Seriously, what is the advantage of using optical cable over coax?

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by Dave Poehlman, May 27, 2009.

  1. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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    I wasn't sure what forum to post this.. but here goes:

    I bought me a new LCD TV for my livingroom last week. This was my first experience with HDMI which, I must say.. is very cool. Digital video and audio is all routed through one cable. Hookups took 2 minutes. It couldn't get any easier, IMO.

    However.. I go to connect my TV to my receiver... but, digitally, there's only an optical output on this thing. My PS3 and my U-Verse box are the same way.. optical only. It's not a huge deal other than having to special order an optical cable. (I don't dare buy an over-priced one from Best Buy or, God forbid, Radio Shack... a 10ft cable from RS is like $40.. I can find one online for $6)

    Now.... this TV purchase has been my only HT-related purchase in the past couple years.. so, admittedly I've been out of the loop somewhat. But, a couple years ago I'd tolerated optical cables thinking it was just a kitchy, flash-in-the-pan HT trend. I'd expected coax to take over the market because it's got to be cheaper to implement on the manufacturing side, the cables are cheaper, and... it's digital, man! There's no difference between digital in light form over digital in electrical form. Is there? WTF?

    So... to summarize my rant here: Why is optical overtaking the market!?!?
     
  2. Ed Moxley

    Ed Moxley Cinematographer

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    The optical output on the tv is only for 5.1 surround from the built-in tuner, while hooked up to an antenna. It's not meant for turning the tv into a "switching" device! The AVR is meant to be the switching device.

    Optical isn't affected by electrical interference, the way wire cables can be. Optical isn't overtaking the market. HDMI is. Optical and digital coax is still around so people with older receivers can still use then for surround. It's just not possible to get the HD audio formats over optical or coax.
     
  3. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    #1 - In sound quality? No difference. Period. End of story. If someone's mentions "jitter", cover your ears.

    #2 - If you are not using the internal tuner of the TV, on 99% of the TV's made you are not going to get 5.1 surround from a TV->Receiver digital connection. The optical out on TV's are almost always made for DD 5.1 output from the internal HD tuner, pass thru from outside sources will be downmixed to PCM 2.0 Pro-Logic.
     
  4. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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    Oh.. wow.. okay.. hmmm...

    So, the optical out is only for 5.1 from the HD tuner.... I guess I was assuming it would pass-thru the 5.1 from the HDMI... and Jeff, you're telling me it will pass-thru, but only Prologic. I guess all will be revealed when my optical cable comes in the mail. Maybe I should read the owner's manual. [​IMG]

    Prologic's not a huge deal as I'm only running 2 channels and a sub at the moment.. and the convenience of not having to change inputs on my receiver will be nice, but I will have to rethink this set up if I go full surround someday (it's gonna involve installing some ceiling speakers in the rear).
     
  5. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    Actually, it all depends on the set. Some will pass thru the downmix to Pro-Logic, some will pass thru nothing at all. There was one poster who claimed his LG set passed thru the full 5.1 surround from the HDMI in, but it's not confirmed and many of us were skeptical of his claims (hence the 99% disclaimer).

    As far as changing the inputs on the receiver is concerned, many of us have had that problem in the past . . . until we found the most magical of HT accessories - The Harmony Remote!! Best HT $$ I've spent since my SPL meter, and you can get mine out of my cold dead fingers after I'm gone.
     
  6. Stephen Tu

    Stephen Tu Screenwriter

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    I'll second the recommendation on the Harmony remote.

    As for optical vs. coax, I'd think the other advantage for optical is just that it effectively prevents people from mistakenly connecting coax digital to any of the other bazillion RCA jacks on the back of receivers, which might do some damage.
     
  7. gene c

    gene c Producer

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    I used to use coax whenever possible because they were cheaper and not as fragile as toslink. But Monoprice has some very good Toslink cables with "fancy metal connectors" at outstanding prices.
     
  8. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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    I actually have a harmony in my basement boxed up somewhere... I didn't think of it because I thought the optical out on the TV would work for me and the u-verse remote is pretty nice, actually. I'll have look into getting it set up.

    As for the Toslink vs coax... I would think it would be more cost effective for a company to drop a coax jack into their component rather than an optical one... it just doesn't make sense to me.

    Wow.. thanks for the link to monoprice.com! Those are cheap cables! [added to favorites]
     

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