Optical Audio vs HDMI ARC: Which One is Better for Audio Transmission?

When it comes to transmitting audio signals from your TV to external sound systems, there are two popular options: optical audio and HDMI ARC. Both have their pros and cons, and deciding which one to use can be confusing. In this article, we’ll compare optical audio and HDMI ARC, and help you decide which one is better for your audio transmission needs.

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What is Optical Audio?

Optical audio, also known as TOSLINK, is a digital audio connection that uses fiber optic cables to transmit audio signals. It uses light to carry audio signals, which makes it less susceptible to interference and noise. Optical audio cables have a square-shaped connector that is easy to identify, and the connection is made by inserting the cable into the corresponding port on your TV or audio receiver.

What is HDMI ARC?

HDMI ARC stands for Audio Return Channel, and it’s a feature that allows audio to be sent from your TV to your audio receiver through an HDMI cable. It uses the same HDMI cable that you use to connect your TV to your audio receiver, and it supports up to 5.1 surround sound. HDMI ARC also enables you to control the volume of your audio receiver using your TV remote, which can be convenient.

Optical Audio vs HDMI ARC: Which One is Better?

Both optical audio and HDMI ARC have their advantages and disadvantages, and which one is better depends on your audio transmission needs.

Audio Quality

When it comes to audio quality, both optical audio and HDMI ARC can provide high-quality sound. However, optical audio has the advantage of being less susceptible to interference and noise, which can result in a cleaner and more accurate audio signal. HDMI ARC, on the other hand, is more prone to interference, which can result in a less accurate audio signal.


Optical audio cables are compatible with most audio systems, including soundbars, home theater systems, and audio receivers. HDMI ARC is also widely compatible, but some older audio receivers may not support it. In addition, HDMI ARC requires both your TV and audio receiver to support the feature, which may not always be the case.

Ease of Use

Both optical audio and HDMI ARC are easy to use. Optical audio cables are easy to identify, and the connection is straightforward. HDMI ARC is also easy to use, but it requires a compatible TV and audio receiver, and you may need to adjust the audio settings on both devices to enable the feature.


HDMI ARC has the advantage of allowing you to control the volume of your audio receiver using your TV remote. This can be convenient if you don’t want to juggle multiple remotes. Optical audio does not provide this feature, so you will need to control the volume using the audio receiver’s remote.


HDMI ARC has a higher bandwidth than optical audio, which means it can transmit more data. This is important if you’re using a high-end audio system that requires a lot of data to transmit high-quality audio. However, for most home audio systems, the difference in bandwidth is not significant.


So, which one is better: optical audio or HDMI ARC? The answer depends on your audio transmission needs. If you’re looking for high-quality audio and minimal interference, optical audio is the way to go. If you want the convenience of controlling your audio receiver using your TV remote, and your audio system supports it, HDMI ARC may be a better option. Ultimately, both options are easy to use and can provide high-quality audio, so choose the one that works best for your setup.

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Last update on 2023-11-11

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I set up a soundbar?

Setting up a soundbar is generally very simple. Most soundbars can be connected to your TV using an HDMI cable, an optical audio cable, or a 3.5mm auxiliary cable. Once connected, you’ll need to adjust the audio settings on your TV to ensure the sound is coming from the soundbar. Some soundbars also come with a remote or app for additional settings and controls.

Can a soundbar be used without a TV?

Yes, a soundbar can be used without a TV. Most soundbars come with Bluetooth connectivity, so you can connect your phone or tablet to the soundbar and play music or podcasts directly from your device. Some soundbars also have built-in streaming services, such as Spotify or Pandora, that you can access without a TV.

Can a soundbar replace a full home theater system?

While a soundbar can provide a significant improvement over your TV’s built-in speakers, it may not be able to fully replace a home theater system. A home theater system typically includes a receiver, multiple speakers, and a subwoofer, which can provide a more immersive audio experience. However, if you’re limited on space and budget, a soundbar can be a great alternative.

How important is the size of a soundbar?

The size of a soundbar can impact the audio quality and output. Generally, larger soundbars will have better audio quality and volume, but they may not be as compact or easy to fit in smaller spaces. When choosing a soundbar, consider the size of your TV and the room where it will be located to ensure it will provide the best audio experience for your needs.

Are expensive soundbars worth it?

The price of a soundbar can vary significantly, from under $100 to over $1000. While more expensive soundbars may offer additional features and higher-quality audio, they may not be necessary for everyone. Consider your budget and audio needs when choosing a soundbar, and do some research to find the best option for you. In general, a mid-range soundbar can provide a significant improvement over built-in TV speakers without breaking the bank.

About Author

Georgiana Lauren is passionate about soundbars and is obsessed with all things related to audio equipment. With years of experience in the industry, she has developed an expert understanding of soundbars and other related technologies. Georgiana enjoys sharing her knowledge with others and helping them find the perfect sound solutions for their needs.

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