Toslink or Coaxial for Hi Def Streaming

I have been having a strange and unexpected problem with Toslink connections.

I listen exclusively to digital music these days, streaming either from my NAS or Qobuz.

I have three systems in different parts of the house. Two are BlueSound Node 2i into Naim DAC, and the third is BlueSound Node 2 into a first-generation Hugo.

For all three systems, I have for some years used QED Reference Optical Quartz cables to connect BlueSound to DAC, and these have been fine. Increasingly I listen to hi def files, but nothing higher than 24 / 192, and I don’t have many of these. Mostly I don’t go beyond 24 / 96.

Lately, one of my BlueSound units has been struggling with 24 / 192 music, with lots of dropouts, and another one has stopped playing them altogether. The third unit keeps playing the same 24 / 192 music with no problem, and all three units are fine at 24 / 96. It’s a mystery - something that was never a problem becomes a problem and, although it’s the same TYPE of cable from the same TYPE of unit, somehow the individual combination of cable and unit produces different results. All my streaming is via very robust ethernet throughout the house, and that’s not the problem.

The QED cables are rated for 24 /192, but not beyond. It’s only guesswork, but maybe over time some glass strands have broken in a couple of the cables and they are unable to reach their rated capacity.

I have one different cable (it came with the Hugo) that is rated to 24 / 384 I think, and if I use this cable I have no trouble in any of my systems.

All of which begs the question - if I have to replace cables, what are the best cables that I could be using?

From the BlueSound units I have a choice of Toslink or Coaxial connections - which is best? I have been told coaxial for the best sound - except that it allows electrical interference and won’t carry hi def signal.

I can’t ever see myself bothering with higher than 24 / 192, or at least not higher than 192 - higher bit rates would be good but they don’t seem to be so readily available. Ideally I’d like capability for up to 32 bit, and comfortably beyond 192 even if in practice I never go beyond it.

I thought I more or less understood all this stuff but recent experience has left me feeling very ignorant.

24/192 over optical can be marginal. Coax is better. The Naim DAC has has galvanically isolated inputs so noise from the Node 2 won’r couple via the ground. As you have the Hugo working well over optical with one of your other cables, i’d leave this one alone.

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No difference in my opinion

The Toslink standard officially only supports up to 24/96, so if you’re getting anything higher than that, it’s a bonus. It’s certainly not unheard of to get 24/192 to work, but it’s not guaranteed. Coax should have no trouble with 24/192, so you should have no problems there.

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Thanks for all the responses. I must have been lucky with my cables until now, and at least one of them is still comfortably working at 24 / 192.

Last question: if I make the switch to coaxial, do people have any particular recommendations? Are there at least some particular features that I should look for? I know the answer is whatever sounds good to me but I’d like to narrow an otherwise bewildering choice.

As with all of this, you can spend silly money. A decent 75ohm cable is what you want and in the case of your Naim DAC get a cable terminated in RCA at the Node end and BNC at the Naim DAC end.

Have a look at Mark Grant cables or if you want to spend more then Naim have the DC1.

Actually I have just remembered that I own a Naim DC1 cable. I had it for an HDX that I used to own. Unfortunately it has BNC connections rather than RCA, but I think they also come with RCA connections, in which case one of them may be my solution.

Naim always used to chuck a BNC to RCA adapter in with the network players as a get you going solution but that’s going to be the wrong way round for your needs with your existing DC1 cable.

Whenever I had the choice in the past, co-axial always sounded noticeably better.

Thanks. I think the choice is made to go coaxial and the only question is whether I go to the expense of a Naim DC1. I suppose I could always sell the BNC one that I already have have to fund an RCA to BNC one.

Well a 1m RCA to BNC cable is £30 from Mark Grant, the DC1 £300 or so. I’m sure it would be an interesting comparison :grinning:

I reckon you need a top flight Naim system to get a benefit out of the DC1.
When I tried it with the UServe into Ndac with my Karan KAI180 mk2. It was a bit meh and turgid.
Perhaps with a 552 pre amp it would be different.
As with anything, it’s best to try before you buy if possible.

The Best reasonably priced coax is probably Black Cat Cable it’s designed by Chris Sommovigo might want to google it. One of the few true 75ohm spdif cables. Terminated with BNC’s supplied with adapters. If you can get a preloved Silver Star 75 mkll you’ll be a happy camper

Just for info, you don’t need ‘special’ SPDIF coax, simply 75 ohm standard radio quality coax is fine… as with just about all cable constructions, different cables may ‘sound’ different due to the fact they are not providing a truly perfect transmission line . The terminations are quite important, and phono plugs and connectors can’t when connected provide true 75ohm characteristic impedance because of the physical geometry, BNC connector/sockets however can. But in practice, and because of the relatively low frequencies used, the efficiency drop in using phono plugs and connectors is minimal. But yes if you can use BNC then that is designed to retain 75 ohm CI when connected. SPDIF is a consumer specification and is quite tolerant and not particularly demanding.

Remember it’s CI when the plug connects to the socket that counts… not just the plug in isolation.

I would advise against however using inline adapters if at all possible…

BTW you can use regular 75 ohm BNC terminated RF patch leads from a radio equipment supplies store … they will typically be highly performant (RF apps are usually far more demanding than domestic audio apps) and cost a fraction of many ‘audiophile’ SPDIF leads… and essentially they are same thing. Just ensure 75 ohm, RF patch leads come generally in 50 and 75 ohm varieties. If you need to use phono then yes you are probably stuck using ‘SPDIF’ leads or possibly 75ohm video leads, unless you want to solder up yourself.

Many thanks - my eyes have been opened and I will now organise a solution for my ears.

Hello Simon-In-Suffolk,

Mostly cable technology comes with a lot of Voodoo, but I agree, 75Ohm SPDIF has a very straight forward geometry.

The normally used RCA/Tulip connector is not sufficient due to the inappropriate termination of 75Ohm coax cable. On a NAIM installation you will directly notice the difference, especially in the lower en more upper regions.

Because 75Ohm RF has a very straight forward geometry I build a Coax 75Ohm myself.

I bought at the DIY store a Coax cable 4G tested. Just cut of the standard connectors and find on the internet truly 75Ohm BNC connectors. This turned out to be the most difficult part.

I chose the crimp version of the BNC’s. I hate soldering because I don’t master it well, and good soldering is paramount. With the BNC crimped on the coax, (Lots of videos on the NET how to . . ) I found a RCA of 75ohm with a BNC female connection. You will be amazed what this coax cable does to the sound quality of your dac/amplifier combination.

And here the greatest problem for us, audiofiles: Total costs: 40 euro including the crimping tool. For many to cheep, to sound wonderfull. :wink:

Enjoy listening!

(So, this is my first contribution to the NAIM community. I am not native English, so I hope you will forgive the sometimes odd use of the English language.)

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Good stuff… yes with a bit of care and attention to detail you can make some superb digital cables for not a huge outlay… and as you infer… very satisfying when they work really well… and underneath the marketing hype of certain consumer cables such cables can be quite straightforward if you have a basic understanding of certain aspects of physics.

BTW good quality RG59 or RG179 cables is all you need… not sure what cable you have, is it RG11?

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