Balanced Drive FAQ
What is Balanced Headphone Drive?
Balanced Headphone Drive is a scheme that uses inverse positive / negative electrical paths to deliver equal and opposite audio signals to each side of the headphone driver voice coil. When properly done a significant increase of audio performance is heard due to the doubling of slew rate and power; the reduction of THD distortion components, and virtual elimination of crosstalk at the headphones due to elimination of the common ground plane present in standard headphones.
Why Do I Need a Balanced Headphone Amp?
Because balanced drive requires two inverse audio channels at each ear instead of one, a balanced headphone amplifier outputs four (4) audio channels instead of the two normally found in a regular headphone amplifier. While a regular headphone amplifier can't drive balanced headphones, our superb HeadRoom "BUDA" balanced amplifier can drive both balanced and standard headphones beautifully!
How Do I Know if My Headphones are Balanced?
If your headphone plug looks like the single plug on the left, then your headphones are not balanced. The black XLR connections on the right are an example of a balanced headphone plug.
Do My Audio Sources Also Need to Offer a 'Balanced' XLR Output?
In order to achieve best performance from a balanced headphone system, a fully balanced audio source is needed. Many top CD players and audio components now offer XLR output connections built-in. Moreover, our killer HeadRoom Ultra Desktop Balanced DAC (aka "THE UDAC") has an excellent built-in digital to analog converter that acts a fully balanced source, so all you need is a computer laptop or PC signal via USB -- or an optical and/or coaxial digital SPDi/F audio signal from other audio components -- for your 'balanced' audio source.
What Type of Connector is Used in Balanced Drive?
There is no official industry standard for balanced headphone connections, and a handful of balanced connector configurations exist. HeadRoom uses two (stereo) male 3-pin XLR connectors, each carrying the normal and inverted audio channels, and shielded connections to their respective earpiece. This unique connection scheme allows us to use the Neutrik combo jack which includes both XLR and standard 1/4" stereo headphone jacks to provide you with one amp that can drive both balanced and standard headphones -- with a nicely uncrowded front panel!
Does That Mean I Can Plug My Standard Headphones Into a Balanced Amp and Get a Balanced Signal?
NO! But you can listen to standard headphones on a HeadRoom balanced headphone amp just fine, you're just not listening in true balanced performance mode.
How Do I Get My Headphones Recabled and Ready for Balanced Drive?
The Sennheiser HD800 can be instantly owner-recabled into balanced drive using the Cardas Balanced Cable for HD800. If you own Sennheiser HD600 or HD650, an aftermarket Cardas balanced cable is available for purchase for those cans. Audeze and HiFiMAN planar-magnetic headphones also have detachable cables allowing for easy cord upgrading. If you seek a different brand of headphone, check our custom recabled HeadRoom balanced headphones.
What Does The Headphone Recabling Cost?
Recabling cost begins at $249 but varies depending on whether you buy your headphones recabled initially, your desired cord length, and what type of after-market replacement cable is used on your recable. See our ready-made balanced headphones here. Current headphones that offer user-replaceable cords are the Sennheiser HD800, HD600 and HD650 plus all Audeze and HiFiMAN planar-magnetic headphones.
Why Don't You Offer More Models?
The time and significant expense that comes along with recabling is generally warranted only for the very best of headphones. Moreover, some high-end headphones cannot be recabled due to their internal wiring construction and/or other headphone design issues.
Can My Headphones Function Both as Balanced Headphones and Single-Ended Headphones?
HeadRoom manufactures a handy XLR-1/4"adaptor , so any balanced headphones may be converted back to single-ended drive upon demand. Another option is to choose models like Sennheiser HD650 or HD600 with detachable cabling allowing for an aftermarket balanced headphone cord to plug directly into the cans. Hence, you can purchase a balanced cable and just switch out the headphone cord(s) for single-ended or balanced listening as needed.
Besides Replacing Connectors, Is The Type of Actual Cable Different w/ Balanced Headphones?
Yes, the cable must have at least four conductors to get the proper balanced signal to the headphones. HeadRoom uses our signature 'Fat Pipe' cabling which is made especially for HeadRoom by Cardas, one of the finest cable manufacturers in the world, and is internally structured to provide shielding and separation of the left and right channel pairs to reduce crosstalk.
Most Importantly, What Does Balanced Drive Really Sound Like?
This cannot be answered in a single sentence, but expect to be completely flabbergasted and sonically wowed with an expansive soundstage and a full, rich, 'open-toned' sound never before heard on your headphones... and if you've ever been flabbergasted by familiar music you've heard a million times before that suddenly sounds fresh and brand-new again, then you know what a huge thrill that can be!