Best Digital Optical audio cable
The best optical audio cable gives you the lowest signal interference, a more realistic sound, better sound detail and a more efficient linkage between cable, power supply and sound system. Look for well-built, durable cables with tight, high pressure connections, a protective outer sheath, no scratch marks on the corrosion-free gold plate and neat, effective solder joints.
THX Monster Cable
THX Monster Cable, sold by distributors like Apple Inc, is THX-certified. This means the cable has been well tested in terms of quality and performance. Check which THX category you require before deciding on cables and other components such as speakers. The THX I/S Plus System of certification, for example, delivers sound for small home theaters and up to 8-foot screens, according to the THX website. Prices in 2011 are around $60 to $80.
Cheaper than Monster Cable, the Monoprice line of optical audio cables may be more appropriate for the average consumer. Starting at prices as low as a few dollars, the cables range in length from 1 foot to 50 feet. Because optical audio cables use pulses of light to transmit data, they can carry signals without much interference or degradation over large distances. Opt for a cable with a gold connector for the best performance.
XtremeMac XtremeHD Toslink Cable
Sold by Apple Inc., the 6.5-foot XtremeMac XtremeHD Toslink cable is affordable at around $20, compact and easy to use. However, according to some user reviews, it can fail before the lifetime warranty expires. The cable is intended for connecting sources like CD players, DVD players, satellite dish receivers and cable boxes to A/V receivers or televisions. Apple Inc. claims the cable offers a "crisp digital audio signal."
Cables with Dual Shielding
Enthusiasts should look for a cable that has high quality dual shielding for added performance. One half of the shield is made of braided copper, which guards against RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) and a second half made of foil, which prevents EMI (Electromagnetic Interference). Together, these shielding components help reduce sound system buzz and hum and the associated signal pollution, although it is already minimized by using fiber optic technology.
"Not From The Box" Cables
Poor quality cables can be the reason for poor performing Hi-Fi equipment, unless the equipment is old. Noise and interference are two examples of poor performance in sound systems. Unless the manufacturer has included high-quality optical cables, it is best to store away what came with the equipment and purchase something of a higher quality. You can always use the stored cable as a backup in case the new cables ever fail.
Before you install a cable in your walls, which some people do to minimize and tidy their setup, make sure the cable you have is UL-Certified. According to Crutchfield, UL stands for "Underwriters Laboratories" and means the cable meets the safety standards required for in-wall installation. Underwriters Laboratories is an independent, non-profit organization that has set standards for product testing, safety and performance since 1894.