Sign up ×
Sound Design Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for sound engineers, producers, editors, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

My Behringer Xenyx 1202 FX has "Balanced or Unbalanced Jacks". In addition the answer to this previous question reference both. What's the difference between the two types of Mono Jacks.

share|improve this question

migrated from Jan 27 '14 at 15:26

This question came from our site for engineers, producers, editors, and enthusiasts spanning the fields of video, and media creation.

1 Answer 1

If we're talking about 1/4" 'phone jack' patch cables, you can easily tell the difference by the number of conductors on the plug.

2-conductor cables are unbalanced, and can be identified by the "tip/sleeve" configuration of conductors on the plug. You can call this "TS" for short: 1/4" TS connector

In contrast, a 3-conductor cable is balanced, and can be identified by the "tip/ring/sleeve" configuration, or "TRS": 1/4" TRS connector

An audio signal is a waveform provided by a change in voltage. That voltage needs to be relative to some other signal--most commonly a ground. Within a closed system you could use a single conductor to transmit this voltage relative to the the common ground of the system, but if you are connecting two different pieces of hardware, you need at minimum two conductors for a mono signal - one for ground, and one for voltage.

In a stereo signal, you need at minimum three conductors: one for ground, and then one for the voltage of each channel. When we are sending a signal relative only to ground, the line is referred to as unbalanced. Unbalanced lines are more susceptible to picking up interference, especially over large cable runs.

So, if we're talking about audio cables, the 1/4" TS can ONLY carry unbalanced mono signals. The 1/4" TRS is capable of carrying unbalanced stereo signals. However, the 1/4" TRS can ALSO be used for balanced mono signals. This requires a hot AND cold for the signal, IN ADDITION to ground.

If you examine a microphone XLR cable, you will notice that it too has three conductors. Microphones should ALWAYS use balanced cables due to the nature of the long cable runs. You can easily find 1/4" TRS to XLR adapters, since they are used for mono signals in the same way. Also keep in mind that if you plug a balanced cable into a jack that only accepts unbalanced connections, the signal will still work, but the entire line will be unbalanced since only two conductors are being used.

share|improve this answer
This is a good answer to the question as it was worded ("difference between the two types of Mono Jacks"), but I think it would be rather natural to also explain what balanced audio actually is, or at least link to the Wikipedia article. "This requires a hot AND cold for the signal" hardly does the trick, the common names "hot and cold" are not only unprecise but also really misleading on their own. –  leftaroundabout Oct 28 '12 at 21:01
I've answered to my level of expertise! Thanks for the Wiki link--feel free to add whatever else you feel is necessary! –  NReilingh Oct 29 '12 at 1:40
This description and explanation is excelent easy to understand thanks mate, you rock! must be a teacher :) –  user3877 Apr 1 '13 at 22:40
NReilingh's answer was very on point. Thanks..I signed up just to thank you cuz Ive been frustrated talking to so many people who cant explain such a thing to me in a way that i understand what the heck is going on. Ive been doing a lot of chasing my tail because of the misinformed who seem to always thinkt he answer is spending $100 more dollars on something else all the while not having an answer to such a simple equation that deals with complications via balanced and unbalanced cables and the issues that can come up with switching them about(such as the grainy high range vocals Im 99% sure –  Raheem Jamar Washington Sep 28 at 1:33

protected by JoshP Sep 28 at 13:59

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.