Should I just make all TRS cables for balanced connections?

I’ve been making cables for a while now (thanks to encouragement from elektronauts - great hobby, thanks!) and I’m going to make a whole batch of cables to have them pre-plugged into my Audiofuse 8pre, so I can just plug in and out whatever I want…

The question is, should I make all TRS cables to accommodate balanced connections, regardless of the gear? Would a device with unbalanced outs (like a guitar pedal, for example) work with a TRS cable going into a balanced IN on my AI? Or should I be having TR for unbalanced devices, and TRS for balanced? Or should I just make all TR cables, like I’ve always used?

Edit: Updated the question to be more accurate - I did the thing of assuming the cable was balanced…

1 Like

My understanding is you should be better off with balanced cables in pretty much all situations. There’s a thread on here somewhere - possibly on paychbays - that offers a good amount of detail.
Main problem area is unbalanced cable connecting unbalanced output to balanced input.

1 Like

If the device has TRS stereo outputs (e.g. Gen Loss MKII, A4 MKII, to pick two from my desk today), “balanced” cables will kill the sound. In that situation you’d need either a TS->TS/mono cable (and forego the stereo), or TRS -> 2x mono.

One key thing about “balanced” gear is that the cables aren’t balanced, the equipment sending or receiving the signal is balanced. The cables just have one channel or two, and you need two channels to get the benefit of balanced signals.

I’ve read weird stories (here) about some bits of gear whose manuals claim they have unbalanced outputs, but which give a significantly better signal when used with two channel cables (Oto Boum, some of the Sequential synths).

So, I would gently caution against blindly going “balanced everywhere” and instead to pay attention to what your gear needs.


Yeah - it took me a long time to figure out that cables for “balanced” audio are what are commonly called stereo cables, ie TRS, mainly because of all the inconsistent language out there.

Anyway, yeah kind of annoying as I had this dream of having cables running out from the back of my audio interface round to the front, and plug whatever I want into them…

There is definitely gear out there that shouldn’t/can’t be used with TRS cables. Some gear wont play at all and for instance (if i remember correctly) moog semi-modular stuff gives out an (unusable) weak signal when used with a TRS cable.

other than that it wont hurt but often you wont notice the benefit either. having said that I hook up my elektron gear with TRS cables were applicable :slight_smile:

1 Like

That’s what I’ve done, with no trouble. I have two patchbays, one of which has all the inputs for my interface (a MOTU 828x), and various instruments normalled, plus some of the outputs in the patchbay as well, all connected with TRS cables. My patch cables are all TRS and the cables I’ve been making for my pedals are as well. As @Octagonist and @PurpleWizard pointed out, there are a few pieces of gear that don’t play well with TRS, or they need a stereo split cable (my Meris pedals have stereo inputs on a single jack, so I connect them to a patchbay with a Hosa STP-203 cable. All my Elektron gear is patched with TRS cables with no issues, but again it’s worth looking at the particular gear you have in mind to determine the right kind of cables to use.

If you do decide to wire up your interface as you described, I’d recommend getting a patch bay – they’re super convenient. I’m partial to the Samson S-Patch Plus because the channel configuration switches are in the front, making it really easy to toggle between normalled and through.


patchbays +1


a TRS cable doesn’t make a balanced signal out of an unbalanced output :thinking::wink:

Connecting an unbalanced output to a balanced input isn’t a problem. Driving an unbalanced input with a balanced signal can be. Depends on the input/output circuit and/or the cable you use. If the “-” output is actively driven and you put this signal on ground (TS connector) then you have a short circuit on this output which can of course damage it.

But of course you could use DI boxes for some longer distances in your Studio to your balanced inputs.

Connections between balanced and unbalanced devices are not simple. You can read the full story here. Most of it deals with cases that are not relevant to your situation, but all the various cases of connections between balanced and unbalanced are covered.


Unless both things are balanced and require TRS cables you should just use unbalanced TS cables. Most balanced gear you will run across is impedance-balanced and it is fine to short the ring to sleeve, all you lose is some of the noise rejection. It is much more likely that using a TRS cable with unbalanced gear will give you issues (lower signal level etc.).

Edit: But if you really want to understand all the complexities this is the best accurate short document I have seen on the subject:

Balanced Line Technology.pdf (392.9 KB)

The Rane thing everyone links to is some pretty extreme audiophile grade nonsense. You don’t need to transformer isolate all unbalanced connections from balanced connections or use special cable assemblies or digitize everything and use fiber optics. The above document is much more level-headed and applicable to what you would usually encounter in the real world (I’m saying this as someone who has a degree in electrical engineering). And again, in all my time using audio equipment I’ve never even ran into one of the special cases where just using a TS cable didn’t work.

TLDR: follow the rule in @loopdude 's post below :stuck_out_tongue:


Simple rule I use:
If both input and output are balanced = trs
Everything else = tr


for my elektron gear i referenced this doc and got cables based on that. given what i own, it was all balanced cables, also added them to one of the newer MPC’s. and although subtle, i could notice a boost in clarity is all i could describe it as. for other analog synths i have, i used unbalanced cables. Connectors and signals : Knowledge Base (Beta)

1 Like

Very interesting everyone… I was hoping for an “if in doubt use x” - but it seems more complicated than all that!

I don’t really have much room for a patchbay - but it would make sense. We’re talking about a very small space, where I’m basically trying to find a solution which prevents me needing to get round the back of my audio interface.

I supposed I would run trs cables to all the patch points , but then use tr/trs depending on the gear right?

I’ll read those links later thanks!

A handy reference for making cables, 14 is what you want for non balanced TS to balanced TRS.

You do not want to use TRS at both ends on an unbalanced device as you will short the ground to the ring inside the TS socket which has no ring.


That’s super helpful - where is that from? Also what is th N/C on the TS side of 14? Not connected?

I downloaded it some years back from Rane.

Here is the pdf

Yes NC is not connected.

1 Like

The whole all symmetrical is not necessary in my opinion if you don’t have any noise problems or long cable distances.


Agree with the above. Balanced is good for long cable runs and/or where you’ve got problems with noise and interference being induced into those cable runs. You won’t see a benefit with short runs in a relatively ‘quiet’ environment. Plus and another’s have pointed out it can cause you issues when interfacing between balanced and unbalanced ins and outs

Get the balance right.

The Rane thing is for people who want to interconnect a whole bunch of diverse equipment in a large studio with absolutely no hum introduced by those connections.

I completely agree with you that using a TRS cable can cause problems–but I don’t think the biggest risk is using it with unbalanced gear.

Rather, I think the trouble is that if you connect a TRS plug to a TS socket, there is no guarantee that the R conductor will be connected to anything. Which means that on the other end, only one leg of the input will be connected; the other will just float.