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Just ordered a balanced cable for my HD800, am I wasting my money?

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I’ve been living quite happily with my HD800/HDVA600 headphone combo. 

 

But it to this day it’s been bugging me that the HDVD600 is build fully symmetrically and I’m only using the regular 6.3 cable that came with the HD800. 

 

As I felt like spending some money on my system right now I just ordered the Sennheiser HD800S balanced cable which Sennheiser sells for the pretty hefty amount of more than $300. 

 

I only have an unbalanced source, am I completely wasting my money here? 

 

In in any case I really much more like the look and feel of an XLR plug than the regular 6.3 jack so I’d get some psychological improvement even if sonically nothing much happens. 

 

What do people think?

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I changed quite expensive Nordost RCA cables to much cheaper Atlas balanced for connecting Dynaudio active speakers to very good and clear sonic improvement. Another huge improvement was caused by change of default Dynaudio power cables for better ones. In any case, wait for a couple of days at least before coming to conclusion, let your ears and brains adjust to the new cable.

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44 minutes ago, AnotherSpin said:

I changed quite expensive Nordost RCA cables to much cheaper Atlas balanced for connecting Dynaudio active speakers to very good and clear sonic improvement. Another huge improvement was caused by change of default Dynaudio power cables for better ones. In any case, wait for a couple of days at least before coming to conclusion, let your ears and brains adjust to the new cable.

Thanks. They should arrive early next week. I’ll report back. 

 

 

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2 hours ago, AnotherSpin said:

In any case, wait for a couple of days at least before coming to conclusion, let your ears and brains adjust to the new cable.

 

I second this--at the high end it's often pluses and minuses according to taste, and it's easy to miss the minuses once you get excited about a particular product's plusses.

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I have the HD800S/HDVA600 combo. As you know the HD800S comes with both the 6.3mm and balanced cables.

 

I could discern no difference between the two.

 

I then decided to make my own shorter balanced cable using the best connectors (furutech) and wire (also furutech) and Cardas soldier. The tiny connectors at the headphone side are a bear to soldier. I have an resistance soldier station with fine needle tips which is the only way to realistically do this kind of work. 

 

The difference between the Sennheiser cable and my own was negligible - probably expectation bias. But I now have a 6ft cable with very cool connectors. ?


 

"The function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought", Sir Thomas Beecham. 

 

 

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26 minutes ago, rodrigaj said:

I have the HD800S/HDVA600 combo. As you know the HD800S comes with both the 6.3mm and balanced cables.

 

I could discern no difference between the two.

 

I then decided to make my own shorter balanced cable using the best connectors (furutech) and wire (also furutech) and Cardas soldier. The tiny connectors at the headphone side are a bear to soldier. I have an resistance soldier station with fine needle tips which is the only way to realistically do this kind of work. 

 

The difference between the Sennheiser cable and my own was negligible - probably expectation bias. But I now have a 6ft cable with very cool connectors. ?

Thanks. I was kind of afraid to hear that. I probably just spent $300 for a nicer set of connectors...

 

just to clarify: do you have a balanced or unbalanced source?

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38 minutes ago, Musicophile said:

Thanks. I was kind of afraid to hear that. I probably just spent $300 for a nicer set of connectors...

 

just to clarify: do you have a balanced or unbalanced source?

 

Balanced: PS Audio DS DAC (balanced) > W4S STPSE Preamp (balanced) > HDVA600

 

IMHO, the balanced headphone cable is worth the $300. You don't realize that until you build one yourself. I was glad that the HD800S included it.


 

"The function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought", Sir Thomas Beecham. 

 

 

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FWIW, here's my experience with my HD800 with SD mod. Not quite the 800S, but very similar.

 

For me, I did experience a better sound quality with upgraded balanced cables, although in my case the cable change and unbalanced -> balanced transition occurred in one step. That is why your experience with just the  unbalanced -> balanced transition will be interesting. Please do post your findings.

 

In my case, I first moved from stock unbalanced to Moon Audio Black Dragon cable, terminated with a 4-pin XLR. At the time, I was driving the HD800 directly from the Codex, so I also got Moon to build be a female XLR to 2x3.5mm adapter for the Codex. The Black Dragon+balanced move was a nice step up in quality. This gave the sound a warmer palette, and definitely tamed the treble, while giving better bass definition. However note that this improvement was a combination of exploiting the balanced mode of the Codex as well as the cable.

 

My next change was to my current Cardas Clear, so I was going from Black Dragon balanced to Cardas Clear balanced. And this time, both to my Cavalli Liquid Gold amp.

 

The Cardas Clear upgrade was one of my most satisfying cable purchases. It's expensive, sure, but I lucked out with a good used deal, so it wasn't too bad. The Clear just adds a beguiling combination of smoothness, warmth AND resolution to the SQ. It's really hard to describe, but it was very hard for me to go back.

 

I'm not sure this is helping, other than to say cables do change to sound, and balanced mode helps with certain amps. 

 

Other than that, YMMV!

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3 hours ago, austinpop said:

...My next change was to my current Cardas Clear, so I was going from Black Dragon balanced to Cardas Clear balanced. And this time, both to my Cavalli Liquid Gold amp.

 

The Cardas Clear upgrade was one of my most satisfying cable purchases. It's expensive, sure, but I lucked out with a good used deal, so it wasn't too bad. The Clear just adds a beguiling combination of smoothness, warmth AND resolution to the SQ. It's really hard to describe, but it was very hard for me to go back....

 

Cardas makes excellent cables.

 

The only time I have perceived a difference in cable swaps that was appreciably better/different was when I switched out a phono din to rca generic for a Cardas Clear phono din to rca. I got the cable at dealer cost because I bought the used TT from him and he threw in a DV cartridge at dealer cost as well. Now I would just build my own and use the money for music downloads.

 

Perhaps my system is not revealing enough, but the whole cable thing stupefies me. (I won't get into a cable debate).


 

"The function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought", Sir Thomas Beecham. 

 

 

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balanced cables provide attenuation of EMF that is radiated into all cables; a star-quad configuration will reduce that further - you may or may not have a noisy enough environment to make a difference, but it is always a wise idea

 

Benchmark Audio has a white paper explaining this

 

however, $300 for a cable is too much...

 

 


"The overwhelming majority [of audiophiles] have very little knowledge, if any, about the most basic principles and operating characteristics of audio equipment. They often base their purchasing decisions on hearsay, and the preaching of media sages. Unfortunately, because of commercial considerations, much information is rooted in increasing revenue, not in assisting the audiophile. It seems as if the only requirements for becoming an "authority" in the world of audio is a keyboard."

-- Bruce Rozenblit of Transcendent Sound

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ok, I guess HD800 is a headphone

 

proof that I'm not a headphoner

 

hey - who wants my Beats!??


"The overwhelming majority [of audiophiles] have very little knowledge, if any, about the most basic principles and operating characteristics of audio equipment. They often base their purchasing decisions on hearsay, and the preaching of media sages. Unfortunately, because of commercial considerations, much information is rooted in increasing revenue, not in assisting the audiophile. It seems as if the only requirements for becoming an "authority" in the world of audio is a keyboard."

-- Bruce Rozenblit of Transcendent Sound

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15 hours ago, Musicophile said:

I only have an unbalanced source, am I completely wasting my money here? 

Yes. But then again I did too. Mine was the Beyerdynamic (made by Cardas) balanced cable for the T12G. Used it with my Bryston amp. Louder-yes. Better-eh. YMMV. Think positive.....


 

 

 

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@Musicophile: I think you did the right thing. In the end you own a balanced amp, so being curious to find out what it is capable of is a natural thing (although this could have been done a bit cheaper). Chances are you'll like the difference it makes, if not - you can always sell the cable to reduce your losses.

 

In my setup (HD800 with V281) the balanced output is clearly more dynamic and provides some subtle changes to the overall tonality of the headphones. After hearing the difference I wouldn't go back to single ended.

 

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5 hours ago, Ralf11 said:

ok, I guess HD800 is a headphone

 

proof that I'm not a headphoner

 

hey - who wants my Beats!??

The source impedance is less than 300 ohms, by nature hf noise doesn’t wander to this range. 

Balanced drive to headphones advantage is a higher voltage level, standard XLR can drive, but the cabling in this instance is often at the rear of equipment, awkward to plug in and the other end at the headphones are hardly standardised.

 

Separation, distortion, tone and SQ delivery is at the mercy of the amp and how it controls the headphones as well as limitations of any speaker like device.

 

I don’t want your fictitious Beats.


AS Profile Equipment List        Say NO to MQA

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I always wondered if a balanced concoction would be any different, but then again I would have to buy a balanced capable headphone amp. But right now everything sounds pretty nice.


The Truth Is Out There

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This has nothing to do with SQ, but balanced cables provide a much better mechanical connection. Those spring connections on SE sockets loosen up over time. On the back panel, balanced connections lock in place. I've never understood the appeal of RCA.


 

"The function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought", Sir Thomas Beecham. 

 

 

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8 minutes ago, rodrigaj said:

This has nothing to do with SQ, but balanced cables provide a much better mechanical connection. Those spring connections on SE sockets loosen up over time. On the back panel, balanced connections lock in place. I've never understood the appeal of RCA.

BNC connectors are quite reliable. Not used much in (consumer) audio, though.

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In my experience the benefits of balanced headphone cables stand out impressively when you use a DAP with well designed balanced amplification. Not least, the additional power helps, especially with higher impedance headphones like the Sennheiser HD 800 with many headphone amps. 

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