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the point of high end optical cables?

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August 10, 2006 2:54:35 AM

Hi.
my question is that you can purchase expensive optical cables specifically the one used to link your sound card to a digital sound system or home cinema system, but what is the actual benefit of this?
I am aware that the pulse sent down the cable will distort, due to multi-path dispersion, but does this really matter as it is only sending a pulse, that will be sent through a logic gate and tured into a 1 or 0 output, so surely as long as the signal reaches its detination there isnt any point to a high end optical cable, except over long distances, wich most sound systems arent!!!

so can someone please tell me, am i being stupid or are these expensive optical cables more of a show piece than, an actual worthwhile purchase

Regards
Liirge
August 10, 2006 3:58:58 AM

Quote:
Hi.
my question is that you can purchase expensive optical cables specifically the one used to link your sound card to a digital sound system or home cinema system, but what is the actual benefit of this?
I am aware that the pulse sent down the cable will distort, due to multi-path dispersion, but does this really matter as it is only sending a pulse, that will be sent through a logic gate and tured into a 1 or 0 output, so surely as long as the signal reaches its detination there isnt any point to a high end optical cable, except over long distances, wich most sound systems arent!!!

so can someone please tell me, am i being stupid or are these expensive optical cables more of a show piece than, an actual worthwhile purchase

Regards
Liirge


You seem to be asking a strange question through your wording, or you are asking three questions but somehow managed to word it all as one. I would garner a guess that they are 1) What's the point of the digital delivery system? 2)What's the point of optical cables? 2) What's the point of expensive cables?

Rough laymens answers:

1) Because it "protects" the audio signal from the noise that converters add at each part of the signal chain. By keeping the signal as digital 1s and 0s longer until it is converted to analog and powered, you have a lower noise floor. In the old days everything was linked via analog cables, so every component in the chain, EQs, amps, DSP processors, would each add some noise and you'd get some very audible hiss, often in the tweeters. If you use pre-outs and connect everything digitally, you can eliminate a great deal of analog hiss.

2) Fiber-optic is slightly better shielded than standard coaxial cable, and in industrial purposes, cables can be made far thinner than standard copper cables. For home theater, there is no obvious difference compared to digital coaxial. It's just another format.

3) Some people like nice looking cables, or have upgraded their audio system sufficiently that when they have an itch to upgrade, they've worked their way down to upgrading cable interconnects. The cost-vs-benefit ratio is very low here, in terms of upgrading from a well made cable to a niche super-expensive one.

I personally use optical cables (as the Chaintech AV-710's digital output is optical only, no coaxial-out), the cable it came with was wire-thin and flimsy. I spent $15 to get a thicker cable, mainly for ruggedness, because if I tripped over the thin cable that came with the soundcard, I swear it would have snapped in half.
August 10, 2006 4:21:17 AM

In short,

BEND RADIUS...

In long,

About the only thing your get in an expensive TOSLINK cable is a better bend radius/looks. These lower cost/quality cables have a lower bend radius and therefore can break easier.

It is a digital transmission across the fiber so in the lengths needed "in most applications" there will be no/negligible loss as far as the digital signal is concerned. In a typical 6 - 12ft TOSLINK cable "remember they are direct connect with no splicing" you are talking about a very very minimal loss on the cable. I have put in 26 miles worth of fiber and only needed to use 4 sig regen points during that 26 miles. Granted the fiber used in this application was long haul, low loss and very expensive but it is similar to what is used in your everyday audio equipment.

I bought a 3ft Monster Cable TOSLINK $35.00 that was going to be used in a tight fit appication. This has worked well and has very well proven its bend radius capabilites. I also have purchased a 12ft TOSLINK for $4.00 US that has worked well but I would not dare put it in the same application.

Hope that helps..
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August 10, 2006 4:22:38 AM

By the way,

This is the same reason that Fiber Patch cables are normally very expensive. They can take a beating and be tucked or cable managed without incident.
August 10, 2006 4:27:51 AM

Thankyou both very much for your responses,

on reflection i do see that my question was worded badly!!

So basically, there is no real audio quality gain by purchasing an expensive TOSLINK cable,
the advantages are only realy looks and ruggedness (Bend radius).
August 10, 2006 4:45:36 AM

Correct,

Just so ya know,

"00001101001010100011100011010" on a higher quality cable

Sounds exactly like

"00001101001010100011100011010" on a lower quality cable.

Its digital baby :D 

;)  ;)  ;)  ;) 
August 10, 2006 4:47:57 AM

Is that word aligned? :D  :p  :D  :p  :D  :p 

Sorry geek humor!!
August 10, 2006 4:51:23 AM

If a optical cable is transfering a digital signal that doesnt exceed the bandwidth of the cable then there is no difference in sound quality between a low end cable and a high end cable. Optical cables have very low loss rates over great distances so any errors that could cause pops and crackles are extremely unlikely too. The only thing that might cause problems with a cheapo optical cable is how easy it is to bend or kink and how good the connectors are at the end. Just dont buy a crap one that falls out or wobbles in the socket or kinks when you accidently walk on it. In my opinion its not worth spending hundreds of pounds (dollars) whatever on an opitcal cable as it really a waste of money especailly for computer interconnects.
August 10, 2006 5:07:26 AM

PS,

Monoprice.com is a great source for audio and video grade cables.

Even their cheaper stuff is usually pretty respectable. I have ordered from them many times and their prices are great.

Their HDMI switcher is the best I have seen "equalizing switchter" and yet it is also the cheapest I have seen and it has discreet input selection for use with Universal remote control macros.
August 10, 2006 9:40:31 AM

I agree that with more expensive cables you typically get a more durable cable, with more durable connectors. However, that is not always the case. I'd purchased a 2 metre Monster Ultra THX optical cable...$70. Not the most expensive but not too cheap, either. The very first time I gently tried to disconnect it from my Creative Digital I/O module the connector simply came apart. I stood there in disbelief for about 3 minutes. ...and yes, I hear you laughing. Perhaps the fit had been too tight, but I was thoroughly disgusted.

As stated earlier, you typically get more flexible cable and more durable cable as the price increases, but they're still fragile. This is not a problem with digital coax cable. Keep that under consideration.
August 10, 2006 10:58:43 AM

Thankyou all so much for your responses!!!
i have another question, if i wanted to increase the quality of sound system and really hear a difference, would purchasing higher quality copper cables from the amplifier to the speakers, or again does this not make much difference!!!

Regards
Liirge
August 10, 2006 11:07:22 AM

Quote:
Thankyou all so much for your responses!!!
i have another question, if i wanted to increase the quality of sound system and really hear a difference, would purchasing higher quality copper cables from the amplifier to the speakers, or again does this not make much difference!!!

Regards
Liirge


Diminishing returns I would say, unless you already had $100,000 speakers. It's all relative. At that point, certainly upgrading your interconnects would give you more utility than (furthur) upgrading your speakers.

Speakers determine easily the majority of the sonic characteristics, with amps adding an extra percent or two (usually not a positive addition). Interconnects will usually be a very miniscure (not noticeable) addition, IMO. Your mood and the temperature probably will have a thousand times more effect on the sound than more expensive interconnects.

Anyway, why don't you tell us what gear you have, and what weaknesses you might find, maybe I can offer some suggestions.
August 10, 2006 4:02:44 PM

I very much agree with Astrallite on this one.

Everything he has said is dead on. This has been an audio debate since the invention of the home loudspeakers.

I will reiterate on one item and add another.

The quality of your loudspeakers is "BY FAR" the single greatest thing you can do to obtain good quality audio. In essence without good speakers the rest of it does not matter.

Here is my addition. As long as you are using the proper guage for your arrangement the difference in grades of cables is almost non existent. The reason I mention guage is that you can affect sound quality by going with too small or too large of a guage for your setting.

Most home systems sound just the same using 16 guage as they do with 14 guage. The runs are typically "not" long enough to diminish returns. You could use 14 guage for your longer runs and 16 for your shorter. Still, given common lengths this is still not needed to make a difference. You really could use 16 guage all around in most settings and have it sound very good.

Some people would have you buying 1000 dollar cables that are 12 guage and very low loss with an extremely low oxygenation. I would dare to say that you will not notice the difference until you had loudspeakers that can faithfully reproduce the difference (several thousand per speaker).
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