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digital audio

Posted on 2006-06-26
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Last Modified: 2013-11-09
hey guys, I currently own an hp laptop and i'm gonna be buying an apple macbook pro soon, and both have an optical/digital audio output (minijack).  I wanted to be able to hook up the laptops to my hometheater receiver with either optical or coax.  Preferably coax because i still have an open port on the back of the receiver for it.  

I've been reading around that some of these computers' spdif connections are coax and some are optical.  Does it make a difference which cable I use?  I want to be able to get 5.1 surround sound sent to the hometheater system.  I am looking for a simple adapter that is minijack to coax.  Will this work?  Does the laptop's sound card determine whether i need to use optical or coax?  Does it matter?

Wouldn't the minijack tip be like a bottleneck when sending signal from it to the receiver through either optical or digital coax cable?

How do i get my digital minijack to send digital signal to my receiver?

Please help me out
Thanks, guys
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Question by:poko2121
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12 Comments
 
LVL 69

Expert Comment

by:Callandor
ID: 16991710
Either one will work.  Optical is preferred in high interference situations where there are ground problems, but it costs much more for cables.  You do need to match the output jack of the laptop.  A minijack to RCA adapter should do the job for you: http://www.audiogear.com/Audio-Adapters-RCA-Plugs.html
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LVL 2

Expert Comment

by:Psyco_666
ID: 16993516
Unfortunaty that is not the case.

The apple MacBook Pro has an optical transmitter behind the headphones out socket. This is not an electrical digital signal but an optical one. You would need an optical cable from the MacBook to your amp to benefit from the digital signal.

If you look at this link it will show you the cable you need. The small adaptor in the picture clips onto the cable and is inserted into the headphone socket to reach the optical transmitter at the back, the other end is for the optical input in your amp.

http://www.maplin.co.uk/images/full/35921i0.jpg

The contacts in the mini jack are just the standard stero ones im afraid!
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Expert Comment

by:Psyco_666
ID: 16993535
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LVL 7

Expert Comment

by:Okigire
ID: 16993605
Psyco answered the question, but I"ll give you a little more insight into this:

 * TOSlink is an optical square-shaped connector probably found on your home theater receiver
 * Mini-TOSlink is in the shape of a regular mini-headphone (1/8" phono) plug
...adapters are available from TOSlink to Mini-TOSlink, and are sometimes bundled
 * Optical cables are as cheap as $10 and do the job just fine, as long as your distance isn't too great

 * Digital COAX connections are just RCA plugs, with higher quality cable to avoid data loss
 * The signal for regular analog audio is different from digital Coax connections

 * You can convert optical/TOSlink to coax but will need a very special adapter, such as: http://www.minidisc-canada.com/shopexd.asp?id=619
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LVL 2

Expert Comment

by:Psyco_666
ID: 16993861
Okigire - Very comprehensive Thanks, one for the memory bank!

Psyc
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Author Comment

by:poko2121
ID: 16996967
I had read somewhere that spdif means either digital coax or optical.  Is a different signal sent for optical and digital connections?  Isn't digital just digital?  How do i find out if my pc laptop is digital or optical?

Thanks
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LVL 69

Expert Comment

by:Callandor
ID: 16997154
Optical IS digital, it's just different from coax.  The medium is different, but the electronics behind both are handling the same signal.  The optical connector looks different than coax; coax is also sometimes terminated by an RCA plug.  The optical cable looks much thinner and is designed for transmitting light.
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LVL 2

Author Comment

by:poko2121
ID: 16997521
right, so wouldn't it not make a difference if i used a minijack to coax or a minijack to toslink (optical)?

Because psyco said macbook pro is optical connection not coax.  All i read was that macbook pro is spdif connection, which i thought meant either digital coax or optical.  Do i make any sense?

Thanks
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LVL 7

Accepted Solution

by:
Okigire earned 1340 total points
ID: 16997737
SPDIF is the protocol or actual signal of the digital audio content.  Coax and TOSlink are different ways to transport that signal.  Think of SPDIF like TCP/IP of the internet, and Coax/TOSlink as cable/DSL.  The TCP/IP protocol is the same whether you use a cable modem or DSL modem... they're just different ways to connect.

You can't simply go from an optical to a coax connection though... just like you can't connect a cable modem to a DSL modem.  You have to convert the connection (even though you're keeping the same data).  Coax and TOSlink talk to each other differently.

So, basically you need a digital-out source on your MacBook (which it sounds like you do) and a digital-in source on your receiver (coax?).  You have to connect coax-to-coax or TOSlink-toTOSlink (or Mini-toslink, same thing).  You can only connect coax-to-TOSlink or TOSlink-to-coax only if you have an adapter to convert this -- see either psycho's or my links.

So in a way you are correct that it doesn't matter if you use coax or if you use TOSlink - it's the same signal, so long as you use the same thing on both ends (or have a converter in the middle).  Be warned: the any miniplug digital connection is optical (Mini-TOSlink)... I have never ever seen a mini-Coax connection.

(You can combine NON-digital analog for regular speakers/headphones + Mini-TOSlink in one jack... so you have analog and optical but NO coax!)
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LVL 2

Author Comment

by:poko2121
ID: 16997769
thanks so much for the help guys...i really appreciate it
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LVL 2

Author Comment

by:poko2121
ID: 16998801
just a quick question.  with the mini to toslink adapter wouldn't the mini be a bottleneck, not allowing the digital signal to go losslessly from the computer to the receiver?

thanks again guys
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LVL 7

Expert Comment

by:Okigire
ID: 17000066
Nope...
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