The first question, when one is considering connecting a balanced source to an unbalanced load, or vice versa, is: "do I really need to do this?" Many inquiries we receive about this subject involve someone who has a system consisting entirely of unbalanced ("RCA") circuits, but who has just acquired a new device which offers the option of balanced input or output. People tend to have heard that "balanced is better," and seek to take advantage of that. But balanced is not better if you don't have balanced circuitry at both ends of the line. If your gear allows you the option of hooking things up either unbalanced to unbalanced, or balanced to balanced, you should go with a matching connection like that rather than trying to interconnect balanced and unbalanced circuits.
Inevitably, though, sometimes the answer is "yes, I really do have to do this." We've been there, and we can offer you cables to help.
Naturally, since there are three pins on a typical balanced connection and only two on an unbalanced connection, there are multiple pinout arrangements possible. We can build balanced/unbalanced cables in any configuration you like, but we find that the two combinations described here are almost always what people wind up using. If you want something else, by all means let us know and we can build it.
Balanced Out to Unbalanced In: Where a balanced source is being connected to an unbalanced load (e.g., balanced preamp into unbalanced amp), the usual configuration is to run the shield from pin 1 of the XLR (or, as the case may be, the sleeve of the TRS 1/4 inch plug) to the ground contact of the RCA; the signal is run from pin 2 (or the TRS tip) to the RCA center pin; and pin 3 of the XLR is simply left unconnected.
Unbalanced Out to Balanced In: When running an unbalanced source into a balanced load, the usual configuration is as above, and pins 1 and 3 of the XLR are bridged.
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