Optical Vs. Soundbar HDMI 2023: Which Is Better And Why?

Optical Vs. Soundbar HDMI 2023 Which Is Better And Why
  • Anthony

Soundbar HDMI vs Optical cables provide richer sound than optical but may only work with newer TVs. Meanwhile, optical cables give you sound that’s almost as good as HDMI ARC but can be played through older TVs. Soundbars offer a convenient and cost-effective way to upgrade your TV’s audio.

Choosing between HDMI ARC or optical connection can sometimes be tricky, so here are some things to consider.

What Is a Soundbar?

What Is a Soundbar

Soundbars are a compact, centrally located, all-in-one speaker system. Soundbars are known for their exellent sound outputs. These soundbars go beyond what is available through the television’s speakers.

You can use soundbars as standalone speakers or as part of a complete surround system. They can be used as standalone speakers to provide great sound, but they don’t take up as much space as a complete surround system. These sound systems are easy to install and have been a necessity in many homes across the country.

If you’re interested in learning more about Soundbars, my Complete Soundbar Buyer’s Guide will help you to evaluate the features and how they can fit into your home theater.

HDMI (ARC) vs Optical – What Is The Difference?

HDMI ARC vs. Optical Soundbars refers to the cables transmitting your source device’s audio system to your soundbar. These two types of Soundbar cables have subtle differences, but they are worth looking at.

HDMI Soundbars

One of the most popular types is the High-Definition Multimedia Interface cables (HDMI ARC). They are now a standard fiber optic cable that can be used with almost all modern devices. They are an essential component of many home theater systems. They provide consistent, excellent sound and video.

They transmit both audio and optical signals between devices. They are easy to use. This means that you will need fewer cables to connect your devices so you can start enjoying them.

HDMI ARC is required to connect a TV to a Soundbar.

It must be secured from a TV to a soundbar using the HDMI ARC input. Audio Return Channel transmits the audio signal from your TV to your soundbar. An HDMI ARC port is a standard HDMI input that can also be used to output audio.

Optical Soundbars

Optical Soundbars

It produces a consistent and reliable sound. Some claim that Dolby Digital Optical cables deliver a better sound quality than HDMI cables. These HDMI cables use a pulsed wave of light passing multi channel audio signals from a source device to an AV receiver.

As they provide high-quality sound and are a popular choice for home theater owners. However, they can only relay audio. You will require an additional cable to transmit video and images between your devices.

Comparing the Specs

Consider your personal preferences and needs when choosing the suitable soundbar for you. This includes both HDMI inputs and the location of your soundbar.

Sound Quality

You can use either digital optical cable or HDMI ARC to relay audio from one device. Both are inexpensive and can transmit audio return channel. However, HDMI is better.

What does HDMI ARC bring to the table? This connection can relay higher-end audio formats such as those found on Blu-Ray (Dolby Digital SoundDolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio). These formats are not supported by optical cables (a.k.a TOSLINK), reducing your audio quality.

The HDMIs have one advantage over optical, especially for audiophiles who want great audio. The HDMIs won’t give you poor digital audio, however. If you are looking to improve the quality of your TV, it is still an excellent choice.

While there are some differences between surround formats, it is not that significant. For example, if your soundbar has a low-end, entry-level soundbar, you might not be able to tell the difference in sound.

If you have a decent soundbar set with sub and rear speakers, HDMIs will bring out high audio quality in your device.

An HDMI cable is better if you expect a significant sound difference from your Blu-ray player or game console.

Input Options

Input Options

It is essential to know the types of inputs and ports that your devices have. This includes your Soundbar and source media device. Some devices might not have an HDMI port. Some devices may not allow you to use HDMI.

You should ensure that you have the correct video HDMI cables to transmit images between your TV and other devices if your device doesn’t allow you to use an HDMI cable.

Although this may seem obvious, it is surprising how many people buy a device expecting to use a particular type of cable only to discover that their device doesn’t allow for it.

Bottom line: HDMI is allowed on most Blu-ray players and game consoles. Digital optical cables can deliver audio that is just as good if your device doesn’t allow for HDMI. A Digital Optical Cable can also be used to transmit sound between two devices.

Soundbar Placement

It is essential to think about where your soundbar will be placed. For example, placing it behind the TV can lead to problems. Soundbars are often used to reduce the footprint of your home theatre system.

Soundbars offer a minimalistic, sleek approach to the sound system. An HMDI cable is a great option to keep this minimalistic approach. It will only require one line to transmit audio and video signals.

If you intend to relay images to your TV, you will need additional wires if you have a Digital Optical model. It is the best choice if you only want to stream audio from your entertainment sound system.

Bottom line: HDMI Soundbars reduce both space and cabling requirements. It is much easier to conceal a single wire than multiple cables if you choose optical digital audio.

You can check the entire article about the position and place of the soundbar.



Although they may be both cables, they are not made from the same material. You may be asking: What is an HDMI ARC made from?

It is either a mini HDMI or micro HDMI (on Blu-ray players). It is made from copper, the most common material for electronic wires. Copper has been around for thousands of years. However, copper is susceptible to electromagnetic interference.

TOSLINK cables differ from HDMIs in that they are made of fiber optics strands. It transmits light signals, not electrical currents. This means that it is less susceptible to interference, making it the clear winner of this round.


HDMI ARC vs optical cable has the advantage of relaying video signals. This eliminates the need to connect additional wires like with an optical receiver. You would need to run more wires with optical.

Our experts stress that HDMI cables are different. The 2.0 standard can play 4k video at 60 frames per second. The 2.1 version offers 120 frames per second in 4k. VR systems can reach 60 fps in just 8k.

Bandwidth Rates

Bandwidth is the maximum amount of information that can easily be transmitted in a given time. Bandwidth is the speed at which data can be sent to a device. This means that there will not be any lag or delay.

HDMI cables generally have a higher bandwidth rate. The bandwidth rate will vary depending on which type of HDMI cable you use, but with the 2.0 standard, it supports up to 32 channels and 192 kHz.

Toslink cables can only transmit up to 96kHz. Due to the data transfer, they are unable to support 7.1 channels.

To reduce signal loss, keep your HDMI cable’s length as short as possible. The data travels farther the longer cables are connected. This can reduce the quality of data that is sent to your device.

HDMI and Optical Soundbars

HDMI and Optical Soundbars

No matter which connection you choose in this debate about HDMI cable vs. optical, there is a soundbar that will make your living space a more comfortable place. These are our two recommendations:

JBL Bar 5.1

This HDMI-compatible soundbar is unique in its design. It also features a subwoofer that can be used for bass and a pair of speakers that you can attach to the soundbar for use with rear modules.

The JBL Bar5.1 channel features surround sound speakers, excellent passthrough, and Bluetooth connectivity to stream music.

Bose Solo 5

Bose Solo 5, a standalone TOSLINK soundbar, provides a balanced sound without the need for a subwoofer. This compact speaker can be used to upgrade your TV speakers by providing clear dialogue and excellent overall performance.



Which connection is best for the soundbar?

HDMI connections are best for soundbar setups as they are easy to use and provide better audio quality.

Can you use optical audio with HDMI cable?

If you are relaying quality audio through optical audio and video through an HDMI cable, it is possible to use both optical audio and HDMI cable.

Do you need both HDMI, and optical cables?

You don’t need to have both an HDMI cable and optical cables. One connection can be made from your soundbar to the TV. You have many options to connect your non-HDMI device to a receiver, and they all work at their best.

Can optical do Dolby Atmos?

No optical cable can do Dolby Atmos or DTS HD Master Audio. The cables cannot handle the bandwidth, and the TV will play Atmos content.

Can you use HDMI, and optical at the same time?

You can’t use it to transmit audio and optical simultaneously. You can, however, have HDMI relaying video and optical handling high quality audio from your receiver.


Soundbars offer a convenient and cost-effective way to upgrade your TV’s audio. Two of the most common ways to connect soundbars to TVs are HDMI and optical cables.

HDMI cables provide richer sound than optical but may only work with newer TVs. Meanwhile, optical cables give you quality audio almost as good as HDMI but can be played through older TVs.

Which cable do you prefer for your soundbar? Do you currently use an optical cable to connect your soundbar to your TV? Let Hooke Audio know in the comments section below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *