In this post, I’m going to explain how digital audio connections work and also tell you why those connections are superior to using analog interconnects.
Almost a decade ago, a standard has been developed for transmitting audio in a digital format over signal cable. There are two types of cable for making such a connection. The first cable is a simple RCA cable which is also referred to as coaxial connection. However, there are also optical cables which transmit a similar signal by using light waves. There is actually a standard for the transmission of data is well as a standard for how the data is encoded.
Multichannel audio uses a different encoding standard than stereo audio. Therefore, when purchasing equipment, it is important to realize which of these standards is supported.
In terms of what kind of cable to select, whenever possible, I would suggest to prefer optical interconnects versus quacks for whites. Reason for that is that an optical cable does not need a ground connection. That means that there are no issues with ground loops. A ground loop can easily occur when there are two devices which have a different ground. Such a loop can translates to a humming signal which is audible on your speakers.
In addition, a digital signal is not prone to degradation. That means that the signal itself will not be altered by the cable or the connector. However, whenever you use analog interconnects, there will be a certain amount of degradation of the audio which is caused by the resistance between the connector at the Jack which is inside the device. Also, when using an optical interconnect, you don’t have to worry about the audio level. The level is well standardized. Therefore you don’t have to worry about the signal clipping in case you are feeding and input of an audio device with the signal that exceeds the maximum level that is tolerated.
However, the drawback of using digital interconnects is that each device needs to have some sort of the converter. That is because digital signals are usually processed at the analog domain. Therefore, every device that excepts digital audio, will have a converter built-in.