Soundbars usually come with different connector ports on the back. If you’re not tech-savvy, all this might seem like rocket science. But we are here to make things easy for you.
Most soundbars include at least one HDMI port, and some also include RCA ports, optical ports, and other features. Here’s everything you need to know about how to connect the soundbar to the TV.
Step 1. Choose A Connector
Before you make use of your soundbar, you need to determine if you want a wired or wireless connection to your TV. For wired connections, there are many connector options to choose from.
However, a wireless connection utilizes Bluetooth technology to connect with a television. Also, it is worth mentioning that some recent soundbars might shift to WiFi-based connections with TVs.
Let’s take a look at the various connectivity methods in detail.
HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface)
If you need superb audio quality, then HDMI is the best place to look. These cables are great because they digitally transfer audio from your TV to the soundbar.
This means sound from the television is left in its raw and uncompressed state, resulting in better sound output. Furthermore, HDMI cables can support the majority of high-end soundbars, including those that enable surround sound.
Most modern televisions feature multiple HDMI ports. However, you must ensure that your TV has an HDMI ARC connector to connect a soundbar. Check the labeling adjacent to the ports on the back or side of your TV to see if it supports HDMI ARC.
If you find at least one HDMI port designated ARC, it means you can connect your soundbar to your TV using an HDMI cable. You’ll also need to check if your soundbar has an HDMI ARC port, which most do these days.
Digital Optical or Digital Coaxial Cables
If your TV lacks HDMI ports, an optical cable is the next best option for connecting your soundbar. This connection can also send and receive digital audio. Optical cables generate exceptional audio quality and can be used with surround audio systems.
However, optical cables can only function with compressed 5.1 surround sound systems, whereas HDMI cables can carry high-quality audio for 7.1 surround sound systems. Nonetheless, optical cables are your best bet If an HDMI connection isn’t available.
Furthermore, there are two types of optical connectors; digital optical and digital coaxial. A square connector is used on optical wires, while a circular connector is used on coaxial cables. So, before you run out and buy cables, examine the back of your television. While most televisions have an optical connector, not all televisions enable digital coaxial.
If you want to make things simple, you can connect your soundbar to your TV via Bluetooth connectivity. This method eliminates wires during connection, but you have to sacrifice your audio quality. At the moment, wired connections produce better audio output.
3.5mm line out or RCA cables
Both of these types of cables carry analog audio transfer analog audio. So, they can’t give you a proper digital surround sound experience. If none of the previous options are available, this is still a good way to connect your soundbar. The jacks of these connectors are usually coded in red, white, and yellow.
As a last resort, you can connect your Soundbar to the TV through the headphone jack. But you’ll need to change the TV’s volume settings first; otherwise, the sound will be terrible.
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Step 2. Mount the Soundbar
Then, after you’ve chosen your connector, you can move on to mounting your soundbar. There are different placement options you can try. Place the soundbar in front of the TV or mount it above or below for the best sound.
Step 3. Connect Soundbar to TV
By now, you should have an idea of what connection method you’d prefer and where to place your external speaker. That said, here’s how to connect the cables mentioned above.
As stated earlier, your TV must support “HDMI-ARC” before you can use an HDMI cable with your soundbar. ARC is an acronym for “Audio Return Channel.” It means the audio can travel in both directions along the cable.
You can connect your games consoles, set-top box, Blu-Ray, and other devices to your soundbar, and then you can link your soundbar to your TV with an HDMI cord. Doing this makes connectivity easy.
Link the “HDMI-ARC” port on your TV to the “HDMI-Out” port on your soundbar to connect your TV to the soundbar. Use the ‘HDMI-In’ port on the soundbar to connect to consoles, Blu-ray players, and kits.
Not all soundbars come with an HDMI port, and you’ll usually only find HDMI on mid to high-end appliances. This is important to note. There are ways to get the digital audio experience even if your TV doesn’t have an HDMI port, so don’t worry.
Using 3.5mm Line Out
The 3.5mm Line-out connector and the headphone jack socket are identical. The first thing you should do is identify the ‘line-out’ port on your TV. Once you’ve identified the proper socket, you can plug the 3.5mm line-out cable into the socket. That’s all you need to do.
If you connect the 3.5mm cable to the headphone jack, it won’t cause any damage, and you’ll get some sound from it. But, we don’t recommend you do this because the sound quality you’ll get will be mediocre. That said, ensure you plug your 3.5mm line-out cable into the line-out port on your television.
All you have to do is plug the red and white connectors to your TV’s red and white output sockets, then connect the other end to the soundbar. If your TV doesn’t come with RCA ports, there’s an alternative.
You can take the RCA stereo output from your Blu-Ray player, set-top box, or DVD and connect directly to the soundbar RCA socket. Just keep in mind that the sound will only emanate from the device to which it is attached, so don’t connect it to your TV.
Using a Headphone Jack
Simply plug one end of your headphone connector into the jack sockets on your TV and the other end into your soundbar. As stated earlier, we don’t recommend transferring audio via a headphone jack. But, if you’re left with no other option, you need to change the audio settings on the TV.
Locate the audio settings on your television and adjust the volume, bass, and treble settings until you’re satisfied with the sound. But keep in mind that anything plugged into the headphone jack has its volume reduced for safety reasons, so you’ll need to turn up the TV volume much higher than usual. Then, don’t forget to turn it down before unplugging the soundbar.
However, some TVs, like those made by JVC, feature a setting that allows you to change the purpose of the headphone port to a ‘line-out’ connection, eliminating the need to change the sound settings.
Most soundbars feature a Bluetooth button on the remote control or the device itself. So, start the pairing process by pushing the BlueTooth button to activate it.
Next, activate the BlueTooth on your television. If you navigate your TV’s menu settings, you’ll probably have the Bluetooth settings there. Simply use the remote to navigate through all of the options. If you’re having a hard time, you can refer to your TV manual for help.
But, some TVs aren’t Bluetooth compatible. If you’re in this category, you’ll need to purchase a Bluetooth adapter that you can plug into one of your TV’s ports, but this may not work with all models.
Step 4. Play Sound to Test
Once you’ve got your soundbar hooked up, you should turn on your TV to check if everything works as it should. You can tune your TV to a music or movie channel to test. Push the ‘source’ or ‘input’ button on your soundbar remote to choose your audio connector.
Navigate this menu till you find the connecter you used during your installation. If you used optical connectors, you should search for D-In, Digital, or Optical in the menu. If you used an HDMI connector, search for either HDMI, ARC, or TV on the menu.
You’ll start hearing sounds coming from your soundbar when you do this.
Step 5. Configure Television
If you’re getting sound from your soundbar instead of your TV, you can skip this step. However, if your soundbar and TV both produce sound, or you hear nothing from the external speaker, you need to change some settings.
Navigate your television menu for a setting called Output Devices. Next, select External Speaker as your preferred source of audio output. Now, your TV will send all of the sounds to the soundbar.
We have kept to our word, and now you can see connecting a soundbar to the TV is super easy. Note that your TV and soundbar model will determine if they support HDMI, ARC HDMI, or eARC HDMI.
You can connect the soundbar to a TV using a single HDMI cable for ARC and eARC connections; otherwise, you’ll need to attach an optical audio cable in addition to an HDMI wire. In any case, nothing is stopping you from enjoying the improved audio experience that a soundbar gives.
John Fleming is the senior editor for Audiophilez.com, covering everything from headphones to smart speakers. He is a graduate of Music Production and Technology. Before Audiophilez, John began his career as a staff writer for two different magazines, where he became a skilled storyteller across different mediums. When he isn’t writing, he can be found biking, reading books, and playing the piano.