Optical vs. Coaxial inputs

I'm getting parts for a new computer (hopefully in 2 days) and one thing I just thought about is the motherboard having the input ports for S/PDIF Optical and Coaxial.

I remember these 2 inputs being digital, and more than likely will provide somewhat better recording quality. I do some music composition from time to time and my old computer never had such inputs. I used the analogs. My question is: Which one is better? I have never had any experience using them. My music device has the inputs for both as well, so I could use either.

Does anyone have any input on the matter? Anywhere where I can get the cables for cheap?
13 answers Last reply
More about optical coaxial inputs
  1. Both offers digital signal but I would lean on optical since the cable can be thin and better distribution all the way to your receiver specially by long runs. Also there's no grounded noise if you plug/unplug the connection while your systems are on.
  2. From my experience the coax IO is a better way to go. With optical you loose signal quality due to conversion on both output and input (ie. electrical to optical and then back to electrical signal again). The coax cables are also cheaper, you'll need a far more expensive optical cable in order to compensate the loss due to conversion.

    That being said, optical DOES provide a better quality connection IF you are prepared to pay enough money to get the absolute best. Like i said though, for the same price coax is better value.

    Hope this helps.
  3. As far az Sony/Philips digital interface send signals in digital the sound quality
    is so much better specially in ultra high frequency and very low frequency.
    I highly recommand you to use Optical input if your speakers supports.
    I get one as cheap as 1.5$ but don't think you can get in this price.

    Sorry because of my bad dictation.
  4. dont get optical if your speaker wire is longer than a few metres, optical doesnt transmit well over long distances!
  5. An optical wire over a couple of meters is damn expensive...
  6. Quote:
    dont get optical if your speaker wire is longer than a few metres, optical doesnt transmit well over long distances!

    Actually, optical can run as far as 12KM. Without needing a "refresh".

    I'm running all fiber at my house, with no issues.

    Which of the two is better? They are pretty much equal, when it come to sound quality.

    But, I do agree that optical can be a tad expensive.
  7. I've been looking at cables. I see quite a few on eBay running for $5 (that's with shipping). I've mainly been looking at the opticals. I don't know, are all optical cables created equally? I saw some running for like $25 at some places.

    Here's an example eBay one:

    I'm also running the optical from my midi device into the sound card.
  8. A good place to look for cables is MonoPrice.com, they always have the best prices.

    I've ordered a few times from them, and I can tell you I was very happy with them.

    Anyway, Good Luck
  9. i would opt for the digital coax over the fiber optic.
    just my opinion.

    both are good.
  10. The guys over at AVSforum decided a while ago that coax was better... something about better base. The quality of the cable doesn't really matter much. Like digital cable, you either have it, have it noticeably distorted, or dont get it at all. You can order a cable at monoprice.com or somewhere for only a dollar or so, and it will work fine nine times out of ten. I have a seventeen hundred dollar tv, and a $1.85 cable going to it for video. $1800 speaker set up --> same price.

    don't worry about quality at all, and optical vs. coax isn't a very big deal, and really not worth worrying about unless you have ridiculously expensive speakers, in which case you would be paying someone to do this all for you.....
  11. yes the higher dollar cables just come with better shielding.
    thats pretty much it.
  12. Analogue is far superior, IFF you have good analogue recording equipment. I've never heard a 'digital' violin...

    As to the optical vs coax question, over any relatively short distance, coax should be more cost effective, just remember to only ground the shield at one end. (ground loops...)

    Optical fibre comes in two basic classes. Single mode, and multi-mode. Single mode has far superior characteristics compared to multi-mode, but is much more expensive. Both are prone to issues with plugging and unplugging the connectors, one small spec of dust will make the connection 'less than perfect' if not just dydfunctional.

    Fibre is good in the datacentre... But so is cat 5, cat 6, and cat6e... In our centre we use far more cat cable than fibre.

    my 2p....
  13. Analog is superior to digital when the source is analog, such as a violin, you are correct. However, when the source is digital (tv, cd, dvd, anything but radio and records) digital connections are better, because there are less conversions. to use an analog cable from a digital cable box to a computer, the signal must be transfered from digital to analog, then back from analog to digital. This allows many possibilities for error. If your source is a violin, record, or (correct me if i'm wrong) radio, then which connection is superior is defendant on the DACs (Digital to Analog Converters)in each piece of equipment. If you have a twenty thousand dollar high end analog source, with excellent DACs, going to another piece of equipment with poor DACs, it would be best to use digital from this analog source, because it will convert it to digital better then the poor DACs. I'm assuming your computer sound card or motherboard has poor DACs, because most computer users dont consider them a high priority. If your computer does have good DACs, coming from an analog source, it would be better to use analog, so your computer can convert it to digital.

    Sorry if that was hard to understand, I just woke up, and its difficult for me to keep things straight, its all correct though(Except for possibly the radio being an analog source, it really depends on what kind of radio you have).

    The cliff-notes for my post:

    good DACs on analog source, use digital cable
    horrible DACs on analog source, use analog cable

    hope this helped!
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