Knowing where to focus one's attention is often difficult in our technically complex world. Take, for example, the case of fiber optics. We know that galvanic isolation can make a big difference in digital audio. Any owners of the new DirectStream MK2, with its ability to switch on and off the isolation of every input and output for best sound, can attest to the benefits of customizing levels of galvanic isolation. So, it should be no surprise that fiber optics is one of the easiest means of galvanic isolation in digital audio. Sending digital audio data over a piece of plastic in the form of light waves turns out to be as perfect isolation as one can get. And yet using a TOSLINK fiber optic cable is a sonic step backward (even compared to lowly coax). What gives? The problem with TOSLINK isn't its lack of isolation feature. Instead, it's a problem with sacrifices. What did you give up to gain the benefits of isolation? Bandwidth and quality of signal transmission are severely compromised in the mainstay implementation of TOSLINK. You gain the benefits of isolation at the expense of bandwidth and signal veracity. Fiber optics, when done right, are wonderful sounding and without compromise. One must always adjust the focus on where to point one's full attention.
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