Fiber optic cables are already well regarded for use in data applications, most popularly internet functions because of much faster transfer speeds. Continue reading to learn more about fiber optic audio cables and come back to Hosa News any time you want to learn something new, refresh your knowledge, or stay up to date on all things Hosa.
So what is it that makes fiber optic cables perform better, and how do those advantages relate to audio?
What is a Fiber Optic Cable?
What makes fiber optic cables unique is their use of light to transmit digital data. It’s a very simple design comprising of 3 main parts:
- Glass Fibers – Each strand is usually thinner than a strand of human hair
- Cladding – Layer of glass to keep light reflected within the core
- Core – The pathway for light to travel from one end to the other
How is a Fiber Optic Cable Different From a Copper Cable?
What makes a fiber optic cable different from a traditional copper cable is that instead of using physical electrons, it uses photons through light. This makes for far less physical impediments.
Fiber optic cables are also not susceptible to electromagnetic interference, which is the reason copper cables require shielding. Fiber optic cables, not having interference to weaken the signal, can transmit stronger signals over much longer lengths—and nearly at the speed of light.
Fiber Optic in Audio
You may have noticed on some pieces of audio equipment that there is a trapezoid-shaped port labeled “TOSLINK”, “optical”, or “digital audio out.” And if you’re unfamiliar with digital audio, you might be wondering what on earth that’s used for or if it’s even necessary.
How Fiber Optic Cables Became an Audio Staple
In 1983, Toshiba introduced fiber optic audio cables for their new CD players. These cables were known as “Toshiba-Link” and later shortened to “TOSLINK.” This quickly became adopted as the digital audio standard by devices across the consumer audio industry.
Since the fiber optic design is a faster, more pure way of transmitting digital data & audio, manufacturers started offering customers the option in addition to traditional copper cable connections.
When to Use Fiber Optic Cables
One key to using fiber optic audio cables is the format. Fiber optic audio cables most often use S/PDIF digital audio format with TOSLINK connectors. If you are using two digital devices that both have optical inputs and outputs, this is when to use the clean signal fiber optic cables provide.
If, however, only one device has fiber optic, a converter will be needed and you will not have the full benefits of fiber optic signal transmission. Using an optical connection means you are keeping that signal preserved in the digital format it was created in, ensuring there’s no signal degradation by the time it reaches its destination.
Fiber Optic Cable vs HDMI
Newer audio and video equipment has opted for HDMI as the standard connection since it carries both audio and video. HDMI cables also support more modern formats that TOSLINK does not, such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio. So does that make fiber optic obsolete? Not so fast.
While HDMI provides a slew of benefits, not every piece of gear uses or even needs it. Fiber optic cable still gives you very high digital audio resolution. Not only is fiber optic cable important for legacy equipment from the past 40 years, but TOSLINK is still used in modern audio equipment being released today.
Hosa Fiber Optic Cables
Hosa offers a couple different options of fiber optic cables. They utilize standard TOSLINK connectors and support ADAT and all S/PDIF formats, including Dolby Digital and DTS surround.
The OPT-100 series is the standard fiber optic cable, while the OPM-300 series offers a large-diameter Plastic Optical Fiber (POF) for maximum signal clarity, and a thicker jacked to resist the elements. The GOP-490 adapter helps convert from TOSLINK to Mini-TOSLINK.
To purchase Hosa’s fiber optic cables, follow the product links or visit our Shop.