HDMI vs Optical in Soundbars – Which is the Best & Why?

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A soundbar works better than TV speakers, and you can use it as a stand-alone speaker or as part of a surround system by connecting it to your TV. However, you might not know whether you should choose HDMI or optical soundbars.

HDMI vs Optical Cables

IMAGE PRODUCT RATING PRICE
AMAZON’S CHOICE
 HDMI VS OPTICAL FOR SOUNBARS
High-Speed HDMI Cable
 
9.9
Check on Amazon
BEST SELLER
 HDMI VS OPTICAL FOR SOUNDBAR
KabelDirekt Optical Digital Audio Cable
 
9.7
Check on Amazon

An optical soundbar is excellent if you need quality sound regardless of your content source, while an HDMI soundbar works better if you want both video and sound quality. Depending on what you want to achieve with your soundbar, you can use either.

Best Soundbars

IMAGE PRODUCT RATING PRICE
AMAZON’S CHOICE
 HDMI VS OPTICAL FOR SOUNBARS
Sony S100F 2.0ch Soundbar
 
9.9
Check on Amazon
LIMITED OFFER
 HDMI VS OPTICAL FOR SOUNDBAR
Bose TV Speaker – Soundbar
 
9.7
Check on Amazon

Read on to understand the features of each option, compare the two and decide which one works best for you. 

Also read: 

[su_heading style=”modern-1-dark” size=”25″ align=”left” margin=”10″]Soundbar HDMI vs Optical: The Basics[/su_heading]

If you’re looking to upgrade your sound and picture, you’ll likely come across several options. Optical cables offer the best value on entry-level systems, while HDMI cables are important in more complicated setups where audio must match the video signal.

[su_heading style=”modern-1-dark” size=”20″ align=”left” margin=”10″]Soundbar HDMI vs. Optical: Data Transfer Efficiency[/su_heading]

When looking for a new soundbar cable, the most important factor to keep in mind is its data transfer efficiency.

The bandwidth rate of a cable is how much data can be transferred through that cable at any given time. Cables with higher bandwidth rates will transfer more data and have better signal quality. 

HDMI vs Optical in Soundbars

But if your source device doesn’t support a high-bandwidth connection, don’t waste money on an expensive cable!

[su_heading style=”modern-1-dark” size=”25″ align=”left” margin=”10″]Features of Optical Soundbars[/su_heading]

[su_heading style=”modern-1-dark” size=”20″ align=”left” margin=”10″]Carry Data Through Light Signals[/su_heading]

Optical cables, otherwise known as fiber optic cables, are made from transparent plastic that allows light to pass through. The soundbar has an optical cable input and uses one of the HDMI ports on your TV for its initial connection.

The device uses a cable to convert the light signals into electrical signals. Then, those electrical signals are converted into sound.

[su_heading style=”modern-1-dark” size=”20″ align=”left” margin=”10″]They Have Been Around for a Long Time[/su_heading]

You may choose to use an optical cable for hooking up your soundbar because it’s a cable that you know works. After all, it’s been used for high-quality home audio devices since 1982.

[su_heading style=”modern-1-dark” size=”20″ align=”left” margin=”10″]Don’t Require Any Power To Work Correctly[/su_heading]

Besides using fiber optics cables to connect your soundbar and television, they’re also used in digital audio devices like Blu-ray players, video game consoles, and CD players.

Optical cables are a wonderful choice for many reasons. Perhaps the biggest is that they don’t require any power to work correctly.

HDMI vs Optical in Soundbars

This also means you don’t have to worry about finding somewhere to plug them in because they don’t need a separate power source like some other cables.

[su_heading style=”modern-1-dark” size=”20″ align=”left” margin=”10″]Fragile and Easily Damaged [/su_heading]

Most optical soundbar cables are fragile and easily damaged if bent, twisted, or broken. Therefore, when handling them, do not pull on the cable. The connectors are delicate and can be cracked or broken with little force — one of the few downsides of optical soundbars.

[su_heading style=”modern-1-dark” size=”20″ align=”left” margin=”10″]Susceptible to Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) and Radio-Frequency Interference (RFI)[/su_heading]

EMI is an electrical signal produced by one electronic device and unintentionally received by another electronic device. Meanwhile, RFI is the electromagnetic radiation produced by an electronic device and is unintentionally received by another electronic device.

Both can cause poor audio quality. You may hear a buzzing, humming, or other interference noise coming from your speakers. They can also cause video issues like distortion, freezing, or flickering. 

To eliminate EMI and RFI, use an optical cable with a high-density shield. The best way to do this is with a high-density woven outer layer of metal over the entire cable.

[su_heading style=”modern-1-dark” size=”20″ align=”left” margin=”10″]Can Become Defective Over Time[/su_heading]

If your optical cable (the one connecting your TV and soundbar) becomes defective over time, it might need to be replaced by a technician.

In this case, they will swap out the damaged optical cable for a new one. This is an easy fix, but getting in touch with a technician can be tricky. Luckily, most quality cables come with lifetime warranties and are easily replaced by technicians.

[su_heading style=”modern-1-dark” size=”20″ align=”left” margin=”10″]Expensive Depending on Bandwidth Rates[/su_heading]

Bandwidth rates can vary significantly between different fiber optic cables. The higher the bandwidth rate, the more data can be transferred through each cable. Lower quality cables will generally have a lower bandwidth rate than their high-quality counterparts.

Most people would not need high-quality fiber optic soundbar cables because even low-cost ones work fine for most applications where an audio signal needs to travel only short distances within your home theater setup. 

However, if you plan to use them outside of your living room, investing in higher-quality cable materials might make sense to reduce any potential interference.

[su_heading style=”modern-1-dark” size=”25″ align=”left” margin=”10″]Features of HDMI Soundbar Cables [/su_heading]

[su_heading style=”modern-1-dark” size=”20″ align=”left” margin=”10″]Make Use of ARC Technology[/su_heading]

Soundbars with HDMI connections can make use of ARC technology. If you have a compatible TV, you’ll be able to control your soundbar volume, switch it on and off, and more using your TV remote. ARC is a function that some TVs are equipped with as part of their HDMI connections. 

If both devices have the necessary technology, you can use the same remote control for your TV and soundbar. Some high-end receivers also have this feature.

[su_heading style=”modern-1-dark” size=”20″ align=”left” margin=”10″]Offer High-Quality Sound[/su_heading]

You’ll want to connect your soundbar to your TV through HDMI cables, as they offer much higher bandwidth than optical cables. This allows HDMI to transfer high resolution and uncompressed audio, which gives you better sound than what’s possible with optical cables. 

Additionally, HDMI can transfer multichannel audio, meaning it can produce sounds from multiple speakers in your soundbar simultaneously. Some older TVs don’t have an HDMI port. If that’s the case, you can use a digital-to-analog converter (DAC).

That being said, there are some exceptions. Your TV may not have enough HDMI ports available. Suppose you’ve already allocated them all to other devices connected to your TV (like a gaming console or DVD player).

In that case, an optical cable will be necessary to use a soundbar with your television while also maintaining the functionality of these other devices.

[su_heading style=”modern-1-dark” size=”20″ align=”left” margin=”10″]Great for Playing Movies and Games[/su_heading]

The HDMI soundbar is the best choice for movies and games because of its high-quality sound. If you’re using a high-definition TV or monitor, you’ll also be able to enjoy your video in full HD. 

Connecting via HDMI will allow you to experience the best resolution, so your game and movie experience will be superior. 

You’ll notice that the cinematic aspect ratio of 16:9 is more common when you connect through HDMI. The picture is brighter and has richer color than an optical cable connection.

surround sound system can enhance your gaming experience by making it feel more immersive. You can hear sounds coming from different directions and angles, just like real life, making the game seem more realistic. A surround system transforms your TV into a home theater with incredible audio clarity and depth.

HDMI vs Optical in Soundbars

If you’re watching a movie on DVD or Blu-ray, connecting through HDMI will truly bring the cinema into your living room. It’s hard to beat the immersion of watching a movie at home with an HDMI connection!

[su_heading style=”modern-1-dark” size=”25″ align=”left” margin=”10″]Soundbar HDMI vs. Optical – Which is Better?[/su_heading]

[su_heading]When To Use an Optical Cable [/su_heading]

This connection will give you the best quality sound no matter what source your content comes from. Optical cables can connect music players, receivers, and TVs. Therefore, it’s the most versatile option for devices that you can connect. 

However, because optical cables only transfer digital signals, you may have an issue with older video game consoles if yours doesn’t support Dolby Digital audio. Some consoles have analog outputs that require an additional adapter before using optical cables.

[su_heading style=”modern-1-dark” size=”20″ align=”left” margin=”10″]When To Use an HDMI Cable [/su_heading]

If you’re connecting a device that also has video capability (such as a Blu-ray player or a video game console), HDMI is probably the best option for you.

While this isn’t always possible due to compatibility issues between devices, HDMI will allow both audio and video signals to be transferred at once — which means less wiring clutter around your entertainment center and fewer headaches trying to figure out how. 

The downside? Suppose your device doesn’t support ARC (Audio Return Channel) or CEC (Consumer Electronics Control). In that case, you’ll need another cable like an optical one anyway since these features only work through HDMI connections on compatible equipment.

[su_heading style=”modern-1-dark” size=”20″ align=”left” margin=”10″]Which Is Better: Soundbar HDMI or Optical?[/su_heading]

HDMI cables are more versatile and easier to use, but optical cables provide better-quality audio. HDMI is best for watching TV shows, movies, or playing video games, while optical is best for listening to high-quality music. Ultimately, it depends on what you want to get out of your setup. 

[su_heading style=”modern-1-dark” size=”25″ align=”left” margin=”10″]Conclusion[/su_heading]

If you’re going to use your soundbar for movies and gaming, HDMI is the way to go. HDMI will allow you to enjoy the full surround sound experience that a soundbar offers.

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