What Is Better: An Optical Cable or Component Cable?

By Eoghan McCloskey

Composite RCA video/audio cables are one option for connecting a TV to a cable box.
i jack audio-video image by Andrea Riva from Fotolia.com

If you subscribe with a digital cable TV provider, you will more than likely need to have a digital cable converter box installed in your home. There will be several different audio and video connection options on the box for the purpose of attaching the box to your TV and it can often be confusing to choose one or the other. The question of which type of connection is best is more or less a personal one, but making a few considerations can aid in your decision and deliver the best digital cable experience possible.

Optical Cables

An optical audio cable is used to transmit only an audio signal from a component device such as a DVD player or digital cable box to a television. If you use a cable that only transmits a video signal with no audio from your box to your television, such as a DVI or S-video cable, you will need a separate cable for transmitting audio to the TV, of which optical audio cables are a popular type. Optical audio also offers digital quality audio rather than the analog audio of RCA or coaxial cables.

Component Cables

Component cables are sold as a set of five cables, three video cables (red, green and blue) and two audio cables (red and white). Component cables offer high-definition support for both audio and video formats, so if you own an HDTV and wish to experience your digital cable in high definition, component cables are a convenient way to do just that.


As noted, the choice of which type of cable is the best is an entirely personal one. Since component cables transmit audio and video in one set of cables, using them saves you the trouble of purchasing another cable to transmit video as you would need to do when using an optical audio cable. If you are not a TV enthusiast and cannot easily discern the difference between standard definition and high definition, using component cables may not be worth the added expense over the typically less expensive, standard-definition optical audio cable.

Other Considerations

Of course, all of these considerations are moot if you do not use a cable box that supports the types of connections that you are considering using. Digital cable providers typically offer many different makes and models of cable boxes, each with their own audio and video connections. If you prefer to use either an optical audio cable or component cables, make sure to specify to your cable provider that you will need a cable box that supports those types of connections.