Optical and coaxial digital audio cables are both very popular among users today. They are used to make connections between media players and amplifiers, speakers, and other similar devices. They serve the same purpose for CDs and DVDs as well, but these are almost obsolete now.
Their working is more or less similar in that they transfer digital signals from the source to the devices. This is essentially why when someone tries to choose or answer optical vs coaxial, they get stumped.
Like many other things, though, the answer is easy and depends on your usage requirement. Let’s take a closer look at the two here so that you can decide between coaxial vs optical yourself.
Digital Audio Optical Cable
Optical cables are also called Toslink. Here’s the functioning in brief:
- A red light beams through plastic or glass medium to transfer audio signals
- The signal is initially electric (near the source) and needs to converted to optical
- Upon its reach to the receiver, it turns back from optical to electric
- You don’t have to worry about the signal loss that is usually caused due to distance. This is because electricity doesn’t carry the information, light does.
- Electromagnetic interference is also zero to minimal in this case
- There is no need to worry about radio frequency interference
- They are fragile
- You need to take good care of them to not bend them
- The connection is slightly loose when compared to coaxial cable
- Using long cables may not be a good idea because crimps become a real problem
Digital Audio Coaxial Cable
Also known as coax, the digital audio coaxial cable uses shielded copper wire. The functioning, in this case, is simple:
- Both the coaxial ends have RCA jacks. Thus, they are connected well, and the signal movement is smooth without too much work
- They are usually more reliable than optical cables
- The coaxial connection is firm
- Delivers 5.1 surrounds sound audio
- Radio frequency and electromagnetic interference is common
- Noise transfer between the source and receiver is also common
- There may be loss of connection when the distance increases
Digital Coaxial Cable vs Optical: Who wins?
As aforementioned, this entirely depends on your usage. Many actually don’t even notice the difference because these audio cables are used for home systems and day-to-day usage. We may not also be able to tell you the difference between the sound quality because it is negligible.
But, for example, if a loss of connection is a real issue for you, you may want to choose optical audio cables. Even with distance, the connection stays firm. However, we don’t think this will be a concern at home. Likewise, if fragility is a concern for you, you will not be able to use optical cables. If you want to split the cable connection to your various audio/video systems at home from a single source, then the coaxial cables are the one you can go for. Using a good-quality coax cable splitter, you can have as many destination connections from a single cable source with the help of coaxial inputs.
For most, it is a matter of interference, and in this case, optical cables do a better job.
Regardless of the number of options, thus, and you must compare coaxial vs optical solely based on your requirements and preferences. Only then can you make the right choice.