Hi, Mi Fans!
Once again welcome back to Mi Community Tech Class Session. In todays chapter, we will be dealing about SPDIF Connections.
What is SPDIF?SPDIF, also written as S/PDIF, stands for Sony/Phillips Digital Interface, and is an interface to transmit digital audio. It is a standard for transmitting high-quality digital audio. Digital audio means that the audio signal is transmitted encoded in a series of 0s and 1s instead of being transmitted in analog format. This makes audio have higher fidelity, because no noise will be added to the audio signal. Therefore, it is always better to transmit audio in digital format. It is used for connecting Hi-FI Equipment, DVD players, CD players, Mini-Disc Players, Soundbars, Sound cards etc.
Currently, there are two consumer-level interfaces to transmit audio in digital format: SPDIF and HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface). SPDIF transmits only audio, but HMDI also carries digital video signal.
The SPDIF ConnectionThere are two kinds of consumer-level SPDIF connections, coaxial and optical. The coaxial connection uses a mono RCA connector, usually painted orange, to make it easier to differentiate it from video connections that use a similar connector. The optical connection uses a square connector called Toslink (Toshiba Link). Some equipment has both connectors; some have only one of them. Let’s see some examples.
Example of a coaxial SPDIF output
Example of optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs
Example of an optical and a coaxial SPDIF input on an audio receiver
SPDIF CablesThe coaxial SPDIF cable is a simple mono RCA cable. The optical SPDIF cable is a fiber optics. There are two kinds of optical connector. The most common is a square one but a 3.5 mm optical connector is also available. This 3.5 mm connector has the same size as a 3.5 mm headphone plug and is commonly used on laptop computers. There are also adapters for you to convert the regular square connector into a 3.5 mm one.
Coaxial SPDIF cable
Optical SPDIF cable
SPDIF on Computers
The availability of ready-to-use SPDIF connectors will depend on the motherboard or laptop model. Looking at the rear panel of your computer, you can easily see if your computer has optical and/or coaxial SPDIF connectors.
Optical SPDIF output
Coaxial and optical SPDIF outputs
On laptops, the presence of an SPDIF output is more difficult to detect, because it is usually combined with the headphone jack, supporting the 3.5 mm optical connector. Therefore, most users think that they don’t have an SPDIF output on their laptops, while this feature may be available. You have to take a look around the headphone jack to see if the word “SPDIF” is written near it. Several laptop models, however, won’t bring any indication that they have an SPDIF output. You will have to check on the product specifications page to see if SPDIF is listed. If it is, then the headphone jack is also an SPDIF output.
Laptop with optical SPDIF output (3.5 mm)
When to Use SPDIF?As stated, you must use a digital audio connection whenever possible, as it will provide the best audio quality. The question is when you should use HDMI and when you should use SPDIF. If you are connecting two audio equipments, most likely you will have to use SPDIF, as probably the audio source won’t have an HDMI connector. For example, when connecting a professional-grade CD player or a professional-grade mixer that supports SPDIF. If one or both equipment(s) don’t have an SPDIF connector, then digital audio connection won’t be possible, and you will end up having to connect them using a regular analog connection, via a pair of RCA cables.
Obviously, the two equipments you are trying to connect must use the same connector type. If you have a professional CD player that only has a coaxial SPDIF output, and your audio receiver has only an optical SPDIF input, you won’t be able to connect the two using SPDIF.
If you want to connect a PC to your home theater setup to listen to music or play games, but you don’t want the image to be sent to the TV. In this case, you are most likely to use the SPDIF connection.
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