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which signal converter (unbal to balanced) to choose: ARX, RANE, TASCAM?


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#1 of 7 David-alexander

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Posted July 14 2001 - 01:09 AM

I am still slightly unsure about which one to pick. I aim at choosing an 8-channel ready converter for full 5.1/6.1 setup. My source is a Denon 4800 (A10, European model) A/V amp and I plan, setp by step, to add professionnal, balanced, power amps (QSC or Yamaha).
Berhinger equalizers will be connected in between.
The issue between those three brands, ARX, TASCAM and RANE (models: LEVEL 8, LA-80 and BB44X with 8channel options, respectively) is the right impedance compatibility with the Denon, the Berhinger and the pro amps and the S/N ratio (it seems the RANE has the highest since it's a passive transformer).
Has anyone have any experience with any of these converters ?

thank you in advance
David


#2 of 7 Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted July 14 2001 - 05:32 PM

David,

Personally I would not use any passive balancing transformers in a home audio system. I have serious doubts as to their ability to deliver a clean unbalanced signal. In addition, they typically exhibit a roll off in response at the lowest frequencies.

For instance, a year or two ago Bass Player magazine did a comparison test on several balancing transformer units, known as “direct boxes” in pro-audio circles. I didn’t see the test, but they did note the winner in a later issue. What this means is, using only a bass guitar as a signal source, with the sound being reproduced through a so-called PA system, the reviewers thought at least one unit was more accurate than the others. When you consider that virtually no pro-audio speaker delivers anything resembling high fidelity reproduction, it should be clear that this has only negative implications for any audiophile application.

Pro-audio manufacturer BSS offers active balancing devices, but they are considerably more expensive than even the best passive transformers. However, they are reputed to deliver a clean signal with no low frequency attenuation. If you are intent on having a balanced signal chain, David, you might want to look into this.

I have the same reservations about pro-audio amps for hi-fi use. As a component class, professional amps are built with priority on durability rather than accurate sound reproduction. That said, there are a few pro manufacturers widely regarded for their ultra-clean amps, the Ashly brand most likey being chief among them, followed by certain Crown models. While QSC certainly makes a better pro-amp than Yamaha, neither is especially noted for clean, hi-fi sound reproduction.

You might want to look up Vince Maskeeper, a moderator here on the “Music Area” forum. He has extensive pro-audio experience and can recommend good pro amplifiers for home theater use.

While many people on this and other home theater forums use pro-audio equipment in the subwoofer signal chain, very few use pro gear for the main channels. There is a reason for this: By and large, even low-cost consumer amplifiers deliver better fidelity than most pro gear. The budget Behringer digital equalizers, with their mediocre AD/DA converters, are especially unsuited for use with any of the main channels in a high-performance home theater system.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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#3 of 7 Philip Hamm

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Posted July 15 2001 - 03:49 AM

Wayne makes some very good points.

As a bass player myself, back in my gigging days when shopping for an amp I would deliberately search for a bass amp with a balanced preamp out so that I could avoid using passive direct boxes. I ended up with an Eden Nemesis combo which sounded great, and using the direct out was a nice clean line to the PA. I no longer have that amp as I now use a 1968 Fender Bassman with an Eden 210T speaker cabinet and don't play in ensembles which use a big PA. There's a great product called "Sans Amp" which delivers a balanced signal for bass using an active circuit. A friend of mine who does a lot of pro studio work swears by the Sans Amps for recording bass.

Regarding your generalization about professional amps, I couldn't disagree more. There are two types of professional amps. Those designed for sound reinforcement, or PA systems, and those designed for studios. While I agree thanthe PA amps are inappropriate for the application, the amplifiers designed for recording studio applications are ideal for hi-fi use.

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[Edited last by Philip Hamm on July 15, 2001 at 10:50 AM]
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#4 of 7 David-alexander

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Posted July 15 2001 - 05:06 AM

Thanks the comments guys. Appreciate.

Odds are high I will still end up with the ARX Level 8 converters: seems of very high quality with 100dB S/N and dynamic range of 120dB. Adjustable input level.

Main purpose is for dvd and ld sound and sountracks. Not for hifi/classic anyway. Though the advantages of going full balanced on all channels will surely be heard! Posted Image

As for pro amps, there are some extremely "audiophile" amps around in the market. I have however reserves regarding going for class D amps for full bandwith for instance ( however, they are ideal for subwoofers given they cool running and 90% efficiency) or switching technology amps for home use. But large AB or class H pro amps are surely able to give consumers high end amps a workout !! Big time!
Besides, clipping LEDs signal is a major advantage here: you run your gear knowing what is going on.

thanks
David

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#5 of 7 Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted July 15 2001 - 07:06 AM

quote:
Regarding your generalization about professional amps, I couldn't disagree more. There are two types of professional amps. Those designed for sound reinforcement, or PA systems, and those designed for studios. While I agree thanthe PA amps are inappropriate for the application, the amplifiers designed for recording studio applications are ideal for hi-fi use.[/quote]
Of course, you’re absolutely right, Phillip. Virtually all of my pro-audio dabbling is with live mixing, so I tend to forget about studio gear.
Quote:
Odds are high I will still end up with the ARX Level 8 converters: seems of very high quality with 100dB S/N and dynamic range of 120dB. Adjustable input level.
What about the frequency response on the output side vs. the input side? Great dynamic range and S/N ratio are no indication of coloration or lack thereof.
quote:
Though the advantages of going full balanced on all channels will surely be heard![/quote]
I’m not so sure about this. The primary advantage of a balanced signal path is superior noise rejection for very long cable runs. Theoretically, it offers no audible advantage for home audio’s 3-6 ft. connections. The main benefit, in my opinion, is loosing cheesy RCA connections in favor of infinitely more substantial XLR or TRS connections.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt


[Edited last by Wayne A. Pflughaupt on July 15, 2001 at 02:09 PM]
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#6 of 7 Bob Sorel

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Posted July 15 2001 - 08:12 AM

quote:
I’m not so sure about this. The primary advantage of a balanced signal path is superior noise rejection for very long cable runs. Theoretically, it offers no audible advantage for home audio’s 3-6 ft. connections. The main benefit, in my opinion, is loosing cheesy RCA connections in favor of infinitely more substantial XLR or TRS connections.[/quote]

I agree wholeheartedly! I have active "direct boxes" left over from my days in the band, so I ran some experiments in my own home theater using them and found no advantages whatsoever. Typical sound reinforcement applications demand their use because of the long runs and because God only knows what kind of AC systems you will run into with a band, but with the small runs and tightly controlled electrical environment (hopefully) in your home, I see no reason to spend money on such devices, unless you have a gross mismatch in levels between your pre/pro and next piece of gear in the chain. The XLR connectors are a lot better than RCA connectors, though, but that's a lot of money to spend for adapters Posted Image

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[Edited last by Bob Sorel on July 15, 2001 at 03:15 PM]
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#7 of 7 David-alexander

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Posted July 15 2001 - 10:29 AM

Well, isn't there a real issue as to proper input level that a pro amp requires ? I mean, mixing consumer gears and pro gears rarely results in proper level matching and onboard input level correctors, if any, don't work that well.

As for the other purpose of a converter, is to allow long balanced interconnects and short amp to speakers wires, which results in better damping factor. Especially for low frequencies.
And I would not want to work in full balanced with proper level just for the subs and the rest of the system left on unbalanced with an improper level.

convince me otherwise Posted Image

Things would be easier if I had a processor with balanced XLR outputs Posted Image ( which is a trend developping itself: LEXICON, ONKYO INTEGRA, THETA )