Ray:  There are a couple of things I would say on the topic of balanced vs unbalanced cabling.  The balanced cable is different from a stereo cable although the plugs can be the same (TRS jack). 

  • A balanced cable has a negative and a positive signal line, and those BOTH are surrounded by 1 shield which is often used as the GND.  Sometimes it is better to connect that shield only on one side to GND. 

  • A stereo line is two signal lines and each is surrounded by it's own GND 'wiring'

For sound quality is is often better to use unbalanced connections.  There is electronics involved in unbalancing the signal for further gain or equalization etc.  In this path there are decoupling capacitors (amongst other components) which have an influence on the sound (cutting low frequency as in almost DC).  Although in high quality gear it is not much it is there.  And it is not of the sweetening kind.

Often when you use the unbalanced connections, you patch in after this small circuit, thus reducing electronics in the signal path. They used to use transformers instead of decoupling capacitors for this, but they cost a little bit more.  Nowadays the first priority is to maximize profit, so quality components are left out.  In the preamp sections etc you could solder out some of the decoupling capacitors but beware of plugging hot cables into preamps (or switch them on then off) as that might blow out some transistors.


Ray De Jager April 2015