Digital coax cable, real world experiences?

Yes I know ANOTHER cable
Guess that is why it has its own complete section
My question regards a cable I have not really paid much attention to previously, the digital coax connection from my media server to my preamp.
I was using a very old generic connection that is at least 15 years old but acquired a pretty cheap tributaries digital coax cable and thought oh well lets change it.
I was shocked and stunned at just how much more detail was present and the depth and solidity of bass was near overwhelming, granting I was listening to some pretty bass intense material at the time but still!
Now do not get me wrong I was once one of the biggest cable naysayers you would find and still think the majority of me now hearing changes is the quality of the rest of my system as previous "lower fi" systems just did not truly reveal any note(pun intended) worthy changes.
So my question is if I heard a significant difference with a fairly inexpensive cable what may occur with really going up the food chain on a digital coax cable? Or was it more that my previous no name very old cable was just that ..very old and poor.
Thoughts and real world experiences on digital coax cables?

F9988e03 5b38 4b2f 8f67 357de0a06706Ag insider logo xs@2xuberwaltz
Try to upgrade your gear next - a big difference says more about your components quality than the cable.
Absolutely digital cables can make a huge difference I've had a number of different ones I've used, Kimber AGDL, Green Hornet, Nirvana, Cerious Technology, and currently using a cable from Jorma Design that sounds fantastic. The good news is there are always a lot of good used digital cables on Agon as people upgrade and/or switch to USB etc. To me what the best digital cables have given me, certainly my current cable, is better tonality and "flow" to the music, a great sense of beauty and subtlety to the music. Sorry that sounds a tad pretentious just not sure how else to describe it!
I've recently done auditioning of a few digital coax as well as USB cables.  I heard differences in detail, soundstage (width & depth), music image precision, and bass.  Ended up with a Black Cat Silverstar 75! coax from USB/SPDIF converter to DAC and a Pangea 24 gauge silver USB upstream of that (from Aries Mini to the USB/SPDIF converter).  I think the Pangea is a crazy good bargain at $30 for 1 meter and given signal conductors are solid silver (not stranded or plated copper).  Digital cables seem to me prime examples of price not predicting sonic benefit.  (former cable skeptic, myself)
It's a mistake to assume that good coax cable will 'improve' the sound .good digital cable like any cable you use will allow your system to fulfill it full potential if you have good system and you are using cheap stock cables they will degrade the sound severely however good cable will allow your system to perform at its best .the dangerous of buying very good cable is that it will reveal any weakness of your system if one more components aren't good enough also it will reveal bad recordings and music sources .
Sorry I cannot disagree with itzhak more good cables will allow your system to perform at its best, that's how they "improve" your sound. And a cable is not going to reveal a system weakness,  a mismatch of components may do that but not a cable.
Interesting views so far. although I must respectfully disagree with Shadorne view
As I said my experience was with inferior equipment I heard little or zero improvement with cable change not as seems to be suggested that I would hear a big difference and then assume I have to upgrade my equipment.
I firmly believe it would be a complete waste of dollars to spend say $500 on a digital interconnect if the cd player/ transport/ dac whatever only cost $500 or $1000.
Just my thoughts and performance I have noted in my systems as they have evolved over the years

You have to admit it is a clever and indefensible tactic to claim that others' equipment that benefits sonically from improved cabling is faulty in some way. Complete nonsense of course.

I have tried my share of Coax digital cables and found the Time Portal to be the best by a notable margin. But I have not tried many noted here,

In this world of Audio, I have a self-developed postulate:

Those who cannot hear rely upon measurements, those who can hear don't care about measurements except as a minor point of interest.

“Those who cannot hear rely upon measurements, those who can hear don't care about measurements except as a minor point of interest“

@wgutz ~ I really loved your post 👍
@uberwaktz @dlcockrum

I did not say uberwaktz equipment was inferior. I just observed that it seems to be affected by the cabling in an adverse or positive manner?

Are you saying it is not affected adversely by the one cable and improved upon by another?

If you agree the equipment appears to be audibly affected by the cable then why would it be nonsense not to suspect the equipment just as much as the cable.

Perhaps it would be worth checking ten cables and if 9 worked equally and perfectly then one could suspect the 1st cable was faulty. However, if ten cables gave ten different sounds then how do you know when it is working properly or even if it is working properly at all? In this case I would be concerned or suspect about the gear. There is a lot more to gear and lots more to go wrong than than bits of wire.

Not arguing with you as that is not where this thread needs to go

What I actually said was that when I had "inferior equipment" that a change of cable made no audible difference to my ears...exactly the opposite of what you are stating?

It was only when I upgraded to "superior equipment" that I started to hear differences with differing cables.

Possibly with that logic I should be downgrading again until I reach the point where no change in cable affects a difference?


All I am saying is that differences in cables can also be caused by equipment. You seem to agree.

Good cables will not ’fix’ lousy system.
Lousy cables will degrade the sound severely of a good system.
@ uberwaltz,

Agree, not all S/PDIF coax cables sound alike.

Here is a quote from almarg for a few possible reasons why.
7,489 posts 10-09-2015 1:45pm

Jadedavid, the reason that a length of 1.5 meters is often recommended for digital cables is further explained in this paper. It relates to the potential effects on jitter (short term fluctuations) in the timing of D/A conversion, that may result from the inevitably less than perfect impedance matches between the cable and the components that are being connected.

As Kijanki indicated, though, and as can be inferred from the paper, many system dependent variables factor into the likelihood of that length being optimal. A notable one being the risetimes and falltimes of the signal that is sent into the cable (i.e., the amount of time for the signal to transition between its lower and higher voltage states, and vice versa), which are generally unspecified and unknown. So while 1.5 meters may generally stand a greater chance of being optimal than 1 meter, that will not always be the case.

All of that relates to sound quality, though, and usually not to the kind of problem you have encountered. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the characteristics of the shield relate to it, as Kijanki indicated. Given that two different appliances cause similar symptoms, though, my guess is that it is not differences in shielding against RFI pickup that are involved, but rather effects of the shield or other signal return conductor in the cable on a ground loop issue that may be occurring between the two components. A ground loop issue conceivably resulting in the marginal lock Jim referred to.

An interesting experiment, therefore, might be to temporarily put a cheater plug (a 3-prong to 2-prong adapter, with the safety ground connection not connected), on the power plug of either the DAC or the component that is providing the signal to it. That would break any ground loops between the two components. Then see if the problem still occurs with the shorter cable.

-- Al

As almarg said in his post there are factors that can influence how an S/PDIF coax cable will preform when connected between a digital source an a DAC.

I would add,
The coax cable itself. How well is it sheilded? Is the center conductor copper, silver plated copper, or whatever else? Is the center conductor solid core wire or stranded wire?
What is the quality of the RCA connectors? How are they connected to the coax cable?

I have a Tributaries older series 9 that is 2 meters long I bought a few years ago from a friend of mine that owned a B&M store. (Nice thing about having a friend owning the store you can borrow demo equipment and cables and buy equipment and cables at cost.) The Tributaries digital coax cables are pretty good especially at their retail price. Even better at dealer’s cost.

I was told Tributaries were non directional. From my personal experience S/PDIF coax cables with a solid core center conductor with RCA ends are directional. One reason for the why is how the RCA ends are soldered on the ends of the coax cable. Just a heavier amount of solder applied to one end can make the difference. I think it also has something to do with directionality of solid core wire/conductor of the coax cable.

At any rate flip the digital coax cable end for end and see if you can hear a slight difference in SQ. One way will sound better to your ears than the other.


Cerious Graphene and Black Cat
The best digital spdif that I have used is the KLEI gZero3D.  It has a wonderfully balanced musical and organic presentation that I like very much.
I am using the Tellurium Q Black Waveform™ hf Digital RCA coax cable superb timing and transparency the downside is that it's a very revealing cable  I had to upgrade my power amp and CD transport because they weren't at the same league as this cable also lousy recordings can not be heard anymore it sonds terrible. 
It does sound like there is a lot to be possibly gained by upgrading way further on this digital cable.
But I also then run the risk of chasing the rabbit down the hole on the never ending upgrade spiral yet again
I guess sometimes you just have to say enough is enough for now and leave well alone and just enjoy the darn music...which is what it is all supposed to be about right?

Did you try my suggestion of flipping the digital cable end for end to see if you could hear a difference? It won’t cost you a dime......

Here is a quote from an old Stereophile article from 1993.

Changing the direction of the digital interconnect between the transport and the jitter analyzer.

This phenomenon was easily repeatable: put the cable in one direction and read the RMS jitter voltage, then reverse the cable direction and watch the RMS jitter voltage drop. Although I’d heard differences in digital-cable directionality, I was surprised the difference in jitter was so easily measurable—and that the jitter difference was nearly double.

To confirm this phenomenon, I repeated the test five times each on three different digital interconnects. One was a generic audio cable, the other two were Mod Squad Wonder Link and Aural Symphonics Digital Standard, both highly regarded cables specifically designed for digital transmission. The generic cable wasn’t directional: it produced the same high jitter in either direction. But both the Wonder Link and the Aural Symphonics had lower jitter levels overall, but different jitter levels depending on their direction. Moreover, the generic cable had higher jitter than either of the two premium cables—even in the latters’ "high-jitter" direction.


I recently needed to buy a coax to link my Schiit Eitr to my Hegel DAC.  I did plenty of research and finally concluded to listen to the scientists and go with inexpensive digital cables.  I chose a Blue Jeans coax.  It sounded OK and I was generally delighted with the Eitr.

One day, about a month later, I was at an audio dealer and he let me borrow an Audioquest Carbon coax.  I thought it would be an interesting and simple experiment for a few days.  After plugging it in I was gobsmacked.  It wasn't just 'different', it was better.  Much better.  I put my cheap cables on the market the next day and I've never looked back.

I'm not suggesting AQ cables are necessarily the best coax cables in the world, but I am stating categorically that not all coax cables sound the same.  IME, Blue Jeans are fine - and who doesn't want to save money if they can have it all for $25?  But in my system, sound quality took a significant step in the right direction when I upgraded my coax.
Not yet tried that as not at home but will on Friday. Interesting as I remember having an old Monster cable digital coax that had direction arrows on the cable itself.

Exactly my findings which is reason  for this
Glad to see not just myself!

Yes clock jitter is inherent in cables. The discovery by Stereophile was perhaps surprising in its day but everyone understands it today. This is why you need good equipment that is totally immune to inherent clock jitter on ALL the cables if you are seeking accurate high fidelity.

The problem with switching cable direction or another cable is that the jitter is just different but STILL there. So you can get impressive improvements but never achieve 100% clean jitter free performance by swapping cables. The source of the problem is in the component or DAC and its inability to reject jitter effectively. Jitter immunity is a major design goal for some high fidelity manufacturers others ignore it.
There should be correlation between level of your system to the cable,you really can’t expect good results when using stock cheap cables on high end expensive system it will degrade the sound severely ,and on the contrary there is no poit to buy expensive cables with lousy system it will not improve a thing.
The best results achieved when I changed all my cables (interconnects, speaker cables & jumpets and digital ones)
to the same brand and same level which show that it is very important to have synergy between cables and to avoid mismatch between brands and level of cables.

And yes there is a risk if you buy good cable and one or more of  components in your system aren’t good enough the cable will reveal immediately this weakness and you will have no choice and start upgrading.


Absolutely there is a correlation. However it is opposite of what you state. Well designed equipment should reject extraneous parasitic noise and minimize distortion from ordinary bits of wire. Badly designed and faulty equipment will always suffer terribly as whatever wire you use can’t ever eliminate all the problems with the design.
@shadorne Got it, must be my lousy Hegel DAC, Belles amplifier or Kudos speakers.  That would explain everything.  Thanks.

I have also experienced differences between digial COAX cables.  I will agree that the Blue Jeans / Beldon 1694A makes an excellent COAX cable --for the money-- (like janehamble said).  I'm sure there are better (based on other posting), but for $20-30 it is extremely difficult to beat.  It is a very natural sounding digital cable with extraordinary resolution.

Based on all my research, there are a few elements which dictate how good a digital able is:

- terminations: 75ohm.  The BNC connectors are superior, but most can only use RCA.  However, it's important to get as close to 75ohm terminations as possible. This includes how the cable/termination is shielded (COAX cable and termination plug).  It has an effect on signal reflections as well.

- length.  It is suggested 1.5 meters is the best/minimum length to reduce the effect of signal refection on the main digital signal.  I use 6 feet.

- composition.  This is one area where silver is superior to all others.  In my opinion, silver is sometimes beneficial in analog, but mostly I believe it is not a good thing.  However, in digital transmissions, you want a medium that is able to charge and discharge extremely fast.  This gives better accuracy on the timing and form of the digital square wave signals and also reduces the effect of signal reflections back to the source.

Janehamble has very good success with the Audioquest Carbon, which is silver-plated solid-core.  I have heard excellent results from DH Labs Silver Sonic D-750, which is also silver-plated solid core.  I suspect the Wire World cables, starting with Starlight 7 and above, may also perform very well.  The Wire geometry is "almost" solid-core in a sense that they have several solid-core wires side-by-side like a ribbon cable.  It's not quite true solid-core, but it's not as stranded bundle either (bad).

It's been on my list, but I would like to build the following cable sometime in the future:

- VH Labs Pulsar AG OCC Silver / airlock.  2 meters at $170 (with 15% discount for 2 meters).  24 awg solid core OCC silver with an extremely low dielectric airlock insulation (no absorption of high frequency energy!).  This is a coax design with silver-plated copper braid shield.

- DH Labs RCA-750 terminations $24 plus shipping from ebay.  This is the best digital termination I could find that is closest to the true 75 ohm design.  It requires soldering the wire to the center pin.  I believe this design is going to be superior to any other RCA connector (that are usually designed for analog audio purposes).

I think this cable would be highly superior to many other cables (even those significantly more expensive).  I'm not going to buy a $1,000 cable for comparison, but the theory makes sense to me.  For $200, it would be a heck of a cable.

My coax cable cost me $600 and it was one of the best investments in my system. the timing, transparency and agility are superb .once you try the hi-end handmade cables there is no going back anymore. 

I am sure your equipment is among the very best available. I am happy for you that the sound changes dramatically between one digital cable and another as that is a wonderful result and must be encouraging if you were not happy at first.

Just curious, how do you know when the equipment is finally working properly? If the Audioquest Carbon is better than a Blue Jeans cable how do you know or judge how close you are to the equipment running properly? How do you tell when you have the cable that best fixes the sound so that it approaches the ideal sound.
Just going to add another experience
I purchased a used AudioQuest Hawkeye interconnect with the 72vbs and fitted it today, should obvioulsy be better as it cost a heck of a lot more than the old Tributaries cable, right?
quack quack oops, truly a move backwards, bass is now very boomy and bloated and the air and prescence have receded far into the background.
Swapped cables back and played the same piece of music again just to make sure and back to where it was, which is actually very nice sounding to my ears so maybe it definitely is time to just leave well alone and enjoy the music!

Anybody want to buy an AQ cable?
uberwaltz, give the AQ cables time to settle.

shadorne, your toes tell you.

@uberwaltz had the 72V DBS battery been disconnected? If so it takes 48-72 hours after connecting it back up for the field to form and settle, before that the cable will sound edgy and disjointed. So please give it a few days to form a final opinion
battery pack had not been disconnected and it is a used cable so should be well broken in by now
did not sound edgy and disjointed just terrible bass control and bloated
i have it now so will experiment

I see you are now following and contradicting or poking fun at my every post on almost every thread. Thank you for the attention, I am flattered! You really have a great sense of humor. I shall try listening to my toes tonight!
The sound is right when your toes are tappin'. :)

Lot of toe tapping going on tonight
Finally got around to trying out the MQA releases on Tidal.
Even though my Mac pre is limited to 96 it is a nice improvement, bass is more taut, soundstage deeper, just more impact and presentation over all.
Nice to see some old classics reworked like Uriah Heep!
Try Mojo Audio Digital cable 
best I have tried so far.

I have tried many of the digital cables mentioned  n this thread.  I have come back to using the Moray James digital cable.  It makes music sound more "real" as best that I can describe what it does.  All others seem to do good things also but I always felt the MJ had a more emotional sound especially in the mid-range.  It can be a little hard sounding at times so that may depend on your equipment.  Happy Listening.

Post removed 
@ Shadorne

As you seem to have difficulties with reading, let me make this simple:

1) I never claimed or insinuated my equipment is 'among the very best available' - whatever you think that means.  I simply stated the brands I use. People here will decide for themselves if its good or no so good.

2) I said that I was OK with a Blue Jean coax - far from unhappy - until I heard the AQ Carbon.  What is this weird uber-contractor concept you have of equipment 'working properly'? As if we're talking about a light switch or faucet. 

3) How can I tell when I have a cable"works properly"?  Well (and this might come as a surprise), I sit down in a comfortable chair, pour myself a drink, put on some fine music, and then I listen.  For hours.  Try that process sometime.

I hope this is clear enough.  

I borrowed a Nordost Silver Shadow spidf cable from a friend recently. I used it to go between a usb to spidf converter and my dac. I thought it was ok sounding. After I tried the Nordost I had a idea for a cheap digital cable. Knowing that RG-6 cable that we all use for cable tv has the bandwidth to pass 1000 channels of digital video. I decided to try it as a spidf cable. I just ordered some adapters to go from the F connector to an rca connector on both sides of the cable. At a cost of about $7. The 1 meter RG-6 cable was free from the cable company. After receiving the adapters I gave it a try. I was pretty surprised with the performance. It clearly bested the Silver Shadow. Much more focused sound, particularly the vocals.

After that experiment at home I took it to my local audio society meeting and tried both cables on a different DAC. This time I used it between a CD player and dac. The differences were even more pronounced there. The Nordost was much less focused sounding.

I have not been able to compare it to other spidf cables yet but think it would be very interesting to do so. 

Anyway it is a very inexpensive thing to try if anyone is interested.

No need to be aggressive and offensive. I was just saying your equipment is NOT lousy. Far from it, you have the most amazing setup and the most amazing hearing acuity. 

You stated Blue Jeans was "OK" but with Audioquest you were "Gobsmacked" as "It wasn't just 'different', it was better. Much better."

This really does sound like a dramatic difference and I sincerely apologize for jumping to the conclusion you were somehow unhappy with the Blue Jeans cable.

Have you considered why the Schiit Eitr or your Hegel DAC might perform much better with one OK digital cable versus another?  Or do you believe that cables are much more than wires, shields and connectors and have some kind of electronic digital filter or digital EQ or digital noise filter built in? After all digital signals are supposed to be 1s and 0s and presumably the Hegel DAC rejects any clock jitter that might vary with one cable versus another?

Most of my listening for the past decade has been desktop audio +/- headphones. I started using a S/PDIF converter years ago w/the 1st musical fidelity unit (I'm now up the 24/192 model). Anyway, for a long time I used toslink/glass to connect to the DAC.

About a year and a half ago, I got more serious about going to the next level of digital sound--and got my 1st multibit DAC, the Audio GD NOS 19. It was a revelation in somewhat warm, organic, relaxed digital sound.

Soon after getting this, I upgraded from toslink to coax, starting out w/an inexpensive 1.5M Billie Jeans. Not bad at all. Better sounding in some ways than toslink. Then, based on numerous positive comments I read, got a new, much more expensive cable: the 1.5M Oyaide DB-DR 510 (it comes in either BNC or RCA--I got the RCA version).

Done, and done. Best sound I ever heard from any cable. Immediate sonic success. As usual w/cables, the differences were small and subtle--but in low level signal situations, especially digital, small and subtle go a long way. In this case, all changes were sonically beneficial.

I would never go back. This coax cable (which cost ~$210) is a stone keeper.

Not just 1 and 0

Yes It is only 1 and 0 and clock timing

Clock timing information errors (rise time and reflections) is the source of jitter. Eliminate jitter and then it is ONLY 1 and 0's

Have used so many digital cables over the years that I can't even remember them all.
I have found that all things being equal XLR digital cable "sound" superior to coax.
Just to digress a little.
My McIntosh is limited to 96 max so even though mqa is max at 192 the only way to obtain 192 would be replacing my McIntosh?
I am using the McIntosh digital input direct from my bluesound vault2 and running tidal mqa tracks.
Now I can hear a difference on the 96 vs 44.1 from comparing albums on tidal side by side.
But even if I bought a mqa capable dac, the bottleneck would still be,my McIntosh preamp yes? Or? 
@uberwaltz no the McIntosh would not be a bottle neck the digital conversion would happen in the outboard dac. The dac would then output an analog signal to an analog input on your McIntosh preamp.
so even though my Mcintosh dac is limited to 96, an external dac could pass 192 though the analog outs direct into a set of analog inputs on the McIntosh?
Interesting, now all I have to do is research affordable mqa dacs!
thank you!
Yes correct the McIntosh dac is not in the signal chain its limitations don't matter in that setup the Mac just gets an analog signal. So have fun!

I have very recently heard Mytek’s Brooklyn DAC, which sounded pretty good.

The other option would be Bluesound’s Node 2 or Vault 2.

Honestly, If high resolution streaming is your goal, I would wait until MQA shakes out. I am sure you heard that HD Tracks will be streaming high resolution tracks pretty soon which should eliminate the ‘need’ to shop for MQA compatible DAC.