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Optical Leads...worth spending more than a tenner?

Discussion in 'audio' started by the_dude2, Aug 2, 2012.

  1. the_dude2

    the_dude2 pfm Member

    As the thread title really. I am moving my hifi into another room and connecting my SB Touch to my AV. Its an Anthem MRX so not worth using analogue as i will be using ARC and therefore it will be ADC it for the room eq.

    It might be a stupid question, and yes i am also trying to get to 50 posts too. But i am genuinely curious of peoples experiences with them. I like shiny new boxes and good looking cables, but if its pointless and i can save £30 or so then i would like to know.

  2. bennyboyph

    bennyboyph pfm Member

    Use 75ohm coaxial instead. Satellite grade RG6 or Belden 1694a.
  3. the_dude2

    the_dude2 pfm Member

    I actually have a Roksan 75ohm coax able im using with it at present (bought years back for £50, probably paying for the name and packaging!) . I assumed the MRX didnt have RCA digital in as my last AV amp didnt. I have only had the Anthem for 2 weeks, and just checked and it does have these inputs. Excellent. I shouldve check first really. But then....:/

    Im assuming the Roksan will be good enough but I check out the Belden's at Blue Jeans Cables anyway, great price! I'm not sure the Roksan will be long enough but i'm sorted either way.

    Why do you think the 75ohm is better than an optical? I have read they sound more natural, is this what you have found?
  4. Mescalito

    Mescalito pfm Member

  5. the_dude2

    the_dude2 pfm Member

    Hi Chris

    Some 0's and 1's get lost on the way? :). But thats why i asked. I dont think there should be any difference but its always good to hear some opinions.

    As far as digital connections go I have tried various HDMI cables before, i thought i had seen a difference between 2 of them - with regards to colour/picture brightness, but I cant remember what ones - nothing fancy though and it was awhile ago and not very interesting.

    I assume all digital cables are the same, except maybe the connection points rather than the leads themselves are important? I know i have owned a crappy amazon HDMI lead that suffered drop outs. In the middle of Halo or Forza 4 with sound but no picture all of a sudden! Can connections also be important to digital audio cables?

    Either way im sure as long as it is long enough the Roksan cable will do the job.

    Its a bit like jitter to me, does that exist at any meaningful level we can hear?

  6. i-s

    i-s pfm Member

    I have used a 1m glass TOSLINK lead, a 2m QED plastic TOSLINK lead and a 0.75m DIY coax (made from Webro WF100 satellite cable) from my SB3 to my DAC, and not found any difference between them.

    I have found that optical leads with metal TOSLINK connectors wear and can fall out - plastic connectors are better.

    I've seen one TOSLINK lead that was hugely thick (over 1cm diameter) and had direction arrows marked on it... that was quite amusing.

    But no, no difference over the cheap ones. Save your cash
  7. Fox

    Fox The sound of one hoof clopping

    Cheap and and as thin as you can get it -- that way its easy to tuck around corners or hold down with gaffa or put under rugs, just like wot I don't do.


    Save your money. Buying Foutique Optical Toslink cables at the kinds of lengths and data rates and bandwidths that we use is a mug's game.

    To think there was a fooking great pile of gear here once...
  8. cooky1257

    cooky1257 pfm Member

    Avoid the really cheap ones off ebay, they fall out, £10-15 is ok.
    All digi coax leads are supposed to be the same, they aren't but in my experience cost has absolutely nowt to do with performance.
  9. Werner

    Werner pfm Member

    So far I have had two cheap Toslinks fail on me, after not a long time and no abuse they no longer transmitted light. Clearly built as junk.

    The nice thing about optical is the gAlvanic isolation.
  10. Robert

    Robert Tapehead

    Definitely worth getting something nicely and reliably made and best avoid the stuff at the bargain basement end, especially for long lengths, say 3m+.
    I've a 5m cheap optical here that clearly is less efficient than some others - the light is visibly dimmed and I get drop-outs compared to using something better and shorter.
  11. rbrown

    rbrown I think therefore I think I am

    I think mine was about £4.50 from Amazon - and it's fine!

  12. GTM

    GTM Resitance is futile

  13. Sky78

    Sky78 pfm Member

    Digital cables either work or they don't. 1s and 0s don't have "sound quality".

    A Coaxial cable is difficult to damage though, unlike an optical cable, has a lot more flexibility and I guess you could say there is one less "stage" involved - the signal for the optical cable will start off electrical then get converted into optical then back again into electrical on the other side. Coaxial is more "purist" in that sense.

    I don't buy a difference in sound though, as if a 0 or 1 is missing, you'd get an outright failure, not degraded sound.

    Edited to add - I started writing this before the previous post, which covers some of the same territory, had been posted. I wasn't aware that jitter could be added at the conversion stage.
  14. busb

    busb Mine's a pint of beer please

    In theory, async USB can sound better than either sort of spdif because my DAC can then control the source's clock. In reality it sounds awful because my Sony laptop's switch mode PSU chucks out loads of noise. Received wisdom says coax is better than optical - my experience says this is bollocks. Optical has one big advantage - galvanic isolation where noise is not transferred along the earth connection!

    I had issues connecting an ATV3 to my M-DAC via optical where the sound kept cutting out. The 0.5m optical lead was dirt cheap so I borrowed a "high quality" one - no difference whatsoever which was exactly what I was expecting. The problem was resolved by reconnecting my ATV2 & returning the 2nd ATV3 for a refund as it had a generic fault.
  15. EIffel

    EIffel Cereal Killer

    Optical cables have the advantage of eliminating electrical noise, which can be an issue with some systems (computers power supplies, etc.), but I'd agree that otherwise a good coax connection seems to work more reliably at higher sampling frequencies.

    On a related note, digital cables can be tricky. Long USB cables (4-5m) which work well with computer peripherals can be problematic with some DACs (I hear clicks and pops with my Behringer UCA202 and other cheap DACs). These same cables work fine, and are bit perfect, with my Audiolab MDAC.
  16. Fox

    Fox The sound of one hoof clopping

    mine is a 15 meters long optical from AppleTV to DAC. No problems. Cheap one too with the supposed wobbly headers and fragile innards. It was a toss up between 15m of HDMI (thick cable lot more expensive) and have the AppleTV by the DAC fed by a short run of optical or have the AppleTV by the Projector (.5m HDMI) and 15M of optical.

    Optical won. No regrets. Cheaper too.
  17. the_dude2

    the_dude2 pfm Member

    thanks guys. Thats pretty much what i thought so its nice thats confirmed.

    The Roksan was only just long enough, literally no room to play with but its not too tight so should be ok.

    Job done and money saved, thanks guys :)
  18. dss

    dss Musical Bons

    I got a long optical cable from pro-studio supplier at a sensible price is it.

    Only problem was it kept falling out of the socket one end, not a good mechanical connection.

    However, the racket it made whilst falling out and loosing the signal was quite a full blast of crackling white noise, so quite good in a Merzbow / Prurient vibe, but not whilst listening to Brahms there.

  19. cooky1257

    cooky1257 pfm Member

    Just for fun I swapped out my van damme digi for a missing link job I had lying round in the nest of cables behind my sofa, ....lovely silky mids but a rolled off top end and a much softer bass......and that folks is why it lives behind my sofa and not attached to my dac.
  20. georgeeasten

    georgeeasten pfm Member

    My personal opinion is that there really cannot be any difference in how the digital cables sound. There is, however, as has been touched on above, potential to add noise.

    I believe optical should be used for long runs and coaxial for short runs.

    My reasoning for this is that it is inevitable that a coaxial cable will pickup noise on a long run and signal could degrade over distance. Having said that it is ultimately the purest signal because there is no conversion.

    Optical on the other hand will not pick up noise over long runs, however, signal degradation due to digital to optical conversion (e.g. jitter) negates any benefits on a short run.

    So, in short, horses for courses.
    Long run = optical
    Short run = coaxial

    Someone with actual knowledge rather than theory may come along and tell me I'm talking bollocks!

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