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Is there any difference in using a TS cable or a balanced TRS cable (pictured below) if you're carrying a mono signal (for example, an output from an audio card or an instrument)?

My understanding is that TS is for mono signals and TRS is for mono and stereo signals. But then I started reading about balanced VS unbalanced cables, and how the former is better at avoiding interference over long distances, as opposed to the latter.

So is the extra ring there to carry a stereo signal or to avoid interference or both?

Suppose you have a lot of money and a lot of distance to cover for a mono signal: do you buy a TS or a TRS cable?

I understand not all TRS cables are also balanced cables, so for the purpose of this question please assume we're exclusively talking about balanced TRS cables (VS unbalanced TS ones).

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There's some basic misconception here, I think.

The cable doesn't determine whether or not the signal is balanced, only whether it can carry balanced. The same for stereo. Both balanced line & stereo use the same cable, but they're mutually exclusive. You can carry either stereo, or balanced line.

Circuitry in [near] the socket determines whether or not it can send balanced line. If it can, it will be TRS, if it can't it will be TS.

Plugging a TS into a balanced TRS socket will at best unbalance it, or at worst halve your signal. TRS into TS would mean you're carrying a spare 'arial' 50 ft, picking up hum.

Best to buy the cable the devices need. Check the manuals for both ends of your equipment chain. If only one of them is capable of balanced, then you may as well run TS.

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  • Another thing I like to keep in mind is that CMRR (noise rejection) is determined by the quality of the balanced input stage, assuming it is fed a balanced signal. So having a balanced connection by itself doesn’t guarantee any specific performance in noise rejection, but it does make possible whatever noise rejection the input has - could be a lot, could be a little. Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 1:19

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