im using a van den hul d102 III hybrid coaxial cable (product of the yr. 2001 and best buy the last four years (What hi-fi) My speakers never sounded beter when i switched to coaxial. i tried everything from normal cheap rca jacks to optical cable and i can tell you coaxial cables are the best. It sounds fuller and the details are clearer.
Technically, given an error free link, they should both sound the same as they carry digital data. It's not like analog where noise carries over into the source data. As long as the bits are decoded correctly, both cables should provide identical information.
As far as I know, both cable types will provide error free links as long as you don't manhandle them too much however, given the choice, the coax cable is probably sturdier. Optical cables tend to be fairly fragile.
The difference people describe are thus:
Optical cables are subject to "jitters" or slight soundglitches due to the light in the cable occasionally being reflected/refracted within the cable. Shorter cables which are left still work best.
Coaxial cables, like analog cables, are subject to magnetic interference, so make sure your cables are well sheilded. Audiophiles tend to prefer coaxial, but if your system is set up properly, there should be no difference.
No offense to any of you but I absolutely agree with Razorstouch. I have tried everything and after many listening tests, I have concluded that coax cables sound better (more musical) than optical cables of equal quality. Yes, it's about ones and zeros, but something in the transfer or connections is different. I know I will never convince those of you who are die hard "nay sayers" but my experience is all I have and please don't give me any mumbo jumbo stuff about "hearing what I want to hear." I don't care about anything but the sound quality.
When correctly connected, Coax and Optical should be exactly the same. Bandwidth isn't and issue, error correction (when connected correctly) isn't and issue. Distance, say over 50 feet might lean toward optical but who does that? Optical cables can be miles long compared to copper's hundred of feet for the same amount of signal loss. Optical cable can be fragile and cannot be taken around corners too tightly or pinched. For all intents and perposes though, it doesn't make a difference which one you use.
Now, having said that, there are a couple of situation where one MIGHT be better than the other. They both fall under "defective equipment" though.
1. The CD data, though optical, is converted to a electrical signal. To create an optical signal, this elctrical signal - essentially the coax signal, has to be convered to optical by a laser-diode. You could theorize that am optical signal could not be superior to a coax signal because it is derived from the coax signal. I would not worry about it though.
2. Optical connections do not carry grounds. In a pooly designed system an optical connection COULD produce less hum because there are fewer ground paths. The music to the decoder would not be any better but a crappy amp could add hum to an otherwise pristene music signal just before it got to the speakers. This hum would be faily obvious though.
Again, if you have good equipment, use either one.
I am trying to find the cheapest possible optical cable at a length of 25 feet. I cannot use coax, because that jack is alrady occupied. Does anyone know where I can find really cheap optical cables?
I just picked some up at LOWES! Was quite surprised to find them for $17.95 there, as well as s-video for $9.95 and component video cables for $17.95 as well. All "gold".
i was wondering which is better coaxal or optical? I have a coaxal hooked up to my reciever for my DVD player and it sounds great but the optical I have hooked up to my Playstation sounds good to. With the optical I have hooked up to my Playstation I do not have to turn my reciever's volume up as much as I do when I watch DVDs on the coaxal cable. Should i switch them? Some one please help? I am new at this digital sound stuff.
the longer the cable , the more chances of distortion
It's as easy as 123. Digital Optical and Coaxial Optical will sound exactly the same unless there is something bad with either. It would take a trully incompetent company to get so many errors over a digital transmission line of a few meters. You want proof... Just hook up a PC and record every single bit you get from both. Listen to a 1000 CDs, which will give you around 640 000 000 0000 bits and... (no) surprise! all of them will be exactly the same!