Faster hookups for Digital Audio Cable, Coaxial Or Toslink?
Digital connections minimise cables and make wiring A/V sound simpler and easier. Instead of the two cables (for stereo) or even five cables (for surround) that would be needed for analogue audio connections there is just one cable, with no risk of getting channels swapped.
Choosing the Optical or Coaxial Digital Audio Interface
Many digital audio sources offer electrical and optical connections. An optical output cannot be directly connected to a coaxial (electrical) input or vice versa. The choice of which one to use is often made by what the audio destination accepts. If it takes only a coaxial electrical connection then coaxial is the only option, likewise if it only takes a Toslink optical input use an optical cable.
If an optical output has to drive an electrical input or vice versa, then optical/electrical and electrical/optical converter boxes are available, however they add complication to an A/V setup and need ther own mains power supply.
Do Optical or Electrical Connections Sound different?
Each type of connection can reliably transfer the digital data from source to receiver, so there is no good reason to expect a sonic difference. However, optical connections tend to have a lower bandwidth, which can smear data transitions, making it a little bit harder for the receiving device to recover the digital clock from the signal.
This can result in more digital clock jitter in the receiver, which can theoretically impair the accuracy of the output of a digital to analogue converter. Whether or not this has a sonic impact depends on the implementation of the receiving device. It shouldn’t make any difference to the sound, but some audiophiles assert that there are slight sonic differences between optical and electrical connections. Those who feel this is an issue will do their own listening tests – the cost of the cables is not great!