Quality of optical cables

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by MikeEckman, Sep 7, 2001.

  1. MikeEckman

    MikeEckman Screenwriter

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    I did a search on here for posts on optical cables, and all the posts I saw were discussions on what the differences/advantages/disadvantages were between digital coax and optical cables.
    My question is, whats the difference between a gold plated expensive opitical cable, and a cheapo Taiwan optical cable. I just got a new CD player and it has a TOSLINK out and Id like to try that instead of the analog RCA cables, but I dont want to spend too much money on the cable.
    Theres a dutch auction on ebay for cheapo 3 foot optical cables for $7.99 including S&H and I was thinking of getting one. Would it be a waste of money to get a cheap one, or should I spend a little more money on a nice thick opitcal cable? This thing claims it has a 1mm core, and that most high end cables have a 1mm core but thicker shielding. I thought electromagnetic shielding wasnt required for an optical cable, and the only purpose of the covering is for durability of the wire. Anyone able to clarify my confusion?
    For those of you interested in the dutch auction, heres a link: http://cgi.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI...tem=1271584363
     
  2. John_Robinson

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    I'm going to throw in my $.02 here and say that it doesn't make any difference; a pulse of light through a cheap optical cable is the same as a pulse of light through an expensive optical cable -- especially over the distances we're talking about, typically 3 feet or less.
    "Shielding" on an optical cable?! What on Earth for?
    ------------------
    John Robinson
    "E=mc^2 (+/- 3dB)"
     
  3. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    It seems to be a commonly held opinion here that optical cables are physically more fragile than coax. So, while I don't see why gold-plated connectors and shielding can make a difference for an optical cable, sturdy construction is probably important.
     
  4. James Nguyen

    James Nguyen Second Unit

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    Wheeeee....more cable threads! [​IMG]
    Without jumping into it too much since these threads always seem to have a life of their own....the only thing I personally would pay a premium for in an optical cable is build quality. I run lengths longer than 3 feet though, so they're a bit more exposed. Some optical cables are fairly fragile too and I've had two split on me before.
    These however were cables that were often plugged and unplugged, packed away and unpacked all the time since they were used to connect my PC to my portable minidisc player.
    Given that optical cables tend to be thinner, the only thing I'd pay for is a sturdier feel to it.
    Let the audio quality discussions begin! [​IMG]
     
  5. MikeEckman

    MikeEckman Screenwriter

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    Thanks guys for the info...I did a search for another thread like this, and I didnt really find anything other than comparisons...
    I bid on 2 of those cables...I figured this is going to be used in a permanent HT setup where they wont be moved around and touched, so the quality issue shouldnt be a problem. Thanks again for everyones advice.
     
  6. AjayM

    AjayM Screenwriter

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  7. Matty B

    Matty B Stunt Coordinator

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    The difference in the amount of light doesn't matter though, optical data transmission is identical to digital data transmission. It either gets there, or it doesn't. The cable is a means to an end, it's not the end itself. This isnt like speaker wire with an analog signal that will be degraded if there is noise on the line. Riddle me this all of you high priced digital cable nazis, if a DVD has a SMALL scratch on it, does the movie being shown have a scratch on it? No, because the digital information is still transferred. You can't produce analog analogies to digital, it doesn't work. Digital information is simply a series of 1's and 0's, it's NOT like a radio signal in which clarity of bandwidth matters. People with Satellite TV will understand, when the signal becomes degraded it just doesn't show, it's not degraded.
     
  8. AjayM

    AjayM Screenwriter

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  9. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Optical cables are inherently more fragile than coax. Gold plating, i assume of the connectors does nothing in terms of signal transmission. While an earlier thread pointed out the amount of light throughput may vary between cables, we are not talking about monumental differences here considering the short runs in a home theater setup and regardless of how well that light may be focussed or its brightness, there would be no difference in the translation of the pulses. Hopefully your purhase will be of a cable that is built well. Always the chance you take on an auction. Good luck
     
  10. Reginald Trent

    Reginald Trent Screenwriter

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    Optical cables are inherently more fragile than coax. No? Place a optical cable on a flat hardwood floor now stand on it, does the signal still travel and get thru the cable? Try the same with a coax and see which one still works while weight is being applied.
     
  11. Scott H

    Scott H Supporting Actor

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  12. Keith Mickunas

    Keith Mickunas Cinematographer

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    I've recently purchased some Accoustic Research cables from Lowe's. They cost $15 or $20, and as far as build quality goes they seem much sturdier than a Monster cable I spent $40 or more on. I don't know if all that matters too much, but it gives me piece of mind. Plus the cheapies at Best Buy cost only a few bucks less, and seem fairly fragile.
     
  13. Rob Peloski

    Rob Peloski Agent

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    I've personally done something with optical cables that most people probably wouldn't do. I have attached two optical cables together because the longest one available (12 feet) was too short to reach my PC. I needed at least 17 feet so I got a second 6 foot cable.
    There are proper connectors for attaching two TOSLINK ends together but they are rather rare and I didn't feel like having to pay shipping fees and deal with the currency exchange rate to order one from the US (I'm in Canada)
    My solution was to take a piece of rigid rubber hose from a vehicle and two hose clamps. The diameter of the inside of the hose was such that the round metal ends on the Accoustic Research cables fit snuggly inside. I cut the hose so that when I inserted the two cables (pushing the round metal ends up to the rubber "grip") the two bits of glass (the actual termination) just touched each other with out much pressure. The two hose clamps locked the cables in place.
    The results of my handywork are that I have a perfectly good signal between my PC and Receiver. The light is slightly dimmer then before but it hasn't made any difference. Before I made my own connector I even found that you could hold the two cables a few millimeters apart and the light was bright enough for the signal to pass.
    On the other end of the spectrum, I have a 6 foot toslink cable made by Monstercable (was $100 Canadian or so) for my DVD player. It's not their most expensive but it's still of high quality. When I compare the monster cable to my "home made" cable I notice no difference (I used my PC DVD and SPDIF bypass).
    I feel that if a "hack" like I did produces no difference in sound quality that a cheap optical cable should be alright too.
    Coax cables are very forgiving too. I've used a real thin 25 foot RCA cable (originally came with a CD Changer for a car) to hook my computer up digitally. There was no change in sound quality. (I also recall someone using a coat hanger with no difference)
    My conclusion is that digital cables are far more forgiving then analog ones. I do not believe that one can really tell the difference unless there is enough damage (optical) or interference (coax) to change the digital signal.
     
  14. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    gotta love improvisation...but you can find odd lengths of optical on the web
     
  15. Sean Laughter

    Sean Laughter Screenwriter

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    The simple act of cutting an optical fiber and adding a connector to both ends so you can plug the thing into a receiver and a DVD player degrades the light by 10% already, you're already only getting 90% light transfer at the very best when you buy a top of the line cable anyway.
     
  16. Rik P

    Rik P Stunt Coordinator

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    "All or Nothing" if any of you have taken any thing about digital that's what it is all about. Its either there or it isn't, either your cable works or it doesn't
    For those who still think how much light a cable can pass affects the audio quality.
    Take my example for instance. You have an friend that has just encoded an MP3 from a cd his computer (yes this has everything do with the subject) you downloading it from him Peer to Peer over a 14.4 modem across the US and the lines are wet and exposed to the elements, and another friend that live closer downloads it over a T1 T3 heck they are on the same LAN any way, which will sound better assuming every thing being the same (Computer Speakers and soundcard)other than the medium(cable)that the MP3 is travels over? The Answer: is every ones MP3 will sound the the same even the guys that just encoded it. It doesn't matter as long as data gets there, its all 1,0's. So saying my cable better than yours is BS if the data doesnt get there all you will have is silence no audio no such thing as fuzzines in digital.
    Also which do think will sound better a Dolby Digital track off a DVD or off a Satellite(DSS) (which has to go to the moon and back keep in mind). Answer: It dosent matter and if you say it does go buy Digital for Dummies or something. All I'm saying the medium is less important than what it does once the data arrive at its destination (D/A converter) you should have the exact replica or nothing at all, how it left is how it arives.
    That's the Beauty of Digital
     
  17. Mike Voigt

    Mike Voigt Supporting Actor

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    Matty B,
    you're new here, so I am just going to give you a warning, albeit public, on this one.
    We do NOT call folks names around here, individually or as a group.
     
  18. Mike Voigt

    Mike Voigt Supporting Actor

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    Back to the original question:
    if the cable has decent, reasonably sturdy termination, so that you can plug and unplug it without fear of breaking anything, I'd say it is fine. For home connections, you don't need fiber that will transmit light reliably over miles... a few feet will do in most cases.
    I have no idea what gold plating will do, except to make it look prettier.
    I use various ones, from el cheapo to AudioQuest (none of which are considered exceptionally high-end, but the latter did cost $50). There is no difference except in termination. The Monster ones I have seem to be pretty good in that regard, so do the AudioQuests. I have had an el cheapo break on me before, and that was no fun.
    So I go for decent termination. Otherwise they're fine. As people indicated, bits are bits.
    Now, for the same reason, I prefer coax cables. They are sturdy by nature... but I only have 2 of those inputs, and lots more optical...
    Mike
     
  19. Matty B

    Matty B Stunt Coordinator

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    Audio companies are preying on peoples needs to one up everyone else without realizing that Audiophilia is ONLY about science, everything that comes from science relates to our listening pleasure. Better speaker quality=better sound. Gold plated optical cables? I can't imagine WHY that would make even an IOTA of a difference since light is being transferred, not electricity. Ditto with coax, it's digital information, not an electrical source such as an analog signal.
     
  20. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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