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Another thing to keep in mind with cables, or to understand, is that between Balanced and Unbalanced cables. An Unbalanced cable uses two conductors, or two wires basically, to send signals back and forth, and a Balanced wire uses 3. Now, there are advantages to using three wires over two. One, you can send more power over those wires, and so you can send a louder signal level. By sending more power, you're also able to create a situation where those Balanced cables are less susceptible to noise and interference, from things like radio frequencies and AC power and things like that.
So, there's a good advantage to balance, they operate at a signal level of +4 dB which is referred to as the Pro Level, and more or less, that means it's the loudness thing. These cables are louder, they send more signal. Unbalanced operate at -10 dB. It's 14 dB difference if you're looking at that -10 up to 0, and then plus another four to +4, so 14 decibel difference. Those Unbalanced cables are referred to as Consumer Level. Now, a lot of the things you're going to be working with are going to operate on a Consumer Level.
It's okay, these things can interface, but you'll find that the Pro Level stuff, if you're spending a lot of money, it'll have +4 dB signal level involved in a lot of things, or balanced inputs and outputs. It's worth looking into, because especially if you are somewhere where there's lot of noise. If you are in your bedroom, and there is lot of radio towers around. If you can go balanced, it might help you avoid kind of that unwanted radio interference and in the middle of the night session. So, let's look at a few examples of the difference. There's different kinds of cable ends that basically let you know if something is balanced or unbalanced.
So, unbalanced has two conductors and on a plug like this you have seen them a hundred times maybe, or maybe not. There's a Tip and a Sleeve, and it's separated by a little piece of black carbon. More or less you have metal, there's one conductor, this is a separator, this is a second conductor, two conductors. That's called the Tip/Sleeve cable or TS. A balanced version of that has the ring inserted, so you have the Tip, the Ring, and the Sleeve. Pretty obvious, referred to as a TRS, so those are your three conductors.
The other well-known balanced cable is the microphone cable, or XLR cable, which has three pins used for three conductors, worth knowing about, easy to identify as soon as you look at. The trick comes when you actually are looking at devices or boxes that have inputs, and you can't really tell from looking at them, especially if it's a plug input, if that's balanced or unbalanced. Usually, if the manufacturer has been nice they'll let you know that right there and say it's balanced, if not, you might have to open up a manual or something like that to find out.
You can plug a balanced cable into an unbalanced shack and vice-versa, it defaults to unbalanced when you pair balanced and unbalanced. So, the XLR comes in the same shape and size every time you see it. The TRS and TS can come in a bunch of different sizes, which I'll show you in the next movie, but the thing to remember is to look for the ring. If there's a ring, it's a three conductor plug, and if there isn't a ring, it's a two conductor plug or unbalanced. So keep that in mind when you're looking at your plugs.
In the next movie, we'll look at a lot of adapters and plugs, and we'll talk about what they're commonly used for.
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