Unbalanced vs. Balanced


I just got a line 6 Bass Pod Pro. I want to connect it to my mixing board.

The 1/4" jacks are Unbalanced Analog Outs. Does this mean I need unbalanced 1/4" cables or balanced. Also it has two XLR Balanced Analog Out jacks. Which would be better?

Thanks. I never did figure out the whole balanced to unbalanced thing…

Are the inputs in your mixer balanced or unbalanced or both?

No clue. The board is a Mackie 1202 or something.

I will try and find out. Is it unbalanced to unbalanced or unbalanced to balanced?

Yes - You can use either 1/4" balanced (TRS) or unbalanced (TS) cables and either will work fine with your POD and the mono inputs of your Mackie. You should avoid using the balanced (microphone) inputs, because your line output from your POD may be to high for the input and may have an impedance mismatch.

Here is a link to a good site about cables: Everything About Cables

- TJ

Hi there !

It should be fine to run unbalanced into the mixer (but watch out (like was said) for levels. On short runs it should be fine.

Balanced do have (amongst others) the advantage of ‘resisting’ (rejecting) induced hum. This will be the better option if the cables run through a space that might cause an interference in your signal…


It’s always preferable to make balanced connections between equipment if you have the choice. The balanced connection will reject induced noise - both from the balancing and the higher level a balanced audio connection operates.

Higher level? Line level is line level be it balanced or unbalanced. What am I missing here?

Balanced audio circuits operate at the +4db level, while unbalanced are at -10db. Balanced circuits are also less prone hum from ground loops…

Sorry Dave. There are also balanced at -10dBV and unbalanced at +4dBu. The two aren’t necessarily related. More specifically, on mixers with balanced inputs & outputs, running them unbalanced does NOT change the signal level.

Also, for short runs (say, under 15 feet), and assuming you use quality low capacitance audio cables (which you should regardless), the noise rejection and reduced T-line effects of balanced operation are insignificant, except in an environment with terrible EM noise.

You may be right about ground loops, though.

While you can wire stuff up any way you like, generally out of the box a balanced mixer works at the +4 standard while an unbalanced mixer would work at the -10 standard. To connect an unbalanced device properly to a balanced mixer you would need a balancing amplifier to create the balanced signal and boost the -10 level to +4 like these:


Do you need to hook things up balanced? If your unbalanced set up sounds good, then no. But if you have the option with a new set up, the balanced connections would be your best choice to avoid problems down the road (ground loops, induced hums and buzzes, etc.)

I was just curious: If I use my balanced to unbalanced impedance matcher (I normally use for my mics) to connect an unbalanced output to a balanced cable, will I still get the benefit of noise reduction? I would test this myself, but I’m on the road and just killing time.



I am not sure I am following you… but I THINK the answer is yes (assuming I am following) as a transformer works both ways… essentially you are using it as a direct box.

You don’t need a converter to plug an unbalanced output into a balanced input, or vice versa. An unbalanced cable will do the job: shorting the ring to sleeve. This doesn’t affect the signal strength, of course. The difference between the two is about 12dB, which is about 4 times the voltage. However, most things you’d plug it into should have enough gain range that you shouldn’t need another preamp in line.

If you use a converter and the long cable is balanced, with short unbalanced leads, you get the advantage of the balanced line for the long leads. This is NOT true when using a “cable converter” . But again, it’s only meaningful for long runs. I don’t notice any problems at 20’ unbalanced, but at 50’ I’d be sure to run balanced – especially live. (And then I’d use an isolating direct box to avoid ground loops, etc.)

Thanks for the info. I am routing cables for a small studio I’ve built and wanted to know if I would see an advantage of using balanced cables with some unbalanced devices I’m using.