Balanced vs Unbalanced

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Terminology

Stereo, Mono, Balanced, Unbalanced are terms that refer to applications (how a cable is being used).

XLR, Tip-Ring-Sleeve, Tip-Sleeve are terms that refer to connections (the physical connectors at the ends of the wires and how those wires are attached to the connectors).


One source of confusion is that a cable with a ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve jack on one end may be used for several applications (examples)

  • stereo headphones (left and right sides of a stereo signal)
  • mono balanced connection (hot and cold signals)
  • insert (send and return)

Whether or not a cable with a ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve jack is stereo/mono/insert depends on how it is being used and the electronic interfaces at both ends of the connection.

Connections to Bose Portable PA Systems

T4S ToneMatch® mixer

T4S Inputs
  • Channels 1, 2, 3, 4 XLR inputs are balanced.
  • Channels 1, 2, 3, 4 ¼ inch (6 mm) jacks are balanced
    • They will accept 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) Tip-Sleeve cable jack Tip-Sleeve connections and the connections will be unbalanced.
  • Channels 5 and 6 are balanced, but will accept 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) Tip-Sleeve cable jack Tip-Sleeve.
    If you use a 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) Tip-Ring-Sleeve cable from a balanced source, the connection will be balanced.
    If you use a 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) Tip-Ring-Sleeve cable from an unbalanced source, the connection will be unbalanced.
    If you use a 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) Tip-Sleeve cable from a balanced or unbalanced source, the connection will be unbalanced.

If you have a balanced source then using a balanced connection (XLR or 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) Tip-Ring-Sleeve cable) is preferable.

T8S ToneMatch® mixer

T8S Inputs
  • Channels 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 XLR inputs are balanced.
  • Channels 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ¼ inch (6 mm) jacks are balanced
    • They will accept 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) Tip-Sleeve cable jack Tip-Sleeve connections and the connections will be unbalanced.
  • Channels 9 and 10 are balanced, but will accept 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) Tip-Sleeve cable jack Tip-Sleeve.
    If you use a 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) Tip-Ring-Sleeve cable from a balanced source, the connection will be balanced.
    If you use a 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) Tip-Ring-Sleeve cable from an unbalanced source, the connection will be unbalanced.
    If you use a 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) Tip-Sleeve cable from a balanced or unbalanced source, the connection will be unbalanced.

If you have a balanced source then using a balanced connection (XLR or 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) Tip-Ring-Sleeve cable) is preferable.


T1 ToneMatch® Audio Engine

T1 Inputs
  • Channels 1, 2, 3 XLR inputs are balanced.
  • Channels 1, 2, 3 1/4" jacks are unbalanced (but will accept ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve) the connections are still unbalanced.
  • Channels 4/5 are balanced, but will accept ¼ inch jack Tip-Sleeve.
    If you use a ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve from a balanced source, the connection will be balanced.
    If you use a ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve from an unbalanced source, the connection will be unbalanced.
    If you use a ¼ inch jack Tip-Sleeve from a balanced or unbalanced source, the connection will be unbalanced.

If you have a balanced source then using a balanced connection (XLR or ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve) is preferable.

L1® Model II

Model II Analog Input
  • Model II Power Stand Analog input is balanced.
    It will accept ¼ inch jack Tip-Sleeve.
    If you use a ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve from a balanced source, the connection will be balanced.
    If you use a ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve from an unbalanced source, the connection will be unbalanced.
    If you use a ¼ inch jack Tip-Sleeve from a balanced or unbalanced source, the connection will be unbalanced.

If you have a balanced source then using a balanced connection (XLR or ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve) is preferable.

L1® Model 1S

Model 1S Analog Input
  • Model II Power Stand Analog input is balanced.
    It will accept ¼ inch jack Tip-Sleeve.
    If you use a ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve from a balanced source, the connection will be balanced.
    If you use a ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve from an unbalanced source, the connection will be unbalanced.
    If you use a ¼ inch jack Tip-Sleeve from a balanced or unbalanced source, the connection will be unbalanced.

If you have a balanced source then using a balanced connection (XLR or ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve) is preferable.

L1® Compact

Compact Channel 2

Compact Channel 2 1/4" jack input is balanced.
It will accept ¼ inch jack Tip-Sleeve.
If you use a ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve from a balanced source, the connection will be balanced.
If you use a ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve from an unbalanced source, the connection will be unbalanced.
If you use a ¼ inch jack Tip-Sleeve from a balanced or unbalanced source, the connection will be unbalanced.


If you have a balanced source then using a balanced connection (XLR or ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve) is preferable.


S1 Pro System

S1 Pro Combo Inputs

S1 Pro Combo Inputs (1/4 inch / 6 mm Analog inputs) and XLR are balanced.

They will accept ¼ inch jack Tip-Sleeve or Tip-Ring-Sleeve jacks.
If you use a ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve from a balanced source, the connection will be balanced.
If you use a ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve from an unbalanced source, the connection will be unbalanced.
If you use a ¼ inch jack Tip-Sleeve from a balanced or unbalanced source, the connection will be unbalanced.

If you have a balanced source then using a balanced connection (XLR or ¼ inch jack Tip-Ring-Sleeve) is preferable.

References

Balanced vs. Unbalanced Cables - Sweetwater

Unbalanced vs. Balanced Lines - Whirlwind

Interconnection of Balanced and Unbalanced Equipment Bill Whitlock, Jensen Transformers.

Sound System Interconnection RaneNote 110

Balanced, Unbalanced, Stereo? what are they? Sweetwater.com > Frequently Asked Questions

Balanced vs Unbalanced Interconnects audioholics.com

What's the Difference Between Balanced and Unbalanced aviom.com