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The DAC+ Pro XLR – what you need to know

Most of you know our DAC+ Pro already. We are proud to announce that now there are two different versions of our industry-leading board.  The DAC+ Pro is now available in a truly balanced version with high quality gold-plated XLR connectors.

Both of our DACs feature superior performance by incorporating the industry-leading Burr-Brown DAC chip, along with our own custom designed dual-domain clock circuit for optimal signal, and on-board linear voltage regulators for the analog stage of the DAC to decouple it from the potential noisy power supply of the Raspberry Pi.

Our new DAC+ XLR adds one key difference – the output stage. While the DAC+ Pro RCA provides an unbalanced audio output with 2Vrms output level (similar to a CD player), the DAC+ Pro XLR uses a different output stage that provides a fully balanced output stage with 4Vrms maximum output level.

Q: Which version should I choose?
A: In most cases, the RCA version is the correct version for you. RCA is the normal connector on most home-audio equipment. If you’re using professional audio equipment or high-end audio systems, there is a good chance that you’ll find balanced XLR input connectors. This is also the case for many high-quality studio monitors. If your system has both input options, we recommend the XLR version.

Q: What are the advantages of the balanced output?
A: Especially when using long cables, balanced outputs are much more immune to noise. It is not recommended to use very long (e.g. 10 meter) RCA cables as you will notice additional noise injected into this cable. Another advantage is that many amplifiers internally use a balanced input design and might perform better when the audio source provides a balanced output. Lastly, the XLR connectors are mechanically much more robust than RCA jack. They are designed to be used in rough environments. To damage an XLR connector, you will need brute force.

Q: Why does home audio equipment rarely use balanced outputs with XLR connectors?
A: The two main reasons are costs and space. Balanced connections and circuits are more expensive and XLR connectors are very bulky. Also, in many situations the robustness and noise immunity aren’t critical. With short audio cables, an unbalanced RCA connection will work perfectly fine in most cases. Therefore, if your equipment isn’t using XLR inputs, that’s perfectly fine.

Q: I might upgrade my equipment in the future. Can I already use the DAC+ Pro XLR with my amplifier with RCA inputs?
A: Yes, this is possible. You will need an XLR female to RCA adapter cable. with this cable, the DAC+ Pro XLR can be connected to an unbalanced input.

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Posted by Daniel on October 13, 2017