Optical Digital Vs Coaxial Digital Cable - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 06:31 AM - Thread Starter
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I know this has probably been discussed before here, but cant seem to find any info. I am just looking for some opinions on which digital cable you feel is the best and why, as I am trying to decide if i want to use my optical or coaxial cable for my DVD player. Or if anyone has any links to a discussion, it would be greatly appreciated. I am currently using an Onkyo 702 receiver and a Panasonic S77S DVD player. Thanx in advance!
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post #2 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 06:37 AM
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Short answer: It doesn't matter, they're equally good.

Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
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post #3 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 07:27 AM
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I just asked this same question in a Sony ES forum and got this reply:


In my Digital front end I have compared Glass Toslink to $350 MIT Digital Reference 1 coax, $500 Synergistic Research Digital Corridor coax and $600 Marigo Apparition Digital Reference Mk 2 coax and the Glass Toslink ofered much more in the way of harmonic structure development, lack of Digital glare and the ability to render ultra fine detail.

If you check the Archives you will find many Digital Receiver owners who are very satisfied using Glass Toslink Digital Optical interconnect.
_Maxx


Glass Toslink cables are very inexpensive, $29.95 per meter.
http://www.agoraquest.com/viewtopic...._page_number=5
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post #4 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 07:51 AM
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I have wondered this myself, but is there really a difference between any optical cable, and a glass optical cable? I am not sure on this, but if the signal truly is optical, then there should be some sort of glass in the cable to pass the signal, just like fiber optics.

Of course, the whole optical thing could just be a misnomer, which would make me wrong.
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post #5 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 08:07 AM
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Well, the primary difference is that there's less attenuation losses with glass as opposed to plastic toslink but that's really only a factor when one's lengths become very long. If you want glass, then check out http://mcm.newark.com/NewarkWebComme...mages=true&N=4 as opposed to the other link for much better pricing.

Practically, there should be no differences between using coax or toslink. What you will find though, if you measure very carefully, is that there may be differences in either output level or channel imbalances between the two flavors. This often leads to perceived audible differences. I have no idea what harmonic structure development is though but it sounds like plastic surgery gone wrong like on El Jacko.

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post #6 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 08:07 AM
 
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but if the signal truly is optical, then there should be some sort of glass in the cable to pass the signal, just like fiber optics.
TOSLINK is 'truely' optical, and plastic fiber can pass light as well.

BTW, there is no difference in audio quality between TOSLINK and coax, a cable, weather it's fiber or coax, cannot alter the resulting sound.
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post #7 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 08:32 AM
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Yea, I guess there really couldn't be a difference in sound. I mean, its just passing 0's and 1's since its digital. For all intensive purposes, as long as its not corrupting the data, all digital cables should be the same, right?
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post #8 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 09:23 AM
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in theory yes..

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post #9 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 09:48 AM
 
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all digital cables should be the same, right?
There are no digital cables, but "for all INTENTS and PURPOSES", yes, they are the same
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post #10 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 10:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by algaray
I just asked this same question in a Sony ES forum and got this reply:

In my Digital front end I have compared Glass Toslink to $350 MIT Digital Reference 1 coax, $500 Synergistic Research Digital Corridor coax and $600 Marigo Apparition Digital Reference Mk 2 coax and the Glass Toslink ofered much more in the way of harmonic structure development, lack of Digital glare and the ability to render ultra fine detail.
That, my friend, is what is known as audiophile self-delusion. These are digital signals. No way the transmission medium makes a difference (assuming all the bits get there).

No matter where you go. ... There you are.
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post #11 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 10:43 AM
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No, they are not the same. The biggest difference is that optical does not ground the two units. This is one way to solve a Sat to receiver ground loop problem. They also have different cable length limitations.

HD-DVD is dead, so now I'm a Gary McCoy fanboy.
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post #12 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 10:58 AM
 
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No, they are not the same.
When speaking about the resulting audio signal, which is what we're speaking about, the two connection methods produce the same results.
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post #13 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 12:50 PM
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So you are saying that all digital cables sound the same regardless of wiring material, sheathing, connector and labor that went to make them?

It is impossible to argue that given we don't know how many cables you have heard and how revealing/neutral the rest of your system performs.

This debate is headed the same direction as the long heated debates on speaker cables. Some hear a difference and some don't. You can use common sense to elimate the ultra ridiculously expensive cables. There are differences in materials, design, assembly within reasonably affordable cables. It's worth trying on your system, to see if it does make a difference to you.
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post #14 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 01:04 PM
 
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So you are saying that all digital cables sound the same regardless of wiring material, sheathing, connector and labor that went to make them?
Yes.

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It is impossible to argue that given we don't know how many cables you have heard and how revealing/neutral the rest of your system performs.
It's impossible to properly debate with someone who doesn't understand digital communications theory.

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Some hear a difference and some don't.
Some claim to hear a difference...when challenged though, they fall flat.
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post #15 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 01:05 PM
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So you are saying that all digital cables sound the same regardless of wiring material, sheathing, connector and labor that went to make them?
So long as they're competently made and not broken, why not?

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It is impossible to argue that given we don't know how many cables you have heard and how revealing/neutral the rest of your system performs.
Are you mistaking revealing for design incompetence?

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This debate is headed the same direction as the long heated debates on speaker cables.
People hear all sorts of things when they use their eyes and don't level match. No surprise there.

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There are differences in materials, design, assembly within reasonably affordable cables.
This is a revelation?

FWIW, a coathanger has been used as a digital cable. The link where this was first done, http://www.magnani.net/~al/DigitalWireLabTest.html no longer exists. Thanks to http://web.archive.org it still lives on...at least for a few more years. What follows are the details found on the last link for that page.
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*** "A delicate digital AC-3 signal originating from my $4500.00 Theta DaViD transport THROUGH A WIRE HANGER?!?" ***

Calm down Mrs. Crawford, yes, through a wire hanger... It'll work just fine...

Ok,

So if any of you followed the digital wire wars a while back you may recall that some people maintained that you absolutely, positively, NEEDED a 75 ohm digital cable to connect your DVD player to your pre/pro... Nothing else will do... Anything else, and you risk errors in the bitstream so bad, that they are not only uncorrectable but you will also lose that "smooth airiness on the highs; open and more believeable soundstage; (insert your favorite audiophile tripe here)" and that basically the more money you spend on a digital cable, the more likely you are to achieve a sonic nirvana.

And you may or may not remember that after some rumblings and an e-mail from Jon Wenger, I built "The Finest Digital Transfer Wire In-the-WORLD!"® by taking two blue painted wire hangers and cutting an old, cheap, ugly green rca patch cord in two, soldering the ends onto the wire hangers.

You may remember my initial listening tests between that, a cheap, ugly yellow patch cord, a proper RG-6, 75 ohm cable with gold rca's, and the optical tos-link for comparison, yielded no discernable results, BUT there were too many other factors, like my ears may not be as golden or magical as someone else's, or that the toslink was shoddy anyway, etc.

Well, with Jon's help, I have now finished lab testing the cable.

For the dvd player, we used a professional version of the Sony 7000 reference player. It's actually model number DVP-S7000TP, serial # 2023. This is a pretty cool player... it has a nice gray matte, professional looking face, with a really cool rotary region selection switch near the headphone jack! For the processor we used a Dolby Labs model number DP562 multichannel ac-3 decoder, serial # 500280. The very cool feature, which is very necessary for our scientific experiment (since my pedestrian ears can't be trusted to be refined enough for the audiophiles whose heads travel in extra rarified air,) of this Dolby produced decoder is that it will do a bit error rate count... Yup, it will count each and every error it sees... Which is crc (cyclic redundancy check) protected which means the odds of having multiple errors such that the crc check passes an error in the data stream, is almost impossible. The output of the dvd player is an rca coax connector, and the input to the decoder is an XLR balanced connector. Jon normally has a Canare XLR to rca wire connecting the two.

I brought all my wires in case the number of errors that the wire hanger wire rolled was so great, that we would want to try the others and tabulate results... If you would like to see a picture of the wires (including the Sky-Blue/Lime-Green model of "The Finest Digital Transfer Wire In-the-WORLD!"®) go to: See a photo of the wire on my main Home Theater page.


Now we initially had a little problem with the hookup because we planned on using an rca female to female adapter and putting the test wire right between the Sony 7000 and the Canare cable, BUT we could not find the female to female... Not wanting to give up without giving it the old college try, Jon found two wires with alligator clips on them, so we used those.

So just to recap this thing to death, we had: The professional Sony S7000TP reference dvd player, going to a 20 year old, ugly green, rca patch cord which was cut in two. On one side of the green rca I soldered a blue painted wire hanger to the shield and another to the center conductor. I soldered the other ends of the wire hangers to the other half of the ugly green rca patch cord. We then clipped the alligator clips with thin wire to the centers and shields of the rca connectors of my cable and of the Canare cable, and then plugged the other XLR-balanced side of the Canare into the Dolby Labs decoder. I honestly did not know how badly we would be rolling errors on this one... and with open, scientific minds, we played a dvd...

Are you all sitting down? Good. We played the King Crimson Deja VROOM dvd for over fifteen minutes with this configuration and not only did it sound good, but the Dolby Decoder reported ZERO errors... Did you all get that ok? ZERO, nadda, nihil, zippo, nothing, none... error-free. Given that, there was not much point in trying the higher quality cables I had brought with me.

Conclusion: IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT YOU USE FOR YOUR DIGITAL CABLE CONNECTION BETWEEN YOUR DVD PLAYER AND YOUR PROCESSOR... YOU CAN BASICALLY USE ANYTHING THAT LOOKS ELECTRICALLY LIKE METAL. IT WILL WORK JUST FINE. (Between the coax connectors that is... I have not successfully used the wire hangers on the tos-link optical connectors... yet...) If you like you can hook the shield on one side to one of your Rodan bronze statues, and the other shield to somewhere else on the statue, and then hook the center conductors to another Rodan bronze, and it will work JUST FINE. The sonic clarity will be stunning, as well as visually pleasing.

So you can use the rca cables they throw in for free into your component boxes that you've been meaning to throw away for months because they offend your sensibilities, or you can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on Rodan Bronzes and use those, or anything in between... but please do not tell me that it sounds "warmer, cleaner, more open" or anything like that BECAUSE of the WIRE... It may sound different to you or to others... There are lots of reasons why it MAY sound different, not ALL of which are in your head... If it in fact IS different, then this difference is NOT due to the $800 wire you just swapped in. It may be that your player or decoder are somehow defective, or not designed very robustly (i.e. - if there is a difference that is NOT your imagination, then something is broken and you should not be wondering about the wire... you need to look elsewhere for the answer...)

Lastly, if you remember, my original preliminary offer was to sell this cable - "The Finest Digital Transfer Wire In-the-WORLD!"® to whomever wanted one, for a check or money order for $750.00 and two soiled shirts and I would send you the cable, in your choice of designer sky blue with lime green ends, or designer bone shell white with banana yellow ends, and your shirts laundered... However, in light of the new lab-tested/hand-made nature of the cable, I am going to have to bump up the price. Yes, you guys had your chance, I am going to have to raise the price to $1249.00 and two soiled shirts. Keep in mind that this is for an error-free, lab-tested on official Dolby lab's equipment, cable. (Don't worry Jon, I'll split the profits with you for an occasional, over the weekend testing session!)

I've pretty much completed this experiment to my satisfaction, and believe I have beaten the proverbial dead horse to a bloody pulp... If someone thinks I may have overlooked something however, my mind is not closed on this topic, and I would be happy to address any serious scientific hypothesis regarding this or other results... Thanks for paying attention... It's been real... Remember, do have fun with your hobby... you are doing this for fun aren't you?

"I've found that when you want to know the truth about someone that someone is probably the last person you should ask." - Gregory House
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post #16 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 03:13 PM
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Chu Gai, yours is clearly the superior intellect.

Thank you very much for this. As a computer guy this should have occured to me long ago but even I get seduced by all the technobabble.

That being said, I just like the idea of having toslink cables, even plastic ones, running between my devices. They look cool and they feel nubby...
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post #17 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 03:44 PM
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Like I said ... there is no sense arguing with those who firmly believe that there is no difference in digital cables, rca connectors, speaker cables, amps, power supply capacitors, inductors, etc... And that's OK with me.

Reminds me of reading Julian Hirsch review cd players in Stereo Review. They all sounded the same to him. By the way, he did pass away about 2 years ago. He was a key player in bringing the massess to this hobby.
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post #18 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 03:54 PM
 
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Like I said, there's no point trying to discuss digital communications with someone who doesn't understand the concept.....And that's OK with me.
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post #19 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 04:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by algaray
This debate is headed the same direction as the long heated debates on speaker cables.
No it is not. You can argue about the subtle nuances present in an analog signal, but the total content of a digital signal is described by the bit patterns. All you have to do to get everything there is in a digitally transmitted source signal is to receive all the bits.

If you hear anything different between two identical packets of bits, you can be absolutely assured that it's not due to the way the bits got to you.

No matter where you go. ... There you are.
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post #20 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 04:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsm88
That being said, I just like the idea of having toslink cables, even plastic ones, running between my devices. They look cool and they feel nubby...
Which, btw, as a totally valid reason for preferring optical to coax! :cool:

No matter where you go. ... There you are.
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post #21 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 06:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DMF
If you hear anything different between two identical packets of bits, you can be absolutely assured that it's not due to the way the bits got to you.
So by the same token, the quality of one's internet porn downloaded over a $5 ethernet cable is no different that downloaded over a $30 ethernet cable? :D
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post #22 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 07:16 PM
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From my experience, they both sound the same. But I prefer coax cable because I feel that toslink is not durable enough. You need to worry about dust, bending the cable etc. That alone is enough of a reason to go coax.
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post #23 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 07:50 PM
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yes but with optical cables you can shine a light into one end and have a nice little beam coming out the other end.
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post #24 of 55 Old 06-22-2005, 08:23 PM
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harmonic structure development, lack of Digital glare and the ability to render ultra fine detail.

That is the best thing Ive read in a while.

Ive felt for some time now that my Harmonic Structures have needed some development, not to mention not being able to find the damn remote from all the Digital Glare in my room. Man-servent Hicubus.... Change these cables AT ONCE!!

Horrible, really. Wheres my sunglasses...........
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post #25 of 55 Old 06-23-2005, 04:19 AM
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I think Harmonic Structure is related to aligning one's Chakras.

"I've found that when you want to know the truth about someone that someone is probably the last person you should ask." - Gregory House
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post #26 of 55 Old 06-23-2005, 06:58 AM
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It is funny someone mentionned ethernet.
TCP/IP allows for packet loss, in the end, you still get 100% of the bits, where realtime blind transmissions such as digicoax and toslink do not, if some bits are lost in transmission due to jitter or whatever, they are not replaced.

I remember a gentlemen mentioning that they had cat5e realtime throughput testing equipment and that you could see maximum realtime speeds drop when you bent the cable sharply. But we are talking about a slight drop in speeds, nothing significant, and cat5 is technology designed for 10mbit, that is pushed to gigabit speeds these days (cat5e).

Where as toslink and coax are capable of ridicilous speeds, yet transfer a joke. Most DSL lines are faster than a PCM/DTS transmission over toslink/digital coax, and dsl runs over good ol' pots copper pair, in some cases put in place back in 19th century, and for distances WAAY longer than most people's toslink and digital coax cables.

The problem is that a lot of people's dinner depends on the sale of various cables so getting to the bottom of all the BS is close to impossible. Some people/mag columnists swear they can easily distinguish between radioshack digital coax and $500/m cryogenically frozen whateverbrandname cables.

At the end of the day you have to be open minded to both scenarios. Is the a difference in various digital cables? Yes and no.
Some are of better build quality, allow someone else to drive a 911GT2, will help you strike up a conversation with your audiophile buddies, and give you the psycho-acoustic peace of mind that no bit is missed once every 80'000 years.
Other cables are cheap, transfer the very same bits, but if you cheap out too much and use dollar store RCA stereo cables, and pull them apart to make 2 digital coax cables, there is a slight chance of jitter.

Myself, for digital coax I prefer home made cables, RG6 with half decent connectors (under $10) will not be outdone. But RadioShack stuff is also fine, it is the ultra cheap stuff that can be problematic.
As for toslink, virtually any cable is fine, just inspect it to not have any deformations (like someone forcing it into a sharp U-turn/bend).
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post #27 of 55 Old 06-23-2005, 10:38 AM
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With a digital signal over toslink or coax, if the bits are not received correctly at the endpoint, you will hear it.

The difference between good transmission and bad transmission will not be subtle. It will sound like your amplifier is fried, or your speakers are torn!

Then it is time to try a different cable. Otherwise, if the sound is basically correct, any deficiencies are somewhere else in your system - the cable is doing its job correctly.

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post #28 of 55 Old 06-23-2005, 11:15 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tvtech1
INTENTS and PURPOSES


:D
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post #29 of 55 Old 06-26-2005, 10:52 AM
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Given good 75 ohm impedance coax cable, proper 75 ohm line driver and 75
ohm line receiver with good bandwidth - it is possible that the SP/DIF clock
recovery at the receiving end will be more accurate (especially with long
cable runs) due to cleaner digital switching edges from the higher bandwidth.
This assumes that the line drivers and line receivers are matched to 75 ohms
well enough to have minimum reflections. However, the gounded shield of the
coaxial connection may cause ground loop hum problems.

Personally I don't worry about any problems using cheap toslink cables of 6 ft
or less. I use both toslink and coaxial SP/DIF connections without problems.

The only hum ground loop problems I've encountered is with my BFD (I cheated
and floated the ground on the BFD power cord to temp solve this). Wish more
mid-range recievers ($800+) and subwoofers ($800+) had balenced XLR
connections as an option.
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post #30 of 55 Old 06-26-2005, 11:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zyzzyva100
I have wondered this myself, but is there really a difference between any optical cable, and a glass optical cable? I am not sure on this, but if the signal truly is optical, then there should be some sort of glass in the cable to pass the signal, just like fiber optics.

Of course, the whole optical thing could just be a misnomer, which would make me wrong.
Yes, it is optical. Connect the end to the source and you'll see a red light coming out the other end.

In theory, glass has less attenuation than plastic, so it is superior. But for digital audio at the lengths used in home theatre, the point is moot - both plastic and glass easily meet the requirements.

Perhaps telephone companies notice the difference when they try to pass data in the GB/s or TB/s range over hundreds of miles, but for home audio use you'll never notice the difference.

The term "harmonic structure development" sounds like another "I paid more for it so it must be better" argument.
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