What Cable Do I Need For Digital Audio Out?

what cable do i need for audio out

With the availability of various options that you can choose from for digital audio out, there is no room for errors as one wrong option could mean compromised audio quality or running into incompatibility issues. But, what cable do you need for digital audio out? 

The HDMI is the best audio in and out all-in-one digital audio cable you need if you are looking for an easy to set up for video and audio. Though there are endless audio cable options, if your audio output device like smart tv or soundbars have an HDMI audio port, then the cable that you can use to get digital audio and video is an HDMI cable. But, other cable connection options for audio output include optical audio cables, RCAS, as well as Coaxial cables. 

Optical and coaxial are known as S/PDIF connections. These connections are usually found on your devices. If you have both of these on the device, you will choose the kind of connection to use according to the type of cable that you have. 

The kind of data transferred is only affected by the type of cable that is used but the quality will be the same. That is to say, the output will be the same no matter the kind of cable that is used.

HDMI is the best option to use for digital out if you have it on your device. HDMI transmits data in the highest quality without distortion and interference. If you don’t have an HDMI on your device, you can use an optical digital audio cable.

This connection allows you to transmit high-quality audio between different devices. This kind of connection is known as a TOSLINK connection. Another option is for you to use a coaxial cable. However, this can be affected by electromagnetic interfere. 

Optical Digital Cable

This is also known as Digital audio out, TOSLINK connection, digital audio (optical) and optical audio. The signal that is sent through this connection is digital audio. It is usually found on soundbars, AV receivers, and other devices that can send sound. 

A digital audio port has a small flap that covers it. This port is what sends the digital audio to your sound system. The produced sound is crisp. This is because of its digital format. 

For a connection to be successful. You need to have one device that has an optical output while the other should have an optical input. The optical output is a device that will send the sound like the TV while the optical input will be on the device receiving the sound such as an amplifier. 

These optical cables that are used to produce digital audio are available in various lengths, colors as well as prices. Optical cables will only send audio but not video.  The optical digital cable can support 5.1 Dolby digital, 7.1 Dolby digital, and uncompressed PCM stereo. However. It does not have support for Dolby digital plus, Dolby Atmos, DTS, and more. 

Coaxial Digital Cable

Coaxial digital is also known as digital audio coaxial or coaxial digital audio. Just like optical audio, the coaxial is also found on devices like soundbars and AV receivers. 

A coaxial digital port is used to send digital audio to your sound system. It works in the same way as the optical digital port. A coaxial cable is used to connect to the port. The coaxial cable has a sturdy design and quality as compared to the optical. The HDMI is better than both the coaxial and the optical audio. 

Coaxial cable is also used for video signals. It has also been used to connect radio transmission and for Internet connections. A coaxial audio connector sends A/PDIF digital audio signal. It can support Dolby digital 5.1, 7.1 and 2.0. It can also support DTS and uncompressed PCM stereo audio. However, it cannot support formats like Dolby digital plus, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD master. Coaxial connection is an excellent choice if your deuce lacks HDMI ports. 

HDMI Connection

You can also use an HDMI cable for digital audio out. HDMI connection can also be used to transmit video signals, Ethernet, 3D content and more. It can transmit video signals in a resolution of up to 4K ultra HD. 

Nowadays, most devices have an HDMI port. The HDMI cable can be used to connect your PC, game console and all other devices to your TV. The HDMI port can also be used to connect your TV to streaming services like Roku to turn it into a smart TV. 

HDMI transfers uncompressed data. Therefore, the data is transferred the way it is without converting it.  Distortion is less with HDMI and it will transmit the pictures and sound in the highest quality. If your device has an HDMI port, use this to transfer your audio. 

With HDMI you can also use HDMI ARC (HDMI audio return channel) or HDMI eARC (enhanced audio return channel) to send as well as receive audio signals.  This is very good as it allows you to connect your devices to an AV receiver and connect your receiver to your TV using a single cable. 

What Is Better HDMI Or Optical Out

When you have a device that supports both HDMI cables and optical cables, then you may be wondering what connection you should use in order to sen audio signals between the devices. 

You first need to know that audio signals sent between HDMI and Optical are the same and do not sound differently. The sound that is sent will sound the same way whether you use an optical cable or an HDMI cable. 

Optical connection supports less formats as compared to HDMI. Therefore, you can go for HDMI because of the more audio formats that it is able to support. Both of these connections can support DTS audio, 5.1 Dolby and uncompressed audio. 

But HDMI supports other features such as Dolby digital plus, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Dolby TrueHD as well as DTS-HF master audio. It can also support HDMJ ARC and HDMI eARC.  This allows you to send audio from your TV to a soundbar or to an AV receiver. 

HDMI cable is a better choice. Therefore, if your sound system has an HDMI port you should use this port. Optical cables should be an option if your sound system only has an optical cable. The effectiveness of optical cables reduces as the distance increases. They are also very delicate and fragile. 

In Toslink connection. A digital signal will be transferred through a cable. It will first be converted into light and then later on transferred. A fiber optic cable is used for this transmission. When using the fiber optic cable, make sure that you avoid bending it as it can be thin and fragile. 

Most of the optical cables that are used here are made from multi-mode plastic optic fiber. This is very flexible, cheaper and suitable for home audio systems..

When Should I Use An Optical Connection, Coaxial Connection, Or HDMI connection?

People usually wonder if they need to use optical audio if they have HDMI. If you have a sound system or equipment that contains an HDMI port, you should use the HDMI port in order to transfer audio signals. HDMI is a great option here because it can support so many formats and audio signals that are not supported by optical audio. In addition to that, HDMI can transmit video signals and audio signals on one cable. Hence, you will not need a separate cable for the audio signals. 

If your sound system or equipment does not have an HDMI port, then you should go for the optical audio to transmit the audio between your two devices. Optical audio can provide standard stereo audio. It also supports 5.1 surround sound. 

There are also some devices that have HDMI ports but are not able to transmit audio signals. In this case, you should then use optical audio for transmission. 

An optical audio cable can also be used to connect your TV to a soundbar to a hi-fi system. You can also use transmit to connect a CD player to an amplifier. 

What Is Better Coaxial or Optical? 

An optical cable is better than a Coaxial cable. However, if you are using digital devices for your end-to-end connection, any one of these cables will work just about fine. And that’s because when the same audio format is used, both of these will give you the same quality. They both send digital audio signals to your sound system.

The TOSLINK connection has a resolution of up to 24/96 whereas the coaxial connection can support an audio resolution of up to 24/192. Therefore, the coaxial has a higher resolution as compared to the optical audio. 

When it comes to interference, the optical connection is better since it is not affected by electromagnetic interference whereas the coaxial is affected by this. 


There are several options that you can choose from when it comes to digital audio output. You can choose to use an HDMI cable, a coaxial cable, and an optical digital cable. All these will give you the same output. An HDMI cable is a choice that you should go for first if you have it on your devices since it can transmit signals in very high quality. Optical cable and coaxial are not bad options either. 

They both transmit audio signals in the same quality, they support different formats. The coaxial is sturdier ad has a high build quality than the optical which is fragile and can easily be damaged when bent. Optical is a better choice if you want to avoid magnetic interference. HDMI also supports a lot of formats as compared to coaxial and optical digital connections. 

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 contact@gawkygeek.com

Recent Posts