Difference between optical and coaxial?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Babek, Jan 9, 2003.

  1. Babek

    Babek Stunt Coordinator

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    I know that there is a significent price difference between the two cables, and I would think optical is the best, but what exactly is the difference between the two cables?
    Is it that you get DTS sound through optical or what? A explanation would be nice.
    thanks
     
  2. Babek

    Babek Stunt Coordinator

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    anyone know?
     
  3. Rich Wenzel

    Rich Wenzel Supporting Actor

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    coaxial and optical serve the same purpose. neither performs a function that other does not.

    some say coaxial is a higher end cable for a couple of reasons, it has a higher bandwith capability than optical (debatable if that means anything) and it has a more secure connection than optical (less like to fall out). Also some would say over long distances, coaxial is better.

    Arguments for optical are that its usually cheaper and digital is digital so therefore it doesnt matter.

    generally higher end components tend to have more coaxial inputs than optical...high end cd players often only have coaxial....

    cheaper dvd players tend to have optical....

    Rich
     
  4. Babek

    Babek Stunt Coordinator

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    whoa, dude, you sure?

    all my 3 years of home theater research and being a fanatic have shown that optical is the higher one. you totally put me off with that statement. are you sure that coaxial is high end? especially since u can use an rca cable for it.
     
  5. Rich Wenzel

    Rich Wenzel Supporting Actor

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  6. David Lorenzo

    David Lorenzo Stunt Coordinator

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    They both transfer a digital signal, i.e. 1's and 0's. Bandwidth is of no use comparing coax to optical. They both can transfer the same signal.

    In theory, there should be no differences in sound quality between the 2.

    Some people swear that coax sounds better. Most people would be hard pressed to tell the difference. One advantage optical has is that there is no possibility of interference from other cables. One advantage of coax is that the connectors are more secure. When you get into the high end cables, coax tends to be more expensive. Personally I would get a cheap good quality cable of either type and call it a day.

    I read of some people performing blind tests of different coax cables. In the end neither of them could tell the difference between $24 cables and those costing over $200.
     
  7. Dan Krieg

    Dan Krieg Auditioning

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    Babek,

    If you are going to use a coax cable, remember it is not regular RCA audio cable. Coax digital cable must be rated 75 ohms. Good quality composite video cable is cheaper than the "audio" coax cable and serves the same purpose.
     
  8. Terry St

    Terry St Second Unit

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    One advantage of optical cables people haven't mentioned yet is electrical isolation. Plastic doesn't conduct electricity well. This could solve a ground loop problem if you have one. A disadvantage of optical cables is that they're more delicate than coax. Bend or twist them too sharply and they may stop working. (Digital cables tend to be all or nothing. Either they work flawlessly, or they don't. Some people tell tales of twisting their digital cables slightly to find the best imaging, soundstage, clarity, etc.. I'd have to hear it to believe it personally.)

    As for which is better... The light emitters/sensors on optical cable ports are inexpensive little devices. This really irks people who are into expensive cables. They could go out and spend thousands on super high-end depleted uranium glass toslink cable (wrapped in genuine Saskatchewan sealskin bindings) and would still have to plug it into 5 cent LED's. So instead they claim that the conversion from electrical signal to light and back again causes unacceptable ammounts of jitter and call it a day.

    As ludicrous as it may sound, they could be right for all I know. I've never seen conclusive proof one way or the other. If it really bugs you, buy both kinds of cables and conduct a blind ABX test to confirm that you can't hear any difference. Then return one.
     
  9. Lam Nguyen

    Lam Nguyen Stunt Coordinator

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    Both coaxial and optical cable carry digital audio signal,
    one advantage that coaxial has over the optical is the connection. After numerous times of plugging and unplugging the optical cable from your cd player, dust gets in and cover the lens of the player causing skips and degrade the audio signal.
    As far as sound quality, they sound the same to me. Maybe the coaxial is less bright sounding, audiophiles says that coaxial is better than optical for music. Hopes this help.
     
  10. Rich Wenzel

    Rich Wenzel Supporting Actor

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    i have also heard people say that optical cables dont take being bent well...

    i dont know how much to put into that...

    Rich
     
  11. Ted Kim

    Ted Kim Stunt Coordinator

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    I've read recommendations suggesting optical cables should be 2 meters. Don't use a short one as the signal reflections in the cable can mess up the sound. Furthermore, it is my understanding that the signal in the Cd player will be manipulated as electrical 1's and 0's, so in order to use an optical cable, you need to convert that to light. Now just like in cameras, the quality of the optics is very important. Most commercial grade equipment uses a cheap plastic lens versus the expensive ground lens.
    So by using optical cables you are really adding an additional conversion of electrical data to optical data to get transmitted in the cable and then get reconverted back to electrical data in the D/A. So the added complexity of using optical connections seems to work against it versus using a coax. Somebody correct me if I am off on this.

    My own comparisons are that coax and optical cables sound quite different, my preference being coax.
     
  12. Ted Kim

    Ted Kim Stunt Coordinator

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    I've read recommendations suggesting optical cables should be 2 meters. Don't use a short one as the signal reflections in the cable can mess up the sound. Furthermore, it is my understanding that the signal in the Cd player will be manipulated as electrical 1's and 0's, so in order to use an optical cable, you need to convert that to light. Now just like in cameras, the quality of the lens is very important. Most commercial grade equipment uses a cheap plastic lens versus the expensive ground lens.
    So by using optical cables you are really adding an additional conversion of electrical data to optical data to get transmitted in the cable and then get reconverted back to electrical data in the D/A. So the added complexity of using optical connections seems to work against it versus using a coax.

    My own comparisons are that coax and optical cables sound quite different, my preference being coax.
     
  13. JonStern

    JonStern Agent

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    Coax was the original high-end digital connection of choice. "Glass" (or "ST") optical, with glass fiber instead of plastic, was promoted as an alternative by companies like Wadia. Toslink, or "plastic," is the optical connection everyone uses today but was once last in the pack and frowned upon. The reason cable companies recommend 2 meter lengths is so that you buy 2 meters instead of 1.
     
  14. larry crimmins

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    There are options in digital optical cables. Plastic optical (toslink) is about the worst connection you can make. st optical (glass) cables sound more detailed and have much higher bandwidth. It has been shown that coaxial while not as good as st optical is much superior to toslink. It is a mistake to think of digital audio as 1s & 0s as there is much more involved such as jitter,timing etc. By the way the bandwidth on a toslink connection is about 4 meg.,coaxial is typically 10 meg. and st optical is about 50 meg. I can tell you from personal experience that there great differences even among different brands of glass cables.
    I presently use the Wireworld Supernova III+ Glass Toslink Optical Cable (can be found on AudioAdvisor for approx $100)and prefer it to previous brands which were plastic. Is the difference profound ? I heard a more pleasing sound.
    I also have a Synergistics Research Digital Corridor 2 coax on another component that only has a coax connection, and it is also quite good.
    Some manufacturers of CDP's and transports only provide coax out to an external DAC , believing that is preferreable (marketing decision.)
    Either type of digital cable can provide fine performance if it is carefully chosen.
    [​IMG]
     
  15. Ted Kim

    Ted Kim Stunt Coordinator

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  16. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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  17. Guy Usher

    Guy Usher Supporting Actor

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    Coax for 1 reason only, the connection.
    As stated here and many other places the average audiophile (I was very careful on how I worded this)can tell little if any difference in sound quality, matter of fact it appears to me that they speak higher of coax than optical for the most part.
    When you funnel it down to price/performance ratio looks to me like coax gets the nod.
    I am not a beleiver in Gucci cables however I will say I have noticed differences in sound with different coax cables, one time on a quick and dirty set-up I grabbed the shortest cable I could find amongtst the 10 million loose patch cords I have accumulated (yes they like coat hangers breed at night), I knew I didnt like the looks of the cable I grabed so at a point later I changed it to a bigger better one (thats all I know) and the sound changed a ton. . .
     
  18. Kevin L K

    Kevin L K Second Unit

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    Cable material--whether plastic or glass--has NOTHING to do with it being called TosLink or not. Cables that transmit digital signals optically are ALL called TosLink connections because the company Toshiba invented that type of cable. It's short for Toshiba Link.
    EDIT
    I am NOT saying that Toshiba invented fiber-optics.I'm simply pointing out that Toshiba developed the digital audio cable that is used in today's home theater for optical digital connections.
     
  19. BrentPollard

    BrentPollard Second Unit

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    Nuthin' beats those Saskatchewan seal skin bindings.[​IMG]
     
  20. jerry davis

    jerry davis Auditioning

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