The Official Sequential/DSI Forum

Unbalanced 1/4 instrument cable vs line level cable?

ARNK

  • **
  • 106
  • Audio wishes from planet Mars / MEME DespiZer
    • Returning to Zero
Unbalanced 1/4 instrument cable vs line level cable?
« on: April 21, 2016, 06:38:33 PM »
Hey guys, people talk about a difference between line level cables vs. Instrument level cables. I have the latter (unbalance 1/4), are these safe to use with the PRO2? Note, instrument cables are everywhere, can'the really find "line level" cables.  Thank you..
The greater the humiliation, the greater the rate of evaporation of that feeling and all subsequent dispositions. Make a comfortable world not a hot one.

Re: Unbalanced 1/4 instrument cable vs line level cable?
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2016, 01:10:03 AM »
I've never paid attention to balanced or unbalanced and I've not experienced any issues (of which the only issue you're going to get, or so I've read, is interference with unbalanced cables). Just plug it in and go imo. If it works, then you're all good  8)

For what it's worth I'm using unbalanced, mono, ts cables with mine at the moment.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2016, 01:15:22 AM by binman_uk »

chysn

  • ***
  • 1132
Re: Unbalanced 1/4 instrument cable vs line level cable?
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2016, 12:35:12 PM »
Line level/instrument level and balance/unbalanced are independent attributes. That is, either type of cable can accommodate either strength of signal. Pro sound usually uses line level signals and balanced cables. Guitar players usually use instrument level signals and unbalanced cables, but the attributes aren't technically tied together. Signal strength is an attribute of the output of the device, not of the cable.

Balanced cables are three-conductor cables. For cables with quarter-inch plugs, you can tell by whether the plug has two conductors (tip and sleeve = unbalanced) or three (tip, ring, sleeve = balanced).

There are no safety issues here. You can use either type of cable with either strength of output with no danger whatsoever.

The advantage of the balanced output is that you can run your line over long distances when you use balanced cables. With unbalanced outputs, you want to limit yourself to fairly short runs (maybe 20 feet) before capacitance starts to affect the signal quality.

If you use unbalanced cables with a balanced output, you lose the advantage of having a balanced output.

If you use balanced cables with an unbalanced output, there's no advantage nor disadvantage, except maybe you spent too much on your cable.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2016, 09:47:53 PM by chysn »
DSI: DSM03; previously: Mopho Keyboard, Desktop Mopho, Evolver, DSM01
Hardware: Eurorack, Arturia MicroBrute
Software: macOS, Ableton, MuseScore2
Modular Grid: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/354385
GitHub: https://github.com/chysn

Re: Unbalanced 1/4 instrument cable vs line level cable?
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2016, 05:52:41 PM »
Thanks for that clear and simple explanation.
The Musical Synthesizer YouTube Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChLGwGiRVs7rlZXnOG9_mUw

The Musical Synthesizer Blog: https://themusicalsynthesizer.wordpress.co

chysn

  • ***
  • 1132
Re: Unbalanced 1/4 instrument cable vs line level cable?
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2016, 10:22:41 AM »
Sure thing, and I wanted to add one more comment for the sake of completeness.

Three-conductor outputs are also used for headphone jacks. Sometimes (not too often), a device will have an output jack that doubles as a headphone jack. In this case, the instrument might detect the cable type and adjust the output level accordingly, assuming that a three-conductor output is a set of headphones rather than a balanced cable.

This behavior doesn't have anything to do with balanced/unbalanced outs, but it's something to pay attention to when you have such an instrument, as it may have a higher level when you plug in a balanced cable.
DSI: DSM03; previously: Mopho Keyboard, Desktop Mopho, Evolver, DSM01
Hardware: Eurorack, Arturia MicroBrute
Software: macOS, Ableton, MuseScore2
Modular Grid: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/354385
GitHub: https://github.com/chysn