Coaxial vs. Optical vs. HDMI: Which Is The Best Audio Connection To Use?
You may have acquired the necessary audio connections and viewed the plugin, but the most crucial question is what digital sound connectivity is the best for your system and listening experience. Gone are the days when a 3.5mm jack was the standard connectivity option for most audio players. Audio technology has advanced over the years; as a result, several connectivity options offer reliability and ease of use. When you buy a sound system or a home theatre, there are various connectivity options if you read the box. These include optical, coaxial, or HDMI connections, all of which have unique benefits. These three connection options are digital and are best for all types of audio and video devices. However, HDMI supports audio and video, whereas optical and coaxial cables can only send audio data. This article aims to help if you are confused about these three connectivity options.
Coaxial Digital Connection
Coaxial cable is the most frequently occurring connection among the latest AV gadgets. It requires electricity to deliver digital audio. A circular RCA connection is used at both ends of analog audio cables. However, do not try to replace the special Smaxial digital wire with an RCA phono cable. They may look alike, but analog interconnects have different resistance values from digital interconnects (50 ohms vs. 75 ohms), so they won’t work either. For the most part, low-cost cables such as QED Performance Coaxial are the ideal option and will do the trick.
Although coaxial is not as common as its optical counterpart these days, you will still find it behind some integrated amplifiers, AV receivers, and televisions. If you compare both of them, a coaxial connection looks better than an optical connection. Because of its large bandwidth, it can support high-quality music higher than or equal to 24-bit/192kHz. Typically, the optical frequency is restricted to 96kHz; as a result, it doesn’t offer the same audio quality as a coaxial one.
However, the downside of coaxial digital connections is that electromagnetic noise transfer between your devices is uncontrollable. As a result, sometimes the noise becomes a nuisance when you want absolute clarity in audio.
Furthermore, coaxial cables lack the bandwidth needed to support high-resolution surround-sound codecs such as DTS-HD Master AudioDolby, DTS: X, TrueHD, and Dolby Atmos. This makes it unsuitable for high-end home entertainment systems as it would not serve its purpose correctly.
Optical Digital Connection
An optical signal connection transfers data using light as a medium through a cable made of polymer, silicon, or silica. Since the connection of an optical cable box prevents noise from the source to the DAC circuit as a coaxial does, it makes for an excellent listening experience. It is ideal for this connector when connecting the AV receiver or soundbar directly to the DAC for better noise reduction.
In a home theatre setting, optical links transmit compressed DTS and Dolby Digital sound. Toslink optical cables connect to appropriate sockets on the receiver and source. However, QED Performance Graphite Optical is one of the best entry-level alternatives that offers reliability and performance.
Although HDMI has become the industry standard, optical outputs are still widely used on gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, televisions, and set-top boxes. The optical input is also found on AV receivers and soundbars at the end of the DAC and amplification.
One problem with Optical is insufficient space for flawless audio formats, such as DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD audio soundtracks on various 4K Blu-ray and Blu-ray. Moreover, an optical connection is restricted to two streams of raw PCM audio. Another drawback of an optical cable is its sensitivity; it might be damaged or broken if twisted too firmly or handled roughly.
The fundamental advantage of HDMI, which was launched in 2002, is its compatibility with most audio and video devices. It offers far higher bandwidth over optical, allowing it to support lossless audio codecs such as DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD. This makes it better than the aforementioned connectivity options.
HDMI outputs and inputs are often found on televisions, AV receivers, Blu-ray players, and laptops. Unlike its counterparts, nearly all modern audio and video devices have HDMI support. HDMI connectivity is constantly improving, with newer and better versions providing larger bandwidth and more audio channels to support richer sounds. Furthermore, it supports all video formats, making it ideal equipment in a modern home theatre or sound system. It also incorporates features such as eARC and HFR, with up to 32 audio channels making it the best connectivity option in the market.
Most current AV and TV systems use HDMI 2.0, while HDMI 2.1 (which enables 8K quality content) is gradually making its way into the market.
These connection options are available for several audio and video devices; however, their performance depends on your usability and preference. In addition, many firms are using HDMI to fiber converters to improve signal transmission quality. As a result, there is a dedicated market for such converters. These firms specialize in manufacturing traditional cables to optical converters, which is a cheap solution but one that might not be reliable.
If you have to select between optical and coaxial, we suggest choosing the former. In our perspective, the coaxial connector provides better sound quality than the optical connection, with more dynamism and clarity. Also, it is one of the most common types of connectors used by audio professionals and amateurs alike.
However, HDMI has become the industry standard for all AV equipment, and it’s difficult to argue against its importance. Most AV devices are incomplete without an HDMI cable port. It’s easy to connect and reliable in its performance. There are no complicated installation methods, you just have to connect a cable, and that’s it.
All three connection options have advantages; some are good for performance and heavy output, while others are ideal for compatibility. Choose the one that best suits your needs, as it can massively affect the output of your AV devices.