Coaxial Digital Audio - the Cable and Connection Explained
The coaxial digital audio cable is one of the most common methods used to transfer digital audio between devices.
Here we look at this connection type and answer some common questions.
What does the connector on the device look like?
A coaxial digital connection on your device looks like this.
It is a single RCA jack which is usually colour-coded orange, but not always. The port will often be labelled as 'coaxial', but may just say something like 'digital out'.
As with all RCA connections, it doesn't matter which way round you insert the plug, it will plug-in regardless of the orientation.
What does the cable look like?
Coaxial digital audio cables for transferring audio look like this.
They have one RCA connector at either end, and should be rated at 75 ohms for accurate transfer of the signal.
What does it do?
A coaxial digital audio connection is used to send digital audio signals between devices.
It supports stereo audio as well as DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound signals.
When should I use it?
The preferred method of transferring digital audio signals would usually be via an HDMI connector. The reason for this is that HDMI supports every type of audio signal available and everything can be sent through one cable - video and audio.
However, if you don't have HDMI as an option, then a coaxial digital audio cable is an excellent way to send the audio between devices. This type of connection will allow you to hear standard stereo audio and 5.1 surround sound.
What else can you tell me?
This type of connection uses a coaxial cable to send the digital information. It will have RCA connectors at either end, which is a common connector used in other AV connections such as component video cable.
This type of digital audio connection is also referred to as an S/PDIF signal, and there are actually two connection types which send exactly the same type of signal. One is this coaxial digital audio connection, and the other is an optical digital audio interface.
It is common to find both of these connections side-by-side on a device - or you may get one or the other. If you have both it doesn't really matter much which one you use, it may just come down to the type of connection you have on the other device.
The main advantage of using digital coaxial cables over optical audio connections is that the cabling is common and more likely to be available, and is also more robust than the thin optical cable. Apart from that the differences between the two methods are quite small.
If required, you can buy an optical to coaxial digital audio converter to convert one S/PDIF type into another.
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