Optical vs USB Audio – What Are The Key Differences?

Optical vs USB Audio

There are five types of audio input systems available at the present time: Analog, Coax, Optical, Type-C, and USB audio inputs. Optical and USB are the most popular and used audio input systems. They both can provide excellent and decent audio out input.

And in both input systems, the streaming process is kind of the same though they come with different ports and technology.

So, it is a bit hard to select one among optical vs USB audio, but don’t worry, we will discuss both of them and mention the pros and cons of them, which will help you pick the best one for you.

What is the Optical Audio Input

What is the Optical Audio Input

Optical audio is the most commonly used audio input. Most of the PC, Laptop, and other PC-based devices come with this input system where you can insert a 3.5mm jack for decoding the audio with your headphone or external speaker.

In the optical audio, there is no external soundcard; rather, it provides the built-in soundcard audio through the 3.5mm port.

So it is like a pass-through of the built-in sound card to your headphone or external speaker with a 3.5mm jack. As it is directly connected with the integrated soundcard, it has some advantages and disadvantages too. Let’s talk about them.

Pros of the Optical Audio Input

  • No external power required
  • Longer cable length possible
  • Up to 5.1 channel support
  • User-friendly and cost-efficient
  • Almost no latency or delay issues

Cons of the Optical Audio Input

  1. Not used every DAC and PC, especially modern ones.
  2. Over blending the cable can make your audio
  3. Streaming audio can be interrupted from the source file.
  4. It can be problematic for a higher level of gaming performance
  5. The music industry can face issues with the actual frequency.

However, if you are concerned about external power and cable length, you can go for an optical one. Though for high performance, it won’t be a wise choice like if you are a serious gamer or want to use it on musical industrial work.

It can reduce the actual source sound while streaming because of its joints through the soundcard to your earpieces or speakers.

On the other hand, it is much more cost-efficient in comparison to the USB audio system. But, nowadays, moderns DAC and PC do not include the optical output option where you can go for the USB audio input system.

What is the USB Audio Input

What is the USB Audio Input

USB audio input can be used in every computer virtually. However, the system is comparatively better and upgraded technology of the audio input system.

They are not commonly used, especially the gamers, and the people from musical industries mostly use this input system.

There should be a USB jack with an integrated sound card that produces audio frequency from the PCM data of your media player to the Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC).

As USB audio inputs have it’s own soundcard, they will provide some advantages in terms of use. It also has some disadvantages too. Let’s identify them.

Pros of the USB Audio Input

  • Still usable even though the internal sound card is not functional
  • Preferable for the music industry as it produces the actual frequency.
  • It has latency and disruption-free audio streaming technology.
  • It is best for streaming on higher audio processing like gaming.
  • Can produce the same audio as like the actual source audio.

Cons of the USB Audio Input

  1. It needs additional power via USB for performing.
  2. The integrated soundcard is a complicated technology.
  3. It cannot be useable on non-computer based audio sources
  4. Price is comparatively higher than optical-based audio.
  5. As it has connected via a USB port, there can be a shortage of it

So, if your device’s built-in sound card has an issue or is completely damaged, choosing a USB audio system can be an excellent solution for you but remember it will consume additional power constantly to perform.

Though it has complicated technology that can be easily damaged, it can produce almost the actual sound from the source audio. Thanks to the integrated sound card chip, it can be preferable for pro gamers and people from the musical industries.

On the other hand, you have to pay a bit more for it, but as it provides a complete latency and disruption-free streaming experience, the money it takes is worth it.

Which One to Choose Between Optical vs USB Audio

Which One to Choose Between Optical vs USB Audio

Actually, there is no difference at all as they both come from digital signals; they manage to produce almost the same audio streaming experience unless you are a pro gamer

or want to use on audio-related professions as the USB audio comes directly from the DAC and the integrated soundcard will process the digital signal which will ultimately ensure the pure bit stream of actual audio.

But you will not get the difference until you do heavily processed streaming with that. So make your preference first what is your need and for what kind of use you are planning to buy one.

For ordinary daily usage, our recommendation is to go for the optical one as it is simple to use and saves some money too; otherwise, you can go for the USB one.

Final Words

It is not a hard job to choose one. Both are good in terms of daily usages, but for a heavily processed streaming experience, you should pick the USB audio input system.

Between optical vs USB audio, USB audio is superior compared to optical audio, but from the price range, I must say optical one is doing the job perfectly too.

So, if you are planning to buy one among these two, make sure your user purpose first. For daily and ordinary uses, you can go for the optical one without any hesitation.

And for heavy use, you can pick the USB one. But before choosing the USB audio input system, check it’s cons from the above discussion, and if they are not issues for you, obviously you should choose it.