Applies to: All units
All Focusrite ¼ inch (6.35 mm) jack inputs and outputs are mono-balanced.
Balanced cables are far better at rejecting interference noise than unbalanced cables. This is made possible by the addition of an extra conductor (more detailed information can be found here).
Balanced cables can use a TRS (Tip, Ring, Sleeve) connector or a 3-pin XLR connector.
¼ inch TRS jack-to-jack cable:
3-pin XLR to XLR cable:
¼ inch TRS jack to 3-pin male XLR cable:
When should I use balanced cables?
You should use balanced cables when connecting to and from equipment with balanced inputs/outputs.
For example, if you have a pair of speakers with balanced inputs, you should use a pair of balanced cables to connect the balanced outputs of your interface to the speakers. This will reduce the likelihood of picking up interference noise when compared to using unbalanced cables in the same setup.
Similarly, if you're using a piece of equipment with balanced outputs (such as a mixing console) and you wish to connect that to a balanced input on your interface, you should use a balanced cable.
Equipment that typically features balanced inputs/outputs includes:
- Studio monitors & loudspeakers
- Synthesisers, electric pianos & keyboards
- Rack effects & microphone preamps
- Mixing consoles
Unlike balanced cables, there is only one conductor carrying the signal, so interference is not rejected. The 'ground' wire is also not separated inside unbalanced cables, instead, it is wrapped around the signal wires as a shield.
Unbalanced cables (mainly used as instrument cables) often use TS (Tip, sleeve) jack connectors with a single ring on the end of the connector. However, RCA connectors are also commonly used for unbalanced cables.
¼ inch TS jack-to-jack cable:
RCA to RCA cable:
When should I use unbalanced cables?
The most common use of unbalanced cables is for connecting instruments with pickups to amps, pedals, interfaces, or DI boxes. Examples of instruments that would use unbalanced cabling are:
- Electric Guitars
- Bass Guitars
- Electro-Acoustic Guitars (Acoustic guitars with Piezo/soundhole pickups)
- Electric Violins/Cellos/Basses
- Outputs from guitar effects pedals
Unbalanced cables should also be used in audio equipment where a balanced input or output is not available - for example, if you have a pair of speakers that only have an unbalanced input.