There are still plenty of details we don't know about the upcoming PS5, including how much we'll have to pay for Sony’s gaming console when it debuts, possibly arriving as soon as this month. But there’s one intriguing tidbit we’ve learned about the new system, however, and that's the fact that it doesn't have an optical audio port.
That comes from a Verge report on Astro’s A20 Gen 2 headset, which notes that owners of older Astro gaming headsets will either need to upgrade their audio gear or pick up an HDMI-to-optical audio splitter. (Astro’s making one that will let you hook up to the PS5 without any further firmware.)
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It’s really no surprise that the PS5 would ship without a an optical port. After all, as our PlayStation 4 review notes, the PS4 Slim dropped the optical port featured in the original console.
And the PS4 Slim has hardly been the only device to do so. Over the years, we've seen HDMI cables take over as far as the main connector of choice for most electronics manufacturers. Optical outputs have remained common on set-top boxes, TVs, consoles, and various other equipment, but little by little they've been fading away.
Optical audio cables, or "Toslink" cables first debuted in the '80s. They were used primarily as connectors from everything from satellite boxes to your DVD players and receivers. Today, in addition to the items listed above, optic connectivity is still ubiquitous across broadband lines (fiber-optic online options do exist, of course), and there are other uses for the cables outside of internet access as well.
But we're seeing optical connectors fade from products, because they aren't really the best you can get in terms of audio anymore. Optical audio connections are far more limited than their HDMI brethren. They're unable to transmit high-resolution audio, even from older Blu-ray movies from the beginning of the media format's life cycle, such as Dolby TrueHD or DTS Master Audio. If it's lossless audio you're looking for, you won't find it here. Plus, given that HDMI connectors are typically a one-size-fits-all solution, why have users relegated to plugging up two different cables instead?
In spite of these shortcomings, some audiophiles prefer optical audio, so the lack of support from Sony for the PS5 will undoubtedly feel like a loss. Then again, the PS5 isn’t even the only gaming console debuting this year to drop optical audio The Xbox Series X is doing the exact same thing.
It looks like with the new systems, fans of the old way will have to start looking forward, at least if they plan on using the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X with their modern equipment.