Comparison

Optical vs Coaxial: Difference Between The Top Digital Audio Cables

There is a range of cables available for different purposes. While some may be useful for broadband connections, others might be used for various media connections. Therefore, it is crucial to know the type of cable and its use to choose wisely. When it comes to media cables, there are two popular options: Optical fiber and Coaxial cables. Both these cables are different types of guided media cables.

Their work is similar as both these cables transfer digital signals from the source to the amplifier or the speaker. This is 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. So let’s take a closer look at the two here so that you can decide between these two cables yourself.

Optical Fibre Cable

Optical Fibre Cable

This cable is a type of guided media cable made up of plastic and glasses which transmits signals in light or optical form.

  • A red light beams through a plastic or glass medium to transfer audio signals
  • The signal is initially electric (near the source) and needs to convert to optical
  • Upon its reach to the receiver, it converts back from optical to electric
Pros
  • You don’t have to worry about 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 either
Cons
  • They are fragile
  • You need to take good care of them in order not to 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

Coaxial Cable

Coax Cable

Coaxial cable is also a type of guided media cable made up of plastic and copper wire, transmitting signals in electrical form. 

Also known as coax, the digital coaxial cable uses a 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.

Pros
  • They are usually more reliable than optical cables
  • The connection is firm
  • Delivers 5.1 surround sound audio
Cons
  • Radiofrequency and electromagnetic interference is common
  • Noise transfer between the source and receiver is also common
  • There may be a loss of connection when the distance increases

Digital Coaxial Cable VS Optical

Optical Fibre

Coaxial Cable

This cable transmits the data/signals in the form of light.The coaxial cable transmits data/signal in the form of electric signals.
Such cables are highly efficient, and there is hardly any loss of signals.Coaxial cables are less efficient as compared to optical fiber.
Optical Fibre cables are lightweight.Coaxial cables are heavy.
It is made up of glass and plastic.It is made of copper, plastic, etc.
The installation and implementation process of optical fibers is a bit challenging.One can easily install and implement coaxial cables.
The installation process for these cables is costly.The installation process for this cable is relatively inexpensive.
Optical fiber cables offer less bandwidth as compared to coaxial cables and are expensive.These cables offer high bandwidth and are less costly than optical fiber cables.
Optical fiber cables are resistant to electrical noise and are unaffected by an external electric field.Coaxial cables are not entirely immune to electrical noise and are affected a bit by the external electric field.

These cables, optical fiber, and coaxial cables transmit audio signals from a source such as a DVD player, Audio/Video receiver, or any recording device.

Optical vs Coaxial: Which One Wins?

As aforementioned, this 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 even tell you the difference between the sound quality because it is negligible.

But, for example, if loss of connection is a real issue for you, you may want to choose optical audio cables. Even with the 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. 

For most, it is a matter of interference, and in this case, optical cables do a better job.

Regardless of the number of options, it would be best to compare coaxial vs optical solely based on our requirements and preferences. Only then can you make the right choice.

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