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Coaxial or Optical?

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 

Hey, I'm about to connect my Xonar ST to my 5.1 receiver through a S/PDIF connector.
However, I'm not sure if I should get myself a coaxial or optical cable, some reviews say coaxial works better, some say the opposite, some even say there's no difference in tone quality.
I'm really confused..
Is there any difference in tone at all? I was browsing around amazon and the prices seem about the same, my only concern is that some coaxial cables are mono-cables and can't transfer AC3 encoded data because of that, but it doesn't say so other than in the comments, so I might buy the wrong coaxial cable.

Are there any comments on this coaxial vs. optical thing?

post #2 of 29

No audio differences, only physical ones (fiber can "kink" if bent too strongly, coax is generally stiffer and larger, etc). Under some sort of odd, extreme EM condition fiber would be more reliable; but it's unlikely such a condition occurs without directly affecting your equipment.

post #3 of 29

apparemtly optical is better for long lengths

 

 

coaxial can do 192khz though

post #4 of 29

I won't claim to be an expert, but I remember reading a while ago that there are supposed to be a number of advantages that coaxial has over optical.  I don't remember what those advantages are, but I just made a mental note to myself that coax is generally considered to be the better of the two.

 

One problem with optical cables is that most of the relatively inexpensive ones use acrylic rather than glass fiber.  Supposedly over time as it ages, the acrylic has a tendency to get cloudy, resulting in poorer signal transmission.  Obviously coax isn't susceptible to this kind of problem.

 

However, optical does have one major advantage: there would be no electrical connection between your sound card and your 5.1 receiver.  Coax uses an electrical connection and is therefore susceptible to phenomena like a ground loop hum (I think, but I'm not sure -- or is ground loop hum only a problem in the analog domain?), which can be very annoying.  Since optical cables use light to transmit the signal, they can be useful in trying to eliminate ground loop hum in audio setups.

 

So my advice would be to try a coax cable first.  In the unlikely even that you end up getting some kind of ground loop hum, you can always change over to optical to fix it.

post #5 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sophonax View PostCoax uses an electrical connection and is therefore susceptible to phenomena like a ground loop hum (I think, but I'm not sure -- or is ground loop hum only a problem in the analog domain?), which can be very annoying.  Since optical cables use light to transmit the signal, they can be useful in trying to eliminate ground loop hum in audio setups.


Hum is not an issue with digital cables.

 

To the OP:

I have a DAC with multiple inputs and a source with multiple outputs. It's real easy to hook up both optical & coax cables and compare by switching inputs on the DAC.

The Coax wins every time. The optical is still good but slightly muffled and less resolving.

On the other hand, optical cables can be bought for very little money.

 

I have no idea what you're asking about the AC3. All digital cables will be a single cable if you were concerned about needing more than 1.

post #6 of 29

AC-3, I believe, is single digital signal, use a mono cable with the correct terminations for each device.

 

I like Quicksilver but I would suggest Monoprice in this case.

post #7 of 29

 

Originally Posted by Todd R View Post

 

The Coax wins every time. The optical is still good but slightly muffled and less resolving.

On the other hand, optical cables can be bought for very little money.

 

Yeah, even a 50 strands glass toslink is still a far cry from a short coax. Avoid toslink whenever possible IMHO...using two weak cheap LED's as light sources doesn't help either.

post #8 of 29

digital is digital, the results will be IDENTICAL.  The exact same data gets transmitted to the processor either way.  How can ones and zeros be "muffled"????  It's nonsensical.

 

the only differences are physical as JerryLove noted above. 

post #9 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by batpig View Post

digital is digital, the results will be IDENTICAL.  The exact same data gets transmitted to the processor either way.  How can ones and zeros be "muffled"????  It's nonsensical.

 

the only differences are physical as JerryLove noted above. 



Sorry but you are wrong sir.

Look up the word "jitter".

 

Also consider...

If I could get the same sound out of a $10 optical cable as I could with a $50 coax, why wouldn't I save myself the extra $40?

 

And...

If worse comes to worse, stop over, listen and you'll hear there is a difference!

post #10 of 29

I'm familiar with jitter and there is no evidence it makes an AUDIBLE difference.  It's basically the ONLY thing that the "digital can sound different" people have to latch their feeble hopes onto so I was expecting someone to bring it up.

 

 

Quote:

If I could get the same sound out of a $10 optical cable as I could with a $50 coax, why wouldn't I save myself the extra $40?

 

well that's YOUR problem wink.gif 

 

out of curiosity did you ever do any BLIND tests?  have somebody switch optical vs. coaxial when you DID NOT KNOW which one you were listening to???

post #11 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by batpig View Post

I'm familiar with jitter and there is no evidence it makes an AUDIBLE difference.  It's basically the ONLY thing that the "digital can sound different" people have to latch their feeble hopes onto so I was expecting someone to bring it up.

 

 

Quote:

If I could get the same sound out of a $10 optical cable as I could with a $50 coax, why wouldn't I save myself the extra $40?

 

well that's YOUR problem wink.gif 

 

out of curiosity did you ever do any BLIND tests?  have somebody switch optical vs. coaxial when you DID NOT KNOW which one you were listening to???


Yes I did, And I'll safely bet you that $40 you've never tried to hear for yourself if there was an audible difference or not, have you?

Why would I tell stories? The incentive is to like the cheaper item.

 

Anyway this same discussion has been done to death all over the internet.

post #12 of 29

 

Quote:

Why would I tell stories? The incentive is to like the cheaper item.

 

and yet people buy $5000 speaker cables? confused_face%281%29.gif   the old "why would people buy it if it wasn't true??" argument is pretty low on the "evidence" scale....

 

 

 

Quote:

Anyway this same discussion has been done to death all over the internet.

 

ain't that the truth!  blink.gif  good day to you sir!  we can let this dead horse rest.... tongue.gif

post #13 of 29

optical distortion, clock extraction, etc etc...yes, it's a dead horse already...and toslink is ****.

post #14 of 29

Sounds the same to me on my gamma1

post #15 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by kite7 View Post

Sounds the same to me on my gamma1



[sarcasm]

OH NOES!!!1

Your ears aren't good enough to tellz teh difference!!LOL

jitter blah blah snake oil blah blah you can't hear it cause your system is too crap blah blah

[/sarcasm]

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