High signal-to-noise ratio is an important goal for most audio systems. However, AC power connections unavoidably create ground voltage differences, magnetic fields, and electric fields. Balanced interfaces, in theory, are totally immune to such interference. For 50 years, virtually all audio equipment used transformers at its balanced inputs and outputs. Their high noise rejection was taken for granted and the reason for it all but forgotten. The transformer’s extremely high common-mode impedance—about a thousand times that of its solid-state equivalents—is the reason. Traditional input stages will be discussed and compared. A novel IC that compares favorably to the best transformers are described. Widespread misunderstanding of the meaning of balance as well as the underlying theory has resulted in all-too-common design mistakes in modern equipment and seriously flawed testing methods. Therefore, noise rejection in today’s real-world systems is often inadequate or marginal. Other topics will include tradeoffs in output stage design, effects of non-ideal cables, and the pin 1 problem.
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