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What am I missing with XLR over RCA.? (Read 637 times)
Delta 77
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What am I missing with XLR over RCA.?
04/19/22 at 00:53:56
 
I remember reading (donít remember where) that with my new DAC (Holo Spring 3), that Iím not getting the DACís full potential if not using the XLR outputs..

Question 1:
Is there any truth to the above.??

Even though the Holo (DAC) might sound just fine with XLRs directly to the amp..

I think Iím gonna want my Zrock2 in the chain, which is RCA only..
The Zrock2 widens the soundstage and adds a naturalness to the vocals that Iíve been trying to get from a preamp, but have yet to find one that can do what the Zrock2 does..

Question 2:
Should I just get a Zbit (XLR to RCA) or will I not really notice the difference using the XLR to Zbit.??

Boy, it sure gets confusing learning how to use new gear sometimes..

Burt..





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CAJames
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Re: What am I missing with XLR over RCA.?
Reply #1 - 04/19/22 at 05:12:11
 
If your DAC is ďtruly balancedĒ, and I think yours is but I donít know for sure, it means it really has 4 channels of output. It does digital to analog conversations of both a + and- phase of both left and right channel. You get all four on the XLR output, but typically you only get the + phase on the RCA.

Does this matter? I know for me it matters a lot and I preserve the balanced signal thru my preamp and my UFOs and finally difference them across my speaker terminals. Other Decware owners like the ZBIT to difference the phases before they get amplified. I canít say for sure you would be missing out if you used the RCA outputs, but IMO  you arenít getting your monies worth from your DAC without using the signal from the XLR outputs.
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Tony
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Re: What am I missing with XLR over RCA.?
Reply #2 - 04/22/22 at 15:15:26
 
Hi CAJames, †I have an Ares II DAC. †I wrote to Vinshine Audio and asked if it was a true balanced DAC, and they said yes. †I am now thinking of what I need to follow your suggestion of using XLR from DAC to my preamp, a CSP 2+. †In addition to cables, I would need ZBIT as there is no XLR input to the CSP 2+. †Does that sound correct?

Also, is it advisable to keep the XLR cable short, only as long as necessary, or is that length irrelevant?

Is anything else needed, or would these pieces complete the setup to preserve the balanced signal to the preamp?

Thanks, Tony
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GroovySauce
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Re: What am I missing with XLR over RCA.?
Reply #3 - 04/22/22 at 16:20:02
 
RCA and XLR have their positives and negatives.

XLR is a great way to reduce noise, send a signal over long distances, and reduce / eliminate ground loops.

RCA is a more pure signal. Ground loops and noise can be an issue.

One reason I suspect people prefer XLR is the added voltage of true balanced XLR usually (always?) 2x. This alone will change the sound.

Saying that you are not getting the ďfull potentialĒ seems misleading to me. Yes, there is some hardware that is not being used. The differential voltage of the output. Itís also a source of distortion.

Here is Galen Gareis (a brilliant cable designer) discussing the differences between XLR and RCA.

https://forum.psaudio.com/t/rca-vs-xlr/14787/19

https://forum.psaudio.com/t/rca-vs-xlr/14787/31

https://forum.psaudio.com/t/rca-vs-xlr/14787/33

https://forum.psaudio.com/t/rca-vs-xlr/14787/52

I have a Holo Audio MAY KTE DAC and a ZBIT. Iím currently NOT using the ZBIT.

I donít need the extra voltage. DAC outputs 2.9v RCA.

As Galen says, looking at the source and the destination is a consideration. Unless you have a specific issue that you need XLR. Noise, ground loop, or a long run. RCA might be a better option.

I donít know the ins and outs of CAJamesís setup. In his setup going balanced, start to finish, for him and his tastes, itís the optimal way to do it.

Unfortunately, it really needs to be tried both ways in your system to figure out which is better.
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Lon
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Re: What am I missing with XLR over RCA.?
Reply #4 - 04/22/22 at 17:00:01
 
I've tried it both ways in my system and have a ZBIT. My two best DACs (a PS Audio DSD DAC, and a heavily modded PS Audio DSD DAC) have just over 1.3 volts out in single-ended and that just isn't enough. Using the balanced out with the ZBIT gives me better sound and allows me to "ride the gain" and get a just the right sound for me and my system. My third DAC is within the Oppo UDP-205 that I use in my audio-visual system and though I can use the single-ended output using the balanced output and the ZBIT gives me "gain riding" flexibility and I really enjoy the sound that I can tailor.

For me, and in my opinion, it's mostly I would say about the voltage output from the source but even if it's sufficient I feel that "more" via balanced for me has been preferred.

It's a shame many can't try both out without a ZBIT or the 1:1 Jensen transformers that it uses or an equivalent.
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CAJames
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Re: What am I missing with XLR over RCA.?
Reply #5 - 04/22/22 at 17:04:36
 
Quote:
Posted by: Tony      Posted on: Today at 15:15:26
Hi CAJames,  I have an Ares II DAC.  I wrote to Vinshine Audio and asked if it was a true balanced DAC, and they said yes.  I am now thinking of what I need to follow your suggestion of using XLR from DAC to my preamp, a CSP 2+.  In addition to cables, I would need ZBIT as there is no XLR input to the CSP 2+.  Does that sound correct?


Yes, that is correct. IMO you should always keep every cable as short as possible. FWIW I have the Terminator 2 DAC, and it is fantastic, Denafrips makes great stuff!
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CAJames
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Re: What am I missing with XLR over RCA.?
Reply #6 - 04/22/22 at 17:52:07
 
Re: RCA vs XLR.

To me it isn't about the cables, it is about the electronics. Pro audio uses balanced/XLR for noise rejection, which is cool but not really the point. Like I said below, if I'm paying for a DAC that does 4 channels of digital to analog conversion (+ and - phases of both L and R channel) then I want to use all 4 of them and (typically) the only way to do that is with the XLR output. When you difference the + and - phase, it averages out digital artifacts and nonlinearities in addition to common mode noise, and that is †real reason to use the XLR output IMO. (Also I think XLR connectors are about 100 times nicer than RCA and make better contact but that is just a personal hobby horse I ride). Most balanced DACs just output the + phase on the RCA output, and while I'll never say anyone is crazy for preferring that option you are throwing away half the information, that's an arithmetic fact.

Of course where and how you difference you balanced signal is a whole different kettle of fish. Maybe it is because my stereo is about 12 feet from the 'fridge, or that I live right by an air force base (recently rebranded to space base) that generates tons of EMI, but I learned a long time ago that keeping the balanced signal balanced all the way to the speakers (or headphones) sounded a lot better than anything else, but that is just me.

All the above is JMO, FWIW, YMMV as always. No way am I trying to start yet another online war over XLR vs RCA.


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GroovySauce
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Re: What am I missing with XLR over RCA.?
Reply #7 - 04/22/22 at 19:08:34
 
In Lonís case, wanting more voltage. It makes sense to use XLR. Iím guessing I would prefer Lonís system with the ZBIT in play too. My experience is that generally, 2+v output from the source sounds better than, say 1-1.5v output.

WBT Locking RCA are very nice and make a fantastic connection. Both type can be bad or great.

If a XLR to RCA adapter that shorts one phase to ground is used, that is problematic.

Quote:
Most balanced DACs just output the + phase on the RCA output, and while Iíll never say anyone is crazy for preferring that option you are throwing away half the information, thatís an arithmetic fact.


How is that throwing away half the information? Isnít the positive phase the whole signal?

I might be proving my ignorance on how balanced worksÖthis is how I understand it. Balanced takes the waveform, splits it in to positive and negative phase (Inverts one.) amplifies both separately, then sends both the positive and the negative down separate wires. When the signals get to the destination, the negative signal is inverted again, then compared, only what is the same is summed. Anything that isnít the same is ignored and not passed on. This is how it achieves noise blocking and ground loop elimination. Therefore, itís 2x the voltage because itís taking two of the same waveform and summing them.

Any differences between the amplification of the two phases, inputs, and cable lengths, summing stage. Will result in less information being passed. Yes, it is a slight difference. Itís still there.

RCA amplifies the signal it, then passes it to the next component.

Wouldnít more information get passed via RCA than XLR? We are talking about very small differences. Also there is a lot more to "get right" a lot more parts with Balanced XLR vs RCA. This could be why people say you're not getting full value, you are paying a lot for parts and engineering that isn't being used.

In high electrical noise areas, XLR is most likely the better option.

RCA is a more pure signal, IF noise doesn't contaminate it. So which is better, the noise and distortion from the more complex balanced XLR circuits or the noise (distortion) that is picked up and not rejected on the RCA? It comes down to the individual system and environment.
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CAJames
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Re: What am I missing with XLR over RCA.?
Reply #8 - 04/22/22 at 20:04:09
 
Quote:
Posted by: GroovySauce      Posted on: Today at 19:08:34


...How is that throwing away half the information? Isnít the positive phase the whole signal?

I might be proving my ignorance on how balanced worksÖthis is how I understand it. Balanced takes the waveform, splits it in to positive and negative phase (Inverts one.) amplifies both separately, then sends both the positive and the negative down separate wires. When the signals get to the destination, the negative signal is inverted again, then compared, only what is the same is summed. Anything that isnít the same is ignored and not passed on...



Sorta. But the critical difference is in our DACs the signal isn't split, the inverted (-) phase is converted directly by the DAC. If you look under the hood of our DACs there are 4 resistor ladders, one each component (L+ , L- , R+ and R-) and each gets its own digital to analog conversion. So the + phase is one realization of the whole signal and the - phase is a different realization of the (inverted) signal. What happens at the end is the two phases are differenced (which is technically summing the negative), and since:

x - (-x) = 2x

You get twice the voltage, the common noise in both phases cancel out and any differences between the "normal" and "inverted" realization (digital artifacts and such) get averaged.

So yeah, balanced is more complicated (and expensive) because it is essentially a 4 channel system instead of a 2 channel system. The good news is we bought that complexity built into our DACs. How you choose to use it, if at all, is of course up to you.

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GroovySauce
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Re: What am I missing with XLR over RCA.?
Reply #9 - 04/23/22 at 12:42:44
 
I wonder for ladder DACs what the price difference would be if they were made as single ended only and a fully balanced version. Knowing myself I would most likely still get the fully balanced version so I have more flexibility.

Quote:
Is anything else needed, or would these pieces complete the setup to preserve the balanced signal to the preamp?


Tony, This got lost in the technical discussion. The CSP2+ is single ended. The balanced signal will be converted to single ended before any amplification is done. So you will gain, gain which opens up sound shaping opportunities. You also get noise rejection for the XLR section of the run, I'm not 100% sure that is true so would love to learn more.

On DECWARE amps that have XLR inputs. Itís basically a ZBIT inside the amp. Steve advised me and others Iíve spoken with, that if you are interested in getting XLR inputs, itís more flexible to go with the ZBIT.
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Tony
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Re: What am I missing with XLR over RCA.?
Reply #10 - 04/24/22 at 06:01:48
 
Thanks Groovy, much appreciated.
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Ghostship
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Re: What am I missing with XLR over RCA.?
Reply #11 - 04/28/22 at 11:22:03
 
To your original question:

From their website, "the Holo Audio May DACs are a true balanced Dual Mono design where XLR uses all of the circuits and RCA only half. The balanced output has better performance (THD, noise, SINAD of >115dB, and a dynamic range of >130dB ) and also a better common-mode rejection rate. If youíre listening environment contains interference, either from AC power or from EMI/RF then you will find a fully balanced system can really help significantly." Additionally, you get double the voltage output: XLR 5.8 Vrms versus RCA 2.9 VRMS.
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Delta 77
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Re: What am I missing with XLR over RCA.?
Reply #12 - 05/05/22 at 23:26:09
 
Thanks guys, that was very informative..

Part of the reason I wanted to use the Zbit was so I could use my Zrock2 , and still get the DACs full potential, using the XLR outputs..

I was able to acquire a Zbit..(Happy Face)

I will have to experiment with XLRs direct to the amp vs. XLRs to Zrock2 then RCAs to amp when using my Mystery Amp..

I can use the Zbit with my 300B amp (RCA input only) , when I pull her out of the closet now and again..
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Tony
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Re: What am I missing with XLR over RCA.?
Reply #13 - 05/06/22 at 19:55:50
 
Hi Delta,

I look forward to your ZBIT results.  Is there any difference in inserting it between DAC and ZRock vs. DAC to ZRock and then ZBIT to Amp (or pre-amp)?  

Enjoy the experimenting.
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Edsonic
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Re: What am I missing with XLR over RCA.?
Reply #14 - 05/06/22 at 21:34:46
 
Tony-

The ZBIT takes a balanced signal via XLR cables at the input and uses two transformers (L&R) to convert it to single-ended signal with RCA output. The ZR2 is single-ended, with RCA inputs and outputs.

The single-ended RCA out of the ZR2 cannot be plugged into the XLR balanced input of the ZBIT.

The reason for using the ZBIT (in the OP's situation) is so that the DAC will operate in balanced (differential) mode, which it does not do when using its own RCA out.
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