Suffice it to say wire is contentious and divisive in much of audiophilia. Visit one of the many online audio forums and you’ll quickly find lengthy debate (i.e., arguments) on the subject. Opinions abound. Cables are still a necessity in our growing wireless world and we need them to be neutral and transparent. The big question is “Are there audible differences?”. Over the years I’ve purchased many cables (probably too many) hoping to eke out a little more. Always a little more.
Children and dogs
Maybe my ears aren’t golden enough. Or, my system isn’t resolving enough. While I realize there can be audible differences, often these differences are very subtle at best. USB cables, which I no longer use in my main system, are a good example. I’ve compared a $250 dB Audio Labs cable to a $130 AudioQuest Carbon, a $25 Belkin Gold and a $1.50 Blue Jeans Cable and in all honesty, I hear no difference. Nada. The 0’s and 1’s sound exactly the same! Apparently, each of these cables were properly built and do their job well. I’ve had a similar experience with properly built and spec’d RCA, BNC, and loudspeaker cables as well. Toslink is another story entirely.
Glass or plastic
Toslink optical is spec’d to max out at 24/96 but can easily pass a 24/192 signal using glass fiber. I like glass just for this reason. Can’t say I’ve heard a significant difference between any of the optical cables I have in my collection but if I had to choose based solely on sound quality, the Lifatec Silflex would take top honors. Lifatec produces some very nice quality glass cables and I use one between my streamer and re-clocker.
There are many in audiophilia who dismiss optical out-of-hand siting supposed high amounts of jitter horribly impacting the sound. Bullshit. Today’s DACs, with their specs in the pico and femto ranges, do a great job obliterating jitter. Of course if you’re still worried about the audibility of this increased jitter there are re-clockers like my iFi SPIDF iPurifer and Wyred 4 Sound’s Remedy Reclocker just for that purpose. Apparently, I’m still worried.
One rather underrated advantage of an optical connection is the inherent electrical/galvanic isolation it provides. When using this connection method in my system the sound is dynamic, natural, and involving. I like it. Of course, at this level of nervosa each and every connection sounds pretty good.