balanced vs unbalanced soundcard

I’m considering getting a new soundcard that has balanced input and outputs.

Do I need a new mixer to use this?

I’m using a Eurorack UB802. It’s unbalanced.

What does +4 db mean?

You don’t need a new mixer. Most balanced inputs will also support unbalanced connects as well… you just don’t get the benefit of being able to go a zillion feet with unbalanced cabling. Honestly though, usually I will run unblanced connections from my mixer to my sound card. Just make sure you have good cables (I make my own) and keep the runs short. 10 feet or less out to keep you safe so long as you don’t have some awful interferance from a dimmer or flourescent light near by.

As for +4, there are two different standards in music equipment for line level signals… -10 and +4. -10 is “consumer” level. This is what you find on a typical tape deck, CD player, etc. +4 is what you usually find on mic preamps, keyboards, etc. This is not a hard and fast rule. Just know if you are running something into a +4 input and the level is low, the source is probably -10. If you are clipping all over the place, you may be running +4 into a -10 input.

Ok, makes more sense now.

I also have use of this MOTU firewire device. It has the xlr outputs. So should I use xlr to 1/4" unbalanced type cables to monitor the output? Or is it better (possible) to somehow monitor through the software. (I don’t know how to do that)

I don’t follow what you are asking. Are you trying to run to some sort of powered speakers/monitors or what? Need more info.

I use a little mixer for output to powered speakers, headphones and stereo. It has 1/4" inputs. The MOTU device has balanced XLR outputs. I’m guessing it’s ok to use XLR to 1/4" type cables either balanced or unbalanced.

Just be careful. If you have a store bought cable with xlr female to 1/4 inch mono plug chances are that it is an impedence matching cable designed to take a low impedence mic to a high impedence input. Not what you would want for line level use.

Quote (kenny_b @ Nov. 14 2006,00:29)
I use a little mixer for output to powered speakers, headphones and stereo. It has 1/4" inputs. The MOTU device has balanced XLR outputs. I'm guessing it's ok to use XLR to 1/4" type cables either balanced or unbalanced.

If the MOTU has balanced XLR outputs, then you can get a cable to go to 1/4" TRS. The TRS part is what is important as it will maintain the balanced signal. If it is just a TS 1/4" end, then you need to watch out for what Alldaylay mentioned. And don't even think of using a XLR to 1/4" TS cable for a microphone into a line or instrument input.

Which MOTU device?

Rarely do we ever want to use an XLR-to-1/4" cable.

I’ve got an old, very old powered PA head that we use for practice, Kasino I think, that only has 1/4 inch jacks for the mics. Bought some xlr to 1/4 inch mono adapter cables from the shack that are supposed to up the impedence of low impedence mics to match the amp.
When setting up the pa for gigs in a dark club I have, more often than I like to admit, picked up the wrong cable for a patch and then spent half the night wondering why things didn’t sound or work right.

A +4 input source into a consumer mixer’s line ins can clip the inputs. Too hot.

Let me explain to get this sorted out

It’s a MOTU 896 HD. I think it would be best used with a big full featured pro mixer for recording, but I don’t have that. The recording input on the 896 would be firewire. Normally, I think one would patch the output from the 896 to a mixer in order to mix the desired level for the performer to hear. Maybe it can be done internally with the software. I’ve never had luck mixing internally with other soundcards. Always needed a seperate ouput mixer to get the right mix for headphones. Maybe the MOTO software is different.

The reason I have xlr to 1/4 cables here is because I used to use a tape deck as a pre-amp. It served its purpose for that, guess I don’t really need that anymore.

So +4 is a bad idea to feed to the input to my Behri mixer. The switch on the MOTO says mic/line/fixed. I understand I will use mic to plug microphone and line to plug guitar effects processor. Not sure what ‘fixed’ means.

That’s all the time I have to share info for now. I’ll check back later.

Quote (kenny_b @ Nov. 17 2006,10:47)
So +4 is a bad idea to feed to the input to my Behri mixer.

If the Berry is worth its salt, then you should fine running a +4 level to it.

OK, the 896HD has XLR outputs for all line outs. IMHO, that’s a nuisance rather than a feature. You’ll need XLR-to-1/4" adaptor cables. Just remember not to use them with mikes, even though they seem to work.

The 828 is selectable for -10dBV or +4dBu nominal line levels on outputs. The Berry specs don’t give the nominal levels, but with peak levels at +22 dBu that gives 18dB headroom for +4dBu level so that settting should be ideal. At -10dBV, you’d have about 12 dB more headroom, which is rather more than necessary.

“Nominal level” is where the unit’s meters read 0dB.

No idea what “fixed” means, other than “not broken”. :wink: You’ll have to check the manual for that.

With the 896 you shouldn’t need a mixer, but a mixer can be handy anyway. I like having knobs to grab easily for the monitor. I wouldn’t use the mixer for the path into the computer, just to your monitors. Which is what it sounds like you’re doing.

You are correct, the MOTU should be able to do all monitoring internally. I can’t figure out how to get sound from playback. I’ll have to download the manual and do some reading.

Meanwhile the latest build of n-Track is working well with my DSP24 card and the WDM drivers. I haven’t tested any midi performance yet.