Cables are hardware right?

Is an optical audio cable going to be noticeably different than a rca to 3.5mm?

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More or less optical allows multiple channels on 1 cable, but not really noticeable otherwise IMO

Multiple channels being more than stereo? Like there isn’t any point having 5.1 with the current cable?

Depends on the system. If you want pure hardware 5.1, then no.

However, (some) hardware implementations of 5.1 use crossovers or dsp to take a stereo signal and split it amongst several sources effectively at the end of the signal chain. It all depends on your setup

Optical cables are not effected by electrical noise like analog can be. Sometimes, but not always, analog cables a la RCA or 3.5mm can pick up electrical noise from how the media devices are setup or the nearby environment.

As an example for electrical noise, one of the fun ones is ground loops. Those are caused by devices being plugged into different outlets, but the devices are connected to each other through cables with grounded shielding, effectively creating an antenna.

Optical cables are not effected because they don’t carry electrical signals.

Dependent on the system, my friend.

Optical is carrying a digital signal – and is capable of multi-channel. You are essentially connecting two digital devices together. Example: HTPC and a DAC.

That RCA - 3.5mm is an analog cable. If you have a DAC analog output or preamp, then this would be used to go to an amplifier.

In the case of many people, they are using the DAC from their phone (to output analog to 3.5mm connection) and back into a digital system – such as a car (where the signal is being digitally processed, TWICE). Which is strange

Though in a similar case, if one uses a digital output from their phone, into a digital system – the signal is only converting once (less jitter) – with the DAC/digital preamp inside. This is purely example.

They are completely different things, and both have strong applications in the audio world :slight_smile:

If you’re talking about the digital coax RCA, then no, there’s no difference other than maybe maximum cable length or something like that. digital either works or it doesn’t.

I just have an old panasonic 5.1 surround sound thing that my parents were throwing away, I haven’t even gotten around to connecting the rear speakers.

Sounds like the cable will be a waste of money, was just curious because it’s something I never actually used. Maybe I’ll ask some friends and see if they have one I could borrow for a test.

To answer the question of the OP:
Cables are not hardware unless it is a proprietary cable with a chip in it, like a dongle.

I’d disagree, especially for this forum category. Cables aren’t exactly a software so…

As for the cable, if you don’t specifically need it, then I wouldn’t use fiber. The cables are expensive and very easy to fragment or break if you don’t know what you’re doing. At least they were when I last used them, which was years ago. not sure if they’ve become more flexible or not.