HDMI ARC vs Optical vs Coaxial Audio

HDMI ARC vs Optical vs Coaxial Audio – What’s the Difference?

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Are you trying to understand the differences between HDMI ARC vs Optical vs Coaxial Audio? You have landed in the right spot. In this post, we try to explain how these two technologies differ from each other.

Digital revolutions have brought us a huge list of devices and connection options. Of all the connections currently available, HDMI ARC, optical cables and coaxial audio connections are a few excellent options in modern audio systems. Which among these should you go with? Imagine you have brought home a new soundbar or an AV receiver and are confused about the right kind of connection you should opt for. This post is an attempt at assisting you in choosing the right option.

HDMI ARC, Optical and Coaxial Audio – Which one should you go?

Well, HDMI has always been the preferred option for most of us. It has replaced all the other connectivity options, especially for the set boxes, Blu-ray players, and gaming consoles. When it comes to the audio receivers and similar other audio devices, you can depend upon the three options like HDMI ARC, Coaxial cable and Optical cable.

We will analyze each of these options in more exceptional detail and understand the basics of these connectivity options.

HDMI ARC – The most recommended connectivity option

The HDMI cables are the best solutions and can be used to transport DRM protected digital audio and video through one single cable. It has been considered to be one of the best options for transmitting lossless audio and video signal.

It is one of the most advanced options as of now, and it can deliver uncompressed signals in up to 8 channels. This can be an excellent option for your needs in a 7.1 channel transmission that provides you access to the best in class speaker experience. Another great feature you would find interesting on the HDMI ARC connection is that it can transmit 3D and 4K content quite effectively and efficiently.

The connectivity standard was introduced in 2002 and can be considered to be the one size fits all standard for your requirements in the transmission of audio and video streams. It can assure you a higher bandwidth than most other formats. This provides you access to the best playback option for lossless audio and video performance. The HDMI ARC can be your first option for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio. It is the only option as of now for those audio standards and has no other alternatives available.

HDMI is going through a constant evolution over the years. The newer editions have been offering better bandwidth and an enhanced capacity level. The latest versions of HDMI ARC connections have been able to achieve the ability to carry more channels. This has made it possible to include audio formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.

Optical Digital Connection or Toslink

Optical connections use the light as the medium for transmitting audio signals. These cables come with the optical fibers inside the cable. These optical fibers are made of plastic, glass, or silica. The best part with the optical digital connection is that it will not let the noise pass through to the DAC circuitry.

They can be one of the best options you can use for transmitting compressed Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound options. The Optical digital cables are also referred to as Toslink as they come with a Toshiba Link. The cable can only transmit optical signals. This will necessitate the need for converting the electrical signals into an optical signal before being sent to the device. Once it is collected on the receiver, the optical signal will be converted back into the electrical signal.

What makes it one of the most preferred options is the Optical cable is not affected in any manner by RFI or EMI or similar another sort of interference. In sharp contrast to the copper cables, you will find the performance better on the optical digital wires when compared to the coaxial cables. You can be assured of no loss in terms of signal attenuation.

However, they can be quite fragile when you compare them to the other cables. You should not bend them or tightly pinch them. The end connections are a little oddly shaped, and the link may not be secure as in the case of HDMI or Coaxial cables. Another limitation that you may come across on an optical digital cable would be that the quality is limited to up to 5.1 channel. You can be assured of the minimum signal degradation over a distance.

Coaxial Audio Cables

The Digital Coaxial cables are one of the most common cable types you would find for the audio connectivity and offer you a 5.1 channel surround sound option just the way.

Optical digital cables provide you access to. These cables are ideally connected to the subwoofers to an audio receiver. The quality of the signal and sound performance on the optical digital cable and coaxial cable remains almost on similar lines. In terms of construction, they are done in the form of shielded copper wire. They do not need a specific orientation for connectivity. Both the ends of the cable have a similar jack and can be connected in any direction. In sharp contrast to the Optical digital wires, you will find the connection offered by the coaxial cables is more secure and reliable. The cables are firmly connected.

However, these coaxial digital cables suffer to a considerable extent due to interference. They suffer to a higher degree through radio frequency interference and electromagnetic interference. If the system that connects the cables has any humming or buzz sound, you will find that the same disturbance is transmitted through the entire system. They can also lose signal over a longer distance. While home users like us may not be affected to a greater extent, it may be a good idea enough to opt for the Digital Optical cables.

However, the coaxial cables make the audio sound better than the optical digital cables to a greater extent. The coaxial cable has better bandwidth than the optical cable and offers support for up to 192 kHz. The optical cable, on the other hand, can only support up to 96 kHz.

So, what should be your preferred Connection option?

Well, that would be an objective question in a broader sense. If you need to choose between a coaxial and digital cable, the best option we would choose between the two is a coaxial cable. Of course, the optical cable is technically better and does not produce any interference. It does provide lossless audio over medium distances. However, the sound quality appears to be good enough on the Coaxial cable than on the optical cable.

If you are looking for better dynamics in terms of audio performance and a higher level of sound quality, the optical digital cable should be an ideal option to go with. Finally, it would be dependent upon the specific connection options available on your device to be precise.

If you are looking for convenience and enhanced performance, it is an excellent option to check out HDMI or HDMI ARC connectivity. HDMI and HDMI ARC have been one of the exciting prospects and has been the GO TO connection for most of your requirements. What should make it a formidable choice is it offers you a high-end feature set, a greater upgradeability, and its efficiency in terms of audio-video transmission. A single wire communication should make it one of the best options because it will help you avoid the unneeded clogging of wires and cables.

The best part with the HDMI cable is it can transfer audio at the highest possible bandwidth and has been going through evolutions. It can transmit high-resolution audio signals and supports the new range of services like Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio which are commonly available on Blu-ray files and discs. If your digital media has these audio formats, the HDMI and HDMI ARC should be the only option to access them. No digital or coaxial cable can address these audio formats.

Our Verdict

So that was all we have concerning the functionality and features offered by the three distinct cable types for your audio transmission. Based on the exact specification and configuration available on your audio receiver and audio device, you may have already understood which among these three options suits your needs better.

If you have an HDMI option, it should absolutely be the best alternative you would want to go with. Never think of anything else than the connection option for your audio requirements. It is the best, easy, and convenient connectivity option for all your audio enhancements. However, if you have no option for an HDMI connectivity and need to choose between optical and coaxial digital cable, we would suggest you opt for Coaxial cable for that slighter audio improvement you would have access to.

Ultimately, it will all boil down to the personal preferences as the audio experience is based more on the personal experience levels you may have. Choose the right option and enjoy your favorite music right away!

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Disclosure: We are a professional review website that sometimes receive compensation or free units from the companies whose products we review. We test each product thoroughly and give high marks to only the very best. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own.

Disclosure: We are a professional review website that sometimes receive compensation or free units from the companies whose products we review. We test each product thoroughly and give high marks to only the very best. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own.
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