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Thread: Coax or Optical

  1. #1

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    Default Coax or Optical

    Which is better, what are the differences?

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    They sound the same. IF I had to pick one or the other, i would go with Coaxial for the simple fact that the wires are cheaper.

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    That one is pretty much personal preference. Most people choose coax because they can be had for cheaper and you don't have to worry about the glass inside cracking and messing up your signal. BTW you can just use a regular rca cable instead of a "coaxial cable".

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    Quote Originally Posted by jwienand
    Which is better, what are the differences?
    One main difference is that optical cable transmits info via a fiber optic light.

    Basically, it's a matter of personal preference as both transmit digital signals.

    I have both, and for me, it's very hard to tell the difference in sound quality between the two. I eventually switched to digi-coax only because it seems more sturdy, especially on the connector sides.
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    I asked this same question not that long ago:-) Either one, as long as is reasonably good, is on par of each other. However, a reasonably good coaxial is usually cheaper than an optical and easier to find!! I bought mine from bluejeans and am very happy about it.

    -fredv-

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    I say buy a decent set of rca interconnects and then you'll have two coax cables for probably around the same price as one dedicated coax cable (if for some reason you might need two - or later you can skip the coax and have a 2 ch ic :) ). A couple popular budget cable brands are bluejeans cables or signal cable. Very decent bang for your buck.

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    whatever space is free on your amp.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrentMcGhee
    ok... there is a big difference between optical and coaxial

    while yes they both send all the 1's and 0's to your receiver but the way they do it is completley different.

    optical:
    optical cable is pretty much a hollow tube with a mirror wrapped all the way around the inside of it. It uses light pulses to send the 1's and 0's. Now the bad thing about this is that any type of kink or crack in the mirrors is going to refract the light in a funny way so when it gets to the receiuver it may not ba a clear cut 1 or 0 so it is up to the receiver to decifer it inducing possible bit errors into the signal. Optical cables are very picky about caring for them. You could easily have several cracks within your cable and not even know it. As a rule of thumb an optical cable should be bent at more than a 45degree angle, any more puts you at high risk for damaging the cable. Also any pressure on the cable could crack the internal mirrors as well.

    Coaxial:
    now coaxial uses pulses of current to represent the 1's and 0's. The good thing is that a coaxial cable is very strong and can be placed in a rough enviroment but because it uses current is is very prone to electrical interferance that is the reason why a coaxial cord is so much thicker becasue it needs all that extra shielding on it.

    In my opinion i prefer coaxial becasue it is alot easier to maintain. i do not have to worry about a slight bend here or pressure here and there. But it is very easy to get a hum in your coaxial cable. So in a noisy enviroment optical is your best choice, for everything else coaxial.
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    Quote Originally Posted by michael_w
    I say buy a decent set of rca interconnects and then you'll have two coax cables for probably around the same price as one dedicated coax cable (if for some reason you might need two - or later you can skip the coax and have a 2 ch ic :) ).
    Actually, a lot of RCA IC's won't work. Digital Coax needs to be 75 ohm, whereas normal IC"s don't have any requirement (but some are 75 Ohm). Video cables will work, though.

    Oh, and +1 on what brent said- you only really need optical in a noisy enviroment... I use it for the output off my computer.
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    Quote Originally Posted by unc2701
    Actually, a lot of RCA IC's won't work. Digital Coax needs to be 75 ohm, whereas normal IC"s don't have any requirement (but some are 75 Ohm). Video cables will work, though.

    Oh, and +1 on what brent said- you only really need optical in a noisy enviroment... I use it for the output off my computer.
    TRUE STUFF. My Polk tuner was very sensitive to using a standard RCA IC; alot of dropouts on the DAC. As soon as I used a "digital" coax, it worked fine.

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    I also asked this question some time ago, and got these same answers; I thought optical would be better because it is new/more expensive :o

    I had a Monster optical on my DVD-Receiver and switched to a cheap "digital" coaxial I had around, just for testing. Results? I thought I was hearing more details on surrounds....my son thought the same. Maybe it was just in our minds, but the coaxial stayed :)
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    Quote Originally Posted by unc2701
    Actually, a lot of RCA IC's won't work...
    ...off my computer.
    Really? I hadn't heard or dealt with that problem before. Thanks for the heads up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by michael_w
    Really? I hadn't heard or dealt with that problem before. Thanks for the heads up.
    I've tried cheap RCA's as "digital coax" cables and they worked fine. I won't get into what you can achieve with a couple coathangers.

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    wont optical be better as a £2 cable should do the job as good as a £200 just as long as light gets through as it is either working or not . isnít it?
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    Quote Originally Posted by ward91
    wont optical be better as a £2 cable should do the job as good as a £200 just as long as light gets through as it is either working or not . isnít it?
    In my experience with a small sample - 2 cables, I will say no.
    I bought 2 el cheapo toslink cables new. Both costed me around $6 each, but one sounds better than the other. However, the better one is 3' (thinner) vs the other is 6'. So, maybe the length ...., don't really know. My best guess is that one transmits the light more accurate than the other. My case seems to validate Brent's write up about the optical cable.

    -fredv-

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    On the point raised about whether a coaxial cable has to be 75 ohms impedance for digital transmission, while it's correct that the S/PDIF(Sony/Philips Digital Interface)standard calls for a 75 ohm connection, this only becomes crucial at lengths longer than those usually used in home setups. The usual criterion used by electrical engineers to determine when impedance in a cable is significant is whether the length of the cable is at least a quarter wavelength of the signal being carried. For example, for CD the wavelength is about 160 feet(300 million meters/5.6 million Hz bandwidth)and cables less than about 40 feet long don't require precise impedance for digital CD material. Cables with impedance much lower than 75 ohms, such as many of those referred to as "RCA cables", work well with digital signals over the typical 5-10 feet used in home interconnects, assuming that the wire or connector isn't damaged.

    Rather extreme examples of what's possible(don't try this at home)can be found in the heroic exploits of Mick Loney and Al Magnani.

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    Optical is better for two reasons.

    First: electrical isolation. There is no electrical conductive connection between gear. Thus no cross-talk, issues with possible different grounds (think ground loops), or other issues.

    Second: noise. This one is huge. Optical cables are not effected by electromagnetic noise. Other nearby cables will not, and can not create noise to be interjected into the optical cable's signal. If you have high powered equipment nearby (and you most likely do in a home theater), you can have a significant improvement on sound quality by using optical cables.


    Yes, regular copper cables "might" be cheaper, but not by much when you can get a 4meter optical cable by Calrad for $25.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John K.
    Rather extreme examples of what's possible(don't try this at home)can be found in the heroic exploits of Mick Loney and Al Magnani.
    I really enjoyed that second one :D

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrentMcGhee
    I really enjoyed that second one :D
    Me Toooo. That is a riot! I wish I had a BER meter... there is a cool factor to that.

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