Toslink Survey / Please Participate

Digital interconnection, IMHO, has always held many myths.

When I first began delving into outboard D/As, jitterbugs, and transport combinations, very few component manufacturers (for some stupid reason) were actually providing coax RCAs (75ohm SPDIF). Interconnection, in many cases, was acheived through the use of Toslink.

Now most of here already know that I am quite an extreme advocator of balanced interconnection including, digital signal. I personally use AES/EBU on XLRs for my 2 channel system.

Out of necessity, I have had to hook up my home theater DVD player to HT receiver using the Toslink (Denon DVD 5000/Denon 3300). And after listening for an extended period of time, I have to ask, (because I obviously must be forgetting),....... Why was Toslink so bad? Why do many people say it sounds like crap?

The system sounds fine. Very natural and "undigital". I won't mention the Toslink cable manufacturer, but it is glass, and the cable costs $39.95. No "Break-in". No "cryo" no crap, just hook it up and go.

When you think about it, many issues associated with interconnection are negated. Balanced????? No Need. RFI, EMI ????? Trivial. Impedance mismatch????? None. Adverse environmental conditions????? Irrelevant. Overall, a very easy, inexpensive, and sonically acceptable interconnection. I don't know about 2 channel usage, but if this any indication, I'm sure it would yield acceptable results?

Can anyone comment? Is anyone still using it for 2 channel? Even if just out of necessity, or otherwise. Does anyone find Toslink unacceptable?

When I had the CI Audio Dac and PSU, it allowed for both toslink and rca inputs. I played around with different cables using the glass toslink from ebay against numerous other digital and analog rcas. I found the glass toslink to be middle of the pack. My budget digital cables ranging from D60 to wutever else I had at the time were inferior to toslink. The better cables were actually regular anlog cables I had at the time I think were Harmonic Tech Silways2 and Bogdan Princess to name a few. I've been using analog cables for digital even before this experiment which only further supported that good analog cables are better than digital cables. My theory is the cable with the most uniform impedance with the lowest resistance and capacitance is the better cable for digital or analog apps. Toslink is weaker in general, I think, because it goes through extra optical conversions which its quality is dependent on the quality of these converters. It's just one more variable that allows more chance for the signal to be mucked. When properly implemented, toslink can be good and cheap, but I think it lacks character compared to using rca connections. Ultimately, while were on this topic, I would want to explore other types of digital transmissions as well such as USB... when finances permit.
I believe two things have changed over the years , 1 being the toslink connector on most hardware has improved, and the simple invention of a glass toslink connector has provided a more efficient signal transfer. While it is still possible to find better coaxial cables {a little more full bodied IMO, if you willing to spend more money} glass optical is now at least in the same league , does not carry an electrical signal as you stated, and therefore is less prone to carrying ground loops , hum etc.
Its a good choice for great sound at a low price.
I was using "glass" Toslink 1-2 years ago, but have come back to digital RCA cables currently. You can get great sounding generic glass 1.5 meter toslinks for under $30 on ebay with ever higher glass strand count. Back then they seemed to sound as good or better than any under $300 RCA digital cable I used so I gladly sold my expensive cables and just got a couple cheap glass toslinks.

The weakness of toslink for me was the loose fitting connection, if you look at toslink cable sideways you will notice it can sag slightly and not even be 90 degress CDP.
I suspect performance can be much improved if a better connector was developed.

I have since replaced glass toslinks with newer Sterovox HDXV digital RCA for under $100 and increased performance slightly for low cost. Also like Viggen I have used standard Bogdan analog silver IC with with Eichman Silver Bullet RCA as a digital cable with excellent results (Bogdan Silver Spirit IC) .
I used Toslink years ago when I had a Meitner CD3 feeding a Krell DAC (should never have sold that Meitner). The plastic Toslink cables were not nearly as good as the glass ones--don't ask me why; you could bend the plastic cable and mess up the sound badly, to the point of cutting it off. Still felt more comfortable with coax, but my recollection is that at the time it was hard to tell any difference between the glass Toslink and the coax. I've been told by a designer that a lot of it depends on the interface in your transport and DAC. A designer only has so much time and budget to fit their products to a certain price point, so they will generally optimize the interface that they believe will be the most commonly used, and that's usually the coax.
The only Toslink I have ever used is the Kimber. All I can say is that it worked o.k.
Consider the care in which manufacturers take with toslink vs rca. Most toslinks are cheap plastic and usually only 1 or 2. Manufacturers seem to take more care and pride in putting in an RCA/Coax digital for every input-usually gold plated. This tells me that internally things are probably not equal either.
Toslinks are definitely more "delicate" where good coax is sturdier, better shielded and better connections.
Finally, I've been told that good coax digital cables were designed for different impedence and voltage levels than regular interconnects.
Try them all out and see for your self?
My toys: Anthem avm-2 & denon 2200 hooked up with 6 nordost blue heavens for sacd/dvd-a and using an older tara labs digital/coax cable for normal 5.1. However, I do use a toslink to hook up my dishnetwork 501 receiver to this!
Toslink had higher jitter in the past. This has improved with new generations of equipment.
I used a Toslink connection for several years with my DVD/CD player, and was quite satisfied with the performance. Eventually, however, "audiophilia nervosa" set in, and when I bought my Bryston SP-1 pre/pro, I felt compelled to switch to a digital coax cable (a very good brand). My pre/pro allows me to connect both types of cable, so I can switch back and forth doing an A/B test. I can't honestly say that I can reliably tell any difference between the Toslink cable and the digital coax when listening to DVD sound tracks, but there is a small but audible improvement when listening to CD's.
I agree with all you guys. If I had my choice, I would have NOTHING but 75 ohm RCAs. (If I could have EVERYTHING, I would prefer those TRUE balanced.) Unfortunately, many major manufacturers utilize Toslink. For instance: This particular Denon receiver has 2 Toslink inputs, 1 RCA. Obviously, I would of preferred 3 RCAs. But, Oh Well.

Ultimately, I have been experimenting with "throughputting" the DMX music signal originating from a Motorola cable box, (provided by Adelphia cable) through the wonderful Burr-Brown dacs contained within the Denon DVD5000. Then running analog out to the receiver, where I then bypass the DSPs by running the receiver in the "direct stereo" mode. I am using Toslink between the cable box and the digital input on the DVD player.

Quite frankly, it sounds great. I really cannot find anything derogatory to mention. It provides an excellent source of background music. I would probably guess that the signal is somewhat compressed, but you would never know after running it through the 24/96 Burr-Browns.
Also, Has anyone used that optical "goop" that is applied on the ends? Did it yield different results?

No wonder you can't here a difference, the cable box is not a great source. Even the digital music channels are only good for background music. Big time Compression.

I do agree that the DVD5000 has wonderful dacs. I owned one for 26 months. It died 4 times in that time period. Three times they replaced the entire transport and logic boards under warranty. When it died for the 4th time, and wasn't under warranty, it went away. However, I got one of the first units off the assembly line, so....

Hi all: there was an earlier thread on this (maybe 1-2 years ago) and I am strongly in favor of TOSLINK. Most negatives are from reviewers, commenting on the "loose connection" that I sometimes wonder if these guys use the toslink cable to suspend/move the components! In my system (Krell HTS2, Sony SCD1, SAT200 HDTV receiver among others) I prefer to use toslink (AQ or Monster Cable) if possible. Unfortunately most so called "high-end" manufactrures tend to be miserly with the toslink I/O (on one hand they talk about how cheap this connector is and then they do not offer enough!) and I may occasionally have to resort to a coax digital connection but never spend more than $40-50 for the cable. My 2cents worth.
I tried a glass toslink against a cheap homemade 75 Ohm coax (RCA terminated) and preferred the coax. The Toslink didn't sound nearly as good. That said perhaps my cheap transport (Marantz CD67SE) is to blame ?
Prpixel. I agree. That's why I had mentioned a compression issue somewhere. Although some years back I was using (for my 2 channel system) A Sony CDP-555ES as a transport into all kinds of crazy digital processing. This Sony was a flagship CD player in the same league as the Denon. Separate power supplies, chassis dampening, 35 pounds, composite feet, I mean, it was a brute. BUT, Toslink out ONLY! Go figure. Ultimately, for it's time, it was considered reference quality and it sounded great, again, for it's time. But no RCA.

I think you might be surprised at how great this combination actually sounds. I would have to assume that using the Toslink out of the Denon DVD into the HT receiver might be a more accurate indication of it's sonic potential? I'll let you know.

Sorry to hear about your bad experiences with the Denon. I know of several of us using them without issue. Obviously, your unit was built on Friday, 10 minutes before closing the plant for the weekend. :>(

Either the Denon was built on Friday or at 9:02 AM on a Monday. I also purchased a DVD9000 that died within about a week of purchase. I took it back to the dealer and demanded my money back. I also had problems with a DVD2800, DVD2800MII and a DVD2900. I think maybe I'm cursed when it comes to Denon DVD players. However, I've owned quite a few Denon CD players and they were all realiable (1500MII, 1520, 1560, 3500, 3520, 3560).

I'm using a Kimber or Cardas (can't remember off the top of my head - getting old) toslink between my Motorola HD cable box and my Anthem AVM20. The problem I have is that every once in awhile it just falls out of the back of the unit. I tried a cheapo glass cable with the same problems. It could be that the poor connectors on Toslink is contributing to higher levels of jitter. Manufacturers tend to favor Toslink over coax and analog outputs because it's cheap and easy. It's a lot easier to explain to Joe Public how to hook up one cable than multiple cables.
As far as I remember, LED that used to transmit the light impulses into the line wears out in a year or so, and then quality fails if not replaced...

I don't get why this flawed SPDIF is still in use that much. Using Firewire, spdif-related part of jitter might be eliminated, and due to high bit-rate several channels information may be transferred by one cable.
Toslinks are very cost effective and have gotten better. There are different grades of Toslink transmit/receive modules and fiber with different data rate. Most manufacturers don't use the best parts. Everything you'd want to know about Toslinks and great prices can be found at:

I recently A/B'd Toslinks against my AES/EBU cables in my TacT system, which has multiple digital inputs and level controls for each. I normally run the link between my control unit and amps at 192K, but Toslink will not support
this level, so I ran the test at 96K.

When I switched in the Toslink, details were softened, and the soundstage collapsed in all directions. With a live recording like Mulgrew Miller's Live at Yoshi's 1,the
excitement of the live recording was greatly diminished.

IMO, Toslink are very smooth, but if you want to hear everything that's on the recording, AES/EBU still does a better job. I've also tried ST(AT&T) glass cables and their
performance equals or betters AES/EBU. Unforunately, most
manufacturers don't provide these connections on their equipment.

In the future we'll see a new interface called the SMI, which will be done via duplex plastic optical fiber and will interconnect video, audio, sensors, computers, etc in our homes. The first model home, using this technology, is being displayed in Germany, at the World Plastic Optical Trade Conference this month.
The way i look at it, why convert it from electrons to photons, then photons back to electrons then to analog, when you could go Digital to Analog and kip it simple?
No matter what, with any conversion there will be some degree of loss. I think it makes more sence to use Coax and keep the conversions to a minimum
I once asked Gilles at Birdland Audio for his recommendation on an interconnect, since the Birdland Odeon-Ag supports TosLink, BNC, and XLR inputs. He actually recommended the TosLink. I was pretty surprised. I still use a BNC Coax cable because long ago I was convinced that TosLink was crap. Maybe not anymore, but prejudices die hard.
I bought a toslink cable from Radio Shack for, I dont know, 10-20 bucks,,and used it for home theatre and to an old theta processor and it sounds fine to me. I do have coax in my main system, but I dont know if it makes much difference..