Digital XLR vs Digital RCA


How would a digital XLR 110 ohm cable compare to a more costlier Silver 75 ohm RCA cable? I will do the comparison between the two myself and post my results but I thought I would ask for other people’s experience between these two types of cables.
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In my experience, it depends very much on the DAC that is receiving the signal. In other words, it's system dependent.

My impression has been that, with a modern DAC designed according to standard engineering paradigms (e.g., Benchmark), there will be little or no difference between cables. However, with something based on idiosyncratic technology, it might make a difference.
Is it okay to run both cables at the same time to AB them or should they be run one cable at a time?
This is somewhat of a controversial subject.  I have read some people state that AES/EBU XLR digital interface has design issues and not as good as RCA/BNC.  Others say that AES/EBU is far superior.

You can run both cables to the DAC at the same time and just A/B the source input on the DAC.
How you gonna compensate for the 6db diff.?
Any level control you insert will affect the SQ.
The better cable with RCA connectors sounds much nicer.
I was told by someone who designs high-end DACs that a balanced digital cable is preferable to single ended and that if only RCA connections are available it’s still better to use a balanced cable with RCA adapters.  I have no technical understanding of why this would be but just thought I’d pass it on FWIW. 
It doesn't matter to my current Directsream dac XLR or RCA but it does matter to the source feeding the dac apparently with XLR being most popular. The Directsream likes the I2S input the most with my Perfectwave transport sounding best using the I2S  output from transport to I2S input in dac. Using an HDMI cable has much improved the sound. When I get my dedicated Auralic Aries G2.1 streamer I will use an XLR digital cable.
Digital interface:
The cable shall not be an issue, if the DAC section of the receiving unit is implemented properly.
The most common issue with Digital interface is Jitter. To prevent jitter a PLL is implemented over the input device, to synchronize clock and data within an accuracy of less than 50p Sec.Most PLL devices of the last 10 years would do (unless poorly implemented).
If you have an appropriate PLL, the digital cable should have no impact on sound quality.
As most digital Audio interface is PCM, implemented by SPDIF interface,
a single line carries both clock and data on  a bi-phase method.
The two are separated and the clock must be synchronized with the data.
For that sake, CD players with analog output were a better option over separate transport - DAC solutions, till PLL were good enough to go below noticeable jitter issues. 
I disagree from experience. The quality of the digital cable, amount and quality of silver content, has dramatic affect in sound quality. 
I disagree from experience. The quality of the digital cable, amount and quality of silver content, has dramatic affect in sound quality.

Agreed.  b4icu's statement is so very common from engineers who are only interested in measurement on scopes.

Don't mix cables > 75 ohm for 75 ohm and 110 for 110.
My experience with RCA vs XLR is that a " good " cable does make a difference!
RCA can provide a lot of detail.
Manufacturers use different ways to build a cable ... solder / cold weld > plated connector > perfect surface / mono crystalline and then the dielectric properties as well ... 
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I’m with @rego on this one - the type of connector i.e. whether you use IEC, BNC or XLR, is mostly immaterial when it comes to cable performance.

The cable’s geometry, the quality of the wire and the capacitance of the insulations used AND the quality/design of the actual connector can make more of a noticeable difference.

Granted, BNC is designed specifically for Digital connections, but even a quality BNC connector on a poorly designed cable will not sound as good as as well designed cable with either RCA or XLR connectors.

Trouble is - most cable manufacturers DO NOT publish their geometries, so it is very often difficult to assess how well a cable is made and hence how well it may perform.

You can spend a lifetime trying different cables and each time you’ll probably hear changes - but you are still basically "guessing" each time you make a choice.

There are two options...
- buy cables from companies like InAkustik, or Nordost.
- build your own, then you control all of the cable’s parameters

Companies like InAkustik and Nordost (and a few others), that reveal their geometry’s, allows the educated customer to make an informed decision.

I chose the DIY approach and have never looked back.

But then - my DIY cables are built from scratch
- I DO NOT just solder a fancy connector onto a piece of bulk cable
- I build the the actual cable from individually sourced wires & connectors

It really boils down to how picky YOU are :-)

Regards - Steve

Amount of silver and type makes a difference in a digital cable? Really? Someone should tell those people that make cables that work in the 10's or GHZ or higher. They will be thrilled to find that out.

I have tested side-by-side pure copper, silver and silver-plated cable combinations.  The material used in digital cable absolutely affects the character of the sound.  This is just another medium you can use to help tune the sound to what you want.



I’m with @rego on this one - the type of connector i.e. whether you use IEC, BNC or XLR, is mostly immaterial when it comes to cable performance.

If you are looking at the cable performance itself (i.e. the wire), then this statement is generally correct.  However, when looking at digital cables, the type and impedance of the termination drastically affects the performance of the digital cable.  I have done many tests on different RCA connectors, using RCA that are designed specifically for digital (i.e. DH Labs RCA-75) as well as several extremely expensive and high end analog RCA (such as WBT, Furutech, etc.).  In all cases, a good low-cost BNC connector was superior to all RCA connectors.  The problem with RCA is the lower impedance, which allows reflections caused by the target S/PDIF receiver to flow back down the cable to the transmitter.  This causes distortion and timing errors in the source square waveform pulses.

In all my results, the audio high frequencies were not as well defined or clear with all RCA cables.  The high frequency extension and resolution was always better with a pure BNC cable/sockets. 

If you don't have true BNC connections on your source/DAC, the next best thing is to use a true BNC cable with BNC-to-RCA adapters on the end.  Nordost makes all their digital cables this way, but you can always do a DIY cable. 

I found the Blackcat BNC-to-RCA adapters are the best and have the highest resolution.
BNC and @buff on this site often has NOS Nordost cables at quite reasonable prices.
Twisted pair on XLR are the standard connector for AES3 balanced at 110 Ohm, BNC is the standard connector for AES3 unbalanced 75 Ohm and can be used for longer distances. RCA/Toslink are standard connectors for variant 2 known as SPDIF at 75 Ohm. AES3 balanced is used mostly in professional installations. To interchange XLR 110 Ohm balanced with unbalanced 75 Ohm you need an impedance converter. Mostly you'll see BNC to XLR converters. Which one sounds the best I have no idea I doubt I could tell in a controlled test. I use mogami XLR 110 Ohm cables. 
There is nothing wrong with the engineering approach. Alchemy was long abandoned and science had prevailed.
The understanding of what is going on in a digital cable is better than ignorance.
The so called digital cable is not a mystery. It was actually designed by engineers, from PHILIPS Netherland and SONY Japan in the late 70’s.
This is why it is called SPDIF (Sony Philips Digital Interface):
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S/PDIF
I love the silver over copper say, that is even better than snake oil.
The element silver conducts better electricity by 5% over copper but costs 131 times more. 5% in conductivity can be compensated with 5% additional cross section of copper. it may cost 5% more, rather than 131 times (13,100%) more. Be my guest and go for it. You may also throw that amount of $$ into the toilet and flash it down. You will earn the very same feeling.
On your fantastic hearing, we had some fantastic examples over medieval ages and later, when it was enough that two sister came out, saying they dreamed you are a witch, to burn you alive. Hearing the difference, is way more easy and no consequences, but drain your wallet dry. You can claim whatever you want, even if it is unmeasurable?
At age over 60! When did you tested last your hearing?
Up’s sorry! it;s tested by an engineered instrument. Not by a doctor’s or nurse hearing to compare with. Go get your glasses that way...
The human ear was never nominated as an instrument. Hearing is individual. The best part of "I can hear the difference" is that no one can doubt it. Even if it doesn’t exist.
Many audiophiles are in love with LP and tubes. They are in love with a lot of IM and THD, poor Fr. response and compressed dynamic range. Those all measure bad, but many like it.
I don’t!
I remember last concert, the guy next to me claimed to his wife, that the sound is not as good in concert sa with his LP/Tube sound system :-)




I remember last concert, the guy next to me claimed to his wife, that the sound is not as good in concert sa with his LP/Tube sound system

doodle6
01-10-2020 8:30am

"we have friends whose seats at the Myerson Symphony Hall in Dallas sport a brass socket embedded in the floor, a socket where the main microphone is placed when recordings are made in that hall. Needless to say that the sound there is wonderful. But, swear to God, I’ve experienced better sound from my home system. Being a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic, I was blown away when that happened - couldn’t believe that it could be possible. After reflecting on it, it dawned on me that the engineers who produced the SACD could shake out the compromises and/or imperfections of the hall. At any rate, it was really an eye opening phenomenon."
Mr. doodle

Congratulations. you have a room with better acoustics than the  Meyerson Symphony Hall in Dallas. 
Because no matter how the SACD sound engineer set the recording, with room correction, it is still playing in your room, where the sizes may be slightly smaller than the Meyerson Symphony Hall in Dallas.
Size do matter, but it is not the only parameter that matters. walls, reflections, floor etc'. Yours' at home are so much better than those at the Meyerson Symphony Hall in Dallas.
What about you invite the orchestra, to play at your home, and then you tweak the recording of that secession, with that RC and SACD and get it even better...
It would be better if you wouldn't post this pretentious post. It is ridiculously insein.  
   
b4icu
It would be better if you wouldn’t post this pretentious post. It is ridiculously insein.


It must be a burden - needing to be right all the time.

BTW, spell check is your friend.
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"I can’t think of any reason why perfect..." artificial recorded sound, won’t sound as good or even better than the original.

Think better.

Nothing in the audio equipment industry, sounds as good as a real musical instrument playing live.

Practically, we have in Audio two main streams:
1. Claim that they are looking for a reproduction as close as possible to the real thing. (!)
2. Claim that as "1" can not be reached, they just looking for the most pleasant sound they can achieve.
None of the two claim what you claim.

They both agree that what you claim has not yet been achieved yet.

Maybe you need to listen to some live music and refresh your memory.

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"Live music except small ensembles in great spaces (rare) is about the experience not the raw sound quality.


... and unless you are listening to acoustic instruments it is all amplified anyway."

Exactly.

Still, attending live concerts should be a priority for music lovers. Nothing replaces that experience.
"How good it sounds depends on my seats..."

Mr. dannad, if your home sound system sounds better than live, with RC, SACD etc’., you need to find better seats!


@auxinput - re: your statement
I have done many tests on different RCA connectors, using RCA that are designed specifically for digital (i.e. DH Labs RCA-75) as well as several extremely expensive and high end analog RCA (such as WBT, Furutech, etc.). In all cases, a good low-cost BNC connector was superior to all RCA connectors.
I agree with your statement regarding the RCA’s you have mentioned - they are definitely NOT suited to the task and one really should use the impedance matched RCA’s specifically designed for digital use

A QUESTION: Have you had the opportunity to try the KLE Innovations Harmony line of RCA’s?

They are perhaps the only RCA that is capable of being used for either digital or analogue use.

I (and many others) have used these RCA’s with great success in constructing cables for use as digital interconnects.

I tried them a few years ago, even before KLE Innovations brought out their line of digital interconnects and could not believe how much better they performed than my impedance matched RCA’s that came on a digital cable from Van den Hul

Selecting a suitable geometry, wire quality and the insulation, becomes more applicable to improving cable performance once the Harmony RCA’s are used

Regards - Steve



@williewonka - yes, I think I have used the KLE.  Well, it was the previous Eichmann Silver Bullet plugs (which are the same thing).   As with all cables, it is system dependent.  The sound was okay, but just a bit too bright for my taste and system.  I don't know that it really improved the sound for me. 
@auxinput re:...
Well, it was the previous Eichmann Silver Bullet plugs (which are the same thing).
Actually - when you get down to the nitty-gritty, these are two "similar looking" RCA designs, that do have quite different levels of performance.

Granted
- both are originally developed but the same guy - Keith Louie Eichman.
- so there are similarities in "design concepts", i.e. the tiny neutral pin in the collar
- but the subtleties are in the pin design, metallurgy and casement materials
- the Harmony RCA’s are a more refined version of the Silver Bullet.
- and so the sound is more refined and more complete

I too started with the Eichman Silver bullet on my turntable - I then tried the Copper Harmony followed by the Silver harmony.... and finally the Absolute Harmony.

I found the Copper Harmony to have a more complete and more detailed sound compared to the original Silver Bullet on analogue cables and the Absolute Harmony to be the very best in the Harmony line.

Anyhow - the topic here is all about Digital performance
- So as an experiment I decided to replace my purpose built Van Den Hul SPDIF cable with one of my analogue interconnects with the Absolute Harmony RCA’s
- to my surprise it sound better - a lot better !
- less glare, more details, improved clarity, better imaging
- how could this be? the cable was not even designed for digital use

I contacted KLEI and asked them about this - They confirmed that the Harmony RCA’s are in fact a very good choice for SPDIF interconnects and that they do not suffer from the same issues that other brands of RCA’s experience, because of their design and materials used.

Shortly after our email exchange, KLEI released their SPDIF cables, which I was asked to review :-)
http://image99.net/blog/files/category-klei-gzero2d-spdif.html

Their are several postings about the Harmony RCA’s in this thread - from both analogue and digital perspectives
https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/duelund-conversion-to-diy-helix-geometry-cabling

I cannot offer any explanation as to why these RCA’s work on SPDIF cables, but they do - and very successfully.

Combining them with the right geometry results in a cable offering exceptional performance - in either the analogue or digital realms.

Regards - Steve

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Digital interface of SPDIF signal is of a low Fr. nature. It may go up to 48KS/Sec, or more like 44.1KS/Sec with home equipment.
As so, cable impedance, ending connectors etc' are of less significance.
When cable do make a difference, is mostly due to a poor PLL at the receiving end. 
If the cable would be a disaster, there would be dropouts. SPDIF has no Acknowledgment of data received or massive correction methods. 
The claim it has no dropouts, but sounds less good, shows of a digital phenomena inflected over the sound...It is called jitter.
Jitter should be taken care by a circuit called PLL. All data receiving devices must have one. If the PLL is good, the cable should make no difference. If the PLL is not good enough, you are dependant on the cable. That doesn't ensure you are good. It only proves that one cable sounds better. No one claims it is now perfect!
When all digital cables sound identical, the PLL is good and it won't get better due to "digital cables".
All data transfer methods, would try to eliminate data error at transmission. So is SPDIF. The fact, that the cable gets so much attention is wrong. The inventors never meant to allow digital cable makers, make a fortune, from their poor design. The fact that we are there, and this and other threads deal with the subject, is so wrong.