There are many methods for transferring audio data signals between audio devices. For many years the only solution was a simple cable connection. These interconnect cables where usually made from copper, they had various connections for plugging into devices such as televisions, hifi’s, radios and home cinema systems. The connection of choice was usually RCA Phono or 3.5mm jack. However these connections have been replaced in today’s modern digital world. The current gold standard connection for transferring audio information is the optical audio connection known as Toslink.
Toslink known my many people as “Optical Audio Cable” carry digital signals using light over fibre optic cable. Toslink was developed by Toshiba in 1983. It was used to carry signals from DVD or mini disc players to amplifiers. Some portable devices use a smaller version called mini Toslink, this uses the same cable but terminates in the smaller plug. The smaller Mini Toslink is similar in size to the 3.5mm mini jack used on MP3 players worldwide to connect headphones.
Optical audio cables can suffer from loss of signal at longer lengths. Even the most basic Toslink cables can handle distances of five to ten meters without any loss. If you need to use a cable longer than this it’s a good idea to opt for a higher quality cable or consider using a repeater device. These devices are placed in between two cables, they simply rebuild and amplify the signal.
Many amplifiers or home cinema systems only have a single optical audio socket to allow for just one Toslink cable. This can cause issues, with so many devices using Toslink you can quickly run out of inputs. The solution is an optical audio switch. These devices allow multiple devices (usually three) to be connected to a single socket. You simply plug your three devices, maybe a DVD player, games console and satellite box into the splitter, you then plug the splitter into your receiver or amplifier and select the device you want to use on the switch. A basic optical switch can be purchased online from as little as ten pounds in the United Kingdom.
You can pay anything from three pounds to as much as fifty pounds for an optical lead. The more expensive Toslink cable will use a higher grade fiber optic core and a better quality glass on the plugs. What ever you spend on your optical cable you should not be disapointed with the audio quality it produces.
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