RCA cables are the standard pair of connections commonly used to connect stereo equipment. People also use them for video connections. Unfortunately, RCA cables usually are unbalanced.
However, nowadays, some manufacturers offer “pseudo-balanced” RCA cables. They use balanced connectors on just one side of the cable. The other side has an unbalanced connector. The reason for this is to provide better compatibility with the “phono” connectors (also known as RCA Phono connectors), which you can find on consumer equipment such as turntables, CD players, and tape decks.
What is the difference between unbalanced and balanced cables?
The main point is that unbalanced cables have only one conductor to carry the signal from input to output, while balanced cables have three conductors. Besides, there is one more difference between them, and here we can speak about the noise cancellation method.
A balanced cable uses three wires, with one acting as an extra shield for the signal. A signal received on any of these wires will affect the whole circuit. The shield is just as a ground and helps eliminate hum and other problems that can arrive at the receiving end. So, using balanced cables is a good idea in most cases when you need better sound quality. You can find these kinds of cables in most amplifiers and microphones.
An unbalanced cable uses two wires for signal, one wire acting as ground (another reference point). The main advantage of this is it’s much cheaper to make the cable because the audio signal travels through only two conductors. However, if you’re using an unbalanced connection, it’s good to pay attention to settings and make sure the cables have good shields
What cable is better to use?
A balanced cable is much better. Balanced cables can cancel out noise and interference. If you use an unbalanced cable, the signal will be concentrated towards the first or last sections of the cable. As a result, you can get a too loud and distorted sound during your recording and on playback. The difference between sound at the beginning and the end of the cable will be much more pronounced.
Besides, if you need to use a long cable, choosing a balanced one is better. Its possibility to cancel noise and distortion will help to keep a flat sounding. Of course, it’s not just about whether you have balanced or unbalanced cables; their quality is also essential.
How to balance an unbalanced cable?
RCA cables are usually unbalanced, but there is a possibility to buy balanced versions with XLR connectors. They also reduce noise. To achieve a good balance, insert an XLR connector into the RCA plug from the other end of your long cable. This will make your RCA connection balanced.