4 Tips for Connecting an Optical Audio Cable to Your Receiver

Both ends of a red optical audio cable sit against a white background.
  • Beginner

Optical audio cables are a great option for any home theater or audio system. These cords use light to transmit the audio signals from the audio source to the receiver, and because of this, they are not affected by any electrical interference. This can be very useful if your electrical circuits aren’t properly grounded.

Optical audio cables, also commonly referred to as Toslink cables, are especially recommended for old homes where there are more chances of electrical leaks due to the accumulation of moisture.

Optical audio cables also provide far superior audio quality as compared to standard coaxial cables. However, these pieces of equipment are not the cheapest ones on the market, so there are a couple of things that you should keep in mind when connecting an optical audio cable to your receiver.

1. Select the Right Format

This is the most important step. If you are looking for high definition surround sound, you have three options to choose from: digital coaxial audio cables, optical audio cables, and high definition multimedia interface (HDMI) cables. Your choice will be primarily determined by what your equipment supports.

HDMI cables support both high definition audio and video and are the best choice if your equipment has HDMI slots. Most new television sets support the HDMI interface, and you can easily find high definition DVD players, game consoles, and media centers that support this format as well. If you are looking for crystal clear video and sound, then HDMI cables should be your first choice.

If you’re setting up only a home audio system or if your equipment does not support HDMI, then the best options for digital surround sound are digital coaxial cables and optical audio cables.

The sound quality offered by both types of cords is nearly on par with one another, although both have their own pros and cons. Keep in mind that while all audio systems have connections for coaxial cables, optical audio connections are also very common.

2. Buy Cables That Fit

Optical audio cables come with two square-shaped connectors equipped with an attached protective cap that should always be in place when the cable is not in use. When buying an optical audio cable, it is important to buy one that will fit on the optical audio slot in your audio transmitter and receiver.

3. Remove the Plastic Cap

All Toslink cables have plastic caps covering the tips of the connectors. Even the optical audio slot on your equipment will probably be covered by a cap. Do remember to remove the cap before you try to connect the cords.

Although it seems obvious, this is the single biggest mistake made by people who are new to optical audio cables. They are not aware of the presence of these caps and end up unable to fit the connectors into the proper slot.

4. Do Not Force It

With most square-shaped optical audio connectors, the male and female parts have to be aligned just right before they will fit. If the cable is not going in, do not force it or you will end up damaging the connector or the slot you’re fitting it into.

Check to see that the male and female ends have lined up correctly and that the plastic caps have been removed; then you should have no problem.

Optical Audio Cable to Receiver FAQ

Why doesn't my optical cable work?

If your optical cable is not working properly, check the connection to make sure it has not come loose. If this is all secure, check your TV or device for software updates you may have missed that can keep the cable from working properly.

Have you recently connected a sound bar or another third-party device? Sometimes, additional devices are not compatible with your device or with some other part of the system, which can keep everything else from functioning the right way.

What cable gives best sound quality?

Many people have their own opinions about sound quality and the relative merits of different cables and devices used to carry and transmit sound, so the debate on which cable provides the best sound quality rages on. However, many people agree that HDMI cables provide very high sound quality, in addition to everything else they do.

When should I use optical audio?

For everyday TV watching, an optical audio cable can greatly improve the sound quality without compromising the video quality.

Does optical audio sound better?

There is open debate about which types of cables produce the best sound quality and whether or not optical audio is superior. A main consensus is that HDMI cables can transmit audio in higher resolution than other options, though this only affects sound quality in formats like Dolby TrueHD and other HD audio.

What is better for surround sound HDMI or optical?

Since HDMI cables are capable of higher-resolution audio than optical cables, you may want to consider using them if you are going to have an HD stereo system.