HDMI ARC vs Optical (TOSLINK) What Connection is best?

January 18, 2021 by No Comments

While watching your TV and sound bar, you may have noticed that both devices can support HDMI ARC and optical. The problem is that you don’t have any cable and are wondering which one is the best in terms of sound quality.

In this article, we will not only compare HDMI to optical, but also the audio formats and other features that each cable offers.

You can also search for a sound bar with certain features and ask yourself if you really need a sound bar with ARC HDMI support. Or is that visual enough? Are there any advantages or disadvantages to any of the cables that you should know about? Let’s take a closer look.

Look at this:

The bottom line is that both HDMI ARC and optical offer good sound quality and can support the same audio formats and channels. The HDMI ARC offers a feature called CEC (more information later) and lip-sync correction.

Let’s start with the ARC HDMI.

HDMI CRA Functions

HDMI is a standardized all-in-one technology that can transmit not only video but also high-quality sound. The vast majority of consoles and displays are compatible with the HDMI format.

1 – Consumer electronics controls (CEC)

The most useful feature of HDMI ARC is a function called CEC, which allows you to control the volume of a connected audio device from the TV remote. It was introduced in HDMI 1.4, which was released in 2009.

The main advantage of CEC is the reduction in the number of cables needed to connect the TV to the audio system. No need to use separate remotes either, you can use a remote to control the volume of the external speaker.

Plus, the CEC can be used to turn on the TV and soundbar with the same remote, which makes things much more convenient.

2 – Lip sync correction

Lipsync correction is a feature introduced with HDMI 1.3 that automatically adjusts audio and video timing to avoid delays and other problems. The problem is that in some cases the TV set takes longer to process video than audio.

When using external speakers, there can sometimes be a noticeable delay between video and audio, and HDMI ARC corrects this problem. This feature has been available since 2008 and most consumer electronics devices support it. HDMI ARC supports this function, and you can turn it on and off at your convenience. I recommend leaving it on.

3 – Video signal support

You can use an HDMI cable to connect the TV to the soundbar for sound, and then use the same cable with a console or DVD player for games or movies. It’s a universal cable.

CEC and Lip Sync correction are the most prominent features of HDMI ARC.

Optical Characteristics Voucher for occasional use

Optics, also known as Toslink, have been around for a long time (since 1983) and are still in use today because they are affordable, reliable and give decent sound. Toslink is an audio cable, cannot transmit video signals and has no special functions.

There are two points worth mentioning about the optics. First, it is much cheaper than HDMI, and second, the board design is actually more resistant to interference than HDMI.

The reason why interference is better blocked is that the technology is based on the transmission of light through optical fibres, which are much more resistant to electromagnetic fields. In other words: The audio stream is much more stable and less subject to delays or failures.

As for interference, most HDMI cables have a layer of shielding around the copper wire, so the signal is also very well protected. The quality of this protection depends on the manufacturer. If you have many wireless devices, they may interfere with your HDMI cable.

In short, an optical device is cheap and stable, but has no special features.

HDMI ARC vs. optical: Supported audio formats:

What’s interesting about HDMI ARC vs Optical is that they both support the same multi-channel audio formats, such as : Stereo, 5.1 and even 7.1 (Dolby Digital).

CRA has greater potential bandwidth, but this does not necessarily translate into better sound quality. A complete list of formats and functions can be found in this table:

For example, if you have a simple sound system. B. a single sound bar or stereo speakers, both options can provide approximately the same sound quality. For audio channels 2.1, both devices provide good sound. People with smart TVs sometimes mention that applications like Netflix sound better in HDMI than in optical, but this can be hard to tell.

There is another version of HDMI ARC called HDMI eARC that supports almost all audio features.

HDMI eARC (best for home theater)

HDMI eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) is an enhanced version of ARC introduced with HDMI 2.1.

For advanced audio systems, eARC is the best connection method, as it supports the most popular formats, as well as advanced audio formats such as Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital True HD and DTS:X.

If you have a home theater designed for these formats, you should use the eARC HDMI. The problem is that this feature is still relatively new, there are not many TVs or devices that support eARC at the moment, although this is likely to change in the near future.





Used cable

Optical S/PDIF


HDMI with Ethernet

Stereo support




Compressed 5.1




uncompressed 5.1




uncompressed 7.1




High-speed and object-based up to 192 kHz, 24-bit (e.g. Dolby Atmos, DTS:X)




Maximum audio bandwidth

~384 Kbps

~1 Mbit/second

37 Mbit/s




CICE data channel

CEAR capabilities (Audio EDID, etc.)



CICE data channel

Lip sync correction




Television jammer and volume control


Yes (CEC)

Yes (CEC)

Television power supply Audio power supply


Yes (CEC)

Yes (CEC)

What about Bluetooth?

Most TVs and sound bars can be paired via Bluetooth. When you connect the TV to the sound bar via Bluetooth, you should be aware of some issues. On the one hand, Bluetooth bandwidth is much smaller than optical bandwidth, and codecs compress audio a lot.

Second, the lip sync problem may be more pronounced with Bluetooth, as it takes much longer to process Bluetooth audio. The sound delay increases, which can be very annoying, especially when playing movies.

In general, it is not recommended to connect the TV to the soundbar via Bluetooth, a wired option for audio is much better, preferably HDMI ARC.

Bottom row:

In the end, eARC HDMI is the best option. If you have already purchased a soundbar with ARC HDMI support, you must purchase an ARC HDMI cable. If not, look for a soundbar with an ARC port.

You may be wondering why I don’t recommend CICE’s soundbars. The reason for this is that there are currently only a few soundbars that support eARC. But for the average consumer, an ARC cable provides sufficient sound quality for movies, games and other forms of entertainment.

Optical cable is also good enough for most media. Most people agree that ARC HDMI sound is slightly clearer than optical sound, although it is very difficult to notice these subtle differences.

See also :

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