Question novice question.. optical vs RCA vs ...

lakelandstu70

Active member
Feb 24, 2022
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I've had multiple devices over the years with optical input/outputs... HiFi operates.. AVR etc... and I'm reading questions about optical for DACs and headphones.

When optical was first offered I seem to remember it being the 'bee's knees' because of the fibre qualities and lack of loss.

Is optical still the best choice or a fallback position? My local Hifi basically suggests using HDMI, RCA and could connectors ...

All education is welcomed...
 

nopiano

Well-known member
These days optical connections seem best reserved for TV to sound bar and that sort of non-critical usage. Coax is preferred for most player to DAC, unless USB is an option. The thing is, it’s not costly to try a few options, and you see literally hundreds of used cables on eBay.
 
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twinkletoes

Well-known member
Nov 16, 2021
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Hi, I don't entirely agree with No piano here. Optical is still far and away the best connection especially if you have a lot of noisy devices. eg hardcore gaming PC. it certainly can be used critically.

USB normally allows the highest bandwidth but in the case of chord optical is right up there. But their dual BNC's used in tandem offer the greatest resolution but require additional devices to achieve this and beyond the scope of your question.

If you want the best "digital" connection then that would be an i2s (i squared s) connection and that can take many different forms one of which is the HDMI connector but it's not HDMI. But its rare with only a few brands offering it, PS audio for example.

In most cases, a lot of headphone users use their computer as a source and as i alluded optically is preferred due to the much-improved noise floor. But its not infallible, search golden ear on youtube and he has a video from last year that runs through the characteristics of each connection going into the benefits of each.

But make no mistake when implemented well the good old optical connection can offer and still does offer fantastic sound with superior grounding performance. In some cases handling bit rates all the way up 24/192 (chord and I'm sure many other).
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Hi, I don't entirely agree with No piano here. Optical is still far and away the best connection especially if you have a lot of noisy devices. eg hardcore gaming PC. it certainly can be used critically.

USB normally allows the highest bandwidth but in the case of chord optical is right up there. But their dual BNC's used in tandem offer the greatest resolution but require additional devices to achieve this and beyond the scope of your question.

If you want the best "digital" connection then that would be an i2s (i squared s) connection and that can take many different forms one of which is the HDMI connector but it's not HDMI. But its rare with only a few brands offering it, PS audio for example.

In most cases, a lot of headphone users use their computer as a source and as i alluded optically is preferred due to the much-improved noise floor. But its not infallible, search golden ear on youtube and he has a video from last year that runs through the characteristics of each connection going into the benefits of each.

But make no mistake when implemented well the good old optical connection can offer and still does offer fantastic sound with superior grounding performance. In some cases handling bit rates all the way up 24/192 (chord and I'm sure many other).
Glad to see another response as this had gone unanswered all weekend. Your input is valued, though much of your reply relates to computers which
i didn’t see mentioned.
 

twinkletoes

Well-known member
Nov 16, 2021
204
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970
Glad to see another response as this had gone unanswered all weekend. Your input is valued, though much of your reply relates to computers which
i didn’t see mentioned.
As is alwasy the case, my road bike and 100miles rides take preference over the summer months, so don't follow the forum as closely.

Just an assumption as its in the headphone category, but still holds true for a dedicated streamer as well such as a bluesound i feel. I always find optical a more please sound. But as ever it's not night and day, nats whiskers in these things.
 
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Tinman1952

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May 19, 2021
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If 24/192 is sufficient for your purposes then they can be reasonably cheap cables....
I use a QED Reference Quartz with 210 separate fibres of 50 um ..... with decent end couplings...( I think that's important). I wouldn't contemplate a cheap cable of 1mm plastic......😖
** Warning** cables discussion! 😂
 
I use a QED Reference Quartz with 210 separate fibres of 50 um ..... with decent end couplings...( I think that's important). I wouldn't contemplate a cheap cable of 1mm plastic......😖
** Warning** cables discussion! 😂
prepare to be held accountable for a locked thread.... :)
I don't care what its made of, if if it says it can transmit a certain resolution of data then it probably can....
how long it lasts is a different matter...
 

elliswils

Well-known member
Nov 11, 2021
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Did any of the above actually answer your question..?

What I took away is that it's horses for courses. That is what are you trying to connect to what?

I only do Hi-Fi (not gaming, AV, streaming etc.) and use USB, optical, coax and RCA for different connections between different components.

All of the cables are QED, Chord, Cyrus or similar quality.

For CD play back, I use coax between the transport and the amp. I've tried optical and RCA and I think I can hear a little improvement going RCA to optical to coax, with the later being giving a little more detail.

I use an upgraded ArCam rBlink which has the choice of RCA (using the DAC in the unit) or optical (using the DAC in the amp so I use the optical because the DAC in my amp is a better spec the the one in the rBlink.

From the tuner to the am I use an RCA; there is no choice.

AS someone said, you can buy good quality cables for reasonable sums of money. Buy one and try it across/between various sources and your amp and see if you can hear the difference.

Then there is speaker cables...
 
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ThisIsJimmy

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Nov 11, 2020
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It entirely depends on the use case.
If you are talking headphones then it typically is USB these days as the go to interface with a laptop/desktop/tablet/phone/streamer. Most manufacturers offer better bit rates and or features on this interface for this type of device.
Step on over into the surround sound and multichannel world, and most use HDMI to make use of the DTS and Dolby HD audio codecs as well as other HD video codecs.
Optical and coaxial can be present, but they don't always offer the same quality as it's not always the focus of the device, but rather an added connectivity/extra. When some headphones DACS have been tested for example, depending on the chipset used, it has been found for the optical interface to generate more noise than USB. If you are looking to buy a device it's always worth checking if possible if it has been reviewed with an Audio Analyzer so you know what you are getting.
 

lakelandstu70

Active member
Feb 24, 2022
16
2
25
Did any of the above actually answer your question..?

What I took away is that it's horses for courses. That is what are you trying to connect to what?

I only do Hi-Fi (not gaming, AV, streaming etc.) and use USB, optical, coax and RCA for different connections between different components.

All of the cables are QED, Chord, Cyrus or similar quality.

For CD play back, I use coax between the transport and the amp. I've tried optical and RCA and I think I can hear a little improvement going RCA to optical to coax, with the later being giving a little more detail.

I use an upgraded ArCam rBlink which has the choice of RCA (using the DAC in the unit) or optical (using the DAC in the amp so I use the optical because the DAC in my amp is a better spec the the one in the rBlink.

From the tuner to the am I use an RCA; there is no choice.

AS someone said, you can buy good quality cables for reasonable sums of money. Buy one and try it across/between various sources and your amp and see if you can hear the difference.

Then there is speaker cables...
They did and thanks for all the responses -and sorry for the delay, family illness has taken me away from the forum for a while.
 

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