You are here

Wiring of a balanced microphone lead.

All about the tools and techniques involved in capturing sound, in the studio or on location.

Wiring of a balanced microphone lead.

Postby Baldo » Thu Mar 07, 2019 7:24 pm

I recently saw a microphone lead in a cheap shop in the east end of London. At one end was a female xlr jack and at the other end was a male 1/4inch jack plug, Mono. The mono jack plug only had two connectors on it (the tip and the rest of the jack plug)

Now my question is, should the jack plug not have had 3 connectors on it? My understanding of balanced leads is that there are two signals being transmitted, one is the phase inverted version of the other. So how can you have a balanced lead with only two connectors on the the jack plug?

Am I missing something or was the cable just a dodgy copy and not really a balanced cable?

Many thanks
Baldo.
Baldo
Regular
Posts: 119
Joined: Thu Dec 12, 2002 1:00 am
Location: Germany
"Never put a recording studio in your home, it is a black hole into which you can pour unlimited amounts of money" Pete Waterman.

Re: Wiring of a balanced microphone lead.

Postby Alba » Thu Mar 07, 2019 7:36 pm

Not a balanced cable, its pin 1 & 3 to the sleeve and pin 2 to the tip and that gives you an XLR mic lead you can plug into an unbalanced device.
Alba
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1198
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2015 12:00 am
Location: Airstrip 1, Eurasia

Re: Wiring of a balanced microphone lead.

Postby Wonks » Thu Mar 07, 2019 8:06 pm

Often cheap Chinese mics are wired unbalanced (despite looking like an SM57 or SM58) and often come supplied with an unbalanced XLR to TS jack lead.
User avatar
Wonks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 8954
Joined: Thu May 29, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Reading, UK
Correcting mistakes on the internet since 1853

Re: Wiring of a balanced microphone lead.

Postby Baldo » Thu Mar 07, 2019 9:27 pm

thought so.

So this cable is not a balanced lead at all.
Baldo
Regular
Posts: 119
Joined: Thu Dec 12, 2002 1:00 am
Location: Germany
"Never put a recording studio in your home, it is a black hole into which you can pour unlimited amounts of money" Pete Waterman.

Re: Wiring of a balanced microphone lead.

Postby Mike Stranks » Thu Mar 07, 2019 9:32 pm

Baldo wrote:thought so.

So this cable is not a balanced lead at all.

Nope! Balanced by definition is three wires/connectors... not 2 into 3 or 3 into 2, but 3 into 3.
Mike Stranks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6738
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2003 1:00 am

Re: Wiring of a balanced microphone lead.

Postby James Perrett » Thu Mar 07, 2019 9:45 pm

When I started that was a standard mic lead for most gigging bands. Most affordable PA systems had unbalanced mic inputs on TS jack connectors. This was also the standard for mic inputs on most tape recorders (even top quality brands like Revox). However, if you bought a decent mic cable (like the ones supplied with Beyerdynamic microphones) the cable itself was 2 core and screen so you could turn it into a balanced cable simply by replacing the jack plug.
User avatar
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 8279
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2001 12:00 am
Location: The wilds of Hampshire
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration. JRP Music Facebook Page

Re: Wiring of a balanced microphone lead.

Postby wireman » Thu Mar 07, 2019 9:49 pm

I use right-angle TS jack to XLR leads with my digital stage piano.
wireman
Regular
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Dec 17, 2004 1:00 am

Re: Wiring of a balanced microphone lead.

Postby Tim Gillett » Thu Mar 07, 2019 11:30 pm

James Perrett wrote:When I started that was a standard mic lead for most gigging bands. Most affordable PA systems had unbalanced mic inputs on TS jack connectors. This was also the standard for mic inputs on most tape recorders (even top quality brands like Revox). ...

Yes most but not all. The expensive Revox A700 had balanced TRS mic inputs.
A mic mixer I installed in a church in 1980 had the same balanced TRS setup for mic signals.

A problem with wiring a balanced mic to an unbalanced 1/4" TS input via the rewired cable was that the latter was expecting a somewhat higher voltage. It could result in, effectively, increased preamp noise.
Tim Gillett
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1746
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:00 am
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Re: Wiring of a balanced microphone lead.

Postby Wonks » Fri Mar 08, 2019 12:09 am

Mike Stranks wrote:
Baldo wrote:thought so.

So this cable is not a balanced lead at all.

Nope! Balanced by definition is three wires/connectors... not 2 into 3 or 3 into 2, but 3 into 3.


Not really 'by definition'. You can quite happily have a balanced 2-wire connection. You don't necessarily need a ground connection or a shield (the twists on a cable if using a differential balanced input will provide most of the noise rejection). Think of ground lift switches that break the ground connection.

The 'balanced' bit just means the two input connections have the same resistance to ground, often via the differential inputs of an op-amp (but they don't have to be differential to be balanced).

In most unbalanced circuits, one connection is normaly tied to 0v which itself is normaly connected to ground at one point.
User avatar
Wonks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 8954
Joined: Thu May 29, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Reading, UK
Correcting mistakes on the internet since 1853

Re: Wiring of a balanced microphone lead.

Postby Mike Stranks » Fri Mar 08, 2019 11:50 am

OK 'definition' used somewhat casually...

I do and try to adhere to the KIS principle wherever possible...

For most of us here all we need to know is that three wires to three connectors at both ends means balanced; any other combination almost certainly means unbalanced.
Mike Stranks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6738
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2003 1:00 am

Re: Wiring of a balanced microphone lead.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Mar 08, 2019 11:56 am

Baldo wrote:I recently saw a microphone lead in a cheap shop in the east end of London. At one end was a female xlr jack and at the other end was a male 1/4inch jack plug, Mono.

Yes, it's a widely available adaptor cable intended for connecting a balanced dynamic mic to an unbalanced input, such as on a guitar amp or low-end mixer amp. It's not a balanced cable and the wiring intentionally unbalances the source.

Now my question is, should the jack plug not have had 3 connectors on it?

If it was intended to connect a balanced output to a balanced input then that would be more conventional, yes... XLR to TRS plug balanced adaptor cables are widely available too. And in general, as Mike says, proper balanced audio cables normally have three terminals.

My understanding of balanced leads is that there are two signals being transmitted, one is the phase inverted version of the other.

That's a common, but completely erroneous, (mis)understanding!

A 'balanced' connection comprises two signal wires (often referred to as 'hot' and 'cold'), neither of which are connected directly to ground. Often a protective, grounded electrostatic screen or shield encases those two signal wires, but it plays no part in the signal transfer and is frequently omitted, particularly when the signals in question are line level. (Most traditional professional patch-bay plug cords (the PO316 and TT types) aren't screened and only have two internal signal wires).

But assuming the screen is present, then the connectors require three terminals for the hot, cold and screen connections.

However, a 'balanced connection' is only 'balanced' if the impedance to ground for each signal wire (at each end) is identical. It has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the inverted symmetrical signals! A balanced line works as a form of Wheatstone Bridge, and that impedance balance is the critical part that makes it work, not whether the audio is passed as a symmetrical inverted form or not!

The key benefit of a balanced line is that it rejects interference, but it can only do that if the interference signal generates what is called a 'common-mode' signal in the cable. As the name implies, a common-mode signal means that there is exactly the same voltage on each signal wire -- and you can only get the same voltage on each wire if the impedance to ground is identical for each wire too -- because of Ohms Law (V=IR).

The balanced input receiver works as a differential receiver, which means it looks for the difference voltage between the hot and cold wires. With a common-mode signal, the voltage on each wire is engineered to be the same because the impedance to ground for each wire is the same, so there is no voltage difference between the two signal wires. Consequently, there is no output signal from the differential receiver.

And that's how the infamous interference suppression of a balanced line works.

The cable screen -- if present -- helps to reduce any electrostatically-coupled interference from reaching the signal wires, but whatever interference does get through is forced to create a common-mode voltage because the signal wires have balanced impedances to ground. Electromagnetically-coupled interference is reduced by twisting the two core wires around each other, so that the magnetic field induces the same current into both wires equally. The tighter the twist, the better the interference rejection, and in extreme cases, the star-quad format works even better...

So the cable screen and the core twisting help to reduce external interference, but it's the impedance balancing that forces any successful interference to generate a common-mode signal which can then be rejected by the differential receiver!

As for the transfer of wanted audio signal, that has to be present across the two wires as a differential voltage signal. The original way to do that was by using a (floating) transformer output, and that does indeed produce the symmetrical and inverted signal format that you're thinking of.

It's still only one signal though (not two), effectively with half of it carried on the hot wire, and the other half on the cold wire. As far as the differential receiver is concerned, it looks for the voltage difference between the two wires which is the full signal. The simple maths is: Output = +0.5 - (-0.5) = +0.5+0.5 = 1.

Most active balanced outputs replicated the symmetrical inverted signal format too, mostly because it has some advantages in terms of headroom and signal-to-noise. But it doesn't have to work that way... and this is where the so-called 'impedance-balanced' interface format comes in. This type of interface is extremely common in budget and mid-level mixers, interfaces, and microphones (including some very high-end ones), and it is designed to send the full signal voltage on the hot wire, with (apparently) nothing on the cold -- although the connection is still required, of course to maintain common-mode signals!

As far as the differential receiver is concerned, it still sees a differential signal of the full amplitude between the two signal wires, so all is well. And, because the impedance to ground for each signal wire is still properly balanced, the common-mode interference rejection still works as perfectly as any old-school balanced interface.

But the benefit is that only one active output driver is required, instead of two, and if the output happens to be connected to an unbalanced input the full signal level is still transferred. This is particularly helpful in semi-pro situations where the equipment could be connected to either balanced or unbalanced equipment, or with balanced or unbalanced cables -- as is common in semipro applications.

In contrast, if a symmetrical inverted balanced output is connected to an unbalanced destination only half the signal will be received*, and so the output will be 6dB quieter than expected. (*There are ways around that using floating transformer outputs or cross-coupled active outputs... but these are both relatively rare these days).

I hope that clears up the 'it's only balanced if carrying symmetrical and inverted signals' myth!

Going back to the required number of terminals, yes most balanced audio interfaces use three... but the screen connection is an optional extra nicety in the majority of cases and not mandatory (although it is required for the phantom power ground reference with power mics, of course).

In other (non-audio) applications it is perfectly acceptable and very common to pass a balanced signal with just two terminals -- as each data pair in a Cat5 cable does, for example, or the plain old telephone wiring....

H
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 24114
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound

Re: Wiring of a balanced microphone lead.

Postby Wonks » Fri Mar 08, 2019 12:25 pm

I fink I said it in slightly fewer words than wot Hugh did. :D
User avatar
Wonks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 8954
Joined: Thu May 29, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Reading, UK
Correcting mistakes on the internet since 1853

Re: Wiring of a balanced microphone lead.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Mar 08, 2019 12:55 pm

Wonks wrote:I fink I said it in slightly fewer words than wot Hugh did. :D

:bouncy: Yep... and faster too...

...but there's a difference between 'saying it' and 'explaining it'! :lol:
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 24114
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound

Re: Wiring of a balanced microphone lead.

Postby Wonks » Fri Mar 08, 2019 1:01 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Wonks wrote:I fink I said it in slightly fewer words than wot Hugh did. :D

:bouncy: Yep... and faster too...

...but there's a difference between 'saying it' and 'explaining it'! :lol:

Ah. You looked it up at 'the other place'. :lol: :D
User avatar
Wonks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 8954
Joined: Thu May 29, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Reading, UK
Correcting mistakes on the internet since 1853


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users