Coax is digital but, why is it often called analog? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 51 Old 11-06-2019, 02:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Coax is digital but, why is it often called analog?

I find coaxial digital confusing.
Clearly, it is shielded cabled to send a digital signal. Toslink does the same but with an LED light through plastic (not glass!) and, is not good.
So for audio, coax is better.
But, why do different companies call it analog? The DAC in the AVR or separate DAC does the conversion to analog. The coax is digital. PCM (Pulse-code modulation) digital signal, I presume.
Please explain…
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post #2 of 51 Old 11-06-2019, 03:19 PM
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Coax and optical digital should sound exactly the same if the cables aren't damaged. Bits are bits.

The only difference between "digital" coax cable and ordinary audio cable (analog, also typically made from coax cable) is heavier shielding and a 75 ohm impedance. If you are going over short distances, any old RCA cable will work for coax digital.
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post #3 of 51 Old 11-06-2019, 03:42 PM
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Digital coax and Toslink both use the S/PDIF digital format. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S/PDIF) The hardware is different, but the signals are basically the same.

I have no idea what you refer to.

I use coaxial cable for some analog signals. Three 6 foot (1.8m) cables connect analog pre-outs of a Denon AVR-X4300H to an Emotiva power amp. A 25 foot (7.5 m) cable goes to one of my subs. The shielding on these cables seems to be very good, and they are cheap.

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post #4 of 51 Old 11-07-2019, 05:26 AM
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Coax is an abbreviation for coaxial cable. It is the signal passing though which is either digital or analogue.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coaxial_cable

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post #5 of 51 Old 11-07-2019, 05:33 AM
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A 75ohm coax cable can be used for S/PDIF which is digital, a subwoofer cable or for preoutd to connect an amp, or RCA stereo connections which are all analog.


Like was said above coax is just the type of cable. It can carry digital or analog signals depending on the purpose and source.

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post #6 of 51 Old 11-07-2019, 05:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan P View Post
Coax and optical digital should sound exactly the same if the cables aren't damaged. Bits are bits.

The only difference between "digital" coax cable and ordinary audio cable (analog, also typically made from coax cable) is heavier shielding and a 75 ohm impedance. If you are going over short distances, any old RCA cable will work for coax digital.
This stuff is not true.
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post #7 of 51 Old 11-07-2019, 06:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gbaby View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan P View Post
Coax and optical digital should sound exactly the same if the cables aren't damaged. Bits are bits.

The only difference between "digital" coax cable and ordinary audio cable (analog, also typically made from coax cable) is heavier shielding and a 75 ohm impedance. If you are going over short distances, any old RCA cable will work for coax digital.
This stuff is not true. [IMG class=inlineimg]/forum/images/smilies/eek.gif[/IMG]
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post #8 of 51 Old 11-07-2019, 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by gbaby View Post
This stuff is not true.
Would you care to elaborate? Provide some positive recommendations?
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post #9 of 51 Old 11-07-2019, 09:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pointthinker View Post
I find coaxial digital confusing.
Clearly, it is shielded cabled to send a digital signal. Toslink does the same but with an LED light through plastic (not glass!) and, is not good.
So for audio, coax is better.
But, why do different companies call it analog? The DAC in the AVR or separate DAC does the conversion to analog. The coax is digital. PCM (Pulse-code modulation) digital signal, I presume.
Please explain…

Please invest a little time in reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coaxial_cable
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post #10 of 51 Old 11-08-2019, 04:43 AM
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The coax is a cable subject to voltage and current with characteristics of resistance, capacitance, and inductance. The cable is affected by the electronic device driving it as well as the device being driven. The cable does not know if it's carrying digital audio, analog audio, video or nothing at all.

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post #11 of 51 Old 11-08-2019, 09:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gbaby View Post
This stuff is not true.
Yes, please elaborate.
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post #12 of 51 Old 11-08-2019, 10:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan P View Post
Yes, please elaborate.
He actually has a point. (I just hope it's not about magic cables)

Both coaxial and audio frequency interconnect cables have a shield. But coaxial cable is designed for radio frequencies, for which it has to maintain a specific impedance. To do that, its internal core is normally solid, and it's covered in thick insulation, which maintains a fixed thickness throughout the cable, and the shield fits very tightly over the dielectric.

In a normal interconnect cable, the core is usually a multi-strand wire, and the shield fits loosely over a thin insulation. This makes the cable more flexible, but the spacing is not constant and the length of the core and the shield can vary randomly due to bending.

Any coaxial cable will work as an audio frequency interconnect. Most audio frequency interconnects won't work or will work poorly for radio frequency signals, whether the signal is analog (old TV) or digital (SPDIF, 10Base-2).
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post #13 of 51 Old 11-08-2019, 11:16 AM
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I think your answer is, "coax is not digital (it's a type of wire), and should never be called analog (or digital for that matter)." Just figured I sum it up, lol.
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post #14 of 51 Old 11-08-2019, 11:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnalogHD View Post
He actually has a point. (I just hope it's not about magic cables)

Both coaxial and audio frequency interconnect cables have a shield. But coaxial cable is designed for radio frequencies, for which it has to maintain a specific impedance. To do that, its internal core is normally solid, and it's covered in thick insulation, which maintains a fixed thickness throughout the cable, and the shield fits very tightly over the dielectric.

In a normal interconnect cable, the core is usually a multi-strand wire, and the shield fits loosely over a thin insulation. This makes the cable more flexible, but the spacing is not constant and the length of the core and the shield can vary randomly due to bending.

Any coaxial cable will work as an audio frequency interconnect. Most audio frequency interconnects won't work or will work poorly for radio frequency signals, whether the signal is analog (old TV) or digital (SPDIF, 10Base-2).
Good enough.

S/PDIF specifies coaxial cable, even though its data rates seem to hardly be in what I'd call the RF range. Ethernet cable uses twisted pair, which doesn't look much like coax. I have used some RCA cables for composite (analog, not component) video that were suspiciously flexible for coax.

The only generalization I'd make is that it's risky to generalize.
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post #15 of 51 Old 11-08-2019, 12:23 PM
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There's no such thing as a digital coax cable. They all carry analog. A digital signal is converted to analog before being sent down the cable and then sampled back to digital on the receiving end. Some may claim to be better shielded at whatever the carrier frequency is, but, the carrier frequency can vary depending on application so I would think any claim is dubious.
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RF transmission characteristics do not matter for audio signals (unless you have incredibly long interconnects) but work just fine so manufacturers will often buy bulk 75-ohm coax and use it for everything (audio, video, digital audio, etc.) As stated above the cable doesn't know or care. That also means audio and RF/"digital" cables are often the same, no difference in shield or anything else. I suspect the difference cited is because RG-79 and smaller coax is cheaper and may be used for audio whereas the heavier RG-6 variants are often used for video since it has lower loss. The larger center conductor was/is (I don't track) also needed because the cable carries DC power to the low-noise buffer mounted at the base of a typical satellite dish. AFAIK the world of video is pretty much all RG-6 (and larger, e.g. RG-11 and hardlines) now. There are many variations, natch, like foil shielding for 100% coverage, multiple shield layers, etc.

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post #17 of 51 Old 11-08-2019, 01:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobknavs View Post
S/PDIF specifies coaxial cable, even though its data rates seem to hardly be in what I'd call the RF range.

Perhaps the issue is that since the pulses are essentially square (or rectangular, since the width varies), the leading edge has a very high freq component.

If the corners of the leading edges are rounded off and/or the rise time is lowered, the effective begin/end times are moved in time, though I suppose reclocking fixes this.


Quote:
Originally Posted by KidHorn View Post
There's no such thing as a digital coax cable. They all carry analog. A digital signal is converted to analog before being sent down the cable and then sampled back to digital on the receiving end.

All conducted signals are analog in the sense that they are voltages that vary with time.

So please define what exactly what you think is the difference between digital and analog.

Noah
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post #18 of 51 Old 11-08-2019, 02:47 PM
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Originally Posted by DonH50 View Post
RF transmission characteristics do not matter for audio signals (unless you have incredibly long interconnects) but work just fine so manufacturers will often buy bulk 75-ohm coax and use it for everything (audio, video, digital audio, etc.) As stated above the cable doesn't know or care. That also means audio and RF/"digital" cables are often the same, no difference in shield or anything else. I suspect the difference cited is because RG-79 and smaller coax is cheaper and may be used for audio whereas the heavier RG-6 variants are often used for video since it has lower loss. The larger center conductor was/is (I don't track) also needed because the cable carries DC power to the low-noise buffer mounted at the base of a typical satellite dish. AFAIK the world of video is pretty much all RG-6 (and larger, e.g. RG-11 and hardlines) now. There are many variations, natch, like foil shielding for 100% coverage, multiple shield layers, etc.
Some months ago, I was in a rather inexpert discussion of coax. Unfortunately, it was in one of the ridiculously long threads. Here's a starting point: https://www.avsforum.com/forum/90-re...l#post57934794

The point: coaxial cables vary a lot in terms of capacitance. Under some circumstances, the shunt capacitance of a long coaxial cable could give a nontrivial loss at high audio frequencies.

(Low capacitance coax sometimes uses foam insulation.)

If you have compulsive tendencies, not all coax cables are the same, even from an engineering viewpoint (rather than a non-quantitative audiophile perspective).
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post #19 of 51 Old 11-08-2019, 05:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noah katz View Post
- omitted -

All conducted signals are analog in the sense that they are voltages that vary with time.


So please define what exactly what you think is the difference between digital and analog.

We have a winner!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigguyca View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by noah katz View Post
- omitted -

All conducted signals are analog in the sense that they are voltages that vary with time.


So please define what exactly what you think is the difference between digital and analog.



We have a winner!
What did he win?
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post #21 of 51 Old 11-08-2019, 09:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobknavs View Post
Some months ago, I was in a rather inexpert discussion of coax. Unfortunately, it was in one of the ridiculously long threads. Here's a starting point: https://www.avsforum.com/forum/90-re...l#post57934794

The point: coaxial cables vary a lot in terms of capacitance. Under some circumstances, the shunt capacitance of a long coaxial cable could give a nontrivial loss at high audio frequencies.

(Low capacitance coax sometimes uses foam insulation.)

If you have compulsive tendencies, not all coax cables are the same, even from an engineering viewpoint (rather than a non-quantitative audiophile perspective).
Yes, they vary, but most audio cables run around 20~30 pF/ft. I used some high-impedance (93 or 110 ohm, I forget) that was down around 10 pF/ft, and some very small cables may run 50 pF/ft or more. But for interconnects the driving impedance is typically around 100 ohms or so thus neglecting the load (usually much higher than the source) a 10' cable at 30 pF/ft has about 5.3 MHz of bandwidth. A 100' interconnect drops to ~530 kHz, still somewhat higher than I can hear, and you still have around 53 kHz of bandwidth after a 1000' run. Add a load impedance of 10k~20k or so and the bandwidth goes up a bit.

The only times I've had an issue in my system was a long run of fairly high capacitance cable between two tube components.

I just bought some new cables for my test system at work, 40 GHz with 2.4 mm connectors and matched to 1 ps. Expensive for 1 m pairs but still less than many high-priced audiophile cables. And higher bandwidth. But you are absolutely right that for engineers, especially ones working in the GHz and up arena as I do, there is tremendous variation among cables. But any of them would work fine in an average audio system.

IME/IMO - Don

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Originally Posted by noah katz View Post

All conducted signals are analog in the sense that they are voltages that vary with time.

So please define what exactly what you think is the difference between digital and analog.
Toslink sends light pulses. 1 and 0's. That an example of a digital signal. Another example is what goes through an IC. It's either 5 volts or 0 volts.
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Originally Posted by bigguyca View Post
We have a winner!
Uh, except what he wrote isn't true. Not all signals are analog. The signals that go through a computer are digital. Anything that produces a square wave is considered digital. Toslink is digital. Coax is always analog.
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Originally Posted by KidHorn View Post
Uh, except what he wrote isn't true. Not all signals are analog. The signals that go through a computer are digital. Anything that produces a square wave is considered digital. Toslink is digital. Coax is always analog.
He said "all conducted cables". Is toslink conducted?
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post #25 of 51 Old 11-09-2019, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by KidHorn View Post
Anything that produces a square wave is considered digital.

Class D amps use square waves and they're not digital; it's just coincidence that the next letter in the sequence of amp types was D.

I think it's iffy to say that a particular type of cable is either always digital or always analog.

Fiber optic cables can also carry analog light signals, like the bundles used in some of the high end laser projectors to carry the light from the laser source to the projecting unit.

Also there's a semantic issue; if a cable is used to test loudspeaker impulse response with square waves, does that make it a digital cable?

Noah

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post #26 of 51 Old 11-09-2019, 01:32 PM
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Uh, except what he wrote isn't true. Not all signals are analog. The signals that go through a computer are digital. Anything that produces a square wave is considered digital. Toslink is digital. Coax is always analog.
Um, no. Why do you think a digital signal is converted to analog before being send down a coax cable using spdif signaling? It is a square(ish) wave signal, on or off, 1 or 0, the same as a computer IC.
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Originally Posted by KidHorn View Post
Uh, except what he wrote isn't true. Not all signals are analog. The signals that go through a computer are digital. Anything that produces a square wave is considered digital. Toslink is digital. Coax is always analog.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bigus View Post
Um, no. Why do you think a digital signal is converted to analog before being send down a coax cable using spdif signaling? It is a square(ish) wave signal, on or off, 1 or 0, the same as a computer IC.

At some point you have to understand that an analog communications channel is being using used to send data, however that data is encoded . Building on the work of Hartley and others, Shannon defined the maximum capacity of this analog channel. Shannon, an amazing individual, wrote the seminal paper on this subject in 1948, see 2nd link below.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanno...artley_theorem

As a note, Shannon developed the concept of using the word bit as a basic unit for measuring information. Another name for a bit is a shannon or Sh. The first page of Shannon's paper explains the concept:

http://math.harvard.edu/~ctm/home/te...py/entropy.pdf

Shannon was a fascinating person.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_Shannon

At a given level of encoding, the through-put rate of an analog channel in bits can be increased by increasing in the bandwidth of the channel in hertz or increasing the signal-to-noise ratio in dB, where D/N is the ratio of two powers. This is one of those concepts with which you don't need to understand, or be in agreement, for it to be true. These may be new concepts to you.

All of the "digital" communications methods mentioned in this tread are actually using analog channels with various methods of encoding.
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Originally Posted by KidHorn View Post
Coax is always analog.
That is not correct either. Coax can be used to carry a digital signal just as easily as an anolog one. Indeed, if in an environment where EM interference is bad, coax would do a better job than an unshielded non-coax cable.

I'm surprise at the amount of misinformation on this thread.
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post #29 of 51 Old 11-09-2019, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by bigguyca View Post
All of the "digital" communications methods mentioned in this tread are actually using analog channels with various methods of encoding.
Sure, which is why Noah was cautious in his terminology and cautious about strict labeling. This isn't a new concept to me.

However, the signal carried in spdif form by coax is no less digital than the signal in PC motherboard traces or even inside IC's. And no less analog for that matter.

The theoretical subtleties of how digital electrical signals are transmitted and received are not I think the concepts being discussed in this thread.
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post #30 of 51 Old 11-10-2019, 03:08 AM
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He said "all conducted cables". Is toslink conducted?
The signals through a computer are conducted.
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