Optical vs USB – Complete Comparison

Norvan Martin

When it comes to transferring data, there are a few different options available. One of the most common is optical media, which uses lasers to read and write data.
Another option is USB, which stands for Universal Serial Bus. USB is a more modern technology that is growing in popularity due to its speed and convenience.

Optical Vs USB Audio

The main difference between optical and USB audio interfaces is that optical interfaces use light to transmit digital audio signals, while USB interfaces use electrical cables. However, you won’t hear any difference between USB and optical with high-end speakers or headphones

In any case, optical interfaces are less susceptible to interference than USB interfaces. As a result, optical interfaces typically produce a higher-quality signal than USB interfaces.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, some high-end USB audio interfaces can produce a better-quality signal than an optical interface of a similar price.

In addition, some USB audio interfaces use a combination of electrical and optical components to increase signal quality.

Optical vs USB Comparison Table

Audio QualityKnown for clean and interference-free audio.Can offer high audio quality, but susceptibility to interference may vary.
Data Transfer SpeedTypically supports lower data transfer rates.Offers higher data transfer speeds, suitable for higher-resolution audio.
CompatibilityCommon in audio devices like soundbars and home theater systems.Widely compatible, used in various devices including computers, audio interfaces, and peripherals.
Power SupplyDoes not carry electrical power, separate power source needed.Provides power along with data transmission, simplifying cable management.
Device SupportMay have limited support for certain audio formats and sample rates.Supports a wide range of audio formats and allows for higher sample rates.
Cable LengthSupports longer cable lengths without signal degradation.Longer cable lengths may lead to signal loss, especially for high-speed data transfer.
LatencyGenerally has lower latency, suitable for real-time audio applications.Can introduce latency, but advancements have reduced this in modern systems.
Ease of UseEasy to use with a simple plug-and-play configuration.Plug-and-play, may require driver installation for higher sample rates.
Physical FlexibilityDelicate, prone to damage, but immune to electromagnetic interference.More robust physically, but may be susceptible to electromagnetic interference.


USB Vs Optical Sound Quality

When it comes to sound quality, there’s no comparison between USB and optical connections in theory. USB connections are known for their poor sound quality, while optical connections provide a clear, crisp sound that is unmatched by any other connection type.

This is because optical connections use light to transmit data, whereas USB connections use electricity. Electricity can introduce noise into the signal, which diminishes the sound quality.

Optical connections are also immune to electrical interference, making them the ideal choice for high-quality audio playback. If you’re looking for the best possible sound quality from your audio devices, then be sure to use an optical connection whenever possible.

However, high-quality speakers and headphones can easily filter out this unwanted noise. In most cases, you won’t hear a difference between USB or optical with these high-quality devices. This is why optical out to USB in cables are hard to find.

Optical vs USB DAC

An optical DAC typically delivers better sound quality, thanks to its higher resolution and bit depth.

Optical DAC

However, an optical connection can be more finicky than a USB connection, and it may not be compatible with all devices.


USB DACs are more forgiving when it comes to compatibility, and they also tend to be cheaper than their optical counterparts. However, they usually don’t offer quite as good of sound quality.

Coax vs Optical vs USB

Coax cables are best for transmitting data over long distances. They also have a high bandwidth capacity, meaning they can carry a lot of data at once. However, they can be expensive and difficult to install.

coax cable

Optical cables are perfect for transferring large amounts of data quickly. They have low latency and are immune to electromagnetic interference. However, they can be more expensive than other options and may not be as durable. USB cables are a popular choice for transferring data because they are versatile and affordable.

They can be used for both short and long distances, and have a high bandwidth capacity. However, they can be susceptible to interference and may not be as fast as other options.
When making a decision about which type of cable to use, it is important to consider the specific needs of the project.

Coax cables are best for large-scale projects with long transmission distances, while optical cables are ideal for high-speed data transfer. USB cables are a good choice for general use since they are affordable and versatile. Ultimately, the right choice will depend on the individual project requirements.

Soundbar Optical vs USB

Choosing between a soundbar optical or USB connection can be confusing. Here’s what you need to know:

  • An optical connection transmits audio signals in the form of light, while a USB connection sends them as digital data.
  • An optical connection is usually considered to be superior because it delivers a purer signal with less noise.

Soundbar Optical

However, not all soundbars have an optical input. If your soundbar doesn’t have one, you can use a USB connection instead, just make sure that your device has a USB port.

USB vs SPDIF Audio Quality

USB and SPDIF audio quality can be difficult to compare. It largely depends on the implementation of each system, as well as the quality of the components used. However, in general, USB is thought to be inferior to SPDIF in terms of audio quality.

SPDIF cable

One of the main reasons for this is that USB is a shared bus system. This means that data is transferred over the same wire simultaneously for multiple devices. This can lead to interference and compromised sound quality.

SPDIF, on the other hand, transmits data one bit at a time and does not suffer from interference issues. Additionally, USB is often limited to 16-bit/48kHz audio, while SPDIF can support up to 24-bit/192kHz.

The performance of USB audio depends largely on the quality of the DAC (Digital to Analog Converter), so this must also be taken into consideration when choosing one system over another.

While some prefer to use SPDIF for its superior sound quality, others choose USB because it is more convenient and allows ports to be shared with other devices. Depending on an individual’s preferences, either system can yield good results in home audio applications.

USB vs Optical Audio ps4

USB audio is definitely the easier option. It’s plug-and-play, all you need to do is connect your headphones or speakers to the USB port on the PS4 and you’re good to go.

Optical audio, on the other hand, requires a bit more work. You need to connect an optical cable between the PS4 and your audio device, and then configure the settings in order to get sound output.

Schiit SPDIF vs USB

Schiit Audio offers two options: SPDIF and USB

SPDIF is an older technology that uses a digital signal to send audio data from your computer to a receiver or amplifier.

Schiit SPDIF vs USB

It can be used with both analog and digital connections, making it a versatile option. However, SPDIF can be prone to interference, so it may not be the best choice for environments with a lot of electronic noise.

USB is a newer technology that transmits audio data using pulses of light. It is more reliable than SPDIF because there is less chance for interference, but it can’t be used with analog connections.

Also, USB requires a PC or laptop to send and receive data, so you need to make sure your computer has USB ports before making the purchase.

Both SPDIF and USB functions are included in Schiit Audio products (except for the Yggdrasil headphone amp). So if you want one box that does everything well without any downsides, then Schiit is an excellent choice.


It all depends on your needs. If you need a high-quality connection with no interference and don’t mind the extra cost, then optical is the way to go. However, if you just need a basic connection and are on a budget, USB will do just fine.

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Norvan Martin is the founder of BoomSpeaker.com. He is a professional Electronics Engineer and is passionate about home theater systems and AV electronics. BoomSpeaker was created as an online hub to share his knowledge and experiences as it relates to home theaters and home audio electronics. My email: [email protected]  Connect on Pinterest and Linkedin