Creating the Soundtracks for Life

Balanced Cables

Balanced audio is a method of interconnecting audio equipment using impedance-balanced lines. This type of connection is very important in sound recording and production because it allows for the use of long cables while reducing susceptibility to external noise.

Balanced connections use three-conductor connectors, usually the XLR or TRS connector. XLR connectors, for instance, are usually used with microphones because of their durable construction, while TRS jack plugs are usually used for mixer inputs and outputs because of their smaller profile.

I recently purchased a pair of Yamaha HS50M studio monitors. I’m using them in conjunction with the original Alesis M1 monitors by way of PreSonus’ Central Station. So far, they sound great except for one complaint. There’s quite a bit of static while idle.

My first reaction to the problem was to send them back. The noise was distracting — unnerving, even. Additionally, I cut vocals in my control room and I didn’t want pick up monitor noise in my recordings. Eventually, it occurred to me that maybe there was something else happening in the chain.

I began a process of elimination to determine where the problem was in the chain.  First, I cleaned the connectors on the Central Station. Then powered the monitors up on another circuit to rule out ground level hum issues. Lastly I checked the cables and there was the source of the problem. I had been using unbalanced TS cables instead of balanced TRS.

I had read before about the importance of proper cable selection. Up to this point, I hadn’t had any major issues, so I just let the slide. Now, I’m in the examining all of my cables to ensure that I’ve got the appropriate cable for my equipment. It’s a small thing, but it can make a significant improvement to your recording environment.