What is Balance in a Motorcycle Stereo System?

January 10, 2018

Buying a new stereo system for your car or motorcycle can be confusing to say the least. You'll probably hear many different terms, one of which being “balance.” So, what is balance and how does it impact the quality of a stereo system? To better answer this question, we're going to take a closer look at stereo balance.


When searching for a new stereo interface, cables or other audio components, you may see them labeled as either “balanced” or “unbalanced.” Based on the name alone, it's difficult to determine what exactly these terms mean. Generally speaking, balanced audio components cost more than their counterpart, leading many consumers to believe they are the better choice. But you really need to understand the mechanics behind balanced and unbalanced signals to make the best possible purchasing decision regarding your audio components.


Basically, a balanced signal translates into higher quality, clearer audio signals between two or more components. Some people assume that balance is a measurement of the audio signal between the left and right speakers, but this isn't necessarily true. It simply refers to a higher quality signal between the components.


So, how do you know if your the audio device supports a balanced signal? In most cases, you can identify this feature by looking for balanced outputs or inputs, assuming it has XLR or TRS connectors for 3-conductor cable.


Now let's talk about why balanced audio signals are better than unbalanced, because this is something that confuses many people. A balanced audio cable has two wires that are twisted and intertwined together and then wrapped with an outer shield (usually foil or braid). It's balanced because each wire connects to an impedance at both the source and load. And because of this characteristic, the interference created by the device will trigger noise voltage in both of the wires. Technical jargon aside, you'll experience higher quality audio when using a balanced signal versus an unbalanced signal.


In addition to a higher quality sound, balanced audio signals are also louder than their unbalanced counterpart. While the exact difference varies depending on a number of factors, a balanced signal typically adds around 6 to 10 dB of “loudness” over an unbalanced signal.


To recap, balanced audio signals are higher quality and louder than unbalanced. So if you're in the market for new audio equipment, consider investing in balanced components.

--- These tips and more brought to you by the Steel Horse Audio Blog. Check us out for motorcycle and biker news as well as the best in motorcycle speakers and audio products!

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