The Difference Between Balanced and Unbalanced Audio

Balanced audio carries equal but opposite signals on two conductors. These symmetrical signals are relatively immune from induced hum and noise. Frequently, balanced cables also are shielded. The shield is independent from either of the signal conductors. Unbalanced audio is carried on a single conductor relative to the shield. In unbalanced cables, the shield is the negative signal conductor. Unbalanced wiring is subject to interference, ground hum and crosstalk. Unbalanced wiring is valid only for very short distances where quality is not the highest concern. Balanced wiring is recommended for any high quality wiring, and is necessary for any long distance audio transmission.

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