HDMI Vs. Digital Optical Audio

High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) and digital optical audio cables are both common options for connecting audio between devices. They are both easy to find, and the price range is similar for the two cables. Most users can justify choosing either cable type without a noticeable difference. However, there are a few reasons to consider the cables' subtle differences before selecting the right audio connection for your home.

HDMI Vs. Digital Optical Audio
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Capabilities and Functions

A digital optical audio cable produces a reliably consistent sound quality. The cable type uses pulsing waves of light to send the audio through your sound system. These cables work well and are a good option for almost every home sound system.

HDMI cables are among the most common on the market. They work well with all electronics including sound systems, televisions and computer monitors. The HDMI cable is popular because it functions as a cable for both audio and video simultaneously.

In terms of availability, few cables are more abundant than the HDMI cable. You might find a good deal on used cables from businesses and second-hand stores. They are often undervalued, but the lifespan of a typical HDMI cable is lengthy.

The HDMI Difference

In terms of use and quality, both cables communicate audio between devices equally well. Your Dolby surround sound and other multi-channel audio systems will work with either cable type. The main difference comes through on the HDMI cable's ability to work with video.

Comparing optical cables versus HDMI is best done when you run a home theater. Systems with Blu-ray are especially good candidates for an HDMI cable. The cable serves up high-quality sound when used with Blu-ray and master audio. It essentially delivers a higher quality with video and sound together.

The digital optical audio cable is one-dimensional and only puts out the sound. Although consistent and high quality, it lacks the edge provided by the HDMI for video. If you watch movies frequently with a home theater system, use the HDMI cable. If the sound system is solely set up for audio and music, either cable will perform the same function.

Setting Up a Sound System

Planning your sound system and home theater setup typically requires a few trips to the store unless you are making the purchase online. In a store setting, surround sound and sound features are often bundled as a package. Always inquire about the cable types being used to transmit audio between devices.

In a sound system-only environment, a package with HDMI or digital optical audio is just fine. If you ever plan on connecting a visual element, however, ask the sales rep to make your connections with HDMI cables. You can often negotiate them into the package price and save on buying new cables later.

When purchasing online, you will likely be required to purchase the cables separately as the entertainment system is typically itemized rather than packaged. You can, however, shop online deals and locate cables at a steep discount around the holiday seasons and other prime shopping events.

If you want to save, shop around the second-hand stores or look to electronic disposal outlets and collect the salvaged cords. There are plenty of good HDMI cords floating around if you look for them in odd places. Otherwise, head to the nearest electronic store or make an online purchase to set up your sound system.

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