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-   -   S/PDIF Audio Cable -> Can I use the cheap one? (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/all-things-audio/99642-s-pdif-audio-cable-can-i-use-cheap-one.html)

Deke Ryland July 24th, 2007 07:41 AM

S/PDIF Audio Cable -> Can I use the cheap one?
Hey guys.. I have a pair of Edirol MA-15D studio monitors that I run and need to buy a S/PDIF digital coax cable to connect the two. Went up to radioshack and saw they only had MONSTER CABLE 6.5ft. at $79.95.

Then came home and checked on B&H and saw they are the same price there, but they have other mfger'ers like Hosa that sell a 10ft digital coax (s/pdif) cable for $14.50. As far as audio quality, is the cheaper Hosa cable inferior to Monster Cable's?

The price I would like to pay (HOSA) - $14.95:

The expensive MONSTER Cable - $79.95:

What's the deal... do I really need to spend 80 bucks on S/PDIF cable... or is Monster cable a ripoff? Thanks for any help.

Marco Leavitt July 24th, 2007 08:27 AM

Word of advice: never buy Monster Cable, ever. It's not that it's bad quality, it's not necessarily (although the only XLR cable I've ever had fail was Monster Cable), it's that it is priced like professional cable and it's not. Bet the Hosa cable is as good or better, although that's not a brand I'd seek out either. I'd go with this: http://store.a2zcable.com/dicoaucasca.html. You should look for a DVinfo sponsor first though, although I'm not seeing it at B&H.

Steve House July 24th, 2007 08:44 AM

While there are differences in cables, there's not anywhere near the differences that Monster and other "premium" cable manufacturers would have you believe. Certainly quality materials and manufacturing quality control are important and I wouldn't suggest the "home video" cables you find in the hardware section of your corner grocery. But the stanard Radio Shack 75 ohm composite RCA/RCA video cables (the yellow or orange colour code stripe on the connector usually) will work just fine for S/PDIF connections. The HOSA will be just fine too. Monster Cable is usually okay but it's not even close to being worth the price premium IMHO - it's maybe 10% better quality and 90% marketing hype.

Deke Ryland July 24th, 2007 09:28 AM

I guess what I don't understand is how there is a difference in sound quality when the connection is digital... like the S/PDIF digital coax I am looking to purchase.

If it is a digital signal... how could one cable produce a better quality sound? If it's just 1's and 0's going across the cable, that would mean that the inferior cable is dropping signal... and I doubt that would happen.

The only reason I could see why one is better than another would be gold-plated stuff, which in my understanding doesn't affect the quality of sound, but rather just ensures any loose and/or jostling of the cables doesn't affect the connection.

Get what I'm saying here?

Marco Leavitt July 24th, 2007 09:41 AM

No difference in sound quality. It's reliability that you pay for. With XLR cable for instance, you're paying for better shielding, plus they coil better. Don't know how important that is with coax. Also, you don't want cheap connectors.

Deke Ryland July 24th, 2007 10:24 AM

So it sounds like that HOSA S/PDIF digital coax cable would work perfectly fine for connecting my two studio monitors.. any other brand cable wouldn't provide an increase in sound quality..right?

Jim Andrada July 24th, 2007 10:40 AM

Second the comment on cheap connectors.

A tremendously high percentage of failures in computer equipment relates to problems with cables and connectors. Particularly connectors. Poor contact in the connector induces noise of all kinds and noise degrades the electrical signal quality.

It might be all ones and zeros logically, but all ones and zeros are encoded onto an analog signal for transmission across the cables. The noisier the transmission, the higher the number of ones and zeros that get dropped or mis-interpreted. Most transmission protocols have some degree of error recovery, but at some point the ones and zeros can't be correctly deduced from the signal and you get digital noise, ie missing or incorrect ones and zeros, and statistically you reach a point where error correction etc can't successfully recover the missing information.

Put another way, with sufficiently noisy connectors your digital audio, video, spreadsheets, whatever, turns to #### (Substitute 4-letter word of your choice!)

It might come as a surprise to many, but digital is a fantasy and illusion. All data exists as sets of analog states, and all analog states have inherent error rates. Every memory chip, tape medium, CPU, cable, whatever, is an analog device and the interpretation as ones and zeros is done statistically by looking at analog signals/states such as magnetism or charge and making judgement calls about what's a one and what's a zero. It's well known in the computer hardware business that some sequences of ones and zeros are harder for a given decoder to correctly interpret than others and testing is usually done with such stressful patterns - for example, tapes are written with data streams that are known to be hard to decode correctly in order to test the systems.

Marco Leavitt July 24th, 2007 11:00 AM

"any other brand cable wouldn't provide an increase in sound quality..right?"

Right, but as Jim points out, it is possible for a bad cable to degrade performance. Cable manufacturers abuse this concept to convince the public that if they spend an exhorbitant amount of money their equipment will sound that much better. I was at Best Buy last fall, I think, and they had a demontration set up showing the same DVD played back on two identical monitors, one fed by a Monster component cable and the other by generic composite. There was a clear difference, but the salesman used the demonstration to convince a couple that they needed to spend a $100 on the Monster cable because it would look better than the generic component cable supplied by the company they were getting their new HD service from. This was clearly fraud and I almost said something right there but didn't. Last I checked they had removed that display, so hopefully they caught some flack from it.

Steve House July 24th, 2007 12:47 PM

Yep, as you point out there's a big difference between the fact that a faulty cable, say one with a broken or deficient shield, can degrade performance (and cheap cables are more likely to fail than mid-price ones) and the claim that an expensive premium cable can improve it. And there's some claims that make Monster cable seem positively conservative in their claims - one site I saw had "audiophile" AC power cords that cost several thousand dollars that claimed they'd cause noticable improvement in fidelity you one replaced the stock AC cord on the amplifier, TV, etc with them! PT Barnum was right!!!

A. J. deLange July 25th, 2007 09:28 AM

I've had PhD electrical engineers express puzzlement because they can definitely hear a difference in the sound when using Monster cables but can't measure any difference between them and other cables in the lab. I tell them to come back to resume the discussion after they have done a double blind triangle test. None ever has. The immagination is a powerful thing and a wonderful marketing tool.

Jim Andrada July 25th, 2007 10:46 AM

Darn! You've unmasked my secret as a marketing guy. What can I do?

Imagination is certainly the salesman's friend. Just imagine yourself in a Ferrari Enzo with a scantily clad star/starlet next to you, zipping down the coast highway, wind in your hair. Makes you want one, right? (One of each?)

Or just imagine the new $139 auto stabilizer that guarantees perfect takes every time with no training or effort on your part.

On the other hand, the world would be a poorer place if we didn't live for our hopes and dreams and imaginations. Maybe the tradeoff is worth it.

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