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Coaxial or Optical - which is best?

admin_exported

New member
Aug 10, 2019
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If I want a good digital connector from my CD player to amp which is best; optical or coaxial? Further, what are some good examples of the breed?
 

daveh75

Well-known member
Jul 31, 2008
564
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Theoretically over short distances coaxial should be better,because there is less conversion going on.

But over longer distances optical may be beneficial,because optical cables aren't susceptible to RFI/EMI.

Though in reality i don't think you'll notice any difference between the two,i certainly can't!!!
 

Gerrardasnails

Well-known member
Sep 6, 2007
295
1
18,890
Thaiman:Optical

I would disagree and offer no science, just common sense. How many different price levels of coaxial cables are there compared to opticals. How expensive is the best optical compared to the best coaxial?
 

Dan Turner

New member
Jul 9, 2007
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daveh75:
Theoretically over short distances coaxial should be better,because there is less conversion going on.

But over longer distances optical may be beneficial,because optical cables aren't susceptible to RFI/EMI.

Though in reality i don't think you'll notice any difference between the two,i certainly can't!!!

To elaborate on the point about 'conversion' which is the main reason why coaxial is probably better than optical for connecting a CD player to a DAC or DAC equipped amp in most circumstances - when the data comes off the CD the optical digital stream is immediately converted to an electrical signal. Therefore for onward transmission to a DAC via optical, it has to be converted back again. Whereas if you hook up via coaxial you only get the original conversion from optical to electrical.

Agree that the point about optical not being susceptible to EM or RF interference means that longer runs will be better off being optical although no idea about what that length would be. Also this may outweigh the benefits of coax if you were using a poorly designed coax cable.

Also some people say that optical is better for hooking up a computer to a DAC than USB in order to isolate the computer from the DAC electrically.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
My transport and dac are connected via optical because the designer said that was the best option.
 

Thaiman

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Jul 28, 2007
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Gerrardasnails:Thaiman:Optical I would disagree and offer no science, just common sense. How many different price levels of coaxial cables are there compared to opticals. How expensive is the best optical compared to the best coaxial?

I can't tell you why or how but my ears said Optical and yes, I have spend a lot of time comparing them. my Optical is a lot cheaper than my Cardas golden reference coaxial btw. The good thing about optical is the different in sound between each cables is minimal but with Coaxial I have notice more charactors of each cables come through which, imo, add pain into buying them.

I do also accept that most people tend to use Coaxial.
 

idc

Well-known member
Jan 2, 2008
1,039
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xon501:optical

In the interests of getting a good informative thread going can you supply more information as to why you say optial is better and what kit you use.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Cambridge Audio Discmagic and Isomagic. The Isomagic is a dac and isolation platform. Both old now. I felt the sound was slightly more natural with optical. The designer was John Westlake who designed for Pink Triangle.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Gerrardasnails:Thaiman:Optical

I would disagree and offer no science, just common sense. How many different price levels of coaxial cables are there compared to opticals. How expensive is the best optical compared to the best coaxial?

Taking price over performance is totally wrong, just because something is expensive does not always make it the best..........
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Gentlemen, this is digital signals, consisting of ones and zeros, that is ons and offs. There is no way known to science why the sound should alter with different cables, or with electrical versus optical signals.

On the other side, it's a great lot of scientifically approved reasons why people hear differences when listening to music samples. Most of them has to do with human perception, some with acoustics -- and none with the quality of cables.

The advantage of coax is that the cables and contacts are sturdy and will probably not fall out; the advantages of optical is that they're totally immune to any kind of electrical interference, and that they will work even if they're badly fit in the contact and you forgot to remove the tip cover.

EDIT:

Thinking about it, some old or cheap DACs might only accept 16bits signals via the optical input. Most DACs will accept 24bit though -- and you'll need golden ears to tell the difference between 16 and 24bits anyway (at least unless you use digital volume control or do other things that might degrade the signal).
 

Gerrardasnails

Well-known member
Sep 6, 2007
295
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MENISCUS:
Gerrardasnails:Thaiman:Optical

I would disagree and offer no science, just common sense. How many different price levels of coaxial cables are there compared to opticals. How expensive is the best optical compared to the best coaxial?

Taking price over performance is totally wrong, just because something is expensive does not always make it the best..........

you have missed my point. I'm not saying that expensive sounds better. I was suggesting that the Market fir cables deems coaxial more important as there is far more of a range in price levels for coaxial - QED for instance has coaxials at £15, £25, £40, £60, £100 etc. I think QED offer just a couple of optical cables.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Gerrardasnails: I was suggesting that the Market fir cables deems coaxial more important as there is far more of a range in price levels for coaxial -

Cable believers seems to avoid the non-fuzz no-magic opticals, so it's to be expected that the cable manufacturers focus on the field where they'll find people who're willing to cash out.

®The Market¯ never defined truth nor quality; only where to earn more money with less investments.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
I do not like optical because the cable is more prone to problems, due to dust at the connectors, cable being bent at an angle, cable having internal damage. Optical is also more expensive.

So I prefer digital coaxial as it is usually more robust. Originally I did get better sound quality from Optical but eventually figured out why. Digital Coaxial on my av reciever oddly requires me to set the dvd player audio attenuation to on, according to the instructions it shold not effect the digital output, but it does for some reason. With the audio attenuation set on I could not hear any difference between optical and coaxial.

You may also like to look at this short thread: Which is best: digital coax or optical?

http://community.whathifi.com/forums/p/351910/352997.aspx
 

idc

Well-known member
Jan 2, 2008
1,039
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Fahnsen:

Gentlemen, this is digital signals, consisting of ones and zeros, that is ons and offs. There is no way known to science why the sound should alter with different cables, or with electrical versus optical signals.

As well as sending 1s and 0s you have to take into consideration the timing of the sending of the 1s and 0s, which is jitter. If something goes wrong with the 1s and 0s you will hear it as the music will cut out or crack or pop. So really the issue is about jitter and the timing of the signal. Whether a cable is cable of reducing jitter, I am not sure. But different cables may well be better at not introducing more jitter.

An argument often raised questioning the validity of different cables is that when sending a document to a printer you get the printed document as it should be and not with random faults to the print. However, the lack of faults is down to the lack of importance for timing of the sent data. So long as the correct data is sent there is plenty of time to set up the printer etc. So jitter is not a factor, so the cable is not a factor.

When you send a digital signal a clock in the sender, say it is a PC determines the timing of the 1s and 0s. The receiver, say it is a DAC has a clock to time in the 1s and 0s. To work both clocks have to run at exactly the same time. However, (and I have read up on this and I am not an engineer) it would appear that getting those clocks to work precisely is very difficult if nigh on impossible.

When listening to music, the timing is important to get the right sound. Then, there is a lot more going on when sending 1s and 0s to make music than to print a document, so in this application jitter is important.

Better clocks and use of buffering the data are ways of actually reducing jitter as it is sent from PC to DAC. So what we need to do is decide can a cable effect jitter? Then we have an answer as to whether digital cables are capable of being different or not. We also have an answer as to why sometimes people report a difference between cables and others do not. If you introduce a cable to a system and it does not affet the jitter, there is no reason why it should sound different. But if you do introduce a cable that affects the jitter, this is now a reason why it can make a difference.
 

RodhasGibson

Well-known member
Oct 10, 2008
188
5
18,595
daveh75:

Theoretically over short distances coaxial should be better,because there is less conversion going on.

But over longer distances optical may be beneficial,because optical cables aren't susceptible to RFI/EMI.

Though in reality i don't think you'll notice any difference between the two,i certainly can't!!!

Gotta say that from extensive listening I can"t either.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
I thought using SPDIF the dac at the receiving end of the cable will have a small buffer and reclocking circuitry. So is partially immune to jitter. I say partially since all clock oscillators have some intrinsic jitter. How much jitter you need for it to be audible is also debatable. Jitter could be introduced by the digital coaxial cable and the recieving buffer and reclocking is not completely immune, so in that respect optical is supperior if you fear jitter.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
idc:Fahnsen:
Gentlemen, this is digital signals, consisting of ones and zeros, that is ons and offs. There is no way known to science why the sound should alter with different cables, or with electrical versus optical signals.

As well as sending 1s and 0s you have to take into consideration the timing of the sending of the 1s and 0s, which is jitter. If something goes wrong with the 1s and 0s you will hear it as the music will cut out or crack or pop. So really the issue is about jitter and the timing of the signal. Whether a cable is cable of reducing jitter, I am not sure. But different cables may well be better at not introducing more jitter.

An argument often raised questioning the validity of different cables is that when sending a document to a printer you get the printed document as it should be and not with random faults to the print. However, the lack of faults is down to the lack of importance for timing of the sent data. So long as the correct data is sent there is plenty of time to set up the printer etc. So jitter is not a factor, so the cable is not a factor.

When you send a digital signal a clock in the sender, say it is a PC determines the timing of the 1s and 0s. The receiver, say it is a DAC has a clock to time in the 1s and 0s. To work both clocks have to run at exactly the same time. However, (and I have read up on this and I am not an engineer) it would appear that getting those clocks to work precisely is very difficult if nigh on impossible.

When listening to music, the timing is important to get the right sound. Then, there is a lot more going on when sending 1s and 0s to make music than to print a document, so in this application jitter is important.

Better clocks and use of buffering the data are ways of actually reducing jitter as it is sent from PC to DAC. So what we need to do is decide can a cable effect jitter? Then we have an answer as to whether digital cables are capable of being different or not. We also have an answer as to why sometimes people report a difference between cables and others do not. If you introduce a cable to a system and it does not affet the jitter, there is no reason why it should sound different. But if you do introduce a cable that affects the jitter, this is now a reason why it can make a difference.idc cables such as network cables can suffer from network jitter which is why protocols have acknowledgements built in

no such problem with audio since its the clocking that governshow the data is rebuilt as you say

id refer you to the seminal paper on the work by Dunn and Hawksford at http://www.scalatech.co.uk/papers/aes93.pdf

at what level jitter is audible remains as moot as it was back in 1993 when the paper was written

you need to give examples of cables that can affect jitter as otherwise providing they meet the required standard normally cables have zero affect on jitter

your problem is the fact your using usb were you to change to a dac that could take an optical spdif input youd find the noises would disappear

if your interested the stereophile sit also has articles on jitter and checks the dacs it tests for that

notable is that its usually the usb that has least jitter protection

also note most dacs incorporate protection agains jitters the knowledge has been around for a while now
 
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Anonymous

Guest
one off:no such problem with audio since its the clocking that governshow the data is rebuilt as you say

id refer you to the seminal paper on the work by Dunn and Hawksford at http://www.scalatech.co.uk/papers/aes93.pdf

at what level jitter is audible remains as moot as it was back in 1993 when the paper was written

Thanks for the link I for one will read the paper.
 

idc

Well-known member
Jan 2, 2008
1,039
10
19,195
one off:

idc cables such as network cables can suffer from network jitter which is why protocols have acknowledgements built in

no such problem with audio since its the clocking that governshow the data is rebuilt as you say

id refer you to the seminal paper on the work by Dunn and Hawksford at http://www.scalatech.co.uk/papers/aes93.pdf

at what level jitter is audible remains as moot as it was back in 1993 when the paper was written

you need to give examples of cables that can affect jitter as otherwise providing they meet the required standard normally cables have zero affect on jitter

your problem is the fact your using usb were you to change to a dac that could take an optical spdif input youd find the noises would disappear

if your interested the stereophile sit also has articles on jitter and checks the dacs it tests for that

notable is that its usually the usb that has least jitter protection

also note most dacs incorporate protection agains jitters the knowledge has been around for a while now

I agree about the audibility of jitter. There does not appear to any agreement on how audibile it is, if at all and if so what does it sound like?

What noises would disappear by using optical?

I have read a Benchmark engineer's comments on the Benchmark USB DAC1 and he regards jitter as a problem equally with USB, optical and coax.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Wow, huge discussion generated. I've asked Cambridge Audio what they think - will report back.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
I use a cheap optical from pcworld between my mac and Chord dac - it works great, end of story,
 

JoelSim

New member
Aug 24, 2007
767
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I think you'll find that Fahnson isn't a cable believer, therefore you will get a stock answer, an incorrect one.
 

Craig M.

New member
Mar 20, 2008
127
0
0
knightout:
...Optical is also more expensive.

errr, are you sure about that? optical cables can be had for a couple of quid.
 

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