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HDMI ARC vs Optical – Which Connection is Better?

I think you are here because you have recently bought a soundbar or an av receiver, and now you want to do the connection part, previously when there was no advancement in the technology people used to do every connection with just one simple cable as they did not have other options, but now with the advancement in the technology, there are several options for you even to do a connection, like an HDMI cable is normally used to transfer high-quality audio and video from one device to another, as this makes it ideal for connections, but in case of soundbar or av receivers even using an HDMI cable will not work and can create some issues because an HDMI can not support a two-way transmission of sound, so a new type of HDMI is in existence which is referred as HDMI ARC for this task, but wait the question is there is also another type of cable naming optical cable which can also be used for the same task, and this creates confusion for the users, that which one they should use.

By the way, the main difference between HDMI AVC and optical cable is that the former can transmit high-quality audio and video while the latter can only transmit audio.

As people use both of these cables for the same purpose that is to transmit multi-channel audio between two devices, here in this article we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using both these cables and will also compare them and based on that you will come to know which option is better for you, so let’s start.

HDMI ARC vs Optical 

Sound quality

Since both these cables can transfer multichannel audio, they both offer good sound quality, an optical cable works well with almost all home entertainment devices but they only support sound up to 5.1 channels, but sometimes you want a cable that supports sound up to 7.1 channels which even an HDMI AVC can not support, but another variation of HDMI naming HDMI eARC supports it.

Video quality

As we have already told you that an optical connection does not allow the transmission of video therefore there is no point of comparing these two based on video quality, but one thing to note is that when you use an HDMI AVC connection for the video transfer, the video quality differs by using different types of HDMI also.

Applications they Support

Optical cable does not support TrueHD, DTS HD, or Dolby Digital Plus, etc while an HDMI ARC does support them and even provides high-quality sound with them. But sometimes an optical cable can support gadgets that even an HDMI ARC cable can not.

Effect of Interference

The best property of an optical cable is that they can even transmit sound very well when there is electromagnetic interference present and on the other hand you will face many issues with an HDMI ARC cable in case of electromagnetic interference, and therefore everyone should prefer optical cables when there they have to install a long cable all over their house, also an optical cable is better for the long run.

Maximum Run Length

Run length of any of the cable is not a big issue, but when you are running the cable all over your home like in the case of a whole-house audio system then this can be an issue, as more the length of the cable more will be the loss of sound signal and this will affect the quality of the sound, so we should always try to keep the length of connection as short as possible. 

The maximum run length of an optical cable is 10 to 30 meters while that of HDMI ARC cable is 10 to 15 meters, HDMI cable has less maximum run length because it can not handle interference that well.

It depends on your constraints that which type of cable is more suitable for you so now let’s have a look at which type of cable is better in which conditions.

In What Cases HDMI ARC Cable Is Better for the Connections?

HDMI ARC connections are best when you have a soundbar and av receiver of a new generation that support a high quality of sound, if you want the best quality experience and your device is supporting HDMI ARC then you should go for it without any second thought, also when you want to transmit sound along with the video then the HDMI cables are the only option for you as optical cables do not support this task and if you do not want to use any external speakers then also HDMI ARC connection is a better option than an optical connection.

HDMI ARC connections also have an excellent property that it also enables CRC technology which means you can use a single remote for all the devices connected with HDMI ARC.

When an Optical Cable Is Better for the Connections?

An optical cable does not support TrueHD, DTS HD, or Dolby Digital Plus, etc,

But it does offer a more reliable and interference-free connection and therefore mostly a better option when there is a lot of electromagnetic interference and you also need a long-running cable. we can use them in connections where an HDMI cable is not compatible like an old soundbar or av receiver does not support HDMI.

When you want to couple a lot of devices together to transmit sound between each other then optical cables are the best as they prevent interference, in such cases, one device has an optical input and the other has an optical output. 

Conclusion

Both these types of connections are good in their place, you just need to choose the one which is fulfilling your requirement and most importantly is compatible with the devices you want to connect with them. But if we speak broadly then HDMI ARC will be best for you if you want high-quality sound and video as it supports all the latest audio and video formats on the other hand optical connection also offers good sound quality and also works well in case of electromagnetic interference.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1.Does HDMI ARC support sound up to 7.1 channels?

No HDMI ARC does not support sound up to 7.1 channels, but HDMI eARC is the best option for this task.

Q2.I want a whole-house sound system, which connection should I prefer?

You should go for optical connections as their maximum run length is far more than HDMI ARC cable.

Q3.Which connection I should choose for high-quality sound?

HDMI ARC connection offers high definition sound quality and supports all the latest audio formats and therefore it will be the best fit for you.

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