Digital Interconnects - Which one is the BEST ??!!


i am not initially wanting to hear a brand name but more a TYPE of connection.

is Optical better than Coaxial ?  Is USB better than BNC ?   What IS BNC anyways?!     I read somewhere that a COAX input that utilizes any old RCA cable is much worse than a dedicated COAX cable - that was news to me!

After i learn these things, i will look for a good brand, but if there is a TYPE that outperforms other TYPEs i want to begin with that...

thank you for your comments


It depends on dac and server or streamer


In general usb and ethernet are best sounding



Then aes ebu

Then coax


Worst is optical

Bnc is the same as rca coax with better jack


Usb when done correctly can sound amazing many dacs use asynchronous da t a transfer through usb whish syncs the data between the two devices


A dedicated server is way better then a pc


As the key to usb is data isolation impossible in a regular pc


Our 442Evo servers feature a seperate cpu clock and usb sound card with two outboard power supplies we run dedicated usb out to the dac

And the sound is amazing like analog




us importer 432EVO music servers




As you can see, it depends who you ask - for me, optical has typically worked better than coax in the past 20 years.

I can confirm that a "regular" RCA interconnect is not the same as an RCA terminated coax...though some work great as a digital cable and some don't...

As in most things in audio it depends. The only real generality is that optical is consistently an inferior connection.

You will find volumes on the subjects of interconnects here. Given what you have said, I recommend you completely take the question off the table.

An audio system is composed of components. It is the sonic character of those and how they interact that is hugely more important than the connector. The digital or analog source, DAC, preamp, amp, and speakers determine what the sound is going to be like.

Then… when the 85% of the work is done and you have a system that is of the character you want… hooked up with the connectors that came with the component, it has had a few hundred hours of use… you know what it sounds like inside and out; then it is time to start asking which brand of connects you should use… which interconnects might effect the sound in a more favorable way.


As already stated, it all depends on the output of the sending unit and the input of the receiving unit.  Different units vary in terms of which type of connector function optimally.  So yes, a first step is to read up on the two units you're planning to connect, and then try at least a couple of the different connections.

Keep in mind there are two different types of optical, Toslink and Optical Fiber. Toslink would be considered digital cable, this inferior. Optical fiber is network cable, totally different animal. Just so no one is confused.

if there is no general consensus, that is good, i keep doing whatever i am doing now.

What i was afraid of - IF I WAS TRYING TO A_B test two components, using coax on one and optical on the other - i didn't want one of the components to have an advantage that i wasn't aware of - so that it would win a close competition unfairly...

@rop45 Nope. Toslink generally used between cd transports, players, optical fiber is network cable, does same job as ethernet cable.

toslink is a connector terminating an optical fiber.  Optical fiber is the number one technology in the world to transfer data.

USB sucks. Of course you will have dealers recommending usb because they want to sell you a number of tweaks/gimmicks to try to improve usb. 
Ethernet/fiber/network or i2s aware best if your dac supports them but only the better dacs supports these interfaces.

Now it’s not just type of digital , but vastly overlooked the quality of the Ethernet cables , and Ethernet hub , the Ethernet cable closet tothe server, streamer is for sure most critical ,the one from the modem to router the quality forsure counts 

but not quite as much ,thelonglengty from router to. Hub just has to beat least a respectable cat 6 , like Beldon top Ethernet , then to a Uptone audio ether regen ,

onthe other side T from usb this USBe regenerator for around $300 from underwood Wally truly cleans up jitter ,far better then anything in its price class l

sonore optical fiber optic is very good but you need 2 at $1500 each expensive 

I spent almost $4 kjust in digital cables ,now I need buy a reference dac 

this stuff gets compulsive , I willjust save wait until next summer then see if digital has gotton better still, there are many great products and cables of all price point .

and yes digital cables have different Sonic characters ,how much are you willing to spend is the ?

USB is very dependent on your DAC. In general, if your DAC is a lot better than your streamer USB is better… if your streamer is better than your DAC then AES/SPDIF is better. If your DAC and streamer are on the same level then you have to try to find out.

I played with USB and was not blown away by the performance vs USB cable price point ($500 max) and I wasn’t willing to go down the Usb cable rabbit hole. For the money, I thought digital coax sounded better.

the best wire to use for digital or any audio is OCC single Crystal copper or silver or mix of both.

gotta have the best, what is the best? we deserve the best... only the best will do... best of everything, all the time, always the best... but wait, not just the best, but the BEST .... the BEST 😵

1. SPDIF must use a coaxial cable.
2. SPDIF characteristic impedance of the cable must be 75 Ohm
3. SPDIF cables are often orange
4. It's a digital signal and as long as the cable is well made, there should be no difference in errors and so no difference in sound
5. I like Mogami cable construction quality, so if you want a brand name, then Mogami 2964

I primarily use SPIDIF (optical and coaxial(via RCA, not BNC)) and it works very well for me. I am confident USB , AES/EBC and others can sound better but to my ears, it is splitting hairs...

Digital coax cables are functionally equivalent to what used to be called composite video cables, which are wide bandwidth shielded cables with 75 Ohm characteristic impedance and can be finished with BNC termination or RCA.  Apparently it’s more difficult to maintain 75 Ohms when using RCA, despite which that connection is overwhelmingly prevalent. I have used these preferentially over plastic fiber whenever possible to carry SPDIF signals. I currently use AQ Coffee, which uses silver plated wire and their DBS system. Sounded better connecting my Node to my Mytek DAC than the BJC I used before. 


I like your comment.  I don't really need the BEST, but makes for a good title, ha!

basically was asking if everybody knows if one type is better than another, I could eliminate the other from consideration.  I would probably not spend more than $100 on a set of interconnects.

I’ve been using both rca and xlr digital cables for years. To me they sound better than optical.

All the best.


I have not put forth much effort to really test it, but I have never heard any difference in my system when it comes to audible changes from things in my system transferring the digital signal.  I've heard differences from tubes, power cords, interconnects for reference.  It's been a while since I did anything with optical/toslink in my system and currently use SPDIF.  I recently upgraded from a cable from Blue Jeans Cable to a Cinnamon from Audioquest and didn't hear any difference.  

Toslink does have limited bandwidth so cannot transfer high resolution files.  I tried a Schiit DAC and had to use SPDIF to get the files to transfer.  I don't normally use high resolution files, so this was a bit of a surprise to me.

I'm not saying that digital connections cannot make a difference.  I've just not heard it in my system and if I'm honest I'm happy to avoid that rabbit hole.

1. Ethernet.

2. USB.

Add an audiophile switch e.g. Bonn 8 or English (something) with a LPS.




Ethernet could only be considered if one has dac with internal steamer. Ive seen reviews where external streamer with usb beat ethernet in on streaming dac. This would be case where external streamer superior to internal streamer and dac has very nice usb board.


I believe  OP is asking about cables for digital physical media, with streaming  in play preferences will be much more variable.

Yes, original question in my case is mostly for CD Transport to DAC, CD player to Amp.

+1 Baylinor. Between CD transport and DAC - depends on which is available. I would use I2S over AES, AES over Coax, and avoid optical if possible. 

Between analog output from CD player to DAC choices are RCA or XLR. 'Best' depends on wether both devices are truly balanced or not.  

agree with @mesch 

op's question is only productively answered in the specific case, specific gear - generalities not useful

Thank you all.  My take away is this:. My Amp only has one COAX, one BMC.  Along with a few Opticals which I should not use.  My CD drives each have COAX, but no BMC.  So the solution is to purchase 2  COAX cables, one with RCA both ends, one with RCA to BNC.  Cool.  Thanks!

I2S for SACD/DSD playback, Toslink for all things PCM followed by good ‘ole S/PDIF.

Audiotroy more or less has it right.


USB is best in theory, since it simply delivers bits "in bulk" and lets the DAC sort out timing etc.  Crappy DAC, crappy sound. greta DAC great sound.

All the rest are variants of SPDIF (yes, AES is a variant of SPDIF)


SPDIF has issues since in it most common configuration, the SOURCE sets timing.  Your source, especially if it a computer, is unlikely to be all that great. So this is inferior to USB - all the blah, blah blah you will hear aside.

Within SPDIF optical is the worst. It has the advantage of being largely immune to noise, so very good for TVs etc - and guess what That's where its mostly used.  But the most common configuration doesn't even support above 44/16

Withing "COAX" you absolutely NEED a cable designed for digital  Thsi has 2 characteristics:  1) it maintains a good pulse shape, which means frequencies way above audio.  2) it has a 75 ohm characteristic impedance.  Most are yellow by industry convention. Some regular RCAs are so bad they don't even work at all.

Ideally you would use a BNC connector since they can be bought 75 ohm. Al RCAs are 50 ohm. They work. They are on everything. They are sub-ideal.

Note: the small, subtle differences in sound we discuss with analog equipment generally dont apply to digital, except as they affect timing. And with USB timing is meaningless until the DAC reconstructs the signal.


Some of yoou are saying"that's BS i hear differences with USB sources". And you may - its mostly ground noise which is a big problem from PCs to DACs and any sources is a PC in disguise.


As to "forget USB". Forget that advice.  Apparently a crap DAC or some other issue like ground noise.  Fix it.



Yup …. your posts are  the best responses I’ve read on this oft-repeating query.


well, thank you.


Just trying to disambiguate.  The problem is separating bad formats from bad implementations - either can create bad sound and then the speculation begins :-)


The bottom line is that some learning and work can substitute for a LOT of money.


I have to get the ins and outs right since i design similar stuff.

and yes digital cables have different Sonic characters ,how much are you willing to spend is the ?

cable makers love people like this.. they are laughing all the way to the bank

typically audiophool nonsense.. which stated another way is  "the most expensive cables sound the best"

which is nonsense... utter nonsense



Over the last few years I tried various combinations.

2 sources : Project RS2T CD  and Mac mini going to Devialet 250.

Using :

- USB cable by itself, then with various decrapifiers then with Intona Galvanic Isolator.

- Digital coax


- Optical

All high quality cables (200 to 300 euros each used, mostly Kimber and Crystal cables).

Tried with instant switching, and over long periods.

It was mostly hair splitting differences.

Devialet inputs are very good.

Ended up plugging the Mac mini to a Matrix D to D converter (stock $5 USB cable), then Matrix to DAC via XLR. This has given me the most consistently perfect sound out of my Devialet.

I have only used RCA and went from a 30 year old Audioquest RCA to the Audioquest Carbon and was a very significant and instant improvement across the board.  I later got a good deal on a Cardas Clear RCA and really didn't notice much difference so that proved the great value of the AQ Carbon.  



”disambiguate”… Good one!


I don’t think you can separate bad implementations and formats. I think great designs / materials typically trumps the format. There are so many variables you just can’t point unambiguously point to a “better” connector. I would choose a great manufacturer in the category. 

        The answer is somewhat VERY SIMPLE: USB-2.0

Why! Most of the VERY top streamers I.e. (most expensive) come with just USB & Ethernet only connections. As does my Arender.

Example:  Aurender N30S4 $24,500.00 same with some other HI END brands $35K an UP.