Analog and Digital signals: Why settle for less?

Here's a question to the Audiophile community that I don't rightly know the answer to. Audiophiles are known for their pursuit of the finest in audio playback technology, pursuing even the smallest of tweaks to squeeze the most out of their audio recordings.

Why then have we settled for something less when it comes to signal transmission for both analog and digital?

Between digital components, it seems the de facto standard is either an AES/EBU, Toslink, or Coax connection. Yes there are others, but it seems 99% of the equipment out there uses these. The problem here, is that they are a compromise. They put the clocks and data stream combined together on the same wire. This introduces significant jitter. A solution already exists in the form of the I2S interconnect which separates bit clock, word clock, master clock, and data stream all onto their own separate pins. Very few components (that I know of) use I2S. Why has the audiophile industry not standardized on I2S? Why have we not ditched the "consumer grade" digital signaling?

Between analog components, it isn't 99%, but still, the vast majority of Audiophile gear uses single ended RCA interconnects. This has the potential for introducing EMI and RFI. Once again, a solution already exists, in the form of balanced differential interconnects. Balanced interconnects are the defacto standard for audio equipment used in live stage performances, heck, even my Church has a fully balanced audio system for the pipe organ and choir. Why has the Audiophile industry not standardized on balanced analog interconnects? Why are we still using this low cost consumer grade connection that dates back to WWII?

Your thoughts and comments?
Never could figure out why more makers didn't indeed make a more concerted effort to adopt I2S just never made too much sense to me. Maybe, to be fair, they knew they were going to drive up costs by including it next to coax on the same component (keeping coax at first would've allowed customers to do the comparison for themselves while preventing total incompatability with other brands). If I recall, the first brand or 2 that tried their gear with it did so without the inclusion of coax...and it didn't take all that long for them to go out of business and I think other makers wanted to take that as a lesson learned. But, I've always wondered had those first companies included coax, despite the expense, that maybe things would've turned out quite differently. Of course it's still not too late to correct such a mistake - anyone could retake the initiative if they would only recognize the need to rethink that 'strateegery thing' a little.

As far as balanced goes, I switched over to it a few years ago and haven't looked back, really. Even though you could say that there are certainly single-ended equipment designs out there that perform better than many comparable balanced ones and all that, it still remains: if you can indeed come up with a great single-ended design, then how much better will it be just by offering it in balanced as well? I'm in total agreement with you, both of these protocols are needlessly neglected by too many makers.

Then again, I suppose what's really put a damper on things concerning I2S as of late is the now impending doom of the physical CD format itself, to be effectively replaced by downloads. I'm betting that the perception (real or imagined) that's out there now is that whatever connection protocol remains will likely be at the mercy of the computer industry instead...even though nothing is really stopping them from adopting it any more than audio makers, I suppose. I can only imagine that what's stopping them from cosidering it may be the real-estate-eating bulkiness of the current connector of choice. But then, what if they updated and reconfigured it and made it a much smaller form factor for the computer industry? But, as it is presently, it's one of those things that looks destined to forever fly under their radar...even Steve Jobs might have missed that one, were he still around. But, to me, without the divine intervention of someone like that ready to champion its cause, then it seems that I2S is one of those good ideas that's unfortunately destined to fade away.

Regards, John
i can use i2s, but my coax makes the dac and transport sound better. don't generalize. you can't say that one genre of cables will always sound better than another.
I found that when switching from a standard quality coax to a coax cable from Zu, for connecting my CAL Alpha DAC to my transport I got a significant improvement. So the specific coax in my experience can make a big difference. The Zu coax was also superior to the Toslink connector I had tried.
That's most probably true about generalizing. I heard I2S only a couple different times and neither were A/B'ed with coax. I liked what I heard at the time, but there have been a few times since that optical actually sounded better to me than coax and coax even better than AES/EBU...although I did notice that about the only times found this to be true was, more often than not, with budget gear. A matter of execution, possibly, I dunno. My gut feeling is still that separating the signal paths was probably, on the whole, likely a good idea though.


Would also like to see some use of the standardized synchronous ethernet for wireless audio.