Have you noticed a shift in consumer electronics? We’re not talking about the incredible detail of 8K resolution or the “smart” features that come out every other day. No, we’re talking about something much more subtle. It’s happening on the back of your TVs, sound bars, and receivers. It’s a battle that pits HDMI-ARC against Toslink and the implications for retailers are substantial!
What is Toslink?
Toslink, short for Toshiba Link, is an optical transmission method developed in the late ’80s to connect CD players to their receivers. By the ’90s, Toslink became the standard in most consumer devices and retail environments. So what happened? The turn of the century brought about an interesting turn of events in the form of HDMI and, soon after, HDMI-ARC. In the early 2000s, HDMI dominated the video scene, and at first, it shared space with the optical audio connector. Then came ARC – Audio Return Channel.
What is HDMI-ARC?
HDMI-ARC is the new audio connection of choice. It can transmit audio and video signals, while Toslink is limited to audio transmissions only. ARC also supports higher bandwidth, allowing TVs and sound systems with ARC protocol to share higher-quality audio formats such as Dolby Digital and DTS through a single cable run. Not every HDMI device can transmit or receive Audio Return Channel yet, but many new sound bars, game consoles, and TVs are already dropping Toslink.
Can Toslink Stand Against HDMI-ARC?
Our theory is no. Toslink has only one advantage: theoretically, it was better at resisting interference because it uses light instead of electrical signals for transmission. Toslink also has the advantage of being the established audio connector, but it’s no longer a given that every sound bar will have it. Newer gaming consoles and televisions are also dropping Toslink in favor of HDMI-ARC.
The Bottom Line For Retailers
Right now, we are witnessing a transition from Toslink to HDMI; the pace is likely to accelerate as more devices drop their optical digital connections. For the purpose of demonstrating the latest sound bar models in stores, HDMI-ARC will eventually win the battle. New demonstration systems should include both ARC and Toslink. Don’t get caught with an interactive display that’s incompatible with new CE technology. The time is now to future-proof your retail presentation with HDMI-ARC.