Is Bluetooth Audio Better Than Optical?
If you are a hardcore music lover, then you will be keen on the quality of sound from your speaker. You will always want to have the connection that offers the best quality sound. A music enthusiast understands the significance of high-quality sound produced by speakers and will, therefore, be concerned about the connection type to his or her device. This leads to the question, between Bluetooth Audio and Optical audio, which one is better?
Both connection types are popular today. Both have their pros and cons. In this article, we will discuss the advantage of each of these connectivity modes for your speaker and find out which one is better.
Is Bluetooth Audio Better Than optical?
Both will work fine, but Bluetooth audio has some significant benefits over Optical audio, making it the most preferred mode.
The difference between these two audio types is the mode of transmission of the sound. While Bluetooth uses wireless technology to connect your speaker to the device, the optical audio connection uses an optical cable to transmit the sound signals to the Digital/Audio Converter (DAC).
But does it matter what transmits the sound, whether it is Bluetooth or Optical cables? This can be very confusing to music lovers. Both will perform great, but is one of these better than the other?
Just keep in mind that both interfaces transmit the digital audio signals from the source to the digital/analog converter (DAC). Every interconnection in an audio system is essential, so it is critical to select the one that provides the best signal, resulting in good sound quality.
Since Bluetooth and Optical audio are both digital signals, they are both way better than analog sound signals. To help you determine which one is superior to the other, let us begin by looking into the pros and cons of Optical audio.
Optical connectivity offers stable connectivity. This is because it involves linking your device to the speaker using a physical cable. But this comes with its limit, especially with regards to range. With this connection, the user is tethered to the maximum length that the cable can reach. This can be a big bummer to some music lovers.
But despite the range limit, the optical cable connection is immune to electrical or radio interference, putting it ahead of many other connection types, including Bluetooth. If you want to listen to undistorted sound and guaranteed connectivity, you should get your hands on an optical audio speaker.
Advantages of Optical Audio
• It cannot be subjected to electrical or radio interferences
• Longer cable length can be used to deliver sound over long distances
• Can support up to 5.1 channels
• It has a larger bandwidth hence no need for compression
Disadvantages of Optical Audio
• The sound signal sent to the DAC is not the same as the original stream created by your source devices. This is because the sound will undergo resampling when it passes through the optical soundcard.
• Optical ports are not found in many DAC, amplifiers, or Personal Computers.
• Signal distortion is likely to occur if the cable is over-bent.
Bluetooth technology offers portability and high-quality sound at the same time. This allows you to sit and enjoy your favorite music from whichever spot you like in the house, garden, swimming pool, etc. This flexibility is undeniably one of the most outstanding advantages that Bluetooth audio offers.
But just like any other signal, your Bluetooth audio is subject to interference. Therefore, the overall quality will depend on the distance from your device and the possible obstacles between them.
In theory, since Bluetooth uses signal compression, it would have less quality sound transmitted to the other end. But this has since been improved in Bluetooth 2 devices. Bluetooth 1’s lossy compress was very poor. Since the introduction of Bluetooth 2, audio quality has improved significantly. But his is hardly noticeable unless you experiment in an ideal test environment.
Advantages of Bluetooth Audio
• Devices connect wirelessly to your speakers, so you don’t need to carry extra wires.
• Most Bluetooth audio devices are compact, making them ideal for traveling.
• It is easy to have a waterproof Bluetooth device since it doesn’t require a cable to be plugged in while playing.
• Occupies a smaller space since you don’t need extra space for running cables.
• Can carry the sound signals over thousands of kilometers away with little or no loss in sound quality.
Disadvantages of Bluetooth Audio
• Prone to radio and electromagnetic signal interference.
• The maximum range is limited to the 30 feet that the Bluetooth wireless technology allows.
• Has a smaller bandwidth.
• You may experience problems while pairing devices.
Bluetooth Vs. Optical Audio
From an ergonomic standpoint, Bluetooth offers more flexibility and freedom while listening to your favorite music. In contrast, Optical audio limits you to a certain radius to which the cables can reach. But the difference in sound quality can sometimes be unnoticeable since they both offer high-quality sound irrespective of the cons listed.
You can’t say for sure whether Bluetooth audio is better than optical audio. The difference only arises in their mode of transmission and decoding. Bluetooth offers freedom and can cover wider rages of over 30 feet without being tethered to a certain point. On the other hand, optical cables will provide quality sound that is interference-proof, but comes with ugly wires running throughout the length of the connection. Therefore, the better one will depend on the use case, as preferences will vary from one user to another.
A wired connection (optical audio) is always going to be more robust, stable, and with more bandwidth with fewer interference cases than Bluetooth audio transmission. It is because of this that Bluetooth connections are not considered to be high fidelity (Hi-Fi) audio transmission standard.
It is difficult to tell which one is better without first understanding the application. For quality sound, the optical connection is more preferable. As with Bluetooth, the sound must be compressed and decompressed on the other end, resulting in some significant loss in sound quality in the process. However, it is hard to tell.
On the other hand, there are many instances where running an optical cable from your device to your speaker can be a problem. When working in an environment full of physical obstacles or moving parts like on your farm, running a cable can be a big no.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is there a loss of audio quality when transmitting via Bluetooth? Is optical cable better?
This will largely depend on what you send via Bluetooth since Bluetooth audio is usually compressed. Because of this one reason, the optical cable will tend to deliver better sound quality compared to Bluetooth. But concerning which one is better, it will depend on your personal preference and where you intend to use the speaker. Bluetooth transmission depends on the bandwidth of the radio transfer technology, hence the need for signal compression. Whereas for optical audio, there is no compression of the signal. Therefore, optical audio quality will be better than Bluetooth audio as compression introduces some losses.
2. Which is better – Optical or Coaxial Audio Connection?
They have the same audio quality with the same audio format. Both transmit digital audio signals in the S/PDIF format. TOSLINK links were initially intended to operate at a maximum frequency of 48 kHz. Many newer models, however, have increased to handle 24/96. Therefore, whichever you go for will depend on the connection to your device or the cable types that it can take.
3. Is Optical sound quality inferior to Bluetooth audio?
The sound quality from an optical connection will be better than that of Bluetooth. However, this difference is hard to notice. It is majorly brought by the compression that takes place in Bluetooth sound transmission.
Both sound signal delivery options will work fine, but Bluetooth audio has some significant advantages over Optical audio, making many music enthusiasts go for them. The fact that the optical sound is not distorted by electrical and radio interference is a big plus. Where you have a lot of interferences, this can be a better option.
It is also important to note that your sound quality will also depend on the type of optical cable you use. Avoid using substandard cables that will compromise the quality of your sound. Manufacturer-branded cables are the most preferred in this case.
The final opinion about which sound audio output is better is hard to make as both Bluetooth audio and Optical audio provides a fair share of service. Bluetooth speakers offer more freedom and flexibility to the user. In comparison, optical audio is suitable for applications where obstacles cannot be avoided.
Also, technically Bluetooth transmission sound quality will be inferior to optical transmitted sound because of the loss from compression. But this quality difference is hardly noticeable that many average music lovers will not be bothered at all. Therefore, I recommend you give them both a shot to see which one will work best for you.