What is an HDMI Optical Switch?

HDMI has become a popular format for video devices today. DVD players, gaming consoles, laptops, and a range of consumer video equipment now use HDMI for a high-quality picture. As a result, it often becomes challenging to manage multiple HDMI devices and watch what you want.

HDMI switches are a great way to arrange your HDMI equipment and connect them to your TV. You can link multiple HDMI video sources to a single display using an HDMI switch. However, you still don’t have the option to connect your audio receiver or external speakers.

An HDMI optical switch can come in handy in situations exactly like this!

What is an HDMI Optical Switch?

An HDMI optical switch is an HDMI switch that provides support for optical audio. You can use it to connect HDMI sources that send digital audio to your audio receiver. For example, you can link your audio receiver through an HDMI optical switch to your DVD that supports digital audio signals.

HDMI optical switches accommodate Toslink cables that are a standard for digital audio. Toslink is short for Toshiba Link that is an optical fiber connection for digital audio. The cable is produced by Toshiba and helps deliver surround sound and lossless audio from AV equipment to audio receivers.

Toslink is a suitable choice to directly connect a digital audio source to output for high-quality audio. Paired with HDMI, it can provide a superior audio-visual experience using the S/PDIF standard.

An HDMI optical switch has the input for Toslink audio along with HDMI inputs. Additionally, the switch provides audio output to connect your speakers or audio receiver. The audio output can be coaxial with left and right audio ports, a 3.5mm audio cable port, or S/PDIF. Some switches also have multiple audio output formats for supporting a wide range of amplifiers and audio receivers.

HDMI optical switches mention the number of video inputs the device provides. You will see numbers like 3x1, 4x1, or 5x1 written on your switch. The first digit refers to the number of HDMI inputs your switch has. For example, your HDMI switch has three video inputs if you find 3x1 written on it.

Similarly, your switch has five HDMI inputs if it mentions 5x1 on the device. The last part, “x1,” shows the switch supports only one output or display.

What is the Difference Between an HDMI Optical Switch and HDMI Optical Splitter?

We often use the terms HDMI switch and HDMI splitter interchangeably. However, an HDMI switch is not the same as an HDMI splitter. So, there is a difference between HDMI optical switches and HDMI optical splitters.

HDMI splitters support more than one display. Therefore, you have multiple video outputs to connect different display units. For example, you can use an HDMI splitter to connect a TV and a monitor to one HDMI video source. HDMI optical splitters are the same but support Toslink audio in addition to multiple displays.

An HDMI optical switch, on the contrary, lets you connect one display to many HDMI sources. So, there is a basic functional difference between an HDMI optical switch and HDMI optical splitter. So, you cannot use the two interchangeably as they are not meant for the same purpose.

It is not difficult to differentiate the two visually. Just take a look at the number of HDMI outputs the device came with. If it has more than one HDMI output, then it is an HDMI splitter. If it has only one HDMI output, then the device is an optical switch.

Another way is to look at the specifications. You know HDMI switches mention video output ports using 3x1 or 5x1. However, HDMI splitters do just the opposite, like 1x3, 1x4, or 1x5. The last digit indicates the number of HDMI outputs, while “x1” refers to the single video source.

How to Setup an HDMI Optical Switch?

Setting up your HDMI optical switch is a simple task. You will need your HDMI switch, your video sources, your audio receiver, and a display. Additionally, you will need HDMI cables for each video source and one to connect your TV, monitor, or projector.

Next, follow the steps below:

Connect Video Sources

The first step is to connect your video sources to your HDMI optical switch. Check out the number of inputs your switch has, and then get your video sources (DVD, gaming console, computer) in one place.

Next, connect each video source to one HDMI input on your switch using your HDMI cable. The number on each input refers to the priority order of sources. So, HDMI input 1 has the highest priority, and increasing numbers mean descending level of priority.

Connect Toslink Input

Many DVDs or gaming consoles can send digital audio signals using the Toslink cable. Connect one Toslink cable from your video source to the audio input on your HDMI optical switch.

Repeat the same procedure for each of your video sources that use Toslink.

Connect the Display

Now you need to connect your display with your HDMI switch. Connect one end of your HDMI cable to your display and the other end to the video output on the switch. You shouldn’t have any problem finding the video output as there is only one output.

Connect Your Audio Receiver

The last step is to hook up your audio receiver or external speakers with your HDMI optical switch. Be sure to use a cable that is consistent with the audio output of your switch. So, if your HDMI optical switch uses a coaxial cable, you have to connect your speakers or receiver using the same. If it uses a 3.5mm connection, then you need to arrange a 3.5mm audio cable.

Connect the audio cable to your audio equipment and the audio output of your switch.

Next, switch on your video source, display, and audio equipment. Play something on your video source and check if the picture and sound are perfect.

Final Thoughts

An HDMI optical switch lets you connect multiple HDMI sources to a single display and audio receiver. You can enjoy high-quality picture and audio using the setup. Keep in mind that HDMI optical switches are not the same as HDMI splitters when you are shopping for one.

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