HDMI-ARC V Toslink, The Battle For Audio Signal Supremacy

Have you noticed the subtle shift in consumer electronics? We’re not talking about the incredible detail of 8K resolution or all of the “smart” features that seem to come out every other day. No, we’re talking about something much more innocuous. It’s happening on the back of your TVs, soundbars, and receivers. HDMI-ARC and Toslink are pitted against one another in this heated battle; the implications for retailers are substantial!

Toshiba Link

What is Toslink?

Toslink, short for Toshiba Link, was developed in the late ’80s to connect CD players to their receivers. By the ’90s, Toslink became the gold 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

What is HDMI-ARC?

HDMI-ARC is the newer, more versatile connection standard of choice. It can transmit audio and video signals, while Toslink is limited to audio transmissions only. HDMI also supports higher bandwidth, allowing cables with ARC protocol to share higher-quality audio formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X through a single cable run. Not every HDMI device can transmit or receive Audio Return Channel, but it is steadily edging out Toslink.

Can Toslink Stand Against HDMI-ARC?

Our theory is no. Toslink has only one advantage: theoretically, it was better at resisting interference. Yes, the connection standard has been around for decades now. And in that time, Toslink worked its way into most consumer electronics as the apex of audio quality. While the connection is still prevalent due to its age, it’s no longer the same audio powerhouse it used to be. Newer devices such as gaming consoles, soundbars, and televisions are dropping Toslink in favor of HDMI. 

The Bottom Line For Retailers

Right now, we are witnessing a slow start to the transition from Toslink to HDMI; however, this pace is destined to accelerate as more devices drop their optical digital connections. Don’t get caught with an interactive demonstration you can’t connect to. The time is now to future-proof your displays with HDMI-ARC.