L E A R N
The most common connector used for S/PDIFis an RCA coaxial connector (see
). WhileS/PDIF RCA coaxial uses the same connector asthe analog RCA connection on consumer au-dio products, the cables are not the same, andthese connections shouldnot be confused. PreSonusproducts that offer S/PDIFRCA coaxial inputs and out-puts include theFireStudio26x26,FireStudio Mobile,
andFireStudio Project. TheStudioLive
16.4.2andStu-dioLive 24.4.2digital mixershave an S/PDIF RCA output, and theCentral Sta-tionhas an S/PDIF RCA input.S/PDIF also can be sent over Toslink opticalconnections, and these have become fairly com-mon in semi-pro and professional audio gear.This is the same connector used for ADAT Light-pipe but the digital protocol is different. TheCentral Stationoffers an S/PDIF Toslink opticalinput, in addition to its S/PDIF RCA input; it isthe only current PreSonus product that offers S/ PDIF on Toslink.
TDIF (Tascam Digital Interface) transmits andreceives up to 8 channels of digital audio over asingle cable and uses a 25-pin D-sub connector.Tascam introduced TIDF with the DA-88 modu-lar digital multitrack recorder, and the formatwas later adopted by other companies. However,PreSonus products do not use TDIF.The TDIF-1 specication has developedover the years. Early versions did not supportself-clocking so a separate BNC word-clockconnection was required. Later products addedself-clocking, and the TDIF-1 version 2.0 speci-cation added transfer of higher-resolution (upto 192 kHz) digital audio, albeit with reducedtrack counts.
Digital Clocking, Word Clock,and BNC
Digital clocking signals are used to syn-chronize digital audio signals owing betweendevices in order to avoid data errors. Why is thatnecessary? Read on!Analog audio is transferred through a cable asa continuous electrical waveform–it’s not di-vided into discrete steps—and electricity travelsthrough a straight wire at almost the speed oflight. So when you route audio between analogdevices, the signals arrive instantaneously, forpractical purposes. Therefore, you don’t have tosynchronize analog audio when routing betweendevices.Transferring digital audio is a very differentmatter. Computers and other digital devicesoperate one step at a time, which happens veryquickly but it’s not instantaneous, and digitalsignals are not inherently in perfect time. True,uncompressed digital audio plays at a xed rate(the sampling frequency) but digital clocks arenot perfect; their frequency can drift, and theyalmost always have at least some irregular errorsknown as
. Therefore, two devices, each fol-lowing its own clock, are highly unlikely to stayin agreement about precisely when a samplestarts and ends. The result is usually an artifact:a pop or glitch in the audio.To avoid this problem, when transferringdigital audio in real time among multiple digitaldevices, all digital devices need to follow a singlemaster clock. That means the master clock hasto send a signal that essentially says, “everyonestart
at this moment
and follow me!” Even ifthe master clock’s timing is imperfect, all of theslave devices will follow the timing errors exactlyand will stay in sync with each other. Therefore,you won’t get timing-related artifacts.Three basic clocking systems are in commonuse in digital-audio systems. Each is used invarious PreSonus gear.In a
, the clock signalis embedded in the audio stream. Samples arestreaming in real time, with the clock markingthe start time of each sample. The receivingdevice extracts the embedded clock signal fromthe digital audio. Self-clocking is implementedin every digital audio protocol (ADAT, S/PDIF,AES/EBU, etc.), and all PreSonus devices thatoffer ADAT Lightpipe or S/PDIF I/O employ self-clocking systems for those connections.
FIG. 2: RCA coaxialconnectors are commonlyused for S/PDIF digitalaudio.