Will using XLR boost the dB of speakers slightly? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 26 Unread 08-25-2014, 03:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Will using XLR boost the dB of speakers slightly?

I ordered a preamp with XLR outputs to connect to Mackie HR824mk2 speakers, as I feel the sound is a bit on the soft side connected by unbalanced RCA. I experimented with a laptop setting the output up 2db on the "preamp" setting in Media Monkey equalizer and it fixed the softness, sound was crisper. Basically I upped every frequency on the equalizer by 2db by doing this. However, there was distortion so I think the USB sound card couldn't really handle the increased dB.

My preamp will be here probably by Friday, but any thoughts on if this will increase the sharpness and clarity of the speakers slightly?
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post #2 of 26 Unread 08-25-2014, 03:54 AM
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Originally Posted by NetTechie View Post
I ordered a preamp with XLR outputs to connect to Mackie HR824mk2 speakers, as I feel the sound is a bit on the soft side connected by unbalanced RCA. I experimented with a laptop setting the output up 2db on the "preamp" setting in Media Monkey equalizer and it fixed the softness, sound was crisper. Basically I upped every frequency on the equalizer by 2db by doing this. However, there was distortion so I think the USB sound card couldn't really handle the increased dB.

My preamp will be here probably by Friday, but any thoughts on if this will increase the sharpness and clarity of the speakers slightly?
If you connect a truly balanced source via unbalanced connections and then upgrade to balanced connections you will obtain a non-trivial 6 dB boost in volume, all other things being equal.
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post #3 of 26 Unread 08-25-2014, 03:58 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post
If you connect a truly balanced source via unbalanced connections and then upgrade to balanced connections you will obtain a non-trivial 6 dB boost in volume, all other things being equal.
No, I'm currently going from an unbalanced RCA preamp outputs from the receiver to RCA unbalanced inputs on the speakers. With the new preamp I will be using balanced XLR outputs to XLR balanced inputs on the speakers (or I could convert the signal to TRS balanced, as speakers offer that as well).

My current receiver is a Yamaha RX-V661 with 8 unbalanced preamp outputs in the form of RCA connections. The new preamp is the Denon DN-500AV which has 8 balanced outputs in the form of XLR connections.

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post #4 of 26 Unread 08-25-2014, 04:02 AM
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You should not use EQ as a means to get extra gain. Also XLR doesn't mean your speakers play louder (as in dB) it just means there is extra gain in the signal.

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post #5 of 26 Unread 08-25-2014, 04:07 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by fatbottom View Post
You should not use EQ as a means to get extra gain. Also XLR doesn't mean your speakers play louder (as in dB) it just means there is extra gain in the signal.
Yeah, the sound card couldn't handle it.

The sound card used for the tests was a USB Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1.

But it was just a test, and in doing so I didn't actually hear a volume increase per say, the more db I increased the equalizer preamp setting the harsher the sound (and distortion also increased). The problem I was working to solve is the speakers sound distinctly soft, so harsher was basically hearing the problem being resolved by increased gain in the signal I guess. This lead me to believe changing to XLR could resolve the softness issues, as it may increase the signal strength which seems the be causing the softness.

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post #6 of 26 Unread 08-25-2014, 06:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post
If you connect a truly balanced source via unbalanced connections and then upgrade to balanced connections you will obtain a non-trivial 6 dB boost in volume, all other things being equal.
Did you see my reply? I am not connecting unbalanced wires on a balanced source. Would the 6db boost apply?
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post #7 of 26 Unread 08-25-2014, 06:21 PM
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More gain in a source signal equates to louder volume to the speakers. So the short version is, yes it will be louder.

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post #8 of 26 Unread 08-25-2014, 09:04 PM - Thread Starter
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So switching from unbalanced to balanced has a volume gain? That may fix the softness potentially, we'll see. My XLR receveir comes on Thursday.
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post #9 of 26 Unread 08-26-2014, 02:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NetTechie View Post
Did you see my reply? I am not connecting unbalanced wires on a balanced source. Would the 6db boost apply?
Yes.
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post #10 of 26 Unread 08-26-2014, 04:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fatbottom View Post
You should not use EQ as a means to get extra gain. Also XLR doesn't mean your speakers play louder (as in dB) it just means there is extra gain in the signal.
No it means the speakers will play 6db louder.
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post #11 of 26 Unread 08-26-2014, 04:52 AM
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Just because it will play doesn't mean it'll be able to play louder. It doesn't mean the speaker has +6dB ability to have higher dB output, just the signal is higher.

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post #12 of 26 Unread 08-26-2014, 05:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fatbottom View Post
Just because it will play doesn't mean it'll be able to play louder. It doesn't mean the speaker has +6dB ability to have higher dB output, just the signal is higher.

The speaker will play louder until it reaches its max capability. The others did not say it would increase max volume.
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post #13 of 26 Unread 08-30-2014, 09:04 PM - Thread Starter
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Well, I got the speakers hooked up with XLR cables, and they sound a whole lot different now then before, however before I had it hooked to a computer USB sound card and also preamp outputs from a Yamaha receiver. It has a more harsh sound, but it could just be the Denon's have a different sound to them then Yamaha/pc soundcard. I do think the XLR connections are a big part of the change though, different sound completely. Much clearer sounding.
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post #14 of 26 Unread 08-31-2014, 10:48 PM - Thread Starter
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I decided I think I'm gonna try the ART CleanBoxPro or Rolls MB15b Promatch adapters, as the new preamp sounds harsh to me.
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post #15 of 26 Unread 09-01-2014, 09:39 AM
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I don't think the purpose of XLR Balanced connections is to boost the signal, rather it is to lower noise.

The XLR-to-XLR may be louder, the same, or quieter, however, the difference will be insignificant. The advantage is absolute lowest possible noise levels relative to common RCA-to-RCA connections.

If you have the ability to have XLR-to-XLR connections, and you don't mind paying for new cables, you should certainly do it.

But there is no advantage to connecting RCA-to-XLR. The low noise comes for the Balanced Differential Signals.

An XLR has Signal(+), Signal(-), and ground.

An RCA has Signal and ground.

The floating Signal(+) and Signal(-) feeding a balanced Differential amp are what provide you with the low noise advantage as this circuit actually cancels out random noise found in signal lines.

For what it is worth.

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post #16 of 26 Unread 09-01-2014, 10:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluewizard View Post
I don't think the purpose of XLR Balanced connections is to boost the signal, rather it is to lower noise.

The XLR-to-XLR may be louder, the same, or quieter, however, the difference will be insignificant. The advantage is absolute lowest possible noise levels relative to common RCA-to-RCA connections.

If you have the ability to have XLR-to-XLR connections, and you don't mind paying for new cables, you should certainly do it.

But there is no advantage to connecting RCA-to-XLR. The low noise comes for the Balanced Differential Signals.

An XLR has Signal(+), Signal(-), and ground.

An RCA has Signal and ground.

The floating Signal(+) and Signal(-) feeding a balanced Differential amp are what provide you with the low noise advantage as this circuit actually cancels out random noise found in signal lines.

For what it is worth.

Steve/bluewizard
Steve

This is a very good explanation of what an XLR cable do.
You said it in straith and short way.
You should post more often

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post #17 of 26 Unread 09-01-2014, 06:11 PM
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The purpose of a Differential amp is to allow through signals that are different from each other.

The Signal(+) and the Signal(-) line are opposite phase, one goes plus while the other goes minus. Since in is (+) and the other is (-) they are as different as they can be.

However, that is not true of noise. The two wire act as antennas and pick up stray noise in the air, and noise emitted by other electro-magnet sources like power cables and so on. But, and this is the KEY, that noise is the same on both wire. If there is a blip of noise the goes positive on the (+) wire, then that same blip goes positive on the (-) wire.

You see now that noise is the same in both wire, but anything that is the same is lost; I mean really and truly lost, which in turn means any noise the wire pick up is gone.

However, the difference in the signal is exaggerated. Even if there is noise, because the combined (+) and (-) signal is exaggerated, it means the Signal to Noise ratio is lower, even if we, for the moment discount, the cancelling of the noise.

But just because the INPUT signal is exaggerated, doesn't mean it gets amplified more on the output of the pre-amp. I suspect the gain through the differential stage and the following amps is pretty much standardized within the context of standard Line Level inputs.

So, just because you have more on the input, doesn't mean you have more on the output. Even if the input stage had more gain, you still set the output volume using the Volume Control and judge the level by ear. I don't use numbers when I set my volume level, rather I set it to the level I want to hear regardless of any dials or read-outs.

So, the output will not be louder, unless you turn it up louder.

Let's use another example, say I have very efficient speakers, approaching say 100db Sensitivity, you still set the volume level based on what you hear. It takes a stubborn man to always set the volume at 70 or at 11 o'clock or at 0db regardless of what his ears tell him.

It matters not if the XLR are louder, quieter, or the same, you turn the volume dial until you hear what you want to hear. Simple as that.

What does matter is that the noise level on the XLR inputs is very very very very low.

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Last edited by bluewizard; 09-01-2014 at 06:24 PM.
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post #18 of 26 Unread 09-01-2014, 10:21 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the reply, a rep at Adam Audio explained this to me, and it definitely intrigued me to learn the details of how this works. I want to stick to balanced, as it seems it would be cleaner than unbalanced. We'll see how much distortion the CleanBoxPro introduces, when I get it hooked up though. I ordered a Marantz SR5005 as I found a good deal on it on ebay. It has unbalanced preamp outputs, so I'll be either running unbalanced straight or adapting 5 channels to XLR.
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Over the last 4-5 years I have converted all my audio connections from unbalanced to balanced. As others have already stated it doesn't necessarily improve SQ per se but it does mean siting the various zones and pieces of kit involved is much easier and more flexible without fear of introducing ground loops and noise. Also the professional balanced gear tends to be better all round on a value for money basis. Although perhaps not so visually appealing depending on your personal opinion.

During the slow change-over as I replaced domestic unbalanced gear with balanced I used a number of inexpensive temporary solutions.

ART Cleanbox Pro, ART DTI and a Radial J33. I also have a pair of XLR-XLR ground lift dongles which I never needed to use.

http://artproaudio.com/artcessories/.../cleanbox_pro/
http://artproaudio.com/artcessories/...s/product/dti/
http://www.radialeng.com/j33.php

The reason I write is that the OP needs to be aware of a potential disadvantage to the Cleanbox Pro. It's called a cleanbox but it isn't really a transformer based ground loop isolator. For that you need the DTI, or something similar.

Cleanbox Pro contains 2 low powered amps to either boost or attenuate the signal between +4dB (pro bal) and -10dB (domestic unbal). So it's connected to the mains. For some reason and in my experience it always works noise free if you feed it with a balanced input to convert to unbal. However when you feed in an unbalanced signal it sometimes results in a ground loop noise issue. Even when one did not previously exist on the unbal - unbal circuit. Other people have found the same - check out the comments via google.

You might be lucky. I hope you are but you need to check it out quickly and be prepared to send the cleanbox back and replace it with the totally passive DTI or something similar. Only a transformer based ground loop isolator guarantees freedom from ground loop induced noise.

Of course this means that you miss out on the extra 6dB you might have expected on a true bal-bal connection but as everyone has already noted you are unlikely to be short of gain. Just turn it up a tiny bit. problem solved and guaranteed no noise.
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post #20 of 26 Unread 09-02-2014, 06:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Interesting, nobody mentioned there could be ground noise introduced going from unbalanced to balanced with one of these adapters. I tried a passive adapter already the Radial ProD2 and it dropped the volume significantly, so much that I returned it as I couldn't hardly turn the volume up. I assume this is a similar device to the DTI? I unpressed the -15db buttons on it, so it wasn't due to having it set incorrectly. I will keep en eye out for hums introduced by using the CleanBoxPro for RCA to XLR. I can return them to Guitar Center if they do this, so little spent out of pocket (just shipping).

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post #21 of 26 Unread 09-02-2014, 06:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluewizard View Post
I don't think the purpose of XLR Balanced connections is to boost the signal, rather it is to lower noise.

The XLR-to-XLR may be louder, the same, or quieter, however, the difference will be insignificant. The advantage is absolute lowest possible noise levels relative to common RCA-to-RCA connections.

If you have the ability to have XLR-to-XLR connections, and you don't mind paying for new cables, you should certainly do it.

But there is no advantage to connecting RCA-to-XLR. The low noise comes for the Balanced Differential Signals.

An XLR has Signal(+), Signal(-), and ground.

An RCA has Signal and ground.

The floating Signal(+) and Signal(-) feeding a balanced Differential amp are what provide you with the low noise advantage as this circuit actually cancels out random noise found in signal lines.

For what it is worth.

Steve/bluewizard
The noise benefit from XLRs is pretty subtle unless you have a grounding problem and the balanced I/O makes an audible hum or something like it go away.

The extra 6 dB volume that you get all other things being equal, is not very subtle at all.
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post #22 of 26 Unread 09-02-2014, 11:49 AM
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Well, from my experience at least when it comes to separates, amplifiers and processors, the sound is almost always better when balanced connections are used. The dynamics are just better even if the specifications for the inputs are minor.

Specs of a preamp as example:

Rated output:

Unbalanced pre-output: 1.2 V

Balanced pre-output: 2.4 V














Last edited by Alec88; 09-02-2014 at 12:43 PM.
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post #23 of 26 Unread 09-02-2014, 12:50 PM
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Interface boxes, active or transformer, may not lift the ground shield of an XLR cable. Some do, some don't, and some offer a switch so you can choose. If you get hum, you can just modify the cable to lift the shield on one end. That is often done in the real world. I usually put a piece of tape on the cable to show which end has the ground lifted.

The sonic benefits depend upon implementation and are always debated. The issue gets further muddied because not all XLR interfaces are true differential designs. Quasi-differential may or may not help depending upon how it is implemented.

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post #24 of 26 Unread 09-08-2014, 05:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alec88 View Post
Well, from my experience at least when it comes to separates, amplifiers and processors, the sound is almost always better when balanced connections are used. The dynamics are just better even if the specifications for the inputs are minor.

Specs of a preamp as example:

Rated output:

Unbalanced pre-output: 1.2 V

Balanced pre-output: 2.4 V













It does sound better, got my CleanBoxPro's today, and XLR really seems to have resolved my issues.
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post #25 of 26 Unread 09-09-2014, 07:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alec88 View Post
Well, from my experience at least when it comes to separates, amplifiers and processors, the sound is almost always better when balanced connections are used. The dynamics are just better even if the specifications for the inputs are minor.

Specs of a preamp as example:

Rated output:

Unbalanced pre-output: 1.2 V

Balanced pre-output: 2.4 V
Yes most people think louder sounds better. Human nature.
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post #26 of 26 Unread 09-09-2014, 07:50 AM - Thread Starter
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Actually, with the volume knobs turned down it sounds better then when I turn it up on the CleanBoxPro, letting the amp send a stronger signal. Now with the adapters I have to set the volume higher on the preamp to get the same volume from the speakers, so no, it isn't louder.
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