AVS Special Member
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Southern California
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A poll makes no sense, because the difference is a technical issue and every technician and engineer knows the difference.
As any sound engineer knows, the signal-to-noise ratio of a balanced cable is 10,000 times better than is possible with unbalanced cables. There is no question that balanced cables are far superior.
In professional recording venues, the unbalanced cable(RCA) is considered unacceptable and highly compromised because of its poor performance characteristics and inadequate shielding. They are absolutely never used. The unbalanced cable is inherently deficient by its fundamental design.
Balanced cables SHOULD be standard practice in home audio, but the larger connectors pose a design problem in packaging the home equipment (plus balanced circuits cost more).
It is not uncommon to use a balanced (XLR) cable 100 feet long, or longer, to connect a microphone to a mixing console when recording professionally.
Despite the very small signal of the microphone, this will give an essentially noise-free signal every time, with no "special" cabling required. Balanced cables are also immune to interference and hum from AC power cords and sources of RF in the environment; unbalanced cables are poorly shielded and problems often occur.
The unbalanced cable MAY give acceptable performance some of the time, depending on its length and the equipment it is connected to, and the environment where it is placed; or it MAY NOT.
The balanced cable gives you perfect performance EVERY TIME, in EVERY SITUATION, regardless of its length or brand name. There is no difference in performance between one cable and another.