Connecting the Toslink optical cable to the TV: advantages and disadvantages

Do we want to connect soundbars or speakers to the TV with the optical cable? Let’s discover together the advantages and disadvantages of this audio connection

Toslink optical cable

When we buy a soundbar for the TV, most users use the optical cable (Also known as Toslink o S/PDIF) to make the connection, so as to obtain excellent audio quality in all situations of use.

Nowadays, however, this connection does not always arise as the most advantageousalso given the appearance on the market of new technologies capable of providing superior audio quality (with certain types of content).

There are several advantages and disadvantages of using optical cable when we connect a soundbar or any other audio device with optical output to the TV and it is not necessarily always the best solution to maintain the right compromise between audio quality and ease of use.

READ ALSO -> Enhance TV Sound with a Soundbar

1) Optical cable: quality audio at what price?

When we talk about optical cable we mean a connection made via a fiber optic cable. This cable allows you to transport digital quality audio from the TV to the soundbar, using a beam of red light.

The audio is transported digitally via dedicated coding (PCM) and reproduced on the soundbar at a significantly higher quality than the speakers integrated into the TV. Making this connection is really very simple: all we have to do is get a Toslink optical cableinsert one end into the TV’s optical audio output (also labeled as OPTICAL AUDIO OUT, DIGITAL AUDIO OUT, S/PDIF OUT or similar) and insert the other end into the soundbar prepared for the optical cable, using the dedicated input OPTICAL AUDIO IN, DIGITAL AUDIO IN, S/PDIF IN it’s like

On modern TVs, turning the soundbar on and off is linked to the turning on of the television: by turning the main device on and off we will also turn off the soundbar, but a lot depends on the type of TV in use and the soundbar we are using (by purchasing products from the same manufacturer the integrated controls will be significantly greater).


The optical cable connection has one major flaw: You cannot control the volume of the soundbar or connected devices using the TV remote control. Excluding some particular cases (such as Samsung TVs and Soundbars), every time we want to raise or lower the volume of the TV we will have to use the dedicated soundbar remote control or the controls on it, given that the output volume is from the TV is constant (therefore only the volume of the soundbar applies).

This can become frustrating in the long run, since it forces us to always have two remote controls at hand: one to change the TV channels and the other to change the volume.

2) Alternative technologies to the optical cable

Still remaining in the field of cable audio transport technologies, we can exploit new technologies instead of Toslinkso that we can also overcome the big flaw seen above: we are talking about HDMI ARC e di HDMI e-ARC.

With HDMI ARC (and its evolution HDMI e-ARC) the audio is transported digitally via a simple HDMI cablewhere the return channel is enabled

: in this way the audio follows the reverse path compared to the normal HDMI cable, therefore transporting the audio from the TV to the soundbar at a quality equal to or higher than that offered by the Toslink cable.

With HDMI ARC the control system is also enabled HDMI CECwhich allows you to change the volume of the soundbar directly with the TV remote controlthus overcoming the major flaw present on Toslink cable connections.

We can also read our guide on HDMI ARC technology HDMI ARC: what it is and how to best use it.

3) Wireless connection: right compromise?

If, however, we wanted to connect the soundbar without using a cable, the only technology currently available is the Bluetoothwhich has a slightly lower quality than Toslink but frees us from the need to always use a cable and also allows us to control the volume with just one remote control, that of the television.

The soundbar with this technology is connected to the TV as if it were a pair of headphones, using theaudio Bluetooth to listen to the audio of streaming content and TV channels with one more than sufficient sound performance.

Obviously this may not be the best solution for those looking for maximum sound quality, but it can be considered in case of space problems or if we can’t stand wires hanging in the living room or on the piece of furniture where we placed the new Smart TV.


Connecting the soundbar to the TV via Toslink cable is no longer an obligatory option, given the presence of other high quality technologies that also allow use a single remote control to manage the soundbar volume, without having to walk around with two remote controls! The only exception is when we have a soundbar and a TV from the same manufacturer (for example Samsung).

In that case, even with the Toslink optical cable we can control the volume with just one remote control (in most cases). If the devices are from different manufacturers, it is better to use HDMI ARC/e-ARC or use the Bluetooth connection.

To learn more we can also read our guides on how get the highest audio quality on movies and TV e how to connect TV speakers and audio systems to the Smart TV.

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