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Thread: What does Digital Coaxial output mean and other hi-fi confusion.

  1. #1
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    Default What does Digital Coaxial output mean and other hi-fi confusion.

    Hi,

    I'm trying to understand my hi-fi system.

    First question:

    I have DAC converter, which I use for mini-disc source to play it in 24 bit like CD quality.

    It has digital and analogue lead outs for the mini-disc player which is great - since I can
    record from CD and analogue sources.

    But what is a digital coaxial output?

    Second question:

    I have a pre-amp + 2 power amps, and 1x integrated amp. Four speakers.

    What is the most efficient way to power all four speakers for vinyl/CD source?

    Currently, I had it wired in a circuit, to power 2 speakers from 1x pre-amp + 2x power amps, and the integrated amp fired off 2 speakers, so I could only play 2 speakers at a time.

    Is there a way to run all the pre-power amps + integrated amps and 4 speakers together?

    Thanks

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    If you don't get your answer here, you might try...

    http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/index.php

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    Quote Originally Posted by Head_case View Post
    Hi,

    I'm trying to understand my hi-fi system.

    First question:

    I have DAC converter, which I use for mini-disc source to play it in 24 bit like CD quality.

    It has digital and analogue lead outs for the mini-disc player which is great - since I can
    record from CD and analogue sources.

    But what is a digital coaxial output?

    Second question:

    I have a pre-amp + 2 power amps, and 1x integrated amp. Four speakers.

    What is the most efficient way to power all four speakers for vinyl/CD source?

    Currently, I had it wired in a circuit, to power 2 speakers from 1x pre-amp + 2x power amps, and the integrated amp fired off 2 speakers, so I could only play 2 speakers at a time.

    Is there a way to run all the pre-power amps + integrated amps and 4 speakers together?

    Thanks
    In answer to the question, "what does digital coax output mean."

    Digital media such as CD and DVD represent music as a series of numbers. Normally a player reads the numbers and converts them to an analog signal which can then be amplified and sent to speakers or headphones. In digital output the numbers are represented as a series of pulses and sent directly to another audio component which can either store the numbers or convert them to an analog signal. The series of pulses can be optical (TOSLINK optical connection) or electrical (digital coax). Both of these are very crude communication systems. Both types of link are one way (one component sends and has no way of knowing if the other component is receiving) with no flow control. This is in contrast with USB, which is a two-way communication link where either unit can send or receive data, and the receiving unit can acknowledge receipt of data and request more data when it is ready.

    With regard to the second question, it is not clear to me what you are asking.

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    I love these questions... normally, for the best reproduction quality:

    Source (digital) -> DAC -> Amplification -> Speakers

    The 'source -> DAC' section is interconnected via coaxial or optical, the result is identical for both on short distances, since the signal is digital and represents the same information as found on the media disc, just coded differently for transmission. (Theoretically, optical should be better for longer distances, eg. for transatlantic communication, military purposes, etc. but that's not the case for consumer level use, ie. TOSLINK, which is rated at about 10m max.)

    If your source has analog RCA outputs, the following is also possible, because most sources have their own DACs built in:

    Source (analog) -> Amplification -> Speakers

    The external DAC is maybe of higher quality than the source's, maybe not, but that doesn't necessarily mean you will hear the difference... However an external DAC is still useful in cases where the source's digital to analog conversion is audibly poor, such as many computer onboard audio devices, which often produce a hissing noise. Also, some DAC units have a headphone amp.

    For the second part of your question, what kind of power amps? Mono blocks or stereo?
    Last edited by Philip; Dec-11-2011 at 16:33.

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    In any case, you can split (parallel Y cable) the output of your pre-amp to your power-amp (or 2x mono blocks) and integrated amp. This results in an impedance drop, which usually doesn't cause any problems for this kind of setup...

    Otherwise, the optimal solution is a power-amp (or integrated) with 2 outputs, actually designed to drive 4 speakers.

    Edit: if you have two full power-amps, just split the pre-amp to those -- don't need the extra integrated amp.
    Last edited by Philip; Dec-11-2011 at 18:02.

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    Thanks guys - I'm so technology illiterate that it takes me ages to figure out how to describe what I've got before even getting around to understanding what it does.

    Philip - from what I gather, then a digital coaxial output is not much use to me. I use the 24 bit DAC convertor for my minidisc player which has a Toslink output to the DAC player. I don't use digital output I suppose ... even the MD player -->24 bit DAC then goes --> 2x RCA output to my biwired speakers. I suppose the Toslink is only useful for digital theatre or surround sound things?

    For the second part of your question, what kind of power amps? Mono blocks or stereo?
    I have 2x stereo power amps. Yes - I'm using the pre-amp to power both power amps, so that there are four channels, running 2x bass output and 2x treble output for 1 set of speakers. I think I just lose the biwired capability, to wire up 4 speakers to the pre-amp + 2x power amps.

    That means I have an extra integrated amp which I've been wondering what to do with! I was hoping it could add something to the sound I'm getting.....?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Head_case View Post
    Philip - from what I gather, then a digital coaxial output is not much use to me. I use the 24 bit DAC convertor for my minidisc player which has a Toslink output to the DAC player. I don't use digital output I suppose ... even the MD player -->24 bit DAC then goes --> 2x RCA output to my biwired speakers. I suppose the Toslink is only useful for digital theatre or surround sound things?
    Toslink and Digital Coax are effectively identical, they are both "digital output." One represents numbers with pulses of light, the other represents them with voltage pulses, but both use essentially the same data format and communication scheme. Both can be used for CD audio, Dolby Digital Audio, DTS audio, whatever format the sending and receiving devices support. There is no difference in quality between the sound that would be transferred using digital coax vs TOSLINK optical. One advantage for TOSLINK is that it does not make an electrical connection, so there is less chance of electrical noise from one unit affecting the other.
    Last edited by Scarpia; Dec-11-2011 at 20:12.

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    Thanks -

    that's now making sense. The DAC convertor has both the digital coaxial output and an analogue output with a Toslink input.

    What equipment would use a digital coaxial output? I wonder if I make use of that lonely looking plug socket on the back of the DAC ...

    I have 4x analogue speakers; a pre-amp, 2x stereo power amps; 1x integrated amp; a mini disc deck, LP + CD player. I prefer analogue output as my only sound.

    Thanks

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    Quote Originally Posted by Head_case View Post
    Thanks -

    that's now making sense. The DAC convertor has both the digital coaxial output and an analogue output with a Toslink input.
    The digital coax on your digital to analog converter is probably an input, not an output. Most digital to analog converters have several inputs so that it can be used with a variety of sources. If you specified what model DAC you have it would be a lot easier to figure out what you are talking about.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Head_case View Post
    Thanks -

    that's now making sense. The DAC convertor has both the digital coaxial output and an analogue output with a Toslink input.

    What equipment would use a digital coaxial output? I wonder if I make use of that lonely looking plug socket on the back of the DAC ...

    I have 4x analogue speakers; a pre-amp, 2x stereo power amps; 1x integrated amp; a mini disc deck, LP + CD player. I prefer analogue output as my only sound.

    Thanks
    I think we're getting somewhere, but there's one thing i'd like to clarify: "digital sound" doesn't exist -- all sources must be converted to an analog (electrical) signal before being sent to the speakers; and that's the job of the DAC, hence the name Digital-to-Analog Converter.

    If i were in your situation, first i'd probably try connecting all sources directly into your pre-amp to the appropriate inputs ('phono', 'CD', 'aux'), then split the pre-amp output signal to your 2x power-amps, then of course the speakers. This way, your dedicated DAC is not used, and digital/analog sources are selected at the pre-amp.

    This setup might be satisfactory, but there is another way of connecting your digital sources (mini-disc, CD, PC), since you already possess an external DAC... might as well use it. Ideally you would connect your PC to USB (or coax or optical), CD to coax (or optical), mini-disc to whatever input is left. The DAC ouput, which is analog, goes to your pre-amp, say the 'aux' input, LP to 'phono'. In this setup, the digital sources's DACs are not used, and source selection must be done at both the dedicated DAC and pre-amp.

    Both situations leave your extra integrated amp out of work.
    Last edited by Philip; Dec-11-2011 at 23:35.

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    Oops. Shows what a noob I really am with electronics.

    Yes you're right - it says Digital Coaxial Input.

    Hmmm. Interesting. That means, I could hook up my poor quality iPod or my mobile phone (with a micro USB) and get better sound from the DAC, via an iPod cMod (or whatever they are called) cable --> Coaxial?

    Thing is...I never listen to music via my computer (in the study room) where my hifi is in the lounge.

    I've realised why I don't use the DAC anymore than I do, apart from not understanding what it is, I probably was hoping that it was an ADC - Analogue-Digital convertor, so that I could transfer my vinyl LPs...

    Shame about the extra integrated amp. I traced a circuit diagram, which enabled me to use 1x preamp + 1x stereo power amp + 1x integrated amp, to drive two biwired speakers: the pre amp drove both and so only the power-part of the integrated amp was used, bypassing the pre-part of the integrated amp.

    This meant that the integrated amp (power) part was used to drive L+R trebles, whereas the stereo power amp (separate unit) was used to drive the bass.

    I can't for the life of me, figure out how I managed to actually wire this together without blowing myself up lol. Now, I can't even figure out where to begin.

    I know what you say makes sense...by gum I really don't want to let go of my integrated amp though!

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    Alright, there's a difference between bi-wiring and bi-amplifying. Bi-wiring only requires an extra cable, as opposed to bi-amplifying which requires an extra cable and an extra amp (or two extra high-level outputs).

    I see you want to bi-amplify... so your extra integrated might come in handy, though you won't be able to bi-amplify two sets (of 2) speakers without four sets of high-level outputs; you have three, given that each of your amps has one set.

    You can bi-amplify one set of speakers with your two power-amps, the other set can be driven by the integrated amp, bi-wired or not, but not bi-amplified.

    You should know that bi-wiring has only a negligible effect on sound, since the potential at the binding posts is the same. Some people will tell you otherwise, but you should test it for yourself if you are not convinced.
    Last edited by Philip; Dec-12-2011 at 01:33.

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