One thing is that the sending component must convert from electrical to optical and then the receiving component must convert back, thus introducing two additional circuits, each adding noise and jitter.
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Has something to do with two factors: 1)the Toslink material (plastic) allows internal bouncing and reflections of the optical signal within the cable. 2) the interface at the cable ends and input/output terminals is really sloppy allowing for further degradation of the signal. These problem are minimized with the much higher quality AT&T Glass optical cable. This is what I have heard, but if I'm mistaken or there are other factors at work, hopefully better minds will set us straight! Happy Tunes!
While I'm certain that there are differences, I am skeptical as to whether or not the average audiofool can delineate between the two formats.
Try to set up a double-blind comparison. I did, and I couldn't distinguish between Toslink and RCA. The only format that made an audible difference was AES/EBU. Even that was very minor, though.
I wouldn't spend too much time or money fiddling with this issue. Life's too short, and there's a lot of music out there to be heard. Ciao!
Gthrush1 is right that there is a lot of music worth a listen, but this is one area where I think a little effort is well spent. While I often do not hear the significant differences between specific cables or tweaks that others do, the difference in my system between toslink and coax was not subtle and much in favor of coax.
Here is what I've found, from best to worst.
1) AT&T glass optical
2) Toslink plastic optical ($19.99 Recoton from Fry's Electronics)
4) XLR (Madrigal's MDC-1)
Here is what IMHO, that metal cable are saturated for the bandwith are limited. Lots data that transfer through cable especially video and audio signals. That is probably why most new network backbone are fiber optics.
Talk about timely topics. I spent a fair amount of time last weekend searching through Audiogon's archives for information on AT&T ST. There were lots of opinions on whether Toslink, coax, AES/EBU and AT&T ST was the best digital connection. The final concensus seemed to be that AES/EBU is best. That requires one point of clarification: the very few that had any direct experience with AT&T ST thought it was a strong contender, maybe even better than AES/EBU.
To that end I'm interested in giving ST a try. The problem is finding a quality cable. None of the major cable companies seem to support even the more widely used Toslink, much less something as esoteric as ST. There is nothing for sale on Audiogon, either. Can anyone suggest a source?
BTW, this will be used between a CAL Alpha/Delta combo that is currently tied together with an Illumanti D-60. Thanks again!
Fpeel, the reason AT&T ST and Toslink are rare, because they require special facility to produce. Not for the DYI or old school cable companies. On Toslink, say Monter Cable, Audioquest for example, what they do is to OEM the cable and stamp their logo on it. On AES/EBU (XLR) and coax (RCA), some company just bought Belden wire, dress them up, and sell them 300X more ! Anyone can makes them ! I used to own Madrigal MDC-1 AES/EBU (XLR) digital cable and they are what I call "coloring". I am now using AT&T ST glass optical for my CD player, cheap 60 bucks - no coloring, imune to the components, trash-in trash-out, no interfernce problems, and quiet background. Also, my Toslink cable as I mention was bought for $19.99 connect from my DVD to my DAC, not as good as AT&T ST but it is better than $300/meter Madrigal MDC-1 or AudioQuest RCA.
Remember, lots of companies promote/marketing AES/EBU or RCA because they are not able to produce either AT&T ST glass fibers (only a few company in the world can produce this type of cable and none of them are in the audiophile industry even Wadia), nor Toslink.
What I am suprise is BNC cables, it is able to produce the sound almost as good as AT&T, or Toslink. Maybe because of the cable that I am using, not an audiophile product, but very hard to find (aerospace type). Again, not expensive neither compare to audiophile cables.
I am not trying to show-off my system but for your reference, my front-end are:
Wadia 7 transport
Wadia 9 DA
BTW. I speak the truth !!!
Called Steve at Great Northern Sound this morning. Found him to be very friendly and helpful. He has three different AT&T ST cables available. The first two were out of my price range ($400 & $900 as I recall). The third was the 3 meter Wadia and the price quoted was ~$60 including shipping. I opted for it.
Thanks again, 6chac.
I replaced a Monster Lightspeed 200 Optical Toslink which uses a plastic conductor with an Audioquest Optilink-4 Toslink which uses a Fused Silica Glass conductor and placed it between my Transport and my Dac.and the difference was jaw dropping! I swear that it sounded like twice as much information was getting through.
Since my Transport only has Optical out I can't a/b test the Glass Toslink with the other Digital Reference Coax wires I have (MIT Reference 1 and Illumanations D-60), but I would bet that the Glass Toslink with tight fitting spring loaded brass ferrules is at least as good as the Coax if not better. The best part is the Optilink-4 ps on sale right here on the site! The Stereo Trading Outlet is selling all lengths (1-6 meters) for the same low price of $175! Glass kicks ass!