Does HDMI Carry Audio? How?

The ABCs of HDMI: Does HDMI Carry Audio? How?
Image Credit: By Hkintel

High Definition Multimedia Interface or HDMI is the current standard for audio-visual and home theater component connections, particularly when it comes to linking HD video sources to HD displays, like a DVD player to an HDTV.

So does HDMI carry audio? Yes. It carries both, like DP but unlike VGA and DVI. What’s more, the type of audio carried by HDMI is high-definition quality, just like the HD videos that just get bigger and more detailed resolution-wise in what seems like every year. It carries sound and moving pictures from one source device to another device display. 

Learn More About The Audio Capabilities of HDMI

The first few AV connections in the past for standard definition output also used one cable to carry audio and video, but they fell on the wayside in favor of separating audio and video outputs, as in the case of VGA or RCA connectors. HDMI combined AV once more because it’s mostly used for HDTVs and Blu-Ray players, with TVs usually combining picture and speaker in one unit anyway. 

  • Why HDMI Audio Is One of The Best Transmission Mediums:  HDMI isn’t only the most ubiquitous AV connection for HD video found in the latest BD player titles, games for game consoles, and channels from your cable or satellite box. It’s also a good connection for speakers or music boom boxes. It’s better than analog/RCA by default and even its closest competitor, coaxial, are many levels below its sound quality. This is because it transmits digital sound or multi-channel audio in a single cable versus RCA, which requires multiple cables or coaxial, which has limits in terms of the best possible hi-def sound at present.


  • The Basics of HDMI versus Optical 101: You have two cable choices when listening to music from terrestrial or satellite radio, by online streaming, via podcast, or through sites like YouTube—optical cables or HDMI cables. Although it might seem a waste to use HDMI as an audio cable format since it’s mostly associated with audio-video connections, it’s so affordable and superior to optical, digital coaxial, and RCA cables that you can’t help but use it for your music and podcast needs. Optical is decent enough for the job, but if HDMI cables are available, they’re clearly superior.


  • The HDMI Difference Explained: First off, the HDMI format and cables don’t separate video and audio signals; they run on the same cable. The colors of the videos aren’t separated by different cables either in comparison to composite and component cables. Yes, both HDMI and optical cables affordably communicate audio between devices. They also fall under the same price range to boot. However, it’s more worthwhile to invest in HDMI cables when connecting modern 21st Century sound systems together with your display and your AV source.


  • High-Definition Sound Delivered Faithfully: HDMI is your best bet when making the most out of your Dolby Surround Sound System for your home entertainment sound system setup, although both work fairly well with either optical or HDMI cables. The reason to go for the HDMI switch is that at this point, everything is in HDMI including sound systems or there are adapters for HDMI for every legacy system out there anyway. What’s more, HDMI is on a whole other level in terms of its growth potential and delivering true HD sound.


  • What Is True HD Sound? By default, HDMI is superior to optical or digital coaxial in terms of affordability and quality—i.e., cost-effectiveness—because it provides a video feed on top of a sound feed, thus allowing you to switch from radio to BD to game console if your devices are connected via splitter or switcher. However, even when it comes to audio-only, HDMI is superior. It blows the competition out of the water by delivering Blu-Ray quality HD sound using the latest formats like Dolby’s TrueHD sound and DTS HD Master Audio formats used in the latest BD releases or Triple-A game titles like Destiny and GTA V.


  • Can You Hear The Difference? According to studies, the majority of consumers can’t hear the difference between a high-quality MP3 and a lower quality one. It’s the same way many consumers find 60 Fps frame rates weird-looking versus the 24 Fps standard when you shift your HDTV to motion smoothing or motion interpolation mode. However, this might change as more consumers and more consumers are exposed to TrueHD or HD Master Audio sound the same way gamers adjusted to the shift from 30 Fps to 60 Fps in games. You won’t know the difference until your eyes and ears are used to the fuller sound and more realistic movement.


  • 1st and 2nd Place Are Miles Apart: Optical and coaxial cables only transmit audio data. HDMI can support both for your DVD, BD, cable box, or game console needs. This makes it a contender against DP, DVI, and VGA AV formats as well. In fairness, an optical audio cable produces a decent audio quality that outperforms anything analog offered by RCA cables. It’s roughly equal of digital coaxial, save of course digital being superior due to its use of digital data that remains even more consistent in quality as long as the cable is the right length for the signal to travel through. Optical uses pulsing light waves to send sound through your audio system.


In contrast, both HDMI and digital coaxial make use of digital signals to send high-definition sound to your home entertainment system’s speakers, bass, soundbar, and/or subwoofers. Both coaxial and optical work well enough to produce digital sound fidelity for every home system. HDMI, however, is simply better, covering DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD audio from your Blu-Ray discs. This is why the affordable optical or digital coaxial cables are miles apart in audio quality compared to HDMI cables.

Ultimate guide to HDMI Cable

HDMI Audio Troubleshooting for Various Devices 

There are various reasons you might not hear source audio on another device when using an HDMI cable. Check your settings to see if they’re correct on one of the devices being linked. Also, make sure that the hardware or the cable themselves aren’t bad or anything.

  • HDMI Audio with Your Cable or Satellite Box: Some cable or satellite boxes using HDMI outputs need you to move a switch on the box itself in order to specify if you want the audio output of the TV through the cable instead of some other connected cable. If you don’t want the audio output to go through the HDMI cable, you’ll need to link the audio to the TV using a different audio cable and then specify you want the audio output to travel through that instead. Usually, it’s simpler to have both video and audio


  • HDMI Audio with Your PC or Laptop: After linking your PC or laptop to your TV or any other external display like a monitor or projector through an HDMI cable, you might need to adjust the computer audio settings to ensure that the audio is directed through the HDMI cable. Check your Windows computer’s settings by opening the Control Panel and selecting “Hardware and Sound”. Click “Sound” and the “Playback” tab. Choose your HDMI device from the list then click “Apply” before clicking “OK’.


They’re supposed to be automatic and plug-&-play, but sometimes there’s an error and you’ll have to manually input things to guarantee that the computer audio is transmitted from the cable to the external device; presumably the TV or else you’ll need more cables and a separate speaker for the sound. In such cases, the audio feed might not get picked up by your HDMI display monitor or television unless you change the settings or resort to using the speakers of your computer instead.


  • HDMI Audio with Your DVD or Blu-Ray: Blu-Ray or BD players, as well as, DVD players actually have their own volume controls on the hardware itself, so double-check if this is the case and the reason why you’re not hearing loud enough audio from your HDTV or home entertainment speakers. Use the BD or DVD remote to check that their volume is turned up along with your television’s volume. Additionally, check if the device’s audio is setup to go through the HDMI cable and not a separate optical cable or something. Make sure the format can be carried through the cable as well.


  • HDMI Audio with Your Game Console: It depends on the console, of course. You have current generation consoles like the Nintendo Switch, Sony PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. HDMI can also be connected directly or with an adapter to previous generation consoles like Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, or Nintendo Wii-U as well as Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 2, and Xbox.  To troubleshoot, check the TV volume if it’s muted or something, check the HDMI connection or fix audio problems with games and apps. It might also be an AV receiver issue as well, so check that out too for good measure.

To Summarize

HDMI does carry audio. It’s not just any kind of audio, it’s the highest quality audio, such that HDMI cables and ports can double as connections for speakers, subwoofers, base, and soundbars for your home entertainment system in case you simply want to hear some jams off of the radio or the Internet at sites such as Spotify. HDMI cables specifically allow for digital audio at a higher bitrate than its optical and coaxial counterparts.