If you are looking to improve your home entertainment setup, you might be considering an optical cable to connect your TV to your home theater. Optical cables are a great choice because they will consistently deliver nuanced and vivid audio with no risk of interference or noise. With so many options on the market, what is the best choice for you and your home setup?
The best optical cable offers the standard Toslink connection style, preferably gold plated for durability and the best quality connection. This will allow you to connect to a wide variety of devices and services while transmitting crystal clear audio.
In the rest of this article, we will briefly go over a buying guide, look at 8 choices on the market now, and wrap up with specific optical cable terms.
Table of Contents
Tips for Choosing the Best Cable
Let’s look at a few quick general tips you can remember when shopping for a new optical cable. Most of the products recommended here are similar in terms of what they provide to the consumer, but making a few key decisions in the details will help you be happy with your product in the long term.
Keep it Short Where Possible
The longer your cable will be, the more chance you have for the quality of audio to diminish somewhere along the way. Depending on your home setup, try to arrange your equipment in a way that allows you to purchase the shortest cable possible. Keeping the cable as short as possible gives you the best chance to enjoy high-quality audio transmission with no problems.
Price Difference: Is it Worth it?
While many great options come at an affordable price for the average consumer, there are, of course, higher-end options as well. You might wonder if it is worth it for you to invest in a more expensive cable or simply purchase one of the many reputable, affordable options.
Typically, if you plan to make a single connection with your cable and leave it once setup has been completed, an affordable option will be fine for you. However, if you envision yourself playing around with your devices and home theater arrangement, you might want to go for a cable with a higher price point.
The higher-end cables usually feature more ergonomic grips and connecting features. These will be easier to use as you connect and disconnect various devices and continue to adjust your setup until it is perfect for your needs.
8 Optical Cable Options
Now we will look at the top 8 choices available. Any of these eight choices should suitably fit your home theater needs, but we will highlight a few differences between the models. By seeing how the models differ, you will be able to make the best choice for you and your home entertainment system.
KabelDirekt Optical Digital Audio Cable
If you are a gamer and are looking for the full experience with your PlayStation or Xbox, the KabelDirekt Optical Digital Audio Cable is an excellent choice for you. The classic Toslink setup makes it compatible with a wide range of devices. No matter what your entertainment preference is, this optical cable will give you clear sound. It features connectors plated in 24K gold, giving strength and clarity to the connection point. No fragile plastic to be found in the connectors on this model.
This cable is compatible with 5.1 and 7.1 channel surround sound. It comes in several sizes, with the smallest measuring 3 feet and the longest coming in at 100 feet. With an affordable price point, this makes a great first choice for anyone in need of a new optical cable.
iVanky Slim Braided Digital Audio Optical Cord
The iVanky Slim Braided Digital Audio Optical Cord is constructed in Japan and provides interference-free sound quality that is sure to delight all enjoying your home theater. The coating for this cable isn’t the typical PVC coating, but rather the braided nylon style that offers increased flexibility. It also features 24K gold plating on the connectors. Customer reviews show this product to be easy to connect and to fit well in their devices.
The Toslink setup on this model is also compatible with many devices, including gaming consoles and streaming services. It also features a 5.1 or 7.1 channel surround sound compatibility. There are only two size options for this brand. You can choose between the 10-foot option and the 14.76-foot option.
This is another affordable option made from high-quality materials. iVanky is so confident in this product’s durability that they are offering a 54-month warranty period (that’s four and a half years) if you register this product on their website after you purchase it.
Syncwire Fiber Optic Male to Male Cord
The Syncwire Fiber Optic Male to Male Cord prides itself on its transmission stability. With gold plated connectors and 80P PVC coating, this cable is well made to deliver minimal interference with sound transmission. Its surround sound capabilities support both 5.1 and 7.1 channel setups.
Like the other models we have seen, it is possible to connect this cable to a wide range of devices because of its Toslink setup. You can likely use this cable for any device you wish to connect, from soundbars to gaming consoles.
This company also offers around-the-clock customer support, meaning you will be able to contact them right away if you experience any issue with your new optical cable.
BlueRigger Optical Audio Cable
The BlueRigger Optical Audio Cable is another affordable option with gold plated connectors that will give your home theater great sound quality. This cable comes in a wide variety of sizing options, from as short as 3 feet to as long as 50 feet. Its highly polished convex lens is created to minimize interference, giving you the cleanest and clearest quality sound transmission.
The external coating is made from PVC for maximum durability. It can connect to anything with Toslink compatibility, such as gaming consoles, soundbars, speakers, and TVs. This product is backed with a lifetime warranty, so you can purchase it with confidence that it will serve you well for life.
SKW Optical Digital Audio Cable
If you like the gold plated connector feature without a PVC coating’s stiffness, the SKW Optical Digital Audio Cable is a great choice for you. It utilizes the nylon braided exterior to give your maximum flexibility with managing and storing your cables behind the scenes.
This comes with all the enticing features of 5.1 or 7.1 channel surround sound as well as Toslink compatibility. You can choose between lengths of 3 feet, 6 feet, and 10 feet. The design allows for minimal interference and promises clear and crisp audio for your home theater enjoyment.
Cable Matters Toslink Cable
The Cable Matters Toslink Cable gives you many size options, ranging from the compact 3-foot measurement to the expansive 50-foot option. This is another option that features the braided nylon coating, giving you the ability to coil the extra cable behind your devices neatly flexibly. This is a well-built cable that will support 5.1 and 7.1 channel surround sound.
The connectors here are metal with gold plating at the tips to avoid corrosion and provide the best quality connection between your device and your soundbar or speaker. This is one of the models that have an ergonomic grip all the way around the connecting head. This feature makes it easier to work with as you set it up in your home theater.
AmazonBasics CL3 Rated Optical Audio Digital Cable
If affordability is your top priority and you are looking for the best quality at a minimal price, you can’t go wrong with the AmazonBasics CL3 Rated Optical Audio Digital Cable. This Toslink cable comes in five sizes ranging between 6 feet and 35 feet.
It comes with all the preferred features, such as gold plating on the connectors and comfortable handling to plug it in and connect it properly. This model features a PVC coating for durability and protection.
Amazon Basic products come with a limited one-year warranty, and you can expect the same for this cable. This will work if you are looking to run this cable through the wall to reduce its physical appearance in your theater. It is specifically designed with low-smoke materials to reduce any fire risk associated with this type of set up.
StarTech Thin Toslink Digital Optical SPDIF Audio Cable
This last option—StarTech Thin Toslink Digital Optical SPDIF Audio Cable is a lightweight cable that features an ultra-thin PVC coating. Its slim appearance is accented with the gold plated connecting tips, ensuring that this small cable will still provide excellent digital audio performance.
It comes with three sizing options, from 3 feet to 15 feet, to meet all smaller home theater needs. StarTech also gives a lifetime warranty, confident that you will be pleased with its performance and durability.
Optical Cable Buying Guide: Key Terms
If this is your first optical cable, there might be some terms in the product descriptions you see for the first time. Let’s take a look at some of these key terms that will help you understand your product options more thoroughly.
All of the products recommended above feature a Toslink connecting system. You may be wondering what exactly this type of connection is. Originally designed by Toshiba, hence the “Tos” in the name, this is now the standard hookup system in place between optical cable and devices.
It is responsible for transmitting the digital audio between the origin and the output. For example, you may connect your optical cable between the Toslink port on your Playstation and your speakers. You may connect it between your TV and your soundbar. This feature comes standard on most audio-related consumer devices, and all of your equipment is likely Toslink equipped.
Mini-Toslink also exists, which is the same design but simply smaller. If you have any disagreement between the size of your Toslink port and cable, you can very simply purchase an adapter to allow the Mini-Toslink and standard Toslink to be connected.
Types of Interference
When choosing your new optical cable, you will often see how the design protects you against different types of interference, specifically EMI and RFI. If you are curious about what exactly these abbreviations stand for, read on for a consumer-friendly description.
EMI & RFI
EMI stands for Electromagnetic Interference, and RFI stands for Radio Frequency Interference. They are essentially the same concept and can accurately be referred to by either of these names. The concept behind this type of interference is that some external electromagnetic or radio factor creates a disturbance experienced in an unrelated circuit.
When speaking specifically of the home theater, this can be experienced with HDMI cables. Since they are made from copper and a metallic cable, they can be impacted if there are electromagnetic disturbances in the environment. This can be experienced through disruption in the sound and unpleasant, unexpected noises coming from your speakers.
However, this is not an issue with optical cables. This is because there is not a metallic component to their construction. What exactly is fiber optics, and how does it work if there is no metal involved in the construction?
Imagine a single strand of human hair made from glass. Now imagine bundling many of these delicate glass strands together. This is what is happening beneath the external casing of the optical cable.
Inside these glass strands, pulses of light are responsible for the transmission of digital audio files. Since any surrounding electromagnetic disturbances do not impact light transmission via glass, EMI and RFI are a non-issue for optical cable users.
This means that simply by choosing an optical cable over HDMI, you ensure a higher sound quality that will not be impacted by environmental disturbances that are invisible to the human eye.
Gold Plating on the Connectors
You will often see 24K Gold Plating as a feature of many optical cables. At first glance, it might seem overboard to be plating cables in gold, but this material serves a very important function.
The point of connection is very important since if the cable does not properly connect, you will not experience the high-quality sound output that the optical cable is famous for. Also, if you think you will need to reconnect your cable from time to time to other devices, gold is a stronger, more durable material that will withstand being connected and reconnected.
Even if you plan to set up the cable and leave it like that for several years, the gold is still at work as a non-corroding material. This will protect the connection long after its initial setup.
5.1 vs. 7.1 Channel Surround Sound
If you don’t already have a surround sound system for your home theater, you may be thinking that this would be a fun investment to bring to life for your movies and games. So what is the difference between 5.1 and 7.1? Most cables are equipped for both, but what difference does it make?
The difference is simply the number of speakers present. The first number represents the number of speakers (5 or 7), and the second number represents the number of subwoofers (1). With the proper setup and amount of space, adding two extra speakers can make the viewing and listening experience even more thrilling.
Typically, the two extra speakers of the 7.1 setups go behind the viewing area. If this is something you have space for in your setup, you may consider choosing a 7.1 Channel Surround Sound.
One difference to keep in mind between HDMI and Optical cables is related to the sound stored on a Blu-ray disk. These come equipped with a high-resolution sound that an HDMI cable is equipped to transfer. While an optical cable typically does not have this extra high-resolution capacity, it will still give you wonderful sound from your favorite Blu-Ray movies.
At face value, this might sound like HDMI has a significant advantage over the optical cable. However, we would argue that this is largely overblown. The HDMI simply has this capacity, but the overall sound quality you will get from an optical cable outweighs this single con. With no risk of interference, the optical cable consistently delivers crystal clear sound that will not leave you wanting even when it comes to watching your favorite Blu-rays.
PVC vs. Nylon Coating
A common difference between optical cable styles is the PVC coating versus the braided Nylon shell. The PVC coated cables will typically be a bit bigger and harder to the coil. However, this stiffness translates into durability, working hard to protect the fiber optic material within.
Braided Nylon cables are another excellent option, protecting the cable’s contents while coiling more easily. Both will offer protection to your cable; it is more a personal preference regarding how you will be able to store your cables behind your devices.
Purchasing an optical cable for your home theater setup is a great way to improve the digital audio quality and your overall home theater experience. You will be able to really experience the nuance of the soundtrack from your favorite movies, games, and series. Make sure to get a Toslink cable with gold plating to ensure a smooth and long-lasting connection for crystal clear audio quality.