Is HDMI ARC better than optical cable? Every connection port available at the rear side of your TV or soundbar was included for a reason.
On most modern devices, you’d find a few HDMI ports and also optical ports. These ports include output/input connections to other devices.
The main reason why manufacturers include a variety of connection ports is to provide flexibility to the end-user(s). Thus, a user can decide which connection to go with – HDMI or optical.
Well, the type of media you want to transmit can influence the connection type to use. For example, if you’re transmitting only audio, you can do that using an optical cable.
But, if you’d be transmitting audio and video, then you need an AV cable or HDMI and optical. Here, the HDMI would work for transmitting video while the optical cable moves the sound.
However, on most modern devices, you’d notice a “special” HDMI port labeled “ARC.” Not everyone clearly understands the functions of this distinctive HDMI port, but it’s a very useful feature on supported devices.
Put simply, HDMI ARC helps you to transmit both audio and video using a single cable, and of course, it’s your regular HDMI cable.
With ARC, there’s no need to get an optical cable to transmit audio signals between your devices.
So, basically, ARC reduces the number of cables that cluster your TV furniture area, as well as makes setting up your home entertainment setup much easier.
But, there has been an argument among audiophiles regarding the HDMI ARC and optical connections.
Although HDMI ARC looks all good, the truth is that it cannot transfer high-quality audio uncompressed.
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HDMI ARC vs. Optical: Which Should You Use?
The plain truth on which to choose between optical and HDMI ARC is the user and the type of devices.
Not all devices support ARC; you can only find the ARC port on devices produced after 2009 (not still all of them feature an ARC port).
HDMI ARC requires that both devices to be connected must feature a dedicated “ARC” port. So, if your TV has an ARC port but your soundbar doesn’t there’s no way connection via HDMI ARC would work for you.
In contrast, virtually all TVs and soundbars in the market support optical connections. This makes optical connection ideal for most people who don’t have devices with a dedicated ARC port.
Similar to HDMI ARC, your TV and soundbar or audio receiver must support optical connection ports before you can transmit audio using an optical cable.
Now, with what’s said so far, you can easily tell if you can connect your devices via HDMI ARC or using an optical cable.
If one of your devices features an HDMI ARC port and the other feature a standard HDMI port (not labeled ARC), you can’t transmit audio and video on both devices using a single HDMI cable.
Well, since both optical cables and HDMI ARC cannot transmit high-quality audio, it’s pretty difficult to conclude that one is better than the other.
Notwithstanding, because HDMI ARC cuts down the number of cables required for home audio/video setup, many would agree that it is the better option here.
More so, both HDMI cables and optical digital audio cables are dead cheap and available in different stores, offline and online.
You don’t need a new cable to connect two HDMI ARC-ready devices; your regular HDMI cable can do the connection – you only need to be sure to connect the cable ends into the respective ARC ports on the devices.
Limitations of HDMI ARC and Optical Digital Audio
The sad truth is that none of these connections support TrueHD, DTS HD, or Dolby Digital Plus. You can’t transmit original sound through these technologies.
But, if your devices support eARC, you can transmit any audio quality losslessly and uncompressed.
eARC is the advanced version of ARC, it stands for Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) and supports all known premium audio formats.
Well, you can only find an HDMI eARC port on devices produced after 2012. The HDMI eARC technology works best when you use HDMI cables with an Ethernet end.
Well, optical cables have more proving and deliver more stable sound signals than HDMI cables. This is because optical digital audio cables are made with reliable materials.
Furthermore, both HDMI ARC and optical digital audio cables have a specific length they can reach.
Mainly, HDMI cables are not longer than 15 meters; this is because signals transmitted via HDMI will start to degrade after 15m (approx. 50 ft.).
On the other hand, optical audio cables can get to 30 meters depending on the purpose.
Note: Optical cables are also called TOSLINK cables. However, TOSLINK is a type of optical cable produced by Toshiba. It still delivers the same functionality and features as typical optical cables.
The Best HDMI ARC And Optical Cables To Buy
These cables are all available on Amazon, eBay, and other popular e-commerce stores that operate online. Nevertheless, you could still buy them from local stores around you.
The IVANKY HDMI cable is pretty fast and compatible with HDMI ARC. It is built to last and can be used on all devices, including projectors, monitors, TVs, DVD players, and even PCs.
More interestingly, this HDMI cable transmits data at a very fast speed, up to 18 Gbps. It is one of the best you would find out there, and it can transmit lossless 7.1 surround sound and 4K videos.
This cable is available in different lengths, from 1ft to 50ft.
Merely looking at this cable, you would clearly see the rigidity. The iBirdie 4K HDMI cable is one of the best out there with a decent transfer speed rating.
It can transfer 8GB every second and is fit for use with TVs, gaming console, PCs, and every other place where an HDMI cable is required.
Furthermore, this cable is inexpensive, available in different sizes, and built to deliver the best performance you’d expect from an HDMI cable of such quality.
Yes, the iVANKY brand is notable for producing top-quality audio cables. This optical cable from the brand is one of the best you can get in the market.
It is built to last and to be used on various devices where an optical audio connection is supported. The maximum length available is 15ft. Well, this is not TOSLINK cable, so it doesn’t get to 33ft in length.
It may interest you to know that with this iVANKY optical cable, you can enjoy uncompressed PCM audio. Well, it can handle 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound, but would definitely compress them.
4. Amazon Basics Optical Cable
With this optic fiber cable from Amazon Basics, you are sure to ensure stable audio transmission.
It is ideal for connecting soundbars to any TV; notwithstanding, it can be used for connecting other devices that support audio transmission via optical connections.
Furthermore, this cable is built with corrosion-resistant material and gold-plated connectors; apparently, you’re getting stable transmission with zero lagging. However, the maximum length available is 9.8 feet.
In summary, the debate about HDMI ARC and optical digital audio points down to the user’s preference and the available ports in the user’s devices.
Both ARC and optical digital audio can’t handle premium (HD) sounds, but if you upgrade to a device that supports eARC, you can transmit any audio quality losslessly using a single HDMI cable.
On the other hand, optical digital audio does not support video transmission, but you can transmit video with HDMI ARC.
This is basically the main difference between these two connection methods. Furthermore, it is important to note that both optical audio and HDMI ARC would only work when the two connecting devices feature the respective input/output ports for the cables.
The cables are pretty cheap on Amazon and eBay, and you can also get them from the local stores in your area.