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How to Connect Soundbar to TV Without Optical Output

tv connected to a soundbar without optical output

There are some TVs with such bad sound output, it makes you wonder how modern they are. Even with all the advancements TV has gone through in the past couple of years, many have refused to modernize their speakers. Soundbars are speakers in the shape of a bar that increase your TV’s sound quality.

Most commonly, soundbars connect to TVs through optical output. However, if you don’t have this option, or can’t use it for some reason, what alternatives are there?

wall mounted tv connected to a soundbar without optical output
Photo by Thom Milkovic on Unsplash

The options available for connecting soundbars to TVs without optical output are  Bluetooth, HDMI, AUX cables, or RCA cables. There is also an option of an auxiliary device that transforms coaxial cables to another type of connection.

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Whatever reason you may have for ditching optical output, you can find several other options to connect your TV. Read on as we detail each of these options below.

Ways to Connect Soundbar to TV without Optical Output

ways to connect soundbar to tv without optical output
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Using bluetooth

Bluetooth speakers have become quite popular in the market. This is the most convenient and easiest way to connect your TV to the soundbar. Part of their convenience is that there are no cables in play. The main advantage that wireless connection gives is a less cluttered media room. 

However, you can only use Bluetooth if your TV is also Bluetooth-enabled. To find out whether your device is Bluetooth enabled, read the specs on your TV manual or call customer support and inquire about it. If your TV is Bluetooth enabled, then you will have to activate Bluetooth before connecting.

Different TVs come with specific instructions on how to activate Bluetooth. You can find these instructions on the source options or by going through the manual.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a Bluetooth-enabled device; you still have options. You can consider buying a Bluetooth transmitter that converts the audio devices to a Bluetooth device. This way, you would pair the Bluetooth transmitter to the soundbar. Then you would hear sounds from your TV through the soundbar.

Using HDMI

using HDMI cable as alternative if optical cable is not available
Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

In order to use HDMI, your TV has to support HDMI-ARC. ARC, Audio Return Channel, is a connector that aids your TV in receiving and sending audio. Most HDMI cables are input only, meaning they only receive data without sending information from the TV.

Therefore, before settling on this option, make sure your TV set supports HDMI-ARC, which enables sound to travel on both sides of the cable. Without the ARC, your TV can receive data but will not be able to send it out, which will make the HDMI cable useless.

For TVs that come with an HDMI-ARC connection, you simply have to plug in the HDMI cable to connect the TV to the soundbar. First, plug the cable into the TV and then plug the other side into the soundbar. Depending on the type of soundbar, you may have a few additional steps to complete the connection.

Many people prefer HDMI over Bluetooth because HDMI has the capacity to transmit larger uncompressed audio data. It can handle sound formats such as Dolby Atmos, DTS, and 7.1 Surround sound. 

Using RCA cables

using rca cables
Image by PDPics on Pixabay

You may recognize these as colorful cables that often come in red, yellow, and white (or black). The red and white wires produce the right and left audio channels while the yellow one transmits video.

These cables are commonly used to hook up VCR and CD players to TV sets. You can also use an RCA cable to connect to game consoles, cd players, cable boxes, or satellite receivers. 

Some people have trouble connecting RCA cables due to their color-coding. Make sure you check your TV manual to ensure the correspondence between plugs and ports.  Typically, though, it should be simple. Just place the various cables according to the colors in the audio ports. Input the red and white one in the soundbar and the yellow one in the TV.

Before connecting your RCA cables, ensure both your devices are switched off. After a successful connection, you can proceed to turn your devices back on.

In case there is no sound or video, consider making sure the plugs are all the way inserted because the plug has to lock with the port to work.

One downside to RCA cables is that they only translate left and right audio signals, and therefore, they cannot efficiently produce surround sound. To solve this problem without getting a new TV set, consider using an AV-RCA to HDMI adapter. However, for lower-resolution audio, RCA cables are a cheap solution that will get the job done.

Using AUX input

audio jack cables with stereo adapters above white background
Image by Marco Verch Professional Photographer via Flickr

AUX stands for auxiliary, and it is used to connect audio input and output from various devices such as smartphones, speakers, and TVs. Most soundbars come with their own AUX port. In addition to the port, you also need the AUX cable. If your soundbar did not come with an AUX cable, consider purchasing one. They are inexpensive.

AUX ports are available on a wide variety of devices. To use the AUX port, connect the AUX cable to the soundbar and the other end to the TV set. Both devices can be on while making this connection.

After a successful connection, you will hear sound coming from the soundbar. If not, consider exchanging the sides from the TV to the soundbar. If this is not successful, consider manually switching on AUX settings on both devices.

That said, the main disadvantage that comes with AUX cables is the quality of sound. Though the 3.5 mm AUX cables can transmit sound without a noticeable drop in quality, AUX cables can only be used for stereo output. That means they only work for the left and right speakers, so you can not access surround sound.

Therefore, if you are looking to set up a media room with excellent audio, you may want to consider a wireless option instead.

Using Wireless Connection Kits

Qualcomm aptX wireless connection kit
Image by Rydo87 via Wikimedia

If you want to go wireless and don’t have Bluetooth capability, consider using a wireless connection or conversion kit that can also work with AUX and RCA cables.

Other examples of wireless connections include Qualcomm aptX, radiofrequency, and Wifi. Qualcomm also uses Bluetooth, but it is a refined connection meant for high-resolution audio signals.

To connect older TVs with your soundbar, you can use RCA cables to connect via wireless conversion kits. Wireless connection kits can also use radio frequencies to establish a connection. They use 2.4Ghz to get better coverage.

Wifi is another option to transmit audio; however, it is the least popular mode of connection. The transmitter typically sends audio signals over the internet. The receiver proceeds to download the uncompressed audio signals and transmit them to the soundbar. It produces high-quality audio signals; however, it is dependent on internet speed.

Conclusion

HDMI and digital optical cables are the most common audio connection devices; however, these are not your only options. In case your television set does not support these connections, consider using a 3.5 mm auxiliary jack (AUX cable), RCA, or wireless connection.

Invest in options that cater to your audio needs. If you need high-resolution sound, consider using HDMI cables. If you don’t want your house cluttered or to deal with cables, consider going wireless. No matter your TV configuration, there is always a way to connect your soundbar to a TV without optical output. With the use of a little creativity, you will be able to harness that sweet simulated sound from your soundbar from any TV set.