If you’ve bought a Blu-ray player, a TV box or a 4K TV, you would have noticed that there are audio ports marked as SPDIF or Optical and/or Coaxial.
What are the differences between them? What cables do you need to use to get them functioning?
SPDIF, also known as S/PDIF stands for Sony/Philips Digital Interconnect Format. It is also known as Sony Philips Digital Interface.
From the name, we know that Sony and Philips are the primary developers of this digital audio format.
A SPDIF port can support either a digital coaxial cable or a digital optical cable (TOSLINK).
So, the difference between SPDIF and TOSLINK is essentially the difference between a digital coaxial cable and a digital optical cable (TOSLINK).
That is what we’ll be looking at in the following sections.
Digital Coaxial Cable
Digital coaxial cables are made of multi-core wires and look very much like RCA connectors.
Coaxial cables use electricity to transport audio signals.
That doesn’t mean you can use standard analog L/R RCA audio cables to output digital audio.
These cables may work but you would not get the desired digital audio quality.
A good quality digital coaxial comes with proper shielding that prevents audio quality loss.
TOSLINK (Optical Cable)
TOSLINK is the short form for Toshiba Link. It is an optical fiber connection.
The material is made of glass/plastic. It provides efficient data transmission without the need for electricity supply.
A TOSLINK cable is also popularly known as a digital optical cable.
Coaxial cables are popularly used with home theater receivers. They work well with surround sound and DTS.
They’re durable and have a rugged look. It can, however, fall prey to signal interference.
TOSLINK (Optical) Advantages
TOSLINK cables make use of light to transport audio data.
The cable can be made of either plastic, glass or silica.
The cables are thin with a squarish connector.
An easy way to understand a TOSLINK cable is to regard it as a connector that emits light.
TOSLINK cables are built to overcome two kinds of signal interferences. The first is the Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) and the other, Electromagnetic Interference (EMI).
Coaxial cables are unguarded against these interferences.
Another advantage of the optical cable is audio signal doesn’t weaken over distances.
Optical can handle 8 audio channels at 44.1 or 48 Kilohertz (kHz). In certain instances, it can support 4 channels at 88.2 or 96 kHz.
TOSLINK cables are simpler to handle but are fragile.
Digital Audio Cable Buying Ideas
Now that you know the difference between a digital coaxial and a digital optical audio cable, you’ll be able to decide which digital audio cable you should use for your AV equipment.
Here are some digital audio cable buying ideas for your quick reference.
Digital Coaxial Cable
Amazon Basics Digital Audio RCA Compatible Coaxial Cable
If you’re looking for a reliable and affordable digital coaxial cable, take a look at this Amazon Basics coaxial cable.
It comes with gold-plated connectors which protect against corrosion.
The split-tip center pins maximize contact pressure which boosts conductivity while minimizing signal interference.
The 4-feet cable has a flexible but durable PVC exterior. The cable comes with a 1-year warranty.
Check out this Amazon Basics Digital Audio RCA Compatible Coaxial Cable.
Check out more Digital Coaxial Cables.
Digital Optical Cable
This Syncwire digital optical audio cable comes with a gold-plated connector that is corrosion-resistant.
It is also equipped with buffer tubing for optimal signal transmission.
Wish to enjoy uncompressed PCM Audio? Want compressed surround sound (5.1 to 7.1)? Opt for this cable.
To facilitate a long usage period, this digital optical audio cable has an outer layer made of durable PVC.
You can also avail yourself of the removable rubber tips. These act as protection for the connectors when they’re not in use.
Check out the Syncwire Digital Optical Audio Cable.