Best Audio Optical Fibre Cable (TOSLINK)?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by BrilliantBob, May 16, 2019.

  1. BrilliantBob

    BrilliantBob Select, process, CTRL+c, CTRL+z, ALT+v Thread Starter

  2. bever70

    bever70 It's all about the soundstage

    I run exactly the same cable from my Tv to my DAC. Wouldn't know if it is any good as I never compared it to another and I am pretty sceptical about digital cables making a difference....
    SandAndGlass and BrilliantBob like this.
  3. Curiosity

    Curiosity Just A Boy

    United Kingdom
    Frost and BrilliantBob like this.
  4. vinylontubes

    vinylontubes Forum Resident

    Katy, TX
    It's fiber optics. Yes, you need high quality. But isn't the same as copper wire. With copper you're moving elections. As electrons pass through any medium, the signal becomes distorted as each election is delivered in a different order than it was sent. With fiber optics you are sending data packets of information. The information is sent out as a packet. If the receiving side can reconstruct the data packet exactly as it was sent, there is no loss. So while I wouldn't buy the cheapest Toslink cable, but I doubt claims that a very expensive one is any better than a well made affordable cable. Mind you, this technology is used not only within audio systems, it's used in high tech communications systems were loss of data means people's jobs can't get done. There are drastic consequence if loss of data in a business environment happens. Fiber optics is one of the most reliable methods of transmitting data.
    SandAndGlass and BrilliantBob like this.
  5. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    Hama makes good quality fiber-optic cable using good stock. Hama manufactures some of its thousands of products directly and has some manufactured under contract. Hama is a medium-size buyer of plastic fiber and a small buyer of glass fiber.

    @vinylontubes is right about packet transmission, but the key to successful fiber-optic cable design is the quality (literally, how easily the fibers allow light to pass coherently with as little light loss as possible over a given length), gauge (the longer the cable, the larger the fiber bundle needs to be in order to compensate for some inevitable light loss), and suitability of materials for a given application (high flexibility for home audio generally means the use of plastic fibers, while permanent installations can make better use of less flexible glass fibers). Plastic or glass, the highest clarity determines quality too. Photons have an irritating habit of going in whatever direction they're heading, so even the best fiber-optic cable won't perform when its routed in sharp turns to get around components or to reach connectors.

    The quality of the tiny lenses bonded to each end of the fiber bundle and embedded in each connector is also a factor. The best-performing optical cables always use the best lenses. That's why it's always a good idea to keep the tip of each connector covered with the factory-supplied tip protector whenever a fiber-optic cable is disconnected. It's also a good idea to dust off the optical port on a component so that dust isn't picked up but the connector as it's being pushed into the port.

    I've tried and tested three different Hama fiber-optic cables over the past five or six years. They all performed exactly to spec. Competitively priced too. Still, all fiber-optic cables no matter what the price have to be treated gently.
  6. Wasabi

    Wasabi Forum Resident

    Lutz, FL
    Go Lifatec.
    jusbe and Lonson like this.
  7. jusbe

    jusbe Modern Melomaniac

    Auckland, NZ.
    Also use Lifatec. Great optical cable.
  8. warp2600

    warp2600 Forum Resident

  9. BrilliantBob

    BrilliantBob Select, process, CTRL+c, CTRL+z, ALT+v Thread Starter

    Thanks for the info. This cable is 6 times more expensive but has superior performances.

    Next upgrade I will buy it.
  10. Davey

    Davey I carry the moon inside a silver bag

    SF Bay Area, USA
    I may be wrong but I think this discussion is more related to S/PDIF over TOSLINK, so no packets and not much that can be done with error correction, the receiver has no control over the source, just real time transmission of audio data with an encoded clock, and subject to many problems. But generally very reliable, sure.
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
  11. dj_w

    dj_w Well-Known Member

    Portland, Ore.
    Another vote for Lifatec. In addition to satisfying sound, the terminations are well-engineered and seem to make a better (and easier connection) than others I’ve tried.
  12. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Seattle, WA
    That is my thinking as well. So far as I know the data streams being sent over both of these mediums are identical. There are no error corrected packets. Toslink is neither Ethernet nor TCP/IP.
    BrilliantBob likes this.
  13. teag

    teag Forum Resident

    Good info. Do you have a model you would recommend? Thanks.
  14. AKA-Chuck G

    AKA-Chuck G Forum Resident

    Washington NC
    Bluejean cables were always good for money.
    bigal00769 and SandAndGlass like this.
  15. Newton John

    Newton John Searching for the Lost Chord

    Tynedale, UK
    I was surprised how much difference a QED Performance optical cable (£31) made to the quality of sound from the TV through the hifi system. It replaced a generic cheap looking flimsy cable.
  16. Waxxy

    Waxxy Forum Resident

    Light loss for fiber optic cables is measured in dB / km. There would almost no measurable light loss over a few meters with fiber optics. A single 50 micron glass fiber can transmit more than enough bundling necessary. Same goes for plastic / acrylic optical fibers, one strand is more than enough.

    Glass fiber are no less flexible than plastic. The fiber itself has little to do with flexibility, it's 99% jacket. If you handle a bare glass fiber in your hand it's as light and flexible as a human hair. Plastic is easier / cheaper to terminate, and, depending on the jacket, may be more durable. Glass fiber (single-mode) has a much smaller core for signal transmission and is therefore more suitable for long distance (kms / miles). Unlike copper, with light transmission, less gauge is better.

    You are correct about the 'lenses'. They must be kept clean and dust free, and the alignment of the connectors will have a much greater impact on light loss than the actual fiber optic stand itself. Unfortunately, the alignment is out of the hands of the end user.
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  17. Frost

    Frost Forum Resident


    Toslink does not transmit packets. Just a bitstream.
  18. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    Right on, but lets not give audiophiles the wrong impression. A typical optical audio cable uses fiber much larger than that. Here's a recent cutaway of an Audioquest Forest fiberoptic cable:


    That conductor is exactly 1 millimeter in diameter (1,000 microns) and it's optical plastic. Construction is simple, as is the case with most so-called audiophile optical cables. The central conductor, an opaque plastic jacket, and a cheap braided nylon cloth outer cover are all that's needed.

    At the transmission/light frequency of audio signals generated by home audio components, transmission distances are comparatively short on the order of 10 meters maximum typically.

    Again, optical audio fiber used to make cable for home audio applications is much coarser than you think. See the example above, which is typical of most optical audio cables. I've got cutaway shots of several other optical audio cables from a variety of brands and they're all very similar in both construction and conductor gauge (1mm/1,000 microns). The point is that these coarse, 1 mm or so, gauges are needed because home audio applications often included less than gentle handling by installers, homeowners and so on. Glass fibers - rarely used in the home audio cable business - in the necessary gauge for durability are much more brittle than the equivalent heavy gauge plastic.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2019
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  19. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    As with any audio cable, digital or analog, it always pays to buy a cable that is of good overall construction, as it will serve you best in the long run.

    Cheap crap cables will always be that.

    But it doesn't take much to build a decent optical cable that is capable of transmitting audio.

    Once a cable meets a certain level of performance you should not hear any difference between that and more exotic (read, more expensive "audiophile") digital cables.

    Crappy cables are not built that well, hardware wise, the cable you replaced probably fell into this category.
    harby and Shai like this.
  20. Shai

    Shai New Member

    When I managed RadioShack we sold the THX optical cables due to the lifetime warranty, and no one had seen one come back. Now people who bought THX ultra 2 optical for over $100...but no, it works perfectly, or doesn't. All other cables could at the least be argued
  21. Newton John

    Newton John Searching for the Lost Chord

    Tynedale, UK
    I don't know what additional improvement, if any, I might have heard if I'd tried an expensive audiophile cable.

    If it made no significant improvement in sound quality over the QED cable, that wouldn't necessarily say much about the effectiveness of such cables because it may be that the TV itself is now the limiting factor.

    In general, it makes sense to listen first and then use theory to explain what you hear, not the other way round.
  22. UCrazyKid

    UCrazyKid Grand Puba of Funk

    I use the Lifatec. I have no idea if it makes a difference. Adding a jitter reducing reclocker between it and my DAC (old) made the biggest difference out of anything else.
  23. On the Hama optical fibre the 24K gold plating does what, exactly?
  24. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    We hear what we want or expect to hear, for the most part and at least for a time. Every field of inquiry that includes expectations or the effects of marketing or a line of scientific investigation and analysis dictates that an individual study the field, tools, theory and techniques first and before engaging in viewing, listening and - most important of all - development of an opinion.

    Developing an opinion - e.g., listening - without first understanding the limits and the possibilities of a particular piece of audio kit through knowledge of the science and engineering on which it’s based only means that someone has subconsciously allowed his thinking to be modified by expectations, wants, product marketing and a desire to ensure that what he has purchased is worthwhile. Our ears seem like objective tools because they just receptors - microphones set into an exotic shell, if you will - and as such are completely dumb things. The thing is, we don’t hear with our ears. Everything picked up by our ears is sent to our brain where it is only then manipulated into a sense of sound. Much of whatever we have earlier set our brain to expect immediately after a product purchase will then often be ‘heard’ because the hearing centres in the brain do all the actual processing and hearing. For the sake of budgets and for the sake of treating with the respect the hard work we do to earn our money, knowledge first should be the rule before spending anything on a product.

    My peers in engineering and science study first to understand the possibilities and the limitations and to attempt to match product claims with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Nobody has to be expert in STEM to do so. If a set of products claims then seem to good to be true, they usually are but only rational comparison with accepted science can put many claims into perspective. That applies to components and cables and bicycles and snow shovels and garden chairs and wristwatches and many, many, many other things too.

    The marketing experts tell us, and the enthusiasts tell us, what’s the harm in listening because you can always return it for a refund if you don’t like it! The problem is that too often in our biased minds, expectations trump reality. You won’t hear all the benefits until you’ve reached 300-500 hours of listening, and then everything truly opens up! The problem is that even for a retiree with a derierre that is expanding alarmingly from excessive sitting in his favourite listening chair, 300 hours of music listening amounts to (at 3 hours per listening session, 4 times a week) 25 weeks - five months - long past the time for a product return. And that’s why every audiophile I know has a drawer or cabinet or storage crates full of cables and other components collected.

    There is nothing to an expensive, so-called audiophile cable except a high price and persuasive woo (and too often an alarmingly poor electrical specification). The cable makers and the audiophiles who insist on believing the cable makers’ claims effectively discard common sense and established science in favour of wanting to believe things that cannot be true but that the brain can manipulate itself into hearing at least for a time. Then the absurdly expensive cable goes onto the storage heap along with all the rest. I say, embark on a quest for better and better recordings and masterings instead because doing so will reveal better and better music listening is possible with existing cables and components while keeping a lot of money in our pockets in the process.
    Kiko1974 and SandAndGlass like this.
  25. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    Digital cables are not analog, either a cable works to its specifications or it doesn't.

    Digital cables are capable of transmitting signals at radio frequencies. Compared to that, audio is a walk in the park.

    If a cable is properly constructed, then the digital signal that enters the cable is the same digital signal that leaves the cable.

    We are only dealing with bits of digital information here, there is nothing audio about it to form a subjective opinion about it.

    The computer that you are working on, reliable transmits digital information from one place to another, otherwise you computer would not function.

Share This Page