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Optical vs HDMI audio connection: Which one to use?

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Are gold HDMI cables and 3.5mm audio connectors better?

When it comes to hooking up audio equipment, the two primary choices you have are either an Optical or an HDMI connection. While HDMI might seem like the preferred way to go (and it is), there are pros and cons to both.

In this article, we’re putting optical, and HDMI connections head to head to figure out which one you should pick.

Also read: HDMI vs DVI vs VGA vs Displayport

Supported formats

HDMI and Optical both transmit digital audio from one device to another. These connections are better than analogue, considering their support for digital audio codecs or multi-channel audio such as Dolby Digital.

What is an Optical audio port and what is it used for?

The advantage lies with HDMI, though. Not only does it transmit both audio and video over a single cable, but it also supports higher-resolution audio codecs, including the BluRay ones such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio. Optical connections can’t handle such high-resolution codecs meaning you get lower-quality audio. 

Also read: How to find royalty-free music online?

Supported equipment

However, regardless of which connection you want to pick, the real decider here is your equipment. If your equipment doesn’t support an HDMI connection, you’re stuck with Optical. 

However, unless you have a really high-quality system with decent speakers, you might not be able to listen in on the difference between a lossless codec such as Dolby TrueHD and any other low-quality codec that runs on Optical connections. 

Which one should you pick?

Whenever you can, pick HDMI. The connection is better, the cables are cheaper, and it’s just simpler as your audio and video get through a single cable. 

However, you don’t need to sweat if your equipment doesn’t have an HDMI connection. Your average sound system doesn’t really have the fidelity to use the additional resolution anyway, and a lot of them don’t even accept the format to begin with. 

Also read: 7 best sites to learn music online


Yadullah Abidi

Someone who writes/edits/shoots/hosts all things tech and when he's not, streams himself racing virtual cars. You can contact him here: [email protected]