On the other hand, optical fibers are more expensive, but they use light to transmit signals, making them less likely to suffer from interference. The best speakers for 2022: great hi-fi options for music and more, Best Amazon Echo Deals: Get an Echo Dot for $30, What is Roku? For those of you using HDMI ARC, you might want to first go make sure that HDMI CEC is turned on, if thats an option. There is no comparison here. However, an optical cable will always come at a disadvantageit can only transmit audio signals. What Hi-Fi? With HDMI, simply connect one end of the cable to the HDMI port marked ARC (or eARC) on your A/V receiver or soundbar (or in very special circumstances, a 2021 Apple TV 4K) and the other end to the port marked ARC (or eARC) on your TV. Its capable of transmitting AV signals with only one cable, so more and more manufacturers use this technology in their devices. Disney+ shares first look at National Treasure: Edge of History, Best laptop deals: Get a portable workhorse from $98 today, Clayface and Man-Bat should get the Joker movie treatment, The best Samsung Galaxy S20 FE cases and covers for 2022, Teen Wolf: The Movie trailer teases a new evil in Beacon Hills, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves trailer debuts at SDCC 2022, How to make and edit playlists in Spotify, Twitch now lets streamers share info on banned users, Instagram continues its TikTok makeover, will convert all videos to Reels, From Drive to The Gray Man: Ryan Goslings 5 most badass roles, Android is stealing one of the best iPhone features for wireless headphones, This Dell business laptop deal is a great bulk buy for your office. Sony and Philips developed this interface for transmitting compressed surround sound (5.1 channels) or uncompressed PCM audio (only 2 channels). This means that if you want, With HDMI, simply connect one end of the cable to the HDMI port marked ARC (or eARC) on your A/V receiver or soundbar (or in very special circumstances, a. on soundbars and AV receivers. As great as HDMI ARC is from an improved bandwidth point of view, it too is limited. The Sony/Philips Digital Interface or S/PDIF is a digital audio transfer interface that transmits digital audio signals without converting them to analog signals. New York, Another scenario is most modern TVs have built-in streaming apps such as Netflix, Prime Video, etc. Thank you for signing up to What Hi-Fi?. Thus, your optical (or coaxial) digital connection is similarly limited as to what it can do. Something like the QED Performance Graphite Optical is a good entry-level option. But when it comes to higher resolution audio, HDMI is, clearly, a better option. Most audio devices support both connections, especially those for home use, and youll most likely get excellent audio quality from both. The price will always be a massive deciding factor when choosing between HDMI and optical. But dont be tempted to try and use a standard RCA phono cable in place of a dedicated coaxial digital cable. cheers. It can be confusing at first, so lets simplify things to help you better understand which of these cables is better for you. Sign up below to get the latest from What Hi-Fi?, plus exclusive special offers, direct to your inbox! HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) and digital optical are two of the most common types of cable connections that we use for audio. Passive Soundbars Explained (With Pros and Cons). It boasts much higher bandwidth than optical, allowing for playback of lossless audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Optical Audio uses light to transmit audio signals using fiber optic cable. For this reason, we rely on external speaker in the form of soundbars or surround sound systems. Some systems wont turn ARC on until you turn CEC on. Besides the enhanced sound quality, using an HDMI ARC connection lets you take advantage of HDMI CEC or Consumer Electronics Control which lets you change the volume of your soundbar or A/V receiver with the volume buttons on your TV remote, turn everything in the system on or off at the same time with just one power button, and perform some other clever tricks. However, there are times when its more advantageous for you to use HDMI that an optical cable simply cant compete, such as the following: Now that you know which of the two is better for your sound system, its time to start setting them up. However, as audio technology improves, the difference in sound quality that HDMI and optical can produce becomes more significant.
This means that if you want Dolby Atmos or DTS:X object-based surround sound, an optical cable simply wont work. If youre still in the planning phase for your next home theater system, you might want to stick around. So, Which One to Choose, HDMI ARC or Optical. Launched in 2002, the biggest benefit of HDMI is its a one-size-fits-all connection for video and audio.
So HDMI is more likely to adapt to the newer audio technologies that manufacturers will incorporate in their devices. But, if you have multiple devices that play high bandwidth audio (gaming consoles or Blu-Ray players or streaming services), then to make use of that extra bandwidth, you can go for HDMI ARC. So for us to have a comparison that would even make sense, lets keep video transmission out of the picture, okay? Maybe you have an older device that doesnt support HDMI, or, perhaps, youre just trying to create a connection between the transmitter and your speakers. Also, maybe Toshiba invented the original digital toslink connected but both are S/PDIF, which was created by Sony and Philips. The streaming platform fully explained. And while almost any HDMI cable that can support ARC can also support eARC, that is not true of the components youll be connecting. Whether youre watching movies and TV shows through your TV directlyor using a streaming device, you can think of your TV as being the main hub everything connects (or is built into) your TV, with a separate sound system as the device youre sending audio into. And in terms of how that signal gets from your TV to the audio peripheral, there are two options , SPDIF can deliver uncompressed stereo two-channel sound, also known as PCM, as well as compressed bitstream surround sound formats like, Optical cant pass along higher-bandwidth formats such as Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TruHD, or DTS:X, because the signal simply cannot them it would be like trying to fit a six- or eight-lane freeways worth of traffic down a two-lane residential street. Your email address will not be published. In order to use HDMI ARC, your TV and Sound System (soundbar for example) must support this feature. An entry-level cable like the AudioQuest Pearl HDMI will suit a wide range of systems. It simplifies the connection between TV and speakers by using the same HDMI cable for both upstream and downstream data transmission. In his spare time Andy is a keen golfer and gamer.
Although we can use coaxial cables with RCA connectors for this interface, the fiber optic based TOSLINK (Toshiba Link) connector is the more popular choice. If youve ever owned a TV, DVD player, set-top box or soundbar, chances are youll have come across either a coaxial, optical or, more recently, an HDMI connection. In cases like these, using optical cables may be the only option that you have. However, since optical fibers use brittle materials, bending the cable too much can cause sound degradation. Let us now compare HDMI ARC vs Optical Audio and see the differences between them. Without HDMI ARC, the setup would be something like this: connect all the inputs sources to an AV Receiver, connect the AV Receiver to the TV and run an additional audio cable (usually an optical cable) back to the AV Receiver. So, the growth and support for HDMI based audio is only increasing. Both these cables can transmit multi-channel audio from your TV to the speakers. Also, coaxial doesn't have the bandwidth required to support high-quality surround sound formats such as Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Optical Audio supports 24-bit two channel LPCM audio with sampling rates up to 192 KHz. HDMI ARC Cables use copper conductors while Optical cables use, well, fiber optic cables. It can be challenging to figure out which one is better without putting them side by side. While TV takes care of the picture, external speakers are responsible for audio. The cost of the cables is also dependent on the medium of conduction. An optical digital connection uses optical fibers and light to transmit audio signals from your TV or a transmitter to your speakers. If you include a video connection, things get a little bit different. If you want to send very-high-bandwidth digital audio formats like Dolby TrueHD, DTS:X, DTS-HD High Resolution Audio, or DTS-HD Master Audio from your TV to your audio gear, youll need the additional capacity of HDMI eARC. Andy is Deputy Editor of What Hi-Fi? Plus, you can get them at steep discounts at the peak of the shopping season. Optical cables with a Toslink (Toshiba Link) connector slot into a matching socket on both source and receiver. The connector is a standard, circular RCA connector - the kind thats found at either end of a pair of analogue audio cables (or 'interconnects'). The length of cable wouldnt be a problem for many people, but for those who require an extended connection, the transmission of signals might be an issue. The difference in quality may still be unnoticeable at the moment, but its an evolving technology. Optical fiber also degrades faster than copper. Weve put together this explainer to answer all these questions and more. With the introduction of HDMI ARC, you dont need that extra audio cable as the single HDMI cable between the TV and the AV Receiver can take care of the upstream (send video to TV) and downstream (return audio from TV to AV Receiver). But thats where it ends. NY 10036. https://www.whathifi.com/advice/coaxial-vs-optical-vs-hdmi-which-is-the-best-audio-connection-to-use. An entry-level cable like the QED Performance Coaxial will do a fine job for most. You can still get really good-quality surround sound out of an optical connection. HDMI has always possessed the ability to send digital video and audio from a component to your TV, but the real magic involved in the addition of ARC/eARC is that the same cable can be used to send digital audio back to the same component from the TV. When using optical, youll need a separate cable for video connection. While this may seem obvious, wed like to take a moment to address the other major calling card of HDMI that digital optical simply cannot touch, which is the ability to send both digital audio andpicture from a myriad of sources to your TV, projector, or A/V receiver.
Welcome to Home Theater Academy, my blog. HDMI doesnt have this issue, because it uses copper and electricity to transmit signals. It allows playback for newer devices that use audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio. HDMI is a constantly evolving standard too, with new and improved versions offering more bandwidth and greater capacity to carry more channels of audio, such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks. They look similar and can work, but an analogue interconnect has different impedance values from a digital one (50 ohm versus 75 ohm), so wont work as well. In fact, the new Sonos Ray soundbar only offers an optical connection, because it doesnt support Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD, or DTS:X either, so why use HDMI ARC? Good to have a rational explanation for it tho. Connecting both types of wires couldnt be easier, although HDMI (and optical, to an extent) are going to require a few tweaks in your TV or receivers settings. An important point here is that Copper-based HDMI cables are more prone to electromagnetic interference than light based optical cables. SPDIF can deliver uncompressed stereo two-channel sound, also known as PCM, as well as compressed bitstream surround sound formats like Dolby Digital or DTS Surround System. Make sure that both your TV and the device youve connected it to, have the HDMI eARC label on their respective ports, or it might not work. These fibers can be plastic, glass, or silica, but what makes it an excellent audio transmitter is because noise cant pass through an optical cable. Hence, we call the audio transmitted over TOSLINK Cable as simply Optical Audio. Due to high bandwidth requirements, optical audio doesnt support new surround sound formats (DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby TrueHD, etc.). At a glance, the difference in price isnt that much, but optical cables are usually slightly more expensive, and thats just for audio connection! Noise is bad news when it comes to sound quality, but it exists in all AV components to one degree or another. Over the years he's also contributed to a number of other outlets, including The Sunday Times, the BBC, Stuff, and BA High Life Magazine. Over the years, I have learned a lot about AV equipment and room acoustics. Allow us to give you a brief overview. You will receive a verification email shortly. The ARC in HDMI ARC stands for Audio Return Channel. And amidst this medley of wired this-and-that is the HDMI cable tying all things audio and video together. Home Theater Academy is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. But HDMI ARC supports Dolby Digital Plus up to 7.1 Channels. Digital Trends Media Group may earn a commission when you buy through links on our sites. If your device is compatible with both options, youll be a happy camper with HDMI. Traditionally, in a home cinema environment, optical connections tend to be used to transmit compressed Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound. We prefer buying audio cables online because its easier to find cheaper ones. Those of you with a full-blown surround sound system almost certainly will. An optical digital connection uses the medium of light to transmit data through a cables optical fibres (which can be made from plastic, glass or silica). Coaxial might not be as widespread as its rival optical connection these days, but you'll still find it at the back of certain AV receivers, integrated amplifiers and TVs. Simply put, if you have the option of using HDMI ARC (or eARC) between your devices, go with this option for the most optimized home theater experience. On the other hand, HDMI only needs one cable, which also lasts longer, so its almost always a cheaper option. Also read: 9 Cables Required For Home Theater Installations. We drew-up a comparison between HDMI ARC vs Optical Audio and also saw the differences between them.
The important question, which one to choose: HDMI ARC or Optical? Not all HDMI ports on TVs are compatible with HDMI ARC and usually HDMI Ports will have markings for ARC. Unfortunately, using a coaxial connection enables noise to travel along the cable from the source to your amplifier. Optical cables, which use optical fiber strands, are slightly more expensive than copper-based HDMI cables. It can support Dolby Digital Plus, which is what virtually every streaming service today uses to deliver high-quality surround sound with or without Dolby Atmos. How do you use HDMI and digital optical cables? Using a single cable, you can transmit both audio and video between TV and an external speaker. Optical cant pass along higher-bandwidth formats such as Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TruHD, or DTS:X, because the signal simply cannot them it would be like trying to fit a six- or eight-lane freeways worth of traffic down a two-lane residential street. Availability of several streaming and OTT services is one of the main reasons for getting good quality sound in our homes. ElectricalElectronicsEmbeddedPowerRoboticsARMIOT, Mini projectsMicrocontrollerArduinoSolarFree circuitsHome AutomationSeminar TopicsElectronicsQuestions, CapacitorsResistorsFiltersDiodesTransistorsAmplifiersIO DevicesThyristorsDC CircuitsNumber System, Audio Cable Types | Different Types of Audio Cables (TS,. Also, if you happen to be into formats like DVD-Audio or SACD, you need HDMI ARC for these formats, too. If you're not quite sure which connection to take advantage of, we've created this page to help guide you. So, in a modern home cinema setting, its uses are quite limited. Before the wide spread use of HDMI ARC, Optical Audio was the preferred option to transmit audio from TV to external speakers. An optical connection also cant support more than two channels of uncompressed PCM audio. The majority of TV and AV products launched over the last few years support HDMI version 2.0, but HDMI 2.1 (which supports 8K resolution content) is slowly making its way onto the market. and a consumer electronics journalist with nearly 20 years of experience writing news, reviews and features. They are HDMI ARC and Digital Optical Audio. Simply speaking, smaller the cable, better sound quality and less interference. Sometimes, optical can provide you with more advantages, especially if youre only looking for a way to connect your TV to a speaker. Optical Cable cannot transmit video signals. Sadly, HDMI ARC doesnt support 7.1 (lossless) or higher channels. Coming to audio, you can use either an optical cable or use HDMI ARC to send audio from TV to external speakers. Apart from reducing the clutter of multiple wire, HDMI ARC is also capable of transmitting high quality audio. There was a problem.
Please refresh the page and try again. Optical fiber vs. copper, theres really not much of a competition here. The idea behind this is to be able to send whatever digital content you plan on enjoying from your TV to Blu-ray players and game systems into a larger, better audio system without losing any quality along the way. So if thats your only option, then use it! You'll find HDMI inputs and outputs a firm fixture on TVs, Blu-ray players, AV receivers and, increasingly, soundbars. Differences Between HDMI ARC and Optical Audio. The only real advantage that youll get from HDMI is when you start using Blu-ray discs, which use more audio channels. No ads or spams, we promise. Here are some of the reasons why youd want a digital optical connection: Sure, the difference in sound quality may not be as much, and, sometimes, youre better off with optical cables. Here is a quick comparison table which will be elaborated upon in this article. Both are easy to use, and an average person wont really experience any noticeable difference when using either of them. It isnt like the bits are frolicking more freely in copper, making those treble notes more sweet. Due to the massive adaptation of various manufacturers, digital optical may be the only connection that you can use when setting up sound systems. document.getElementById( "ak_js_1" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() ); Get great content that you love. But if you want top-quality surround sound with future-proofing built in, HDMI ARC or eARC is the way to go. to be frank, it seems so strange that in this day an article with so many misconceptions would be written. Both HDMI and optical cables are excellent in transmitting digital audio from one device to another, and theres no difference in the quality of sound that they can produce when using multi-channel audio like Dolby digital. A digital optical connection isnt really much of a competition with HDMIs capability to work with more channels and easier installation and configuration. The length of the cable plays an important factor is setting up a clean system as well as the interference and sound quality issues. Home Theater Academy also participates in affiliate programs with Clickbank, ShareASale, and other sites. Theres nothing wrong with it, though, because most 5.1 speakers are still capable of delivering high-resolution sound output. Coaxial and optical can only transmit audio data, while HDMI brings the added bonus of supporting both audio and video. On the other hand, HDMI can support Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio. So which of these new connections is the right one for you and your home theater room, and how do you wire everything together correctly? We can use Optical Audio to transmit relatively high bandwidth surround sound audio formats such as Dolby Digital and DTS Digital Surround Sound up to 5.1 Channels. Theres no doubt that both cables are highly capable of transmitting audio signals, but youre most likely to find HDMI cables in electronics stores. An optical cable doesnt allow noise to pass from source to DAC circuitry like a coaxial can, and so makes sense to use this socket when connecting straight into the DAC of a soundbar or AV receiver. Upgrade your lifestyleDigital Trends helps readers keep tabs on the fast-paced world of tech with all the latest news, fun product reviews, insightful editorials, and one-of-a-kind sneak peeks. Then there's the threat of damage if an optical cable is bent too tightly. NuraTrue Pro are the world's first aptX Lossless wireless earbuds now on Kickstarter, Best Dolby Atmos soundbar deals 2022: mega discounts on Sony, JBL, Samsung and Bose, HDMI ARC and HDMI eARC: everything you need to know, Best stereo amplifiers 2022: the best integrated amps you can buy, The best home entertainment buying advice, Issues delivered straight to your door or device. That said, you can use an optical cable up to 30meters whereas the HDMI ARC cable has a smaller length limitation f 15meters. And choose bitstream if you have a surround sound soundbar that decodes Dolby or DTS so that it gets a legit surround sound signal. And choose bitstream if you have a surround sound soundbar that decodes Dolby or DTS so that it gets a legit surround sound signal. HDMIs feature set, upgradability and the fact it can handle both audio and video means you dont need to worry about too many wires clogging up your system. While picture quality has undergone significant improvements over the years, audio from TV is mediocre. However, HDMI isnt always the best choice for everyone, and the devices that you want to connect will play a significant role in choosing between these two audio connections. All this said, if you do have HDMI ARC on your TV and your audio device, my advice is to use that over optical. The setup process is also simple. Theres a lot that you have to learn regarding these two connections. Finally, after understanding the differences, we will try to figure out which one is the best for you: HDMI ARC or Optical Audio? Visit our corporate site (opens in new tab). Before HDMI ARC arrived, embedding the ability to send digital audio over the same cable as digital video, optical was already around and widely in use as a digital audio A-to-B pathway. Yes, and its similar to the difference between optical and HDMI ARC. For this, there is an even advanced concept known as HDMI eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel), which is a topic for some other time. Thats why more and more manufacturers are trying to incorporate this technology with their devices. However, digital optical audio can only support channels up to 5.1 surround sound. Btw- over thinking it is how we audiophiles roll :). (see below). Game consoles, set-top boxes, television sets, and home theater systems use optical connection because of its ability to transmit uncompressed Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound. Yup, optical is still getting used in new products today.
Blu-ray players and soundbars use HDMI because of its straightforward setup and higher audio bandwidth. All three are digital, of course. The answer to this will depend on the kit youre using. As an affiliate, I may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. If you have a simple setup consisting of a TV and a set of external speakers (such as soundbar), then you can easily manage with Optical Audio. HDMI ARC on the other hand uses a regular HDMI cable to transmit audio signals. What Hi-Fi? From there, though, you need to go into your TVs audio settings and check a few things. You can use the HDMI ARC feature to transmit multi-channel audio over a single HDMI Cable to a surround sound system. And in terms of how that signal gets from your TV to the audio peripheral, there are two options HDMI ARC (or ARC for short) and digital optical. is supported by its audience. Its easy to pick the fancier ones with these bundle deals, but it would be best to stick with what you need and then negotiate the price. Read my article on how long HDMI cables can be. Building home theater rooms has been my hobby for a long time. As mentioned, fundamentally, both HDMI ARC and optical let you send digital audio from one piece of hardware to another. The main downside to a coaxial digital connection is the potential transfer of electrical noise between your kit. For those of you using the optical connection, youll want to go one step further and choose either PCM or bitstream. Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. As single-wire audio solutions for your A/V peripherals, HDMI ARC and optical are similar in some ways but verydifferent in others. So lets discuss both in great detail to find out which of these two is better for your sound system.
In our experience, a coaxial connection tends to produce better audio quality than optical, allowing for a higher level of detail and greater dynamics. Not only can optical support 192k bandwidth (was literally listening to a 192k FLACC over optical when I read this) that wouldnt have any affect whatsoever on streams at a lower sample rate. Why trust us? But, we live in an age where convenience is king.