Dear Lifehacker, What is the difference between Toslink and S/PDIF connections? And are there any decent converters that can convert S/PDIF to coaxial that won't cost me an arm and a leg? Thanks, Not Quite an Audiophile
S/PDIF is a type of digital audio cable format that stands for 'Sony Philips digital interface'. It can be used with optical fiber connectors such as TOSlink which converts the S/PDIF signal to light. So in a nutshell, S/PDIF is the audio signal and TOSlink is the connector. S/PDIF can also be used with coaxial connectors (i.e. -- RCA).
In terms of audio quality there's really not much in it between optical and coaxial -- some audiophiles argue that optical connections are superior but you'd be hard pressed telling the difference in most home theatre setups. Furthermore, optical cables are considered less sturdy than coaxial; bending or stepping on them can lead to permanent damage.
As to the second part of your question, there are plenty of Optical (Toslink) to RCA (SPDIF) Converters on the market that won't break the bank. You can snap up brand-new models for as little as $15, although we can't vouch for the quality of cheaper brands. Pay a visit to the usual shopping websites like eBay, Google Shopping and StaticIce to find yourself a suitable bargain.
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