Digital Coaxial Cable vs. RCA Cable- Do we Have a Winner?

We have to admit that choosing the right cable is no easy feat, especially if you are not a tech-minded person.

Well, digital coaxial and RCA are two of the most used cables right now. However, we understand you likely won’t be using both at the same time.

So, which one is better?

We will compare digital coaxial cable vs. RCA cable then show you the crucial differences between digital coaxial and RCA cables.

Let’s start with a quick overview!

Digital Coaxial RCA
Digital Analog
Extra shielding Lacks extra shielding
~75 ohms impedance ~50 ohms impedance
Pretty expensive Relatively cheap
Transmits a wide range of frequencies Carries low frequencies
Greater length Shorter length

What is a digital coaxial cable?

A digital coaxial wire is a type of cable that is designed to transmit any electrical or digital signal. However, these cables are mostly made for audio and video signals. The cables use standard RCA-type connectors, but unlike the latter, they are designed to transmit digital signals instead of analog data.

At first glance, a digital coaxial cable looks like a RCA cable. However, a digital cable incorporates extra shielding to protect audio signal from electromagnetic interference and frequency interference.

Digital cables also offer a wider range of electrical frequencies and have higher impedance than RCA cables. And because of this, one difference that is apparent between digital coaxial and RCA cables is the price.

A digital cable also tends to be costlier than a typical RCA cable since it is used to transmit both audio and video signal. What’s more, you can use this kind of cable with almost all components in your home theatre system.

Some of the devices that you can use with a digital coaxial cable include;

  • Digital TVs
  • Cameras
  • Camcorders

Advantages of digital coaxial cables

  • Less susceptible to interferences
  • Digital coaxial cables are easy to wire
  • They are cable of transmit  amount of signal at once
  • High-quality, double shielding
  • Thicker than RCA

Disadvantages

  • Digital cables are pretty expensive, but worth it

RCA Cable

An RCA cable is designed with a standard plug on both ends characterized by a central male connector, which is surrounded by a ring.  The two connectors are commonly referred as male plug (RCA plug) and female jack (RCA jack). Connection is established by connecting the cable’s plug into the female jack output on the device.

Unlike a digital coaxial cable which has extra shielding, a traditional RCA cable is not shielded. Additionally, it does not support the bandwidth that a coaxial cable offers.

RCA cables come in two common types i.e., composite video RCA cable and component RCA cable. Composite are less complicated than component cables, but the latter are capable of handling high resolutions.  

The RCA cable was initially designed for audio signals only. But with time, new designs have been adopted for use as an RF connector, a DC power connector, or for connecting loudspeakers. You can use these advanced models to transmit signal between cable receivers, satellites, TVs, among other devices.

Advantages

  • Perfect for basic home use; ideal for many systems such as TVs, stereo systems, etc.
  • A cheaper solution when working with older devices
  • Reliable and  extremely simple connections
  • Superior stereo sound

Disadvantages

  • Interference from external signals due to absence of extra shielding
  • They transmit analog signal only

RCA cable vs. digital coaxial cable-Which is best for you?

So, which is better RCA or digital coaxial? We’d say it depends upon your budget, and display devices.

Now,

Because of the price difference, one may be tempted to go for a standard RCA audio cable to establish a digital connection. While this may still work, it is not recommended especially when using a long cable.

If you attempt to make a digital connection using RCA connector, the signal is likely to fade, especially when using a long cable.

The signal interferences are often as a result of unshielded wire, which might result in stuttering in the audio. Additionally, the RCA cable may fail to read the digital information on a continuous basis, and it does not have the bandwidth that comes with coaxial cable. 

An RCA connector is your go-to for stereo connections of devices such as DVD players. However, ensure to use a shorter cable; the longer the cable, the worse the signal. Basically, modern devices don’t rely on RCA cables, but most people use them with old devices around the home. 

Also Read: Cl2 Vs Cl3 Rated Speaker Wire: What Is The Basic Difference?

On the other hand, digital cables are a much better option when you need to either connect cable boxes or satellite with televisions. They are also commonly used to connect AV receivers to subwoofers; most subwoofer cables are digital coaxial cables. Digital cables are also a better choice for those looking to enjoy quality sound regardless of interference from outside signals.

So what’s it going to be, digital coaxial or RCA?

The choice is yours!

Michael Evanchuk
 

Michael Evanchuk is a San Francisco-based sound engineer with 20 years’ experience installing, troubleshooting, and repairing commercial, automotive, and household sound equipment. Evanchuk owns an auto stereo center, where he offers highly competitive car audio installation and repair services. He has written dozens of articles on different sound engineering topics, all of which have been published in leading journals, blogs, and websites. He enjoys swimming and boat riding during his leisure time.

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