Types of Digital Audio Cable
Today’s audio equipment use digital signals to create sounds instead of outdated analog signals. Digital signals are made of data that consists of zeros and ones. A chip processes these signals and most often produce superior sound quality that lasts longer than analog audio. Digital audio cables facilitate the preservation and transmission of the highest quality digital signal possible.
There are two types of digital audio cables, namely coaxial digital cables and optical digital cables.
Coaxial Digital Cables
The most commonly used cables for digital audio are the coaxial digital cables. These are similar to the RCA cables that most people are familiar with. Coaxial digital cables are thicker than RCA cables but use an RCA connector at the end. The main difference between a coaxial digital cable and RCA cables is the type of signals that they carry. The former type of cable carries digital signals, while the latter carries analog signals.
Coaxial digital cables use the same principle used by most coaxial cables. Surrounding the inner conducting layer is an outer conductor and a rubbery insulating layer, which is the layer seen outside the cable. The digital signal travels from one component to another via the inner conductor. These signals are exposed to the outer conductor during the course of its transmission. The outer conductive layer helps maintain an uninterrupted transmission by reflecting the digital signals back onto the inner conductor.
These cables were made solely for transmitting digital audio signals between components. Dedicating the entire path to sending only digital audio, instead of sending both video and audio, produces greater signal fidelity between the transmitting device and its receiving components.
In other types of cables, errors and variations are sometimes introduced to the signal when transmitting from one component to another. During this process, the digital signal from a source is converted into analog signals and then sent to the receiving component via a cable. Upon reaching the receiving component, the analog signals are once again converted into digital signals. The errors introduced in this process produce distortions and audible artifacts that diminish the sound quality.
A coaxial digital cable bypasses this process. It can transmit digital signals along its path without the need to convert these signals into analog. As a result, it produces cleaner and uncontaminated sound quality.
Optical Digital Cables
The primary difference between a coaxial digital cable and an optical digital cable is the manner in which it transmits signals. While the former uses copper conductors to transmit digital signals, the latter uses pulses of light to transmit data. This procedure reduces interference and signal degradation, which results in a high quality reproduction of digital signals.
Optical digital cables do not use RCA-style connectors, but connectors called Toslink. It is a shortened name for Toshiba-Link, which is a connection standard for digital audio streams that uses fiber optic cables. It is the most popular connection format for audio signals.
However, as light cannot be bent, one disadvantage in using optical digital cables is that they do not work optimally when bent. These cables would not work at their best with a set-up that has right angles or snakes through a room.
Choosing between a Coaxial or Optical Digital Cable
Many audio components can use either type of cables and connectors. Both cables are capable of providing premium sound quality and a virtually perfect transmission of digital signals.
However, it is more advantageous to use optical digital cables for systems that are set up with a lot of electrical interference. Its fiber optic cables allow it to withstand electrical disturbances. Optical digital cables are also ideal for long distance transmissions.
Coaxial digital cables are less expensive than optical digital cables, yet they can produce the same quality of sound produced by optical digital cables. These cables are ideal for set-ups that require the cables to be bent to fit certain areas.
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