I recently came across a noise problem while recording audio. After some research, the cables used were the issue. In this article, I will explain the 2 different cables/connectors and when you should use both.
Unbalanced audio (TS, RCA)
It is usually used in consumer audio products. It is cheaper but can easily be affected by interference. The connectors for unbalanced audio are TS (Tip-Sleeve) and RCA. TS connectors are characterized by having only 1 black ring.
Balanced audio (TRS, XLR)
Used in professional audio. They costs a bit more but significantly reduce noise and interference. This is why balanced cables makes more sense when audio is transported over a long distance. The connectors for balanced audio are TRS (Tip-Ring-Sleeve) and XLR. TRS connectors are characterized by having 2 black rings. XLR connectors are much bigger and features 3 metal pins.
Which to use?
It all depends on your equipment actually. For example, my Motif XS has unbalanced outputs, so using unbalanced cables with a TS is the best solution as using balanced cables wouldn’t improve anything. For connecting my audio interface to my compressor, I use balanced audio cables (with TRS connections) because the output is balanced. I was previously using unbalanced cables and this is where the humming noise would get introduced. As soon I switched to balanced cables with TRS connectors, the problem went away. Finally, I connected my compressor to my speakers using again balanced audio cables but this time, with XLR connectors.
Can I use unbalanced cables on balanced output, and vice-versa?
Yes, however, you might notice noise (or “hum) in your audio by using unbalanced audio cables on a balanced output. On the other side, using balanced audio cables on unbalanced output is pointless, as there won’t be any difference.
DAW software are quite expensive, about 300-500$ depending on the version. I was looking to upgrade my Cubase AI 4 which is 32bit only to a 64bit-capable DAW. Cubase Studio 5 was the logical choice with it’s new 64bit version. Then I saw the price: 339$. Not quite what you call a deal, only to get 64bit support. Considering version 5 had no useful new features (only ANOTHER beat maker among the new “features”, as if we needed YET ANOTHER one). So it was clear I wasn’t going to buy this.
Then I read on EastWest forums about Reaper. It’s a DAW that is even more optimized than Cubase, has 64bit support, free routing of MIDI and audio. The price? 60$. But wait, prepare to be shocked, it only does everything Cubase 5 can do and more. Another surprise? It’s less than 5mb and the license is good for another major upgrade in the future. It looks even better than Cubase 5.
But the best thing about Reaper is the workflow. In less than 2 minutes, I was ready to go, VSTis loaded and ready to play. It appears to be much more stable than Cubase as well and an even lower latency.
I’m still using the 30-day evaluation version but I’m definitely getting a license in the next weeks.
Finally an audio product made by audio developers and not a marketing team.