Speaker System: Digital Optical Cables

After purchasing my Yamaha RX-V573 receiver and a set of corresponding speakers, I bought a cable to connect the receiver to my computer’s motherboard. For the first few months of using my system, I used an RCA cable similar to the Belkin Audio Y Cable Splitter (6 feet) which features a 3.5mm analog audio plug to a RCA Y cable connecter (red/white). Although this set-up worked well, I soon bought another pair of speakers and decided to upgrade to an optical cable instead of continuing to use the RCA cable.

As you may or may not know, there is a fair difference between the utilization of an RCA stereo analog cable and a Toslink digital optical cable, though both utilize a Sony/Phillips Digital Interface Format (S/PDIF) to transfer audio signals. In my case, since I recently added a second set of speakers to my set-up, the optical cable provides access to multichannel audio, or surround sound, as compared to stereo analog cables which only allow for the production of stereo, which would’ve been fine had I not expanded to four speakers. As such, concerning 5.1 and 7.1 systems, an optical cable is necessary for Dolby Digital or DTS. Another difference between these two types of cables involves signal transmission between the source and the output(s). Specifically, digital signals need to be converted to analog prior to amplification and transmission to the speakers. The use of an optical cable allows for offloading of the audio processing to an external processor, such as the Yamaha RX-V573, which will carry out the conversion. Comparatively, with analog, the conversion will take place at the source. Finally, because the signal being transmitted through a digital optical cable is based on light, the signal is otherwise impervious to electrical interference from items such as radios and microwaves.

Concerning the actual optical cable purchased, I originally went with a basic Optical Digital Audio Cable (6 Feet). This optical cable serves as a baseline version of a good, quality optical cable for your home setup. For my own personal use, I used this cable to connect my Yamaha RX-V573 receiver to my computer for a few months (up until the end of 2013). As expected, based on the above review of digital optical cables, this cable seamlessly transferred quality audio signals via light, without any interference. Although this optical cable effectively served its purpose, and could have been used over the long-term as long as the cable was responsibly cared for, there were a few issues. Foremost, the 6 foot length did not allow for much variability in the design of my room due to the requirement that the receiver be said distance from the computer (a 10 to 15 foot cable would’ve been more effective). Furthermore, while there is a good, solid connection between my receiver and the motherboard, the “thinness” of the cable allows for a reasonable possibility of kinks in the cable and/or damage to the cable if you bend or catch the cable on something accidentally. This cable in particular was drawn taut between the receiver and the computer for the time it was utilized. In the end, this model will not break the bank whatsoever and will serve any purpose/use required.

Optical Cable #1

Optical Cable #2

In an effort to allow a little more freedom in the set-up of my gaming/speaker system, I decided to upgrade, this year, to a Cable Matters Gold Plated Toslink Digital Optical Audio Cable (15 Feet). As an obvious benefit, I was able to somewhat separate my receiver and my computer/speaker set-up due to the extra 9 feet provided by this cable. Subsequent benefits included a continued efficient/effective transmission of quality audio signals, a very solid connection to my audio receiver and my computer’s motherboard, secure connectors providing security at both ends of the cable, and the almost nonexistent possibility of kinks in the cable and/or damage to the cable due to the PVC layer and mesh metal jacket. Though I readily admit that the price was fairly higher than the standard optical cables of equal length, you’re not only paying for the quality of the Cable Matters cables, such as the metal connectors and braided jacket, but also for the amazing aesthetics/design. In my humble opinion, this is definitely one of the best looking optical cables out on the market right now.

Cable Matters #1

Cable Matters #2