Are Microphones Balanced or Unbalanced

There are many things that can be hard to understand when it comes to the microphones. However, with a little bit of effort and the easy explanatory way, you shouldn’t have any problems. Microphone balance is just one of those things. Microphones can be either balanced or unbalanced, which depends on the microphone type, connectivity, and many other factors. Whether the microphone is balanced or unbalanced also depends on the cable it uses and the power source.

For example, you will need balanced microphone cables to connect your microphone to phantom power. However, at the same time, there are unbalanced cables which are used for different purpose. It’s important to get it right so you don’t need to spend another minute thinking about it or spend more money on getting the wrong cable.

Difference Between Balanced and Unbalanced

You can have the best microphone in the world, but the quality still depends a lot on the cables that are used. They can either make or break your sound system and microphone quality. If you don’t use the proper audio cables for your microphone, you could end up getting a lot of unwanted noise, buzzing, and other things like that.

Unbalanced microphone and cable consist of only two connectors where there are two conductors for each connector. Therefore, unbalanced microphones are connected with cables that have only two wires. One of them is a signal wire and the other wire is the grounding wire.

Unbalanced audio cables are often used for connecting instruments such as the guitar to the amplifiers. But there’s one thing to remember. Unbalanced cables aren’t good at eliminating outside interference and that’s why unbalanced cables should only have a maximum length of approximately 20 feet which is 4 to 6 meters.

On the other hand, balanced microphone and cable consist of three conductors and they have three wires rather than unbalanced audio. It features two signal wires and the third wire is a grounding wire.

The thing that makes balanced audio so special is the way the gear uses that extra signal wire. The noise that is picked up along the way is canceled through polarity inversion. Therefore, balanced audio cables can have longer length rather than unbalanced audio cables.

Their average length is approximately 50 to 100 feet which are about 15 to 30 meters. Balanced audio cables are a better choice for microphone use and they come in two standard connectors which are XLR and TRS.

Common Cable Connections

Now when you know the difference between the unbalanced and balanced audio cables, it’s simple to understand why the microphones use the advantage of the balanced audio cables. It’s all about using the right cable for the right signal to get the most out of your equipment and your microphone. Also, eliminating noise and other interference is definitely important to get the top-notch quality everyone’s looking for. As mentioned before, there are two standard connector types of balanced audio cables which are XLR and TRS, and it’s most likely that you’ve seen at least one of them, if not both.

For unbalanced audio cables, common connectors would be standard TS sleeve and RCA. Knowing the common cable connections and their advantages/disadvantages will definitely help you in choosing the right cables for your microphone and setup. It’s all about using the right cables for the right signals.

  • XLR

XLR is a well-known connector used for connecting balanced audio cables. You will recognize XLR connector type for its specific three pins and circular connector. They’re great for delivering the line-level signals over a long distance, which is its biggest advantage over the unbalanced connector types.

XLR connector type and its cables have a specific way of eliminating the unwanted noise from the surroundings, which helps to deliver the final audio signal without any disturbance in the audio. Although XLR audio cables look very similar to TSR audio cables, you will easily tell which one is which by looking at the connector type. XLR audio cables work in a way that they deliver a positive and negative audio signal along the ground signal. A negative audio signal is always the same audio signal, however, it’s inverted for a difference than positive.

Whenever any noise gets in the system, it becomes inverted and eliminated that way as positive and negative audio signals cancel the noise from each other. The final result is the original audio signal.

  • TRS

TRS stands for Tip, Ring, Sleeve. They’re the second type connector for balanced audio cables. While many people confuse them with TS which stands for Tip, Sleeve, it’s fairly easy to tell who’s who. While TRS and TS may be very similar, they have a big difference. TRS is a balanced connector type while TS is unbalanced connector type. TRS audio cables are great for mono balanced signals, but also stereo signals.

The true example of a mono balanced signal use for that would be the line in or out from your audio interface which can be a microphone. While for the stereo signal, a great example would be the audio that you hear when you connect your headphones to any headphone jack.

TRS connector and cable only looks different than XLR, but it works in a very similar way, and the final results are the same. They’re very often used for connecting microphone to the setup, just like the XLR.

How to Choose the Right Cable for Your Microphone

When choosing the right cable for your microphone, there are a few factors you should consider. You have to think about the length you need, your budget, and your tech specifications. Length is important because it plays an important factor in noise elimination. Budget is definitely important since top-quality cables can be very pricey. And your tech specifications matter because you probably have the connector types you should follow.

If you have a microphone that uses XLR or TSR connector (which is pretty common), you would definitely want to get the¬†balanced audio cable. On the other hand, if you can’t use balanced audio cables due to your tech specifications not allowing it, you will have to settle for unbalanced audio cables.

The more you know – the better. But there are only a few things you should pay attention to, and you won’t have a problem choosing the right audio cable for your microphone.