What Is The Difference Between Optical And Coaxial Audio?


Difference Between Optical and Coaxial Audio

Optical and coaxial are the most common connections to transferring digital audio between devices. Both of these transmit digital signals. However, although they have some similarities, these two are different.

Both coaxial and optical connections are SpDIf connections. Therefore, it is possible to have both of these connections on your device. In such a case, you can use either connection depending on the kind of cables that you have at hand or other factors. The type of cable you use can also affect the data you will transfer. However, the quality is usually the same if the same format is used. 

Difference Between Optical and Coaxial Audio 

Optical audio makes use of a fiber optic cable to transmit the signals. It uses pulses of light to transmit the signals. On the contrary, the coaxial connection does not use fiber optic cables. Instead, it makes use of cables equipped with RCA connectors. The cabling of the coaxial cables is made from RCA. 

The coaxial audio gets a higher point than the optical cable when it comes to sound. This is because the coaxial cable also has a broader bandwidth than the optical. 

The optical connection can support a resolution of 24/96. On the other hand, the coaxial support resolution is a litter higher than that supported by optical audio. The coaxial supports a resolution of 24/192. 

Another difference comes in terms of interference. The optical audio cables are not easily affected by electromagnetic interference and offer better signals without signal loss. However, coaxial cables are usually affected by electromagnetic interference. An extra shield helps to reduce this. 

Coaxial cables are more durable as compared to optical audio. Optical cables are fragile and can easily be damaged by bending them too much or holding them tightly. 

Optical and Coaxial Audio, which option should you go for?

When it comes to audio, you have a lot of options. However, in most cases, you have to choose the possibility. Let’s understand each of these options in detail to select the connection you should go for properly. 

Optical Digital audio Connection 

This is also known as the Toslink connection. The optical audio uses light to transmit the audio signals. They are made from optical fiber materials. Materials used to make fiber opticals include glass, plastic, and silica. 

What is the advantage of optical audio?

Advantage

  • One advantage of using this connection is that it does not let the noise affect the signal. In addition, it will prevent noise from affecting the DAC circuitry. 
  • An optical audio connection is a perfect choice to transmit DTS surround sound and Dolby digital surround sound. The signal carried by this cable is the optical signal. Therefore, the signals do not need to be converted into optical before sending the signal. 
  • Another advantage of using the optical cable is that it is not easily affected by electromagnetic interference or Radio frequency interference. Therefore, comparing the optical cable to copper cables has a better performance as they are not easily affected by attenuation. 

Disadvantage

  • One downside of using optical cables is that their construction and build quality are not good. 
  • In addition, these cables are very fragile, and you can easily damage them if you bend them or hold them tightly. Therefore, make sure that you are always careful when touching these cables. 
  • Also, avoid holding them too tightly or turning them as this will damage your cable. 
  • Another disadvantage is that they cannot support a lot of high-quality audio formats. These cables can only support 5.1 Dolby digital and DTS surround sound. They are not capable of giving you 7.1 surround sound or supporting Dolby Atmos, DTS X, and other high-resolution formats. 
  • When connected over long distances, it is possible to experience signal loss or degradation. 

Coaxial Audio

Coaxial audio is another type of connection that is very common for audio connections. Like the optical audio, this can also support 5.1 surround sound.

Coaxial cables can be used to connect your subwoofer to your audio receiver. The signal quality that a coaxial cable offers is similar to that of optical audio.

What is the advantage of Coaxial audio?

Advantage

  • One advantage of coaxial audio is its construction. These cables are constructed with shields of copper wire, making them durable. 
  • Coaxial cables are bidirectional since they have ends that have the same jack. 
  • Coaxial cables also have a very secure connection and reliable connection. In addition, coaxial cables provide a firm connection to your device. 

Disadvantages

  • Coaxial cables usually experience signals loss because of interference. They can be affected by electromagnetic interference and radio frequency interference. This ends up causing a buzz in the signal. 
  • The coaxial cables can also experience signal loss when connected over a long distance.

One main reason these are a good choice is that they provide audio sound better than optical cables. The bandwidth of coaxial is up to 192 kHz, while that of the optical is only 96 kHz. 

When it comes to the cost, coaxial cables are relatively cheap. Therefore, they can be a good option for anyone that wants a budget-friendly cable. In addition, coaxial cables will not give you a hard time when installing them.

The capacity that this coaxial audio has is outstanding. Therefore, it can transfer large amounts of data, making it a great audio connectivity choice. 

As these cables can easily be affected by interference, you need to choose a suitable length when choosing a cable. The recommended length is 10 meters. This also helps in reducing signal loss. 

So, what option is preferred?

When choosing a coaxial and optical cable, you need to consider what you are looking for in your connection. 

The best option for sound is the coaxial cable. This is because coaxial audio provides a higher sound quality than optical audio. 

The optical cable is a recommended option since it will not produce interference. The optical cable also has a higher performance and provides sound with good dynamics than the coaxial cable. However, the connection you choose highly depends on the available connections on your device. 

What to look for when choosing coaxial audio or optical audio?

Before you choose whether to use coaxial audio or optical audio, there are certain factors that you need to consider. These are explained below. 

Build and materials

When it comes to the build, coaxial cables have better construction than optical cables. It would also help to note that cables are made from different materials. Some are braided while others are not. The connectors can be made from silver, gold, or copper material. 

Length of the cables

This is one of the essential factors that you need to consider. The length can easily affect your signal. When connected over long distances, they tend to experience signal loss most of the time. Therefore, make sure to choose a reasonable length to avoid signal loss. 

Interference

Optical cables are less affected by interference, unlike coaxial cables. When choosing a coaxial cable, you can select the extra shielding ones. This helps in reducing interference. 

Audio formats

The optical audio also has a lower bandwidth. Therefore, they can not support high-resolution audio formats such as Dolby True HD, FTS X, DTS HD, and more because of this low bandwidth. It only has support for Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound. 

The coaxial audio has higher bandwidth. However, its bandwidth is insufficient to support high-resolution quality formats, just like the optical audio. Hence, it supports uncompressed PCM stereo, Dolby Digital, and DTS surround sound. 

Price

Considering the price is also very important if you are on a tight budget. Both the coaxial and optical are very affordable. However, you have to focus much on audio quality when it comes to these connections. 

Audio quality

The audio quality is another essential factor that you need to consider. The coaxial audio has a higher quality than optical audio. However, the optical excels in terms of the audio performance as it can give a sound with better dynamics than the coaxial audio. 

Difference Between Optical and Coaxial Audio

Optical Cables vs. Coaxial Cables

  • Optical cables utilize light to transfer audio signals, while coaxial cables use electricity. 
  • Coaxial cables provide superior audio quality and bandwidth than optical wires. 
  • Consequently, they provide 24-bit/192kHz audio quality, while optical connections only support 96kHz. One of the most significant drawbacks of coaxial cables is that noise may move down the wire. 
  • Also, long-distance coaxial cable transmission weakens signal strength. 
  • Coaxial cables do not support high-quality audio formats like Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS:X, and Dolby TrueHD. 
  • Notably, coaxial audio cables are less common than optical audio connections. So you won’t find many current gadgets with coaxial connections.

Which cable is best for audio?

HDMI Cables: The sound quality is superior to the other two kinds of cables. DTS:X and Dolby Atmos are two multi-channel audio formats that may be sent using these wires. It is also possible to use HDMI audio connection connections to support existing and emerging video formats, such as Ultra HD 4K resolution and High Dynamic Range (HDR). 

Do optical audio cables make a difference?

Do optical audio cables truly make a difference in terms of sound quality? As a result, if you’re receiving a Dolby Digital signal and it isn’t cutting out, your optical connection is in good working order. However, according to the audiophiles who have studied the subject, different optical cables might create varying degrees of jitter while transferring PCM. The fact is that the digital-to-analog converter in your equipment has a far more significant impact on the sound.

Is coaxial cable good for audio?

Is coaxial cable suitable for audio transmission? Coaxial cables are a fantastic alternative for audio applications. Since they have a large amount of bandwidth, they will guarantee that audio is transmitted without any issues such as signal loss or attenuation. In addition, a coaxial cable transmits digital signals and can transmit up to five signals simultaneously.

What sounds better coaxial or optical?

Is it coaxial or optical? In our opinion, coaxial connections sound better than optical connections. Because it has more bandwidth, it can accommodate audio up to 24-bit/192kHz, while Optical usually is 96kHz.

How many audio channels can a coaxial cable carry?

Coaxial cable audio channel capacity is six audio channels. It comes in three varieties: Optical cable, which sends the digital audio data as light pulses, ensuring a flawless transmission, and high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) cable.

What’s the difference between RCA and coaxial?

RCA vs. coaxial:  

Why is coaxial cable highly recommended instead of RCA cable?

Why is coaxial cable preferred over RCA cable? The secondary perimeter conductor is often utilized as a ground or shield for the center conductor signal. Beyond RCA cables, coaxial has many applications, notably in RF (Radio Frequency) applications due to its superb noise shielding.

Why does my TV say audio out optical?

The optical jack produces digital audio (PCM or Dolby Digital® technology) from video. This function is only supported on digital broadcasts and streaming video, not cable or analog channels.

Is optical better than Bluetooth?

Bluetooth communication requires signal compression due to the limited radio transmission bandwidth. On the other hand, optical audio does not compress the signal. Therefore, the optical audio quality will be superior to Bluetooth audio due to compression losses.

Is HDMI better than coaxial?

HDMI vs. coaxial: The lossless transmission of HDMI connections allows greater resolution and lower brightness video. No conversion means more outstanding video quality than sending an analog signal (coaxial cable). High contrast videos also appear crisper.

Is optical and Spdif the same?

Optical (the format) and SPDIF (the connection protocol) are digital connection technologies. SPDIF, on the other hand, only works with two channels of audio or in stereo, while optical is capable of delivering eight channels at 44.1 or 48 kilohertz, respectively.

What is Spdif coaxial cable, and how does it work?

RCA connections are used to terminate a 75 Ohm coaxial cable, also known as the S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface) standard. S/PDIF can transport two channels of uncompressed PCM audio or compressed 5.1/7.1 surround sound, but it cannot handle lossless formats that need a higher amount of data transfer capacity.

How do you connect a soundbar to a TV without an optical cable?

best way to connect a soundbar to television without an optical cable? Using a wireless connection or 3.5 mm aux or RCA cords, you may connect a soundbar to a television without using an HDMI or optical cable. If you want to convert coaxial cables into another connection, you may also use an auxiliary device.

What’s the difference between Toslink and optical?

This cable is required to convert digital audio so that you can hear volume levels in your wired headset. In addition, the digital optical converter converts the audio signal to a digital format in combination with the Toslink. To convert audio so that you could hear sound via my headset, both of these tools were required.

Best Optical Audio Cables

KabelDirekt Optical Digital Audio Cable- Pro Series 

This is the Best Long Optical Audio Cable: KabelDirekt is an excellent choice for optical digital audio cables for game consoles or home theatre setups. KabelDirekt is a sturdy optical cable for Soundbars and home theatre receivers with gold-plated connections.

This digital audio optical cable supports Dolby Digital Plus, LPCM, and DTS HD High-resolution. There’s also no radio or electromagnetic interference, and it is available in lengths ranging from 3ft to 100ft. 

SyncWire Digital Optical Audio Cable 

Another high-performance optical audio cable for gaming, soundbars, cable boxes, and AVRs. The SyncWire Digital Optical Audio Cable works with various optical audio devices, including Xbox, PS4, soundbars, TVs, and more. Inter-device transmission of compressed 5.1 to 7.1 surround sound is also possible. In addition, the PVC covering contributes to the superior quality and durability of the cable.

You may remove the rubber tips of this Toslink cable to protect the connection. This makes SyncWire Toslink cable essential for any entertainment system that requires frequent cable swapping.

EMK 90 Degree Toslink Optical Cable

The EMK Toslink cable is your best choice for an economical right-angled bend optical audio cable that offers serious and clear sound. This fiber optic cable’s 360-degree free-spinning plug addresses challenges in tight or crowded areas. In addition, you don’t have to worry about overbending the cable damaging the connection joints.

This optical audio cable has a solid braided jacket and gold-plated connectors for dependable signal transfer. A removable rubber tip prevents dust and grime from clogging the connections and affecting the audio quality. The EMK Toslink cable transmits HiFi sound to various devices, including DVD, Blu-ray, gaming, and media streaming. In addition, your Soundbar or preamplifier may be connected to your home theatre system, allowing you to enjoy music, games, or movies.

iVanky Optical cable

A sturdy optical cable for your Soundbar, PS4, Xbox, or home theatre system. It provides crisp and clear music on your connected devices, offers a feature-rich nylon-braided optical cable. It’s a CL3 optical audio cable; therefore, it’s safe for in-wall installations.

A braided nylon jacket protects against heat, corrosion, and friction. It also protects the cable from the regular damage. The cable contains detachable connection covers to protect them while not in use. It also works with many soundbars, TVs, AV receivers, and gaming consoles.

Cable matters Toslink Cable

Heavy-duty Toslink Optical Cable with tough PVC layers and a braided jacket for added looks and durability. The Cable Matters Optical Cable contains gold-plated tips and polished metal connections for reliable signal transmission. It supports Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD and compressed 5.1 and 7.1 Surround Sound. Simpler to connect and reconnect, these wires reduce radio frequency and electromagnetic interference.

Connect your Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, PCs, etc. In summary, these cables work with any device that has S/PDIF optical ports. In addition, this durable optical cable is available in various lengths ranging from 3ft to 50ft.

Bluerigger Premium Digital Optical cable

Another versatile optical audio cable for PS3, Xbox, Soundbars, and home theatre AV system. The Bluerigger Premium Digital Optical Cable has a compact aluminum alloy casing, 24K gold plated connections, and a polished convex lens to reduce RFI and EMI frequencies. Rubber tips protect the cable while not in use. A CL3 grade makes the Bluerigger Premium Toslink Cable safe for in-wall installations. 

The cable is thin, flexible, and secure, ensuring optimal transmission accuracy. Overall, this Premium Digital Optical Cable lets you enjoy your Home Cinema and HiFi system to its fullest.

Cables Direct Digital Optical Fiber Cable

The Cables Direct Gold and Black optical fiber cable will look great with your equipment. In addition, Digital audio-video components sound better than ever, thanks to high-grade optical fiber.

The signal transmission is enhanced by using a polished fiber tip and molded strain relief connectors. This optical audio link can handle lossless stereo and multi-channel surround sound with DTS 5.1 or Dolby Digital. It is Highly complimented the overall aesthetics and ease of use of this optical cable.

AmazonBasics CL3 rated Optical Cable. 

The AmazonBasics CL3 Toslink cable is an excellent alternative for consumers seeking the best optical cable for in-wall installation. The cable offers multi-channel fiber-optic digital audio output and is low-smoke and fire-resistant. 

It also has buffer tubing and gold-plated connectors for reliable audio transmission. In addition, the PVC outer layer contributes to the cable’s resilience and strength. For various setups, the cable comes in various lengths.

Monoprice Premium Optical Audio Cable

Do you need a lengthy optical cable? The Monoprice Premium Optical Audio Cable comes in lengths up to 100ft. The heavy-duty square metal connection heads make plugging straightforward, and the mesh metal jacket protects the cable from cuts and nicks. 

The polished fiber tips maximize signal transmission. Compatible with PS3, Xbox, Home Theaters, and other devices. This cable comes in different lengths, so even if your devices are far apart, you may link them with a more extended connection (up to 100ft). Best of all, these cables are lifetime guaranteed.

FIRBELY Digital Optical cable

FIRBELY Digital Optical Cable delivers the most extraordinary listening experience with a high-quality fiber core and polished fiber tips. In addition, the cable includes a flexible nylon mesh coating that makes installation simple and protects it from normal wear and tear. 

The cable is also checked for construction quality, enduring over 15000 bends and twists. Soundbars, DVD players, PS4, Xbox, TV speakers, and home theatres may benefit from this Optical Audio Cable’s high-quality sound.

FosPower Toslink Digital Optical Audio Cable

Looking for a long-lasting optical cable with significant characteristics at a low cost? Check out the FosPower Toslink Digital Optical Audio Cable. There is no EM, RF, or ground loop interference for home theatre and Soundbar with this optical cable. In addition, the nylon mesh jacket and 24K gold plated connections add to the cable’s endurance and prevent it from kinking.

This optical cable for gaming and speaker comes in short and long lengths. The FosPower Toslink Cable 25ft and 50ft are CL3 certified, making them safe for in-wall installations. That makes it an essential cable for soundbars, gaming consoles, and home theatres.

CableCreation Digital Optical Audio Cable

A flexible and sturdy optical cable for your Soundbar and home theatre that supports uncompressed PCM, Dolby Digital, LPCM, and other audio formats. The CableCreation Toslink Cable is comprised of PVC and covered by delicate cotton braiding, adding flexibility and strength. The detachable rubber tips protect the connection from dust and rust.

The nice part about this sturdy optical cable is that it is available in lengths ranging from 3ft to 50ft. You may also choose between Black&Silver and Black&Gold.

Conclusion

Coaxial audio and optical audio are commonly used in a lot of devices. These are some of the options that you can choose for audio connectivity. These two connections have a lot of differences; they both transmit audio signals. 

The coaxial cables have a higher resolution and better construction. Coaxial audio is excellent for high performance, dynamics, and less interference.

Eddie Mcfarren

Eddie Is no stranger to technical writing after spending years in Networking, IT Infrastructure management, and online content marketing. He is an avid researcher, Software and apps dev tester who spends hours solving problems behind the scenes. Get in touch with him via social media and you can email him via contact@gawkygeek.com

Recent Posts