Is Optical Audio Better Than HDMI?

Optical cables vs HDMI Cables

Optical audio cables and HDMI cables are digital audio connection cables of choice that are widely used in numerous sound system setups. And, that’s because both Optical audio cable and HDMI cables are effective and easy to set up when you need to transmit digital audio signals between digital devices. These two cables are favorites as the way in which an Optical cable and HDMI cable transit digital signals is seamless as they use the same media file handling mechanism. But, which is better, Optical Audio Cables or HDMI Cables?

HDMI cables are better than Optical Audio cables. The difference between Optical audio cables and HDMI cables is the resolution and the formats that they can support. HDMI cables transmit higher audio resolution than Optical audio cables. HDMI cables stand out as they also support formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS:HD master audio which optical audio does not support. HDMI also supports the transmission of video signals. Therefore, it is a great choice if you want a single cable to use for both video signals and audio signals. It will save you the trouble of dealing with so many cables at once. 

 The devices that you want to connect also play a big role in the kind of cable that you choose to use. Some devices do not have an HDMI port while others have this port. Therefore, if your device lacks the HDMI port, use the optical for connection. The optical will give you the same sound quality just like the HDMI cable.

Optical cables would also be useful in a scenario where you just need sound and not video signals. The sound quality that is provided is the same.  The difference comes in terms of the sound formats, but this difference is almost unnoticeable. 

Optical audio and HDMI cables can come in different configurations, version,s and length. When choosing the cables, you need to consider the one that will be able to meet your requirements. HDMI is now very popular because it offers a lot of advantages over optical audio. Most devices now contain the HDMI ports. 

About Optical Digital Connection

The optical digital connection makes use of light in order to transmit the signals. This is made from optical fiber material like silica, plastic or glass. It is a very good way to connect to your AV receiver or a soundbar since it does not allow noise to pass through. Optical connections can support compressed digital surround sound, they are also known as TOSLINK connections. 

The problem with optical is that the bandwidth is not enough to support other formats like DTS HD and Dolby True HD. However, it can support Dolby Digital and DTS. It also supports up to 1 uncompressed PCM audio channel. An optical audio connection sends digital signals. This connection can be found on your AV receivers, soundbars, game consoles and even on blu-ray players. 

A digital port is what sends the digital audio to your sound system using the optical cable. The port usually has a small flap that covers it. Due to its digital format, the sound that this connection provides us crisp and not very different from HDMI. Optical audio cables come in different colors, prices, and lengths.

Optical cables are capable of transmitting audio-only. The recommended length of an optical digital cable is up to 10 meters. If you want to connect devices at a greater distance, optical cables are a great choice since their material is resistant to interference.

About HDMI Connection

HDMI connection has a great advantage over optical audio since it can transmit both video and audio signals. It also has higher bandwidth. This allows it to support so many audio formats such as DTS HD master audio bad Dolby TrueHD which optical connection is not able to support. 

HDMI input and outputs can be found on a lot of devices such as Blu-ray players, TVs, soundboards, and AV receivers. It also has improved versions that are able to support more audio formats like DTS X and Dolby Atmos. HDMI can also transmit video in Ultra HD 4K resolutions.

It also supports other HDR formats. Other features that HDMI boasts include HFR (High Frame Rate) and eARC (Enhanced audio return channel). eARC can support you to 32 audio channels. The recommended length for an HDMI cable is 5 meters in order to prevent interference. 

Comparison Optical audio vs HDMI Cables

Build And Construction

HDMI cables are usually made from copper material. Copper material is not very expensive. There is also a possibility of experiencing interference with this kind of material. On the other hand, optical audio cables are made from fiber optics. This material is expensive.

Fiber optics transmits light signals, interference is less with these cables as they have a shield for protection. Therefore, other light will not enter the cable and interfere with the signal. 

Length Of The Cables

The length of the cable plays an important role depending on what you want to use the cables for as well as your preference. You may sometimes have a room that requires you to have extender cable lengths. Keep in mind that longer cables will usually lead to a loss in the signals quality. 

Hence. When you are choosing cables, whether HDMI or optical audio, make sure to choose a short cable.  For HDMI cables, the recommended length is 5 meters so that you get good quality. For optical cables, 10 meters is the recommended length. If you are think of using extended cables, then go for optical cables as they are a better choice in this category. 


HDMI cables are capable of transmitting both video signals and audio signals. Therefore, you will not need to have a separate cable to transmit your video or audio. 

On the other hand, the optical cable will only transmit audio signals. You will need to have a separate cable for the video signals. This may increase the total cost as well as the mess of dealing with many wires. 


When it comes to audio formats, HDMI cables support a lot of formats including TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS HD. However, Optical audio only supports 5.1 surround sound. Therefore, if you like Blu-ray content, go for HDMI. 


Optical audio has a bandwidth of up to 96kHz. HDMI cables have a higher bandwidth than that of the optical audio. They support very high bandwidths and this is why they can support high resolution and new audio formats. HDMI 2.1 has a bandwidth of up to 48 Gbps.

Pros and Cons of HDMI and Optical audio

We have explained what each of these connections is and the features they have. You might already have an idea of what the benefits and the challenges are. However, this will give you a clearer understanding. 

Optical audio

Benefits: Optical audio cables give you a very good audio experience without any interference. The materials used to make these cables is optical fiber which is resistant to radio frequency and electromagnetic interference. 

Challenge: These cables do not have a strong build quality. Bending them too tightly can easily cause damage to the cables. 

They cannot support many lossless audio formats since the resolution is only very high..

HDMI Pros and Cons

Benefits: HDMI can support a higher resolution than the optical cables. It has a higher sound quality as compared to the optical audio. 

HDMI supports multi-channel audio formats. It has DTS:X support, Dolby Atmos support and other audio formats. 

These cables are able to support Ultra HD 4K resolution and HDR formats when transmitting video. 

Challenges: They are not very good for long distance connections. 

Which Connection Should You Use, HDMI or Optical Digital?

The HDMI cable is better than the optical cable, therefore you should use HDM over Optical Digital audio cables. However, in some cases, the type of connection that you use will depend on the device you want to connect. HDMI is a connection that you should go for if you are looking for si many things. If you have a device that supports HDMI, then the best option is to use the HDMI connection.

HDMI has a lot of upgraded features, can support a lot of formats, can pass video signals as well as audio signals through one wire. The performance is so good. Use the optical connection of your device lacks the HDMI, the sound that it provides is also decent. 

With an optical audio cable, you will be able to hear PCM stereo audio as well as 5.1 surround sound. Optical audio can also be used to connect your TV to your soundbar or to your HiFi system. It is also a very good choice of you want to connect your CD player to an amplifier so that you get sound.

Nowadays, a lot of TVs still have optical audio output. Therefore, you can use this if you simply have everything else connected but want sound and not video. It can also be used to connect your TV to your home theater system. 


The HDMI cables are better than the Optical audio cables. HDMI is very good in terms of the costs as well as the setup process. With HDMI you will be able to have a higher resolution because of the audio formats that it can support. 

However, the cable that you choose will also highly depend on your requirements. If you need high resolution, one cable for video and audio signals, then the HDMI cable is you go to. Optical cables will also give you good sound quality. They are great if you are looking for cables to connect over long distances or when your device lacks an HDMI input. 

Eddie Mcfarren

Eddie Is no stranger to technical writing after spending years in Networking, IT Infrastructure management, and online content marketing. He is an avid researcher, Software and apps dev tester who spends hours solving problems behind the scenes. Get in touch with him via social media and you can email him via

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