Digital coaxial cables are cables that have been specially designed to carry a digital electronic signal. Theoretically they can be used to carry almost any type of digital information from one receiver to another, and they do have a number of different applications in industry and information science. Ordinary consumers are usually most familiar with them when it comes to audio and video connections for television, gaming, and high-speed internet modems, though. They are also important to many “surround sound” systems. In most cases they’re basically the same as standard coaxial cables in terms of appearance and basic infrastructure, though they are usually better and handling digital, as opposed to analog, signals thanks to slightly different insulating techniques. Experts frequently compare them to optical cables, and there is some debate in the marketplace when it comes to which of these two options is best for various multimedia settings.
Coaxial Cable Basics
Coaxial cables, whether digital or standard, are in most cases simply a central wire wrapped by an insulating material, covered by a metal shield, and finally sealed with a plastic casing. The signal is transmitted along the cable as an electromagnetic wave, which travels through the insulation. Coaxial cables are available with a variety of different plugs at either end for connecting to different equipment such as a television sets and cable boxes.
Their job is primarily to carry signals related to sound and imaging from a host, like a cable provider or network television station, to a receiver in a device. They are usually carried as small information packets that mechanisms within the device can reassemble and translate into something that is meaningful to the consumer. Standard coaxial cables usually work best for analog signals, which is to say, signals carried continuously from a source with no breaks. Digital cables, on the other hand, are usually specially designed to manage signals sent over digital wavelengths. People can sometimes use standard and digital cables interchangeably, and digital cables often do fairly well at interpreting standard signals. Standard cables don’t usually manage digital signals as well, though, which can lead to a grainy or interrupted frequency.
Main Digital Differences
Manufacturers typically make digital cables such that they are better shielded from interference; have a higher impedance, which allows them to handle more energy; and can handle a wider range of electrical frequencies. Some people argue that the word "digital" is simply a marketing trick because they work in the same way as a standard coaxial cable, though interpretation is key in this regard. Digital coaxial cables aren’t digital in and of themselves, but they are designed to do a better job of carrying a digital signal.
They tend to be slightly more expensive, but people can often justify this based on how important effectiveness is where digital signals are concerned. In an analog setting, information that gets lost or transfers slowly usually just means a poor sound or picture quality. If any information is lost from a digital signal, however, viewers often get a blip with no sound or picture at all.
Digital coaxial cables vary in size and use. Very large cables handle mass telecommunications and data for governments and internet service providers, and supply information to computer mainframes in many major organizations. Smaller versions of the same basic product are widely available for consumers, too, often in the home electronics realm. People use these sorts of cables to connect sound systems to televisions, for instance, or to connect gaming consoles to internet-ready modems. They can be useful basically any time a digital signal is carrying information from one point to the next.
Optical Cable Comparison
In some settings the term "digital coaxial cable" can be used to distinguish between two main methods of carrying digital audio signals, particularly those used for surround sound. The alternative method uses optical cables, which work by sending light signals through a tube rather than electrical pulses down a wire. There is a long-running debate in the tech world about whether digital or optical cables are better for various applications. For most people, it simply comes down to the kind of socket they have on their equipment. Where there is a choice, optical may work better over long distances or in areas where there is a lot of electrical interference, while digital coaxial is often a better bet when the cables need to bend at tight angles in small spaces.