Does the length of Optical Cables Matter?

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An optical audio cable, often known as a TOSLINK cable, is used to transmit audio signals from one place to the next destination. And, in recent years, Optical audio cables have become the mainstay of audio cable transmission.

The main reason behind the rise in the popularity of these cables is that they provide an optical path for transmitting high-quality digital audio without any loss.

While Toslink cables are gaining popularity, so are questions surrounding their integrity and audio quality when Optical cables are used over long distances.

The distance or length of an optical cable, as a general rule, can affect the clarity and audio quality. While SONET and S/PDIF are of concern for optical Ethernet cable of any length, they work just as well until you reach the maximum attenuation limit, at which point your signal is prevented from passing through.

In this article, we will investigate whether the length of optical cables matters and if so, under what conditions.

We will also explore some of the reasons why people think that it does make a difference, and offer suggestions for ways to overcome any loss in audio clarity due to cable length from a technical standpoint.

However, before we get started, it is important to have a good understanding of how Toslink or Optical Audio Cables work for clarity.

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Since the rise in popularity of optical audio cables, many debates have ensued on whether length does matter when using one. While there are opinions from both sides, the length of optical audio cables does matter when it comes to clarity.

In order for you to have a better understanding of what we are talking about, let’s take a look at how Toslink or Optical Cables work by first covering some basic concepts.

Theoretical background: Principles of TOSLINK Cable

An optical audio cable uses a physical medium known as fiber-optic to transmit light pulses, which are received and read out by a photo detector at the receiving end of the cable.

The high quality audio signals transmitted via this medium are not affected or degraded by electromagnetic interference or any other external sources for that matter.

Digital audio systems work by transmitting binary data in pulse code modulated (PCM) format to one another. In such systems, a given binary value is referred to as a bit and it represents two states, 0 and 1.

The amplitude of the signal can be either high or low depending on what the bit is representing. And, when represented digitally these different amplitudes are quantized in units known as samples.

A sample is usually taken at regular intervals of time and each interval is referred to as a bit time. The sound samples are collected together and organized into a stream before being transmitted.

The audio signal can be analog or it can be digital depending on whether the data describing the signal represents the actual analog waveform of the audio or just a set of numbers that have been assigned to represent it.

In general, Optical Toslink connections depend on fiber optics to transform audio signals into light, which is commonly in a form of LED light and the Toslinkcable transmits them across long distances.

Does the length of the optical audio cable matter? One common thing that people like to talk about concerning optical cables is that the length actually matters.

In general, the length of the optical cable is important. Depending on the circumstances, a very long optical audio cable, for example, is likely to lose signal strength faster than a shorter audio cable.

Using numerous different cables for your speakers or other audio equipment, you can be under the impression that the length of the cable has no effect on the quality of the music you are producing.

When the microphones or speakers are cranked up too loudly, the size of the cable has an impact on how loud your speakers may get, which is quite the confounding factor.

You may get distortion in your audio if you’re using the wire for playing back audio from your computers and then again from your speakers at the same time.

Purchase a length that is as long as feasible but not any longer than necessary, according to expert advice.

Buy a cable that is made of very high-quality material and that has a very long life if you want to guarantee that the cables you purchase are of the greatest possible quality.

What are the additional considerations that must be taken into account?

There are a number of additional considerations to consider when purchasing an optical audio cable, in addition to the length of the cable itself. For example, the breadth, the fragility, and the bandwidth are all significant considerations to consider.

Width Of The Optical Cable. Although the width of the optical cable makes no impact on how well it performs, the length does. You may also wish to consider the following considerations.

A 3mm cable and a 7mm cable will both operate equally well and will not have any adverse effects on their respective connections.

However, when it comes to the endurance of the wires, this becomes a critical element to take into consideration. Cables that are thick are less likely to break and may survive for a longer period of time than cables that are thin.

Fragility Of The Optical Cable. Ensure that the optical cables you choose are not bent or kinked while making your selection. The sensitivity of optical cables means that optical cables that have been bent may not function well at all.

Curves may be unavoidable in certain situations; nevertheless, be certain that there are no bends in the cable since they might interfere with the transmission of audio signals along the wire.

Bandwidth Of The Optical Cable. The performance of audio optical cables is greatly influenced by their bandwidth. A suitable bandwidth for a cable is generally regarded to be between 9 and 10 megahertz in frequency.

High bandwidth ensures that the audio optical cable will function better than a connection with a low bandwidth, which is why high bandwidth is preferred.

Should I go for a longer or shorter length?

It is not recommended to utilize a length more than 10 meters since it reduces the dependability of the transmission. If you don’t use a signal amplifier, the average length of most optical audio cords should be less than five meters long.

An optical cable constructed of molten quartz is the preferable alternative if you want runs that go more than 100 feet since it will provide higher quality results.

If all you want is a short cable, you may use plastic fiberoptic cables since there will be no discernible change in performance until you are more than 100 feet distant from the source as well as sending at a very high bandwidth.


When it comes to signal quality, the length of the optical audio cable matters in this case because a longer cable loses its strength faster than a shorter cable. As a result, the use of longer cables may jeopardize transmission reliability. As a result, if your connection is very long, a signal booster may be required.

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