TOSLink VS Coax To CD Transport

Hi all,

Wanted to wade in and get the community’s opinion.

My current setup:

Elac UB52 bookshelf speakers
Stellar Strata
Cambridge Audio CXC Transport connected to the Strata via a Morrow Audio TOSLINK
Blue Jeans speaker cables
Murrow Audio MAP1 power cable feeding the CXC Transport
Murrow Audio MAP3 power cable feeding the Strata

So, is there a benefit to upgrading my TOSLINK cable to a COAX connection?

I know I can get a higher sample rate via the COAX cable, but does that make a difference from a transport that is limited to redbook CD specificiations?

I have seen Paul’s videos explaining that the TOSLINK cable will give a nice “clean” signal and I have also seen that COAX can result in some extra noise. But, will the benefits of COAX outweigh those issues?

As always, thanks everyone! I didn’t see a specific topic for this yet.

Any opinions on this topic? Thanks!

I have my Marantz SA14 SACD player connected to a Tascam CD-RW901 Mk.II recorder using a Morrow SP2 coaxial cable. I tried a basic AQ optical cable but but preferred the Morrow. Obviously a better optical cable might improve the sound.

I like TOSLINK conceptually - especially at 44.1 rates it seems a “no-brainer”.
Up at 96 and 192 sample rates, I use TOSLINK and co-ax successfully, can hear no difference, but I reckon that optical is struggling a bit at that high a data rate especially 192 hence jitter will be higher than for a well constructed co-ax link. Whether your DAC will care about jitter is another matter, some do, some less so.

But at 44.1, I think TOSLINK has the edge, especially for noisy sources or sources with switch mode PSUs and no chassis earth :slight_smile:

Coax though capable of carrying noise usually has less jitter than cheap toslink.


Yep, that’s the trade-off. Toslink has zero electrical noise but always high jitter. Coax can have much lower jitter but is a path for electrical noise. It’s a question of which is the worse evil in your specific system.

Until recent years, coax always sounded better. Now there are DACs which can truly ignore the jitter from Toslink and in that case it might be the stronger option. Just try them both and see if you have a preference.


Thanks for all this great information.

I am using a Morrow Audio Toslink cable. All my cables except my speaker cables are by that company. Love them.

And I am feeding in to a Stellar Strata, so I trust that is a well implemented DAC.

But…I am never going to get over 44.1 sample rate out of a CD Transport, right? I would have to move up to a SACD to exceed that rate, correct?

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If your transport can play hi rez files burned to dvd than if you were to try to play 24 bit 192 khz you would not be able to over toslink.

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Cheap TOSLINK cables here - they cost on average 5 pounds/dollars each.

Transmit 192 kHz no problem every day, in fact I’ve never had a problem with that, must be a design limitation in the transport?
n.b. I’m not using PSA gear.

Nevertheless I agree co-ax likely to have less jitter at that rate if it’s a decent co-ax cable :slight_smile:


There’s a difference between “well implemented” and “has crossed the Rubicon into territory where input jitter doesn’t matter any more”. The only DAC architecture that I know has reached that level is the Directstream family that’s also under the PS Audio banner. On every other DAC I’ve ever encountered you have to battle both jitter and noise, and nearly all of them can get far better results from a really good coax transport than they can ever hope to get from Toslink.

I have a Directstream DAC and use Toslink as my preferred input. If you don’t have a Directstream DAC you really should listen to both inputs from your transport, with the best coax cable you can get your hands on, and go with the one that sounds better to you.


So…do you have any favorite COAX cables, @dvorak? Like I said, I am using many Morrow Audio cables for my humble little Strata to Elac UB52 setup.

And that is good insight for sure. I am not yet ready to go Directstream DAC.

Sorry, I’ve got nothing to offer on that front. On my prior DACs I used an Audiophilleo USB-to-coax adaptor which plugged directly into the coax input (ideally with BNC rather than RCA) and never spent any time or effort evaluating coax cables. And I’ve had the DS DAC since not long after it launched.

So probably the most useful suggestion I can give is that XLR (which uses three-wire cables rather than coaxial) is better than BNC coaxial which is better than RCA coaxial when you have options.

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A few years ago I ordered an AQ Jitterbug from Amazon, and they sent instead an AQ Vodka Toslink. I sent it back, though I didn’t have any faith they’d get it right the second time because the inventory control sticker on the box said it was the Jitterbug. Sure enough, they repeated the error again. Since it was clear it was never going to get straightened out, I kept it and bought the Jitterbug from another source. Maybe someday I’ll have a use for the cable.

I’m comically late to this streaming thing that all you kids are into.
I bought a Node and it’s really nice, it’s internal dac is a-ok.
But I found an Audioquest “Carbon” coax cable in my closet of forgotten hifi stuff. Connected to my Pontus 2 dac, the sound is hugely better.
Then, for a couple hundred bucks I bought a Zu Audio “Event” coax and that is even more hugely better.


For what it is capable of the Node is a bit of a bargain as long as one’s expectations are realistic. It’s a great tool for exploring the musical universe.

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