference to "output voltage 500mV / 2.2 kΩ." I would not infer from that that the balanced and unbalanced output voltages are the same; it is quite possible that the spec applies to one of the two outputs (probably the RCA output, given the 500 mv amplitude), with the voltage of the other output not being indicated. Also, while as you said balanced output voltages are commonly stated to be twice as great as unbalanced output voltages, with the balanced output voltages being implicitly defined as the instantaneous voltage difference between the two signals in a balanced signal pair, I’ve seen a number of instances over the years in which balanced output voltages (and also impedances) have been defined on the basis of each of the two signals in a balanced signal pair. As confirmed by John Atkinson’s measurements of some components that have been published in Stereophile.

Also, as I alluded to earlier, pro equipment is usually designed to accept and to supply balanced pairs of signals.

... if they used an op-amp on the XLR outputs to “split” the signal for balanced output, then each signal conductor would carry 1/2 the voltage.

No, that is not true. If an op amp is used to generate one of the two signals in a balanced signal pair by simply inverting the other signal, as is done in many designs, the "split" (and it is not really a split) would not result in anything more than a miniscule change in the amplitude of either signal.


-- Al
What Denon did here is common practice in the industry, even now, and even in much more expensive components with high end pretensions.  Don't hate them for it.  In fact, some equipment has XLR inputs or outputs that are actually single-ended.  At least in the case of the gear you described, the XLR output is in fact balanced.  It's just not done in the best possible way.  And it may sound fine, for all we know.  Furthermore, Denon tells customers what they are getting, if you take the time to read the not so fine print.
I refer back to the Sony SCD1; yes, it had that suboptimally derived balanced output, but it was also regarded for many years as the best sounding one box CDP available and is still sought after by some collectors and tweakers. 
Al, 1+

Denon appears to adjust their output voltages as they seem fit. It’s 500mV for both outputs of the DN-300H (otherwise, they would have stated so if they differed). It’s different for their internet tuner, but they do specify output level differences where they exist. See:

I got the tuner today. I know why someone sold it. It hums. Not through the speakers, through its cabinet, primarily the top. A small amount of pressure at a single point on the top stops the humming. I can only hear it with the music muted and I have to be pretty close. From my listening position I cannot hear it at all even with the music off.

It does not seem like a malfunction, I think it is just poor design and construction. Probably not enough for me to send it back.

Otherwise it is like new and works great. 
Not so weird.  Probably only a transformer that needs either securing or tightening of the leaves.  Open up the cabinet.  If the transformer has bolts going through from one side to the other, tighten them.  Also, look to be sure that the transformer is tightly bolted to the chassis. Ideally it will be supported by some rubber-y footers.  Tightening everything up will likely rid you of the problem.  This thing is old, is it not?  Why are you so quick to dump on it, when in fact this is a typical problem that can apply to almost any vintage gear?  It may even be that someone tried to service it and left the transformer loose in the chassis.  If the two suggested cures do not work, you might be able to dampen the vibration by adding a weight on top of the transformer.
I have no plans to dump it. I said above that the problem was not bad enough for me to send it back.

But thanks for the advice, I will do just as you suggest and take a look. Certainly can't hurt. And if all else fails I think I can simply set something on it and stop the hum. Even that is probably not necessary since I can not hear it from 12 feet away anyhow.

I do not know how old it is but definitely not vintage. Denon does not make it anymore but there appear to be some places out there where you can still buy one new, usually shown as special order, so who knows. Anyway, not real old.