Digital Interconnect Questions

I've always used inexpensive consumer grade digital cables of the $25 - $40 variety from Circus City, GoofGuys, etc. I'm talking about the 75ohm coaxial cable for attaching CD transport to DAC. Is there a significant difference in sound quality with higher-end digital interconnects? I've always been skeptical of over priced cables, especially the digital interconnect. I'm not seeking a debate but would like to know if anyone can actually hear a SIGNIFICANT difference. Thanks.
significant difference between my jena labs gemini digital and acoustic zen silver photon cables. the dif is reality.
numerous used digital cables for under one hundred dollars,start auditioning. good luck, kurt
It is all relative, fortunately.

If you have $30k invested in Amps, Pre-amps and DVD/CD players, then you want an associated cable to connect the equipment.
Otherwise, you won't hear the difference.
I'm one of those people that have the high-priced equipment, and have convinced my self that the higher priced cable is needed. However, for years I also revelled in mid-fi, and I equally enjoyed it. The only thing that changed is my ability to afford the more expensive.
I've auditioned a number of them, to mate with my MSB Link Dac. I tried both the expensive Goldmund Lineal ($500?) and the Illuminations D-60. But I ended up with the Canare Digiflex Gold, about $50. I'm also thinking of upgrading, but I've read some reviews lately that said things like, there is no real huge improvement over the Canare unless you go to something like the Tara Labs The One or XLO Limited Edition (both about $1000, cheaper on the web). You can read reviews at But I don't know for sure, and one thing that really bugs me is the difficulty of just auditioning. I wish I could get like 4 or 5 of these into my house at one time so I could really find out the truth. But it's hard unless you have a dealer who carries many different brands! (And most don't, instead each dealer pushes 1 or 2 brands). Main thing to know is that they do sound different so it is worth *auditioning* but try to avoid buying until you find one you like.
I have found that the difference between cables usually depends on the equipment. If you are using a seperate dac I think you will hear a major difference. The equivalant of cd player upgrade. I personally feel that the digital cable is one of the most signifacant in your system.
In my very limited experience, yes, differences can be heard (in a good, highly resolving system, of course). I just recently bought my first outboard DAC, a Theta DSPro Basic IIIa, to feed from my Adcom player. I went to a dealer and picked up two interconnects, a $60 Vampire, and one made by a previously unheard-of (by me) local company (VA) called Empirical Design, at $150 (FYI, they are supposedly run by a guy who used work for Goldmund, and the story is that this IC is basically the same as one they used to market for about $450). Both are coaxially shielded, 75ohm cables at 1m, the Vampire being silver-plated OFC copper with PE insulation in an average-diameter soft PVC jacket, and of course using their own connectors; the Empirical Design employs "pure" copper conductor and shield in foamed Teflon insulation with a narrow-diameter Teflon jacket, and what appear to be Tiff RCA's. If I was hoping to be able to return the cable that would save me $90, I was disabused of that notion within one hour's burn-in and auditioning. The primary areas of sonic improvement I can point to would have to be treble smoothness, followed by superior soundstage depth and transparency to low-level detail, but the truth is that the costlier wire just gave a presentation that clearly exceeded overall in its naturalness and "organic wholeness", leading to an increase in general believability. The cheaper stuff, while still sounding better with the DAC than the CD player run on its own, seemed more coarse, flat, and mechanical in comparision. (Digital IC performance is said to be highly dependent on the partnering transport and decoder in question, so this result is not to be taken as universal.) I intend to continue with further comparisions (within a reasonable budget) to see what more is possible, and have become curious to check out one of the outboard jitter-reduction devices such as a DIP as well, since my "tranport" isn't in the same league as the processor. In any case, it may not cost anything but your time to experiment (given a helpful dealer), so you should definitely try an upgrade and stop wondering. Good luck!
My Acoustic Zen MC2 comes the closest to my analogue cables after comparing at least 7 or 8 different brands. The clear, if not profound difference in cables has helped make my home theater listening "even better than the real thing". Don't just listen for the immediate differences, listen for 2 hours at a time for a few days. Harshness and listener fatigue reveal themselves over time.
I have to agree with zugswang. I have tried various links(jenalabs,stealth,tributaries)and the canare cable is great and inexpensive(LV77S) Good listening.
Who sells this Canare digital cable?
Can I hear "significant" differences in digital cables? Short answer: yes, with certain cables, on certain equipment, in certain configurations, for certain purposes, with certain musical material, after a certain break-in time. You should keep in mind that, unlike its counterpart, the transmitted bandwidth of digital audio signals occurs in the megaherz range, and has more in common with video signals than with lower-bandwidth analog audio range. This means that cable impedance must be more closely matched and that deviations from 75 Ohm (for S/PDIF) and 110 Ohm (for AES/EBU) will seriously deform digital waveforms. If you have no idea what a deformed digital wave sounds like, use a Y-cord to split a digital signal between two recorders and listen to the result.
In addition, the best cable manufacturers design digital cables to avoid another common cause of errors: reflections in the signal path. Along with impedance mismatch, reflections can cause a decrease in rise time, and a misinterpretation of the actual zero-crossing point of the waveform.
The sonic results of passing a digital signal through an inferior digital cable are as follows: 1.) increased "graininess" (the sound is no longer as smooth), 2.) loss of focus and sharp edges in instrument position; 3.) apparent loss of level, making the listener wanting to turn the level up during soft passages, even though high-level signals are reproduced at proper gain; 4.) spurious (phantom) tones; 5.) added noise and distortion; 6.) loss of low-level resolution. These effects should be audible at all listening volumes. Nevertheless, they are subtle, and some say that they require high-quality digital equipment with audiophile musical material to be audible at all. Other audiophiles go so far as to say that the effects are not audible at all with most recorded music today and that expensive digital cables are a waste of money.
Nevertheless, others claim to hear the differences. To satisfy their qualms, cable manufacturers have started to produce better and/or more expensive digital cables. In the process, some manufacturers have discovered that a superior digital cable is just as difficult to design as a superior analog cable. Careful tests, that should accompany the development of a digital cable, are expensive to carry out, and the exact causes of differences in digital cables has not yet been fully uncovered. Besides the points about impedance and reflection that I have already mentioned, there are some theories that the power supplies of digital components carry a small residual of errors to different stages in digital components due to high-frequency energy dissipation giving rise to logic-induced modulation. These errors can be carried by both digital interconnects and power cables hooked up to digital components. But this is a topic for another day...
If you use several digital devices in a daisy-chain fashion (A/D - digital preamp - digital EQ - D/A - Digital recorder, in whatever configuration), the possible side-effects of poor digital cables become more possible. If you do not use a digital distribution system, then you should probably think about testing different digital cables. No reliable listening test of a S/PDIF cable can be conducted over the weekend, because burn-in time is long. Because of their lower peak-to-peak voltage levels, some S/PDIF cables can take over 1,000 hours playing time before they reveal their true nature; AES/EBU takes less time because of a different configuration. Contrary to the advisability of short analog signal paths, short digital interconnects can give rise to more errors than longer ones. A cable length of 1.5 meters is thought to be the minimum recommendable length by some people, with improvements sometimes achievable with even longer runs, as long as these are not too long (over 100 meters).

Someone sells the carare digital cable on ebay all the time.
Try the Apogee Wyde Eye digital cable(see and Stereophile recommended components). You can pick it up at Guitar Center, and a 0.5m cable will only set you back about $35(although a 1.0m digital cable is better in theory). Apogee uses true 75 ohm connectors and I found a significant improvement over the "consumer grade" cables you mentioned. Very detailed, not bright, with a voluminous soundstage. This might be the most inexpensive way to see how much difference a more expensive cable might make in your system, and you can always return it. Just make sure you pay attention to the directionality of this or any digital cable you try. Best of luck.

What kind of brands of digital cable sold in Circus City?
Is there any difference between Circus City and Circuit City?
If you've already spent about $10k on your digital end than the digital interconnect cable will make a difference but not as big as analogue interconnects. Otherwise it's OK to stay in $50 range for the digital interconnect. I use ultralink $25 digital interconnect with EAD DSP7000 MK2 and Monarchy Audio DT40b CD/LD transport. I've compared it with Illumitation D60 and heard very little difference in upper mids resolution. I desided not to go for 9x price from what I use right now.
No, tyhere is no difference, the majority of today's separate dacs re-clock the signal as it arrives so unless there are major errors along the way, there will be no difference at all.
Thanks everyone. Most say there is a difference and some say very little or no difference at all. My digital gear is valued at almost $6K [LIST] but it's mostly in the CD player.

The player is the Cary CD-306/200 that has digital inputs (Tos, Coax, AES/EBU) that I use with my Adcom GCD-700 CD changer. The digital output (coaxial) from the Adcom is sent through the Cary 306/200 to take advantage of it's better DACs and digital filter.

I'm currently using an inexpensive Monster Cable digital interconnect of 1.0M length that I picked from one of consumer electronics stores (Circuit City, GoodGuys, SoundTrack, don't recall where I got it exactly). I may try something else based on all the generous input above. Thanks!