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A Balanced Output Board For The Stereo DAC

This add-on board is designed to provide a pair of balanced audio outputs for the High-Quality Stereo DAC (Sept-Nov 2009). Two 3-pin male XLR connectors are used for the new outputs and they can either replace or augment the existing unbalanced outputs without affecting their performance.

By Nicholas Vinen

Balanced audio is used in recording studios and on stage because of its improved noise immunity. This is due to the fact that the signal is sent differentially (ie, as two signals 180° out of phase) and then converted to a single-ended voltage signal at the far end.

If any noise is picked up in the cable, it affects the two out-of-phase signals equally so that when the signals are subsequently subtracted, most of the noise is eliminated.

In addition, the DAC’s performance at the balanced outputs generally exceeds that of the unbalanced outputs, although only by a small margin. The signal-to-noise ratio, frequency response and channel separation are all better, although we measured a tiny bit more distortion from the balanced outputs. However, both levels are so low as to be almost negligible.

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