Stereophile View on Optical Cables

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Lee Scoggins, Mar 16, 2002.

  1. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Friends,
    Nothing like a new cable debate on the Tweaker's Forum to get the heart beating! [​IMG]
    I think I was trying to convey the audiophile and recording engineer's perspective on digital cables and why they sound bad in a recent heated thread when I stumbled onto the Bible of audiophiles - Stereophile (well soe also claim The Absolute Sound is the Bible and I like that also).
    Here is what they say about digital cables in the new Recommended Components Issue (page 147, April 2002 edition) and I agree...
    --------------------------------------
    Digital Data Interconnects
    Editor's Note: Extensive auditioning by RH (Robert Harley, a respected reviewer and digital audio expert) suggest that all coaxial data cables listed below (see list in magazine) are better than conventional, Toslink-fitted, plastic fiberoptic cables, which in general don't give as tight a bass or as focused a soundstage (see the introduction to Digital Processors). "You don't get that essential sharpness of image outlines, the sound becomes more homogenized", quoth he.
    --------------------------------------
    Now I don't have much experience on video images so I will reserve judgment there.
    Let the fun begin!
    Lee [​IMG]
     
  2. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Lee, oh no! What have you done?! This should get interesting. [​IMG]
    I have not done extensive comparisons between optical and coaxial digital cables, but I prefer coaxial digital cables because they typically are more robust. Actually, with all of my gear, I am using only using one digital cable, and it is an Audioquest coaxial digital cable between my Sony DVP-C670D DVD changer and Sony STR-V444ES receiver.
     
  3. BruceD

    BruceD Screenwriter

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    There are some very interesting corollaries between fiber optics in the audio world and what I work with in the fiber-optic networking world.

    To whit, it actually depends on the length of the optical cable, the quality of the optical-fiber medium, the care in the polishing of the cable ends, and whether there is a kink in the cable.

    All of these affect the signal strength between the two optical-electrical converters at either end of what the cable plugs into.

    A optical cable that is too short (possibly 0.5-1 foot) can actually overdrive the optical-receiver with a light signal that is too strong. I think (can't remember) optimum length is 1 meter.

    Lee,

    Also, optical cables are not used in the HT video domain currently, they are only used for digital audio; DD, DTS, PCM.
     
  4. Bill Kane

    Bill Kane Screenwriter

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    And as a former newspaper reporter, I'm quick to point out that this is not the publication's view. The publication, Stereophile, is publishing one writer's report/observations.

    Conversely, always consider the source, but don't kill the messenger, either. Newspapers always get these types of blanket condemnations when a reader doesnt agree with an editorial page editorial. That shouldn't make the news writer guilty by association.
     
  5. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Bill,
    Excellent point. I should have pointed this out.
    However, based on my reading of the publication it is fairly representative of most of the editorial staff of the magazine.
    It certainly matches my experience in the studio as well.
    [​IMG]
    Lee
     
  6. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Keith,
    I just finished cataloging my Super Audio collection. I would say it was for insurance reasons, but I would have done it anyway...[​IMG]
    I may want to compare notes on the sonics of some of the SACDs on your list that I am lacking to create a top 5 or top 10 list for my record store visits?
    Does that work for you? If so, I could email my database to you in case I have something you are interested in.
    I am most interested in your opinion on the following:
    Miles Davis: Jazz at the Plaza, Black Beauty, Round About Midnight
    Michael Jackson: Thriller...guilty pleasure here..:b
    Herbie Hancock: Headhunters
    Kenny Loggins: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow...
    Jerry Goldsmith: The Film Music of Jerry Goldsmith
    Thanks! did not mean to change thread dialogue here [​IMG]
    Lee
     
  7. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Lee, sure, go ahead and e-mail me that database. I'll look at it when I get the chance. As for the SACDs you mentioned here, I have been quite impressed with the Miles Davis SACDs, though truthfully, I haven't listened to them in awhile. My attention has been diverted towards other music lately. I also like the Herbie Hancock SACD, though I don't have the CD for comparison. The Jerry Goldsmith disc is also winner. The stereo SACD layer sounds wonderful. Finally, the Kenny Loggins SACD is not one of my favorites sonically. It beats the CD, but it is not great. I like a lot of the music there, but it is not a winner sonically. The Loggins SACD is another one I haven't listened to lately. Just my $0.02.
     
  8. Scott H

    Scott H Supporting Actor

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    Lee, can you share what the coaxial cables were that they listed in that issue, directly referenced in that quote?
     
  9. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Scott,
    The list is fairly long, but they recommend:
    Apogee Electronics Wyde Eye
    AudioQuest OptiLink Pro2
    Audioquest VSD4
    Canare Digiflex Gold Model RCAPOO3F
    Kimber D-60
    Kimber DV-75
    Kimber Orchid
    Madrigal MDC-1 datalink
    Synergistic Research Designer's Reference Digital
    I suggest you buy the April Stereophile, however, since it is a particularly good issue with the full Recommended Components Listing and CES show coverage...I would not want to take any business away from them. [​IMG]
    Also, one needs to see the full write-up with each of these cables to gain a better understanding.
    The Absolute Sound is also a good source for information on cables.
    Lee
     
  10. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Were his observations performed sighted and what efforts did he undertake to ensure level matching? And of course I assume he's been able to successfully demonstrate his ability to discern. If so, I'd love to read of it. If not, well, even notable reviewers do shoddy work and then guild it in poetic terms.
     
  11. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    chu,
    These observed differences in sound are a collective view of the various reviewers of the magazine based on actual substitutions of the digital cables into real world systems.
    The magazine reviewers have all heard these differences so there was not attempt at a formal scientific test as you would prefer.
    I would refer you to the collective back issues of Stereophile for individual reviews. The reviews are indexed and referenced in April's Recommended Components issue. They also describe the selection process in detail at the beginning of the RC article.
    [​IMG]
    Lee
     
  12. Scott H

    Scott H Supporting Actor

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  13. Gregg Loewen

    Gregg Loewen Video Standards Instructor, THX Ltd.
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    Knapper must be away for the weekend...???
     
  14. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Gregg,
    I think we may have lost some folks to St. Patricks!
    [​IMG]
    Lee
     
  15. Ronnie Schildha

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    I used to swear by optical cables until I was sliding my receiver back on the shelf and kinked the cable. Not a good thing to do. I now use coax and I cannot honestly notice any difference in the sound. Coax is more durable and when you pay the kind of money some of these cables cost, durability is a strong selling point.
     
  16. Robert Cranwell

    Robert Cranwell Stunt Coordinator

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    As far as length of optical goes at 1550 nanometers the attenuation is .25db per kilometer.So I can honestly say if you have a .5 meter or 5000 meter it doesn't affect the performance. I do Know the video and audio performance for analog and digital upto 862mhz and have yet to see problems that is visible or audible. Also note that the Modulation Error Rate and Bit Error Rate was not degraded at all using 45 kilometer distance references.

    Rob
     
  17. Bob_L

    Bob_L Supporting Actor

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    In my view, Stereophile promotes the prevalence of nonsense as often as they promote high quality audio. I hardly think they can be considered the final arbiter of good audio judgement.
     
  18. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Bob_L,

    That's a fairly harsh statement on Stereophile promoting nonsense. I have been reading since 1988 and I have overall found them to be a reliable and respected publication with a fairly astute team of equipment and music reviewers.

    Do you have any direct evidence of "nonsense" ?

    Also, one is free to make their own judgments on who the final arbiters of "good audio judgment" should be. If you don't consider Stereophile on your shortlist, who do you?

    Lee
     
  19. Jim A. Banville

    Jim A. Banville Supporting Actor

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