HDMI Arc Vs Optical: A Detailed Comparison

HDMI Arc Vs Optical

Key Takeaways

  • An HDMI Arc is a two-way cable that allows audio transfer between the source and receiver.
  • With an HDMI Arc cable, you may use a single remote to control the audio of different devices.
  • An optical cable uses light to transfer digital data.
  • Optical cables help transfer audio signals.

Which is the better option, HDMI Arc or Optical?

If you’ve just purchased a new TV set and want to transfer audio from the TV to external speakers or other devices, you have the decision to make. 

Since HDMI Arc and Digital Optical are all great options, you may be challenged to decide which is best for your situation. Some of the factors you may consider while choosing include:

  • Available connections
  • Cable length
  • Desired quality 
  • The number of cables you need

If you want a detailed comparison of the HDMI Arc and optical to help you make a decision, you’re in the right place. We’ll make it easier for you to pick the best option for you. 

Let’s get to business. 

What is HDMI?

HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface, a standard for connecting high-definition audio or video devices. It combines audio and video into a single digital interface to enable the use of digital television(DTV) and disc(DVD) players.

HDMI is a digital replacement of analog video standards used in HD signals. It can share both audio and video in high-definition quality. Everything gets transferred by a single cable from one device to another, primarily used in AV sectors.=

Various HDMI connector types exist, including type A, B, C, D, and E.

Related: Mini HDMI vs. Micro HDMI

Type A (standard) is the most commonly used, which is 13.9 x 4.45 mm and has 19 pins. Its functions include

  • Helping you watch videos and movies from your laptop on your TV offers a better viewing experience.
  • You can use an HDMI interface to connect a streaming box to your TV to enjoy various streaming services. Apple TV+, Netflix, and Prime Video.
  • You may use it to connect a soundbar, purchased and powered separately, to enjoy better-quality audio. 

What is Optical?

An optical cable allows you to transfer audio digitally. While HDMI cables use copper wire to transfer audio, optical cables use light.

There are various types of optical cables ideal for various purposes. For instance, a fiber optic cable transfers fiber internet to your home via light. 

A Digital Optic cable also helps in transferring digital audio over shorter distances. Audio data from the source is converted from electrical signals to light. An LED light pushes the light signals to the receiving end through a cable. 

When the signal gets to the receiving device, it’s converted back to electrical signals. This enables amplification, decoding, and any other processing. 

Finally, the digital signal is converted back to analog so you can hear it through your headphones or external speakers.  

Related: HDMI 2.2 Vs. 2.1

HDMI ARC Vs. Optical

HDMI Arc and optical have the same functionality of transmitting digital data from one device to another. ARC is the short form for Audio Return Channel, used in HDMI connectors technology, primarily the HDMI 2.0 cables. 

But how do the two devices compare?

Allows cables to connect Blu-ray players or games, thus a two-way communication along the HDMI. It cannot support two-way communication
It allows remote control sharing. Will not allow remote control sharing.
Audio sync correction is optional. There’s no audio sync correction.
It cannot support 7.1 channel audio. It cannot support 7.1 channel audio.
Can transfer audio and video signals  Limited to digital audio
Newer standards (especially 2.0 and 2.1 revisions) can support newer audio technologies like TrueHD and Dolby Atmos. Supports 5.1 surround sound but not newer audio technologies


HDMI ARC helps to reduce the cables between the external sound bar or home theater system and the TV. They made it possible as the audio signal can travel both ways from the speakers improving the sound quality.

How do they differ?

The regular HDMI connector can only transmit video images. On the other hand, the ARC allows audio transmission from the TV back to the source, such as a soundbar or receiver. 

HDMI is a one-way cable, while the HDMI Arc is two-way. 

Additionally, HDMI Arc requires both the source and receiver devices to be HDMI Arc compatible. If your TV is HDMI compatible and your home theater isn’t, the cable won’t work. 

An HDMI Arc cable is also more versatile, connecting multiple devices with a single cable. While you may use HDMI cables to connect multiple devices, there’s a limitation to how many you can connect. 

The table below shows the main differences:

      HDMI ARC         HDMI
Useful if you have external speakers for audio, such as home theaters and soundbars  Ideal if you only use TV speakers 
Allows you to use one remote control for all your audio devices You use your remote to control the TV audio
It’s suitable for audio and video It’s suitable for videos
It’s a single multipurpose cable The overall connection requires more than one cable
It may cost more due to enhanced functionality Average cost

HDMI ARC Vs. Optical Vs. Bluetooth

The efficiency that comes with HDMI ARC reduces the number of cables between the TV and the external connection. HDMI ARC is thus an advanced and improved version of connecting cable devices.

Optical uses cable connection but is less developed compared to HDMI ARC. The variation ranges from functionality and efficiency level.

Bluetooth is a wireless technology since no wires are needed to connect devices to the external soundbar. Thus, it efficiently reduces traffic. It uses radio waves to transmit digital data between two devices directly.

Related: How to Get Sound From Projector to Speakers?

The table below offers a detailed comparison of HDMI Arc Vs. Optical Vs. Bluetooth

Range Distance is limited to the length of the cable It can serve long distances, provided the cables are correctly connected. It’ s limited to short distances, mostly in or across buildings.
Traffic Reduced congestion from one device to another. There is congestion from too many connecting wires. There is no congestion at all.
The transmission It uses advanced cable wire to transmit the data. It uses cables to transmit the digital data It uses radio waves to share information.
Speed It has a faster rate of transferring data. The reduced rate depends on the type of data that is sent. Efficient rate, although it might be affected due to a system glitch.

Optical to HDMI ARC

Optical was the preferred option not so long ago to transmit data from TVs to other devices such as speakers. With the capability to send a compressed surround of 5.1 channels, that was epic.

The HDMI ARC simplifies everything as it connects the TV to the speakers. While using the same HDMI cables allows downstream and upstream transmission.


  • When it comes to video quality, optical cannot transmit video signals, whereas HDMI’s primary purpose is to transmit high-quality signals.



  • Optical uses fiber optic cables, while HDMI uses copper conductors, giving both lines good build quality. However, due to the nature of the medium, optical is flexible compared to HDMI cables.

Is Optical Better Than HDMI Arc?

Both optical and HDMI Arc enable digital audio to pass through them from one device to another. They have the same functionalities. 

Whereas HDMI Arc can pass high-resolution programs such as TheBlu-ray, optical cannot transmit such formats. Additionally, the HDMI Arc reduces traffic by connecting multiple devices using a single cable.

The choice between optical and HDMI Arc cables depends on what you’re looking for. However, the HDMI arc offers more functionality and versatility. 

Do I need HDMI Arc and Optical at the Same Time?

Do you require both HDMI Arc and optical to connect devices? 

Since the two types of cables offer different features and functionalities, using one or either of them depends on the type of device. Some TVs may allow the use of both HDMI and optical, while others won’t.

However, an HDMI Arc cable eliminates the need for other cables since it can transmit high-quality audio and video. 

HDMI ARC Vs. Optical for Soundbar

HDMI Arc may be a better option than optical for soundbar as it produces better quality audio.

HDMI Arc also supports Dolby Digital Plus up to 7.1 of uncompressed audio. On the other hand, Optical can only help Dolby Digital with up to 5.1 uncompressed audio.

HDMI has features like CEC, which can help control the volume of the connected A/V receiver from the TV remote, whereas optical lacks such features.

In most cases, the TV has both digital optical and HDMI ARC making it hard to choose. The factors to consider would be cable length, available connections, quality, and the cables on hand.

Bose Soundar 700 HDMI ARC Vs. Optical

Bose soundbar 700 has features such as a choice of voice assistant and fantastic sound quality, making it worthwhile. Even though it’s not Dolby Atmos compatible, the Bose soundbar proves some legitimacy since DTS HD Master can pass through.

Which is the Better Option Between, HDMI Arc, and Optical?

Both HDMI Arc and optical cables have the same function of transferring digital data from the source to the receiver. Optical cable uses light to transfer data, while HDMI uses copper wires. 

The choice between the two depends on your preference and the type of device you have. For instance, you may not use an HDMI Arc cable if the source isn’t compatible. 

However, HDMI Arc offers more functionality and versatility, making it an ideal choice. 

Sharing is caring!

You may also like