Optical vs Coaxial...Which way to go?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Sheldon, Dec 27, 2001.

  1. Sheldon

    Sheldon Stunt Coordinator

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    What are the main differences between the two?Is their any noticable difference between the two?Some say optical,some say coaxial.
     
  2. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Sheldon, some audiophiles will say that the coaxial digital connection produces better sound than an optical digital connection because for some reason, the latter is prone to interference from external sources. I have compared the two connection modes in my home-theater system and have not detected a difference soundwise.

    Others prefer the coaxial digital connection because such cables are more robust than optical digital cables. I fall into this camp. For that reason, if you have the option, go with a coaxial digital cable.

    Note that some inexpensive components only offer an optical digital output. More expensive equipment will either offer both outputs or a coaxial digital output only. An exception is some Sony ES CD players, which only offer an optical digital output. For example, the recently discontinued US version of the CDP-XA20ES single-disc CD player that retailed for $700 only has an optical digital output (the European version has a coaxial digital output).
     
  3. John Royster

    John Royster Screenwriter

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    Must....restrain.......self.....from....posting... .......[​IMG]
    I'd suggest getting both and decide for yourself. Optical uses light and coax is electrical. Coax itself is very resistent to noise and optical is totally impervious. As to a noticicble difference, only you can decide.
    Then again at the extremely slow bit rates we're running a tin-can with some string woud work fine.
     
  4. Nikos S

    Nikos S Auditioning

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    Depending on the components you have, you may (or may not) notice a difference in sound. I don't know if my optical connection was problematic but I did notice a difference when I switched to a nicely constructed digital coax.

    Nikos
     
  5. Dave Nibeck

    Dave Nibeck Stunt Coordinator

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    I second the tin cans and string. Question, which is better; kite string or fishing line?
     
  6. RicP

    RicP Screenwriter

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    If all you're using it for is DVD, then either will work perfectly fine for you -- with one caveat...

    If you are planning on playing DAD's(Digital Audio Discs that have uncompressed 24/96 audio) at all, you may find that TOSLink (optical) may have a difficult time with that bitrate. I have heard more dropouts with TOSLink than Coax when dealing with very high bitrates.

    Also, if you happen to be a believer in the "less is more" theory, meaning that the least amount of processing of the signal is preferable, then you want to use Coax. Optical uses light,which means that the signal must be converted from electrical to light and then back again from light to electrical at the destination. Coax, of course is electrical from source to destination.

    Basically if all you're going to be playing is DVD movies, then use whichever is more convenient. But if you'll be playing CD's or especially DAD's, then I'd recommend Coaxial cable over an optical one.
     
  7. John Royster

    John Royster Screenwriter

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    RicP,

    I'm very interested in the "problems" with higher bit rates on home optical cable. Not trying to be an arse here and fall into a chest-pounding match, really just very curious. But if the optical cables being sold as consumer products have difficulty with a measely 2.3 megabit stream then I'd really like to have a talk with the manufacturers. Heck, I'd love to consult them.

    Thanks a bunch, PM me if you like.

    edit - to DAVE...fishing line. Seriously. I'll test on the Oscope when I have a chance.
     
  8. dougW

    dougW Stunt Coordinator

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    Actually, there is a technical difference in the two. Optical, being light transmission, must go through an additional step of conversion before being processed and as well must go through an additional transfer in order to be sent. I believe the quality of these RTX converters can have impact on the sound. I have heard the difference in my own system. Optical sounding choppier, more digital sounding. Coax sounding smoother, more refined. Of course, in the engineering camp, many say this is horse hockey. But strangely enough, it was an engineer that explained the RTX converter concept to me- I just knew what I had heard already. I always use digital coax where available, and did even before I could make myself a coax in a flash.

    Lex
     
  9. Thomas_Berg

    Thomas_Berg Screenwriter

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    Location:
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    Thomas
     
  10. Ron Alcasid

    Ron Alcasid Stunt Coordinator

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  11. Gary_Roberts

    Gary_Roberts Auditioning

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    I'm really interested in this topic. I'm looking for dvd players, and I found the perfect one for a cheap price too, but it didn't have optical out, only coax. I asked the salesman and he told me that optical was superior, and the 5.1 sound was better (or only worked) on the optical. Is this true? I own a Kenwood 505, and I was looking at a pioneer 340(I looked in the back and it doesn't have an optical out.) If I get the pioneer will I get the same 5.1 sound as an optical out?

    Oh yeah, I went to two seperate stores and they said that optical was superior
     
  12. RicP

    RicP Screenwriter

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    I can only go by my experience, and while the specs for a TOSLink cable are certainly within the 24/96 bitstream, I have seen many times that there are dropouts with a TOSLink cable.
    Remember that for PCM Audio, you need to do more than just shuttle the bits...you need to send the analog clock as well. It is the timing errors that cause the dropouts, not a loss of bits. When using DD, DTS, or 16/44 PCM, I would recommend either type of cable, but I have seen enough issues with hi-bitrate PCM over the last 3 years to believe that something is up with TOSLink cables and high bitrate PCM.
     
  13. Gary_Roberts

    Gary_Roberts Auditioning

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  14. Jim_Stu

    Jim_Stu Stunt Coordinator

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    All,

    There is one possible advantage for the optic link.

    It (optical fiber) electrically isolates the two

    connected devices (DVD>Receiver), but the coax does

    not. Therefore, the fiber tends to break the 'ground-loop'

    chain.

    In general, fiber has much wider bandwidth capability

    than coax. So, any difference noted is probably due to

    the fiber's transmitter/receiver communication devices,

    and not the fiber itself.

    It would be interesting to do a study of several combinations,

    with different DVD's optically connected to the same receiver, and etc.

    I'm sure some combinations would have more drop-outs than others.

    As for me, I'm staying with fiber, because higher carriers

    and bit rates are just a few short years away.

    JRS
     
  15. Gary_Roberts

    Gary_Roberts Auditioning

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    But you still get the dts with coax right?
     
  16. Chuck C

    Chuck C Cinematographer

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    All the points mentioned are great...another reason to go with coax: you wont run the risk of losing those annoying optical caps and covers, grrr.
     
  17. John Royster

    John Royster Screenwriter

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    Anybody know where I can get a hold of some TOSLINK ends? I'm planning on doing my own analysis of TOSLINK cables but need the ends to complete it.
    Yes, I will be hand polishing the fiber under a microscope. My guess as to why some prefer coax is simply inferior "fiber-optic" cable. Anybody that tells me coax is a better medium should have their head examined. Notice I said medium and not "what's best". What's best has a lot more to do than physical medium.
    I'm on a mission now.
     
  18. Jagan Seshadri

    Jagan Seshadri Supporting Actor

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    The transition from electrical to optical to electrical is pretty foolproof, but nothing is ever 100%, is it now. Fact is, optical cable inherently has more bandwidth than coax (hence the reason why the backbone of the Internet is done with fiber optics).
    But the optical dropout problems are probably due to a poor optical "connection", whereas electrical connections are easier to establish.
    -JNS
     

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