Before the PlayStation 5 was released, Sony announced details of existing hardware compatibility with the new console. Whilst the lack of Dualshock 4 compatibility grabbed the headlines, something else appeared to be absent… any suggestion of an optical audio port. And, now the PS5 is available (well, to some lucky people), we know that the port is, indeed, lacking.
Why do I need an optical audio port?
If you’re asking the question then, chances are, you don’t. But an optical connection provides digital surround-sound output via fibre-optic. This is separate from the HDMI, often the sole connection from your console to a TV. The port offers an additional way to share the console’s audio output. Many owners use it to connect their console to a sound bar or speakers. Many surround-sound headphones will also make use of it – I have a set of Astro A50 wireless headphones and these use the optical port.
The connector is also known as S/PDIF. The ‘S’ in that stands for ‘Sony’ as it’s full title is ‘Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format’, so you’d expect Sony to support it.
Does the PlayStation 4 have an optical audio port?
The initial release of the PlayStation 4 had an optical port but it was removed from the later version. It was included, however, on the pricier PlayStation 4 Pro.
Why would Sony exclude the optical audio port?
In the past, it’s been said that it was done to save cost. With the PlayStation 4 it was clearly an incentive to opt for the pricier PlayStation 4 Pro, with everyone else left with Sony’s own headsets being the only way to gain surround-sound output.
The one piece of good news here is that some of the existing headsets are compatible, as per Sony’s peripheral announcement…
The Platinum and Gold Wireless Headsets, as well as third-party headsets that connect via USB port or audio jack, will work on PS5
Many of the Sony headsets provide surround sound capability, which is one of the primary things that people often need the optical port for. Of course, this won’t help if you have another headset which doesn’t fit into this category. My poor old Astro’s – which use USB for the microphone and power and the optical port for surround-sound audio output – are needlessly redundant.
For a console costing £550, the lack of an optical port is hard to swallow.
What are the alternatives?
If you have existing hardware that requires the optical port or you desperately need to buy something that does, then you have a couple of options:
- You can buy an adapter. This connects to the HDMI port on your PlayStation 5 and provides HDMI output as well as an optical audio port. It doesn’t cost too much either.
- If your TV has an optical port then it may also pass Dolby Digital signals via the HDMI (you can contact the manufacturer to confirm this). If your TV does support this feature, then you can just connect directly to this instead.
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