Digital Optical Cables - how important is brand?

I am presently using an Acoustic Research optical cable from my Pioneer Elite DVD/CD player into a Denon DTS receiver serving as a preamp with a Parasound 1000 HCA amp.

Maybe this is a dumb question, but are their truly significant differences in optical cables?
I do use DH lab Siversonic speaker wire with my RBH Sound speakers, and also a Tekline RCA connector from my receiver preamp outputs to my amp so I do think that decent cables are desirable, but the optical thing kind of throws me.

Any opinions are welcome and suggestions of a low cost (sub 50-75$) optical. That is if better ones than my 20$ Acoustic Reserach really do seem to make a difference.

Sound Professional Glass Optical Cable. For $59.00 (1.5m), you can never go wrong.
Quite honestly, I was VERY surprised at how good an optical connection could sound. Then again, i think that most of this has to do with the individual optical converters within the devices sending and receiving the data. Changing one component on the receiving or sending end would probably make a world of a difference.

Having said that, I've had very good luck using a DH Labs optical cable. Don't know the specific model or if they make more than one, but it works very nicely as far as i'm concerned. I don't think that it was too much money either, as most of their products are pretty reasonably priced. Sean
Agreed. would go with glass, regardless of brand. either glass AT&T ST optical or glass toslink (never plastic).
Thanks for the responses.
Did a lot of reading last night and glass sounds like it gives people better performance, and the Sound Professional glass Toslink came up on several forums as a good choice for reasonable cost. I will give that a try.

Ok, one more question - what is a decent reasonably priced RCA coaxial to try so I can compare them?
My Pioneer Elite has RCA Coax out, and the Denon has both toslink and RCA coax in. I read the debates and many believe that coax is better, but there are pluses and minuses to each. I have also read where RCA connectors on the coax is fine, but not the ideal.

I know this is a modest system, but just trying to make it sound the best I can. Adding the Parasound amp made a huge difference and I am trying to optimize the other links.

Thanks again.
Do optical cables require burning in?
What I have read in some reviews seem to indicate a burn in of some sort by some manufacturers.
Hi Lkdog, I would recommend checking out the Bolder digital cable (with Eichman bullet plug RCAs) for your coax option. It's a very well made digital cable, it sounds excellent, and it only costs about $85. The Apogee Wyde Eye is also a great deal for $35, but I prefer the sound of the Bolder by quite a bit.
Phild- Thanks for the recommendations.
How would you describe the differences between the two?
I have a pretty neutral sound with my setup right now.
Is one more forward in a frequency range, or is the Boulder just that much better overall?
I know it sounds silly, but I have no idea if one cable is really better than the other, or if the Bolder just works better with my particular transport and DAC (an EVS modded Sony CDP and EVS Millenium DAC 2). I have owned the Apogee Wyde Eye, Cardas Lightning 15, Acoustic Zen MC=2, Elco UDC-S Ultimate, EVS's own digital cable, and a Better Cables Video/digital. There are certainly differences between the cables, but some of those differences did change when I switched to a better transport. I don't know if the differences are really in the cables themselves, or just the way the happen to react to the sensitivity, impedence, etc. of my transport and DAC. I would guess that it's a combination of the two.

I won't go into detail, but the Better Cable wasn't in the same league as any of the others, and it costs as much or more as the Apogee. The Apogee is by far the least expensive, but still somewhat revealing and very musical. I think the biggest difference between the Apogee and the others is that the soundstage was more cluttered, less definition, etc. It provides more of a musical experience than a detailed hi-fi experience.'s a great cable and an amazing deal for $35. You will not notice its flaws unitl you compare it to something better.

The Cardas Lightning 15 isounded very natural with my Studer CDP as transport, but too dark with my EVS modded Sony tranpsort.

The Acoustic Zen sounded good with both, but a little too smooth for my tastes with both. Nice highs and lows, but a somewhat recessed midrange that makes it sound very nice with certain recordings and be very unflattering to others (for example, it was nice on acoustic music, but I found it to be very lifeless on midrange heavy music, like guitar rock).

The Elco was my favorite with the Studer as transport, but a little too forward in the upper mids with the EVS transport. Very balanced and detailed. Perhaps the opposite of the Zen cable...less laid back and more presence in the midrange.

The EVS cable was my preferred cable with the EVS transport for awhile. It was similar to the Elco in many ways. The upper mids were a bit more balanced, though still a bit more forward than I preferred (which could have been due to the cable or transport...I'm not sure). It's ground is hard-wired to the EVS transport, so I'm not sure what effect that had on it's sound. It was also made by the designer of the tranposrt and DAC, so it makes sense that there was some synergy between the three pieces.

I don't know why, but I decided to give the Bolder cable a try and I'm happy that I did. It completely disappeared in my system. Unlike all of the others, it didn't sound like a digital cable with a particular character to was much more transparent and natural than any of them. The resolution is excellent and it's sounds very balanced to my ears. It doesn't seem to have unnatural treble like so many cables do (passing it off as "more detailed"), and the bass is deep and strong, but not unnaturally so. It sounds like whatever recording I happen to be playing. It sounded more realistic and natural in every my system. I can't guarantee that everyone would have that same experience, but it's certainly worth trying for $85 (with a 30 day trial period).

I did some research on the Bolder digital cable before buying and found mixed opinions. 99% of the comments I found were based on the older version with the Canare RCA plugs. I don't know if the Eichman Bullet Plug RCAs made that much of an improvement, but I suspect that may be the case. Many cable desingers think they sound amazing (or like nothing), and are making the switch. My Bolder digital experience has been with the Eichman RCA plugs, so make sure you request those if you decide to try the Bolder. Maybe it is the connectors' impedence that make this cable work so well with my system?? Who knows?? There are soooo many variables at play.

By the way...the Bolder digital cable is a variation of the DIY Jon Risch Belden cable recipe (check AudioAsylum for more info). You could try to make it yourself if you wanted. Bolder has made a few changes to that recipe, and their build quality is very nice. I don't think the $85 price is unfair at all.

Good luck! (I have never tried optical cables, so I can't make any comparisons between coax and optical cable connections)
Phild - Thanks for sharing your experiences.
I am not sure my setup with the Pioneer Elite DVD/CD player, the Denon DTS receiver for preamp, and the Parasound is quite good enough to reveal some of the differences within the coaxials that you mention, but I am learning the little things add up to improved overall sound for me.

When I added the Parasound, the difference from the Denon as a power source was a major improvement and it sounded like I had new speakers. The RBH Sound speakers need quality power and they really opened up with the Parasound.
I then got some decent stands and filled them with sand and there was noticeable increased overall definition.
I played with speaker toe in and positioning and that has also created some interesting differences in soundstage.
I have tried the RBH's on "small" and "large" settings in combination with my subwoofer(ACI Titan) and have tweaked that a bit.

Since I am using a basic Acoustic Research plastic toslink optical, I anticipate that trying a better digital interconnect will be another improvement.

I found a new Sound Professional glass toslink cable on Ebay and went ahead and ordered it. I also have curiosity about RCA digital coax and what it might sound like.

I ran across this ad over at Audio Asylum. What do you think about this DIY interconnect?

Here is the ad. I don't know the differences between the Belden 1695a or 1506a. Maybe you have a thought on these DIY guys and what I might look for. The price is pretty good considering the thought and labor put into these.


Item: Belden 1695A or 1506A w/crimped Canare True 75 ohm connectors
Price: $15.00
Seller: Cousin_Dupree
Membership: Audiophile (Contributor)
Rating: 5.0/5.0
Location: United States


Have you always wanted to try the Belden 1695A or 1506A cable & Canare True 75 ohm RCA or BNC connector combo but didn't want to buy expensive tools and huge quantities of cable? Well, here's your chance.

I'll terminate Belden 1695A or 1506A cable to any length you'd like w/Canare True 75 RCA or BNC connectors using the recommended Canare tools for each & every step. How much? A meter or less length costs $15.00. Yep, just $15.00.

You pay actual USPS Priority Mail shipping, which is $4.30 w/delivery confirmation to anywhere in the U.S. for most lengths/quantities. International orders welcome. Most Global Priority shipments arrive in 4-6 business days and cost $9.00. Canada is a little cheaper.

Component video sets are $45.00. For all options below multiply price by 3 for component video pricing.

Q & A:
"What if I want a longer cable than 1 meter?" Additional cable lengths cost an additional $5/meter.

"I like the way TechFlex looks. How much does it cost?" Add $2/meter ($2 minimum) if you want TechFlex.

"What about the additional shield & capacitor that everyone posts about?" The additional braided copper shield, the entire length of which is heat shrinked to the cable using a continuous piece of 3M Polyolefin heat shrink, connected at the source end and capacitor coupled (.01 µF) at the other end costs $15.00/meter ($15 minimum)--this automatically includes Techflex unless you don't want it.

As you can plainly see if you've been reading the 'Asylum I'm not doing a single original thing here. I'm just following the recipe & charging about the price you'd pay in materials to do it yourself.

"What do I get for my money?" Here's what I do.
1. Strip Belden cable with Canare TS100E strippers. Whoopty freekin' doo. Who cares what stripper I use? Have you seen Canare's spec's for the ideal cable prep? 3.5 mm of exposed inner conductor. 6.5 mm of exposed inner core. 9 mm of exposed foil/braid. The TS100E provides the ideal cable preparation for Canare connectors. It's expensive, but it's the best.
2. Remove discoloration from center conductor then treat the stripped ends of the cable with Caig DeoxIT D5, and treat the two Canare True 75 ohm connectors & the crimp pins with Caig Pro Gold G5 to provide clean, great conducting surfaces.
3. Heat shrink additional shield &/or add Techflex, if desired.
4. Crimp connectors using the powerful, precise clamping action of the Canare TC-1 crimper & Canare die set.
5. Apply 3M adhesive lined heat shrink to terminations/cable junction

"How long does it take?" Cables are assembled and shipped within 1 week of receipt of payment.

No rocket science here. I'm just following the best construction principles with the recommended parts using the prescribed tools for a rock bottom price. The only real question is what cable/version you should try. What do I think? Listen to several & make up your own mind (these cables really are system dependent). You can easily afford to;)

Check my feedback. My workmanship is excellent. I'm very proud of it, and I'm happy to email you an image of the model you're interested in so you can see what my work looks like. Just indicate so when you contact me.

Shipping address street:
Shipping address city:
Shipping address Zipcode:

1695A or 1506A:
Length (in meters):
Techflex (circle one): Y or N
Additional shield, as described above (circle one): Y or N


Sorry for the lengthy post, but I am just learning about all of the elements to consider in the system. I guess that is why they call it a hi-fi system, or in my case mid-fi.
Hi LKdog...I've certainly seen mentions of Cousin Dupree on AA before. People seem to recommend him as a good source for cheap DIY cables. The Bolder cable I have is Belden 1695a based, but uses Eichman RCA's, not Canare (though they have, and do offer Canare too). I don't think you can go wrong for $15. That may be an even better deal than the Apogee.

I would try the glass toslink and the DIY coax and see what you think. Most posts I've read say that people prefer coax over optical (probably plastic optical), but there are exceptions. Let them burn in and then compare them. I'm sure you're going to notice some difference and prefer one over the other. It's interesting how different digital cables can sound from each other. The whole "bits is bits" argument goes right out the window.

Do an AA search on those two cables and you'll find more info that you'll ever need. :-) You can also do a search on Cousin Dupree. Have fun!
Thanks for the info and help!
Lkdog, I think your money would be much better spent on upgrading electronics, specifically getting that bright and brittle Parasound HCA1000 out of the loop. Replacing it with even the HCA1500 parasound amp will make a world of difference, as would buying a dedicated 2ch preamp, whereas with optical/coax cables I'm very willing to bet is going to be a very, very minor if even percievable change with your system. It typically takes an extremely revealing (expensive) system to discern cable differences, especially digitial cable differences (should any actually exist). Not faulting your system in the least, I had a very similar one that was very enjoyable, actually briefly using the same amp, speaker wires and simlar speakers, just relaying my experience in such a setup. Not saying you shouldn't try different cables for your self, just saying where it my upgrade disease kicking in, I would spend the money elsewhere.