What's the difference between balanced and unbalanced audio cables?

Hey everyone, I’ve been doing some research on audio cables, but I’m still a bit confused about the difference between balanced and unbalanced cables. Can someone help me understand the benefits of each type of cable and when to use one over the other? I want to make sure I’m getting the best sound quality possible, so any advice or tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

1 Like

Balanced and unbalanced cables differ in how they handle electrical signals and protect against interference and noise.

Unbalanced cables are the simpler of the two, with just two conductors - a signal wire and a ground wire. They’re often used for short cable runs, like connecting a guitar to an amp or a microphone to a preamp. They’re cheaper but can be more prone to noise and interference than balanced cables.

Balanced cables, on the other hand, have three conductors - a positive signal wire, a negative signal wire (also called the “inverted” or “phase-reversed” signal), and a ground wire. The extra conductor helps to cancel out any noise or interference along the cable run, giving you a cleaner and more stable audio signal. They’re usually used for longer cable runs, like connecting a mixer to a speaker system or a microphone to a recorder.

So when do you use one versus the other? Well, it depends on the gear generating the signal. If your equipment has an unbalanced output, you can’t connect a balanced cable to it so you’ll need to reach for an unbalanced cable.

Ideally, you want to use balanced cables whenever possible, but again, the cable you need to use depends on your gear. As a final note, use the shortest unbalanced cables that you can get away with to minimize interference and noise; the longer the cable, the more noise it will pick up.

1 Like