Balanced Vs Unbalanced Cables For Studio Monitors

When you get studio monitors, you spend a good amount of money. If you connect them using the wrong cables, all that investment goes into vain. The output gets noisy and is not of optimal quality.

In this article, I am sharing with you which cables to use for connecting studio monitors. At the end of the article, I have also shared the top 3 studio monitor cables available in India. Do check them out.

Cables Used To Connect Studio Monitors

One should use balanced TRS or XLR mono cables to connect studio monitors to an audio interface or console. Balanced cables are free from interference and do not pick up unwanted noise from the environment. If your audio interface or console does not have a balanced output, using an unbalanced TS or RCA cable of a small length(less than 5 feet) also works, but the signal will be prone to noise interference from surroundings.

Studio Monitors Cable Connectors

Unbalanced V/S Balanced Cables

The main difference between the unbalanced and balanced mono cables is that unbalanced cables carry only the positive audio signal and the ground, while balanced cables carry the negative signal in addition to the positive signal and the ground.

Unbalanced Cables

An unbalanced cable has two separate connections, one for a signal wire and one for a ground wire. It has two conductors at the ends of each wire, and each wire has its own contact point. An unbalanced cable can be easily identified by its connectors since each wire has its own contact point.

If you’re looking for a guitar cable, a standard TS cable, it has an unbalanced signal. A standard guitar cable is commonly known as a tip-sleeve cable. If you’re looking for an unbalanced cable for an AV component, then a standard RCA cable is an excellent choice.

The construction of unbalanced cables is simple. The signal wire is usually in the centre of the cable, and the ground wire is wrapped around it. The ground wire serves two functions. It carries the signals and the ground wire also acts as a sort of shield to prevent interference from outside sources, such as those from TV and radio transmissions.

Unfortunately, the ground wire can also act as an antenna and pick up noise from outside when you have long unbalanced cables running. Although an unbalanced cable is commonly used to connect a guitar or keyboard to an amplifier, it should not be used in loud environments and should not be longer than 15-20 feet.

Balanced Cables

A balanced cable has three wires and three conductors. Two signals wires plus a separate ground wire. It has the same ground wire as an unbalanced cable, as a shield against interference. But what makes a balanced cable special is the way the gear utilises that extra signal wire.

Balanced cables use two signal wires; both carry a copy of the signal, but the two copies are sent with their polarity reversed. The reverse polarity signal is summed back at the output end, which cancels out any interference noise.

Confusing? Let me simplify it.

If any noise interference happens with the signal, the noise interferes with both the copies of signals. Since the intercepted signals are of reverse polarity, this gives the noise reverse polarity.

When the reverse polarity signals are flipped back to produce the original signal, the noise that was interfered with gets cancelled out. Doing so will result in the same sound quality as before, without any noise issue.

If you sum two signals that are identical but are reversed in polarity, the signals cancel out, leaving you with silence. (Just like adding positive and negative numbers: +10added to -10 equals 0.)

How To Identify Balanced Cables and Unbalanced Cables

 All XLR to XLR cables are balanced. For 1/4 jacks and 1/8 jacks, identifying balanced and unbalanced jacks is easy. You can look at the cable connector and identify balanced(TRS - Tip Ring Sleeve) vs unbalanced cables(TS - Tips Sleeve). If the cable connector has two rings, it's balanced(TRS) and if one ring, it's unbalanced(TS). RCA cables are unbalanced.

 TRS vs TS Connector Identification

Why Use Balanced Cables For Studio Monitors?

The advantages of using balanced cables over unbalanced cables are numerous, such as: -

  1. Reducing the chances of electrical interference.
  2. Higher signal-to-noise ratio.
  3. Better durability.
  4. Longer cable lengths can be used.

Using Microphone Cables For Studio Monitors

Using professional XLR microphone cables with your studio monitors is perfectly fine. One can also use XLR to TRS cables with studio monitors. The type of connector(XLR or TRS) used does not make a difference. The type of cable used, balanced or unbalanced, makes the difference. Always prefer using a high-grade cable from a renowned manufacturer.

Best Studio Monitor Cables In India

Here are my Top 3 studio monitor cable recommendations in India: -

  1. CableCreation TRS 6.35mm (1/4 Inch) Male to XLR Male Cable

  2. Sonic Plumber Neutrik 6.35mm (1/4 Inch) TRS Jack to XLR Male Balanced Cable

  3. Hawk Proaudio SXSG010 Gold Series 6.35mm TRS Male to XLR Male Balanced Interconnect With Cable Tie

 

 

So to sum up, use balanced cables with your studio monitors as it prevents outside signal interference and keeps your original signal intact.


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Written By

Udeeksh Sood on

Udeeksh is an Audio Engineer and Co-Founder of learnmusicproduction.in. He loves to produce music, research music gear, play guitar, go on treks and road trips.