Bartok output - XLR or RCA?

Another question while waiting arrival of my new Bartok.
Mine will be used exclusively in a standalone headphone system and will not be replacing my Linn KDS in my Naim system -:slight_smile:

I want to connect my Stax electrostatic headphone amplifier to the Bartok. Are there any performance differences using the XLR output’s vs. the RCA outputs?

This one’s in our FAQs - use balanced XLR wherever possible!

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Thank you for the detailed reply.
The 3rd party Stax amplifier I use (and actually all Stax amplifiers) have the capability to internally convert any signal (balanced or unbalanced) to balanced to feed the headphone. The amplifier I have (and Stax amps as well) provide both RCA and XLR inputs.

Based on what you have written it sounds like I should take advantage of the Bartok’s balanced output.
Now I need to get Chord Cable Co. to modify my Naim DIN > RCA cable to full XLR so that it can be repurposed to use between the Bartok and Stax amplifier.

Thank you for the reply

Definitely useful if your DAC doesn’t have balanced outputs, but as the Bartók has a better output stage for balanced it’s absolutely worth using XLR.

Be sure the XLR cables you end up with are standard wiring, as I know Naim use a single XLR jack for stereo unbalanced audio. You’ll need two standard XLR leads for between the Bartók and the Stax: one for the left channel and one for right.

Hello James
Actually Naim do not have the option of XLR on their preamps - all inputs/outputs are DIN with a single RCA set for those with “outlier” sources. You are most likely thinking of the XLR connection which goes in-between their power amplifiers and respective power supplies.

Understood about separate XLR cables right and left between the Stax amplifier and Bartok. I am in the States (though with a UK dealer for my Naim/Linn system) - any recommendations for XLR cables other than sourcing from the UK via Chord Cable Co?

And as an additional question - I have seen threads discussing the use of the Bartok with and without a preamp.

Are there any settings for the output or volume control I should be using when the XLR balanced out is connected to the Stsx amplifier?

I don’t have a Bartok, but I believe you want the output set at 0.0.


James, does the same suggestion to use XLR (balanced out) due to complex A-stages apply to the Rossini as well for a pre-amp or a direct-to-amp connection?

Brian …

You should run the BartĂłk volume control at 0.0dB and use the volume control on the Stax.

If you find that the level is too high for the Stax, you can change the Line Level setting in the BartĂłk from the default 6V to 0.2V, 0.6V or 2V.

Yes, it does. This is the case for every current dCS product that has a DAC (so BartĂłk, Rossini and Vivaldi).

You’ll get the benefit of this whether connecting to a pre-amp or direct to a power amp.

I have one question.
My amplifier is supposedly balanced.
Is it possible that RCA plays louder than XLR?
I switch inputs in the amplifier in real time, it is louder with RCA. It’s normal?

Hi Krenioster and welcome.

You haven’t specified which dCS component you refer to. However AFAIK the output voltage from given dCS DACs is the same from RCA or XLR outputs.

However the above does not necessarily apply to other makes nor necessarily to the comparative sensitivities of the RCA v. XLR inputs of your amp.

Sorry, my mistake. I didn’t specify it.
I have Bartok.

I understand that the amplifier at the input suppresses XLR more than RCA

Yes that would seem to be the case.

I am assuming this applies even for single ended amplifiers that have XLR inputs for convenience? In my amplifier, it is implemented by ignoring 3rd pin, so only using pin 1 and 2.

So if I understood you correctly, I should still use XLR over RCA, as Bartok itself will sound better out of XLR than RCA, even if the amplifier is single ended, as long as the XLR input is implemented correctly.


I am not trying to answer you question merely just advising do NOT use XLR/RCA adaptors!

It surely must depend on how the adaptor is implemented, no? XLR has 3 cables, RCA only 2. If the XLR cold (pin 3) is disconnected, the adapter should work no problem, correct? I have used adapters like these before (2x3-pin female XLR to 4-pin female XLR).

The reason why I do not recommend adaptors is twofold (i) you are introducing an additional number of mechanical connections (pin to socket, pin to socket) each of which may introduce a signal reflection due to a change of impedance ( as well as the possibility of less than perfect electrical connection). This risk is minimised by using custom terminated cables. (ii) the addition of additional metal connector bodies adds to the possibility of introducing additional parasitic eddy currents.

There is a simple subjective test if you can arrange it . Just get a properly terminated cable and an identical cable save for the fact that it has to be connected using adaptors. Compare the two .

Those 2x3 pin female XLR to 4-pin female XLR are used for headphones, not line-level signals!

That is correct

Hello DCS community.
I am considering a DCS Bartok to replace my Lumin T2. Recently heard a Rossini.
I have no PRE - my current setup goes directly form the streamer to the power amp. i want to keep it like this.

My amp is a PASS XA25 - and I really like it’s sound. But it has only RCA inputs.
And then I read the statement above… about the XLR output of all DCS products being much better than the RCA.

So what now? Look for another streamer or another amp?
Or is RCA not that bad?
Anyone tested how big the difference between RCA and XLR is?

(I will not ask why 20+k EUR devices have no good RCA output…)