The digital music world is awash in bad-sounding Toslink cables and pitifully few that sound even acceptable by Mapleshade standards. When we found ourselves in serious need of a really good Toslink connection for our studio, we embarked on a lengthy set of listening experiments to develop an optical cable that could live up to our demanding standards. Several hundred tests later, we arrived at the Clearlink Optical design which we guarantee to sound better than any high end Toslink available today — regardless of price. 30-Day Money Back
Our Clearlink Optical highly directional and has been terminated with a Mini Toslink connector at the source end for its most common application - connects Mac desktops, laptops, iMacs and Mac Minis to a DAC via the Apple switching headphone output. Unbeknownst to many Mac owners, most Mac Headphone Out doubles as a digital SPDIF Out connection for your DAC or receiver, requiring only that you insert a Mini Toslink plug rather than the standard, larger Toslink termination (we offer a Mini Toslink option); the computer recognizes the mini Toslink and turns on the optical transmitter.
• If you electronics required a Mini Toslink at the receiving end of the cable, please call 1-888-236-2753 to order and we will be happy to custom-terminate a Clearlink Optical with the correct directionality for your system.
In addition to components where Toslink is the only connection option, we recommend the Clearlink Optical in the following applications:
1. Use the Clearlink Optical to carry digital audio from your cable box to receiver to get sound significantly better than HDMI audio or coax (analog) audio—and particularly so for long runs.
2. Connecting your Apple TV audio using the Clearlink Optical instead of HDMI or WiFi wireless will be a major upgrade in sound quality for home theater or two channel.
3. In situations where our Digital Ribbon Interconnects are too delicate or shorter-than-needed, the Clearlink Optical is an exceptional-sounding alternative. Though our Toslink cable is very thin, it is robustly contructed. You can walk on the cable if necessary and it is nearly cat-proof.
Design Concept & Performance
Our very careful controlled listening tests on widely varying designs of Toslink cables found that the conventional audiophile “wisdom” in the optical arena is largely wrong. Our tests proved the following:
1. Large diameter optical cables are not better than small diameter ones.
2. Optical cables are as directional as metallic conductor wires, if not more so.
3. Glass fiber cables with more strands are not better than ones with fewer strand. Thinner polymer cables sound better than fatter ones.
4. High transmissivity cable does not sound better than moderate transmissivity (exactly analogous to our old research finding that the lowest resistance, fattest copper conductors sound worse than thinner conductors of moderate resistance).
5. Glass fiber generally sounds better than almost all polymer cables, but the very best polymers sound better than the best glass (perhaps because the polymers are single strand while glass is necessarily multi-stranded for flexibility).
6. Terminations make a big difference. The best ones sound seriously better but can only be selected by ear--no engineering parameter is a useful predictor of good terminations.
7. Optical cable sound quality is very length sensitive. Just as we found with digital coaxial (SPDIF) cables, speaker cables and AC power cables, shorter Toslinks are most definitely not better—and being on the short side of the optimum is much worse than being on the long side.
Putting all these findings together resulted in our unique Clearlink Optical. It features:
• The very best optical polymer material we tested
• Ultra-small diameter and single strand optical fiber
• Tested and marked for best direction
• The best-sounding terminations we could find
• An optimum length of 14’, easily coiled down to 1½’.
This final design delivers sonic quality far better than we ever hoped for using a Toslink cable. Specifically, we guarantee our Clearlink Optical offers obviously better sound quality than any USB connection and outdoes glass and polymer high end Toslinks such as the Wireworld, Kimber, Analysis Plus, MIT, Van den Hul, Synergistic Research, Chord and at least up to the $489 Audioquest Diamond and beyond.
For high resolution DACs that accept both optical and RCA digital inputs, our Clearlink Optical sounds better than the vast majority of high end digital RCA coax interconnects. In fact, the Clearlink Optical comes very close to (though not quite as good as) the performance of our coax Clearview Excalibur Digital Ribbon — bearing in mind that the Excalibur Digital coax is so good we guarantee it to outperform any competing digital RCA interconnect.