hdmi-vs-optical-audio

Image Credit: Bonus Audio

You may have never heard of an optical audio port, but it’s actually found on many computers and HDTVs as well as other gadgets. Since the port is almost never used, it can be confusing as to what it is and why it’s even there in the first place. Read on to find out what optical audio is exactly and why this often unused port sits there.

What is optical audio?

Optical audio is interesting. In most cases, and as is standard, most cabling uses an electronic signal. Optical audio is different in that it uses fiber optic cables and laser light to transmit a signal between two devices (mostly electronics aimed at consumers). You actually might know this by another name: TOSLINK. It was a new standard introduced by Toshiba way back in 1983.

TOSLINK actually comes in many different media formats and physical standards. The most common standard you’ll see is the rectangular connector (though there are round connectors out there as well).

Where is it found on?

The optical audio port is often underused and overlooked. You might be surprised, but it’s a standard that can be found on many modern pieces of technology. You can find it on most DVD and blu-ray players as well as cable boxes and game consoles, including the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Xbox One S (though it’s worth noting that most of these devices don’t come with an optical audio cable, as it’s something you’ll usually have to buy separately).

Why should I use TOSLINK?

Should you use TOSLINK? It depends. HDMI has essentially replaced the format as far as video goes, but TOSLINK is still king for certain audio setups. Optical audio provides superior clarity as far as sound goes and can support 7.1 channel audio. When it comes down to it, there’s really no added benefit for switching from HDMI to optical audio. In day-to-day life, you’re going to hardly see a difference, if any at all.

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So, if you’re currently using HDMI, keep using it for your PC or gaming setup. In fact, the only real reason you shouldn’t be using HDMI is if a gadget doesn’t have an HDMI interface. Most pieces of technology will have HDMI, but if you run into some older sound equipment, chances are that they don’t have it, which is where optical audio becomes so helpful.

It’s also worth noting that HDMI is a whole lot more useful in that it carries video and audio signals, but it also supports high-res audio formats, such as DTD HS Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD.

Optical audio might be able to help you get out of some confusing situations with old sound equipment. But, even though we see the port on many pieces of modern technology, it’s best to keep using HDMI because of its usefulness.

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