Learning how to connect soundbar to TV is one of the skills that most people need to know about these days. That’s because modern TVs are so thin that they don’t have enough space to put in adequate speakers. Sure, they look terrific. But they sound absolutely horrible unless you accessorize with extra audio devices. That’s where soundbars come in.
Soundbars are upgrades on the horrible built-in speakers you find in skinny LED TVs. They’re a good compromise for many folks who can’t afford (or refuse to shell out for) more expensive surround sound systems. As the name suggests, this is a bar-shaped device with at least 2 speakers. Some even come with a separate subwoofer so you can really hear and feel the deep bass.
It’s not really all that complicated to connect your soundbar to your TV, though some technophobes may balk at the DIY prospect. While it’s perfectly acceptable to just hire a handyman to connect sound bar to TV for you, here’s a guide on what you need to do if you plan on doing this yourself:
Soundbar Setup and Placement
The first thing you need to do before you connect a soundbar is to figure out where you want to put it. This isn’t really complicated though, unlike trying to figure out where to put 5 or even 7 different speakers in a surround sound system.
If you’ve placed your TV hanging on the wall, then a simple placement solution is to just mount the soundbar right under the TV. This gives the whole thing a very neat look, and the sound jives well with the visuals. Your main challenge in this case will be to hide the connection cable and power cord from view to keep the look uncluttered.
The other popular option is when you have your TV sitting on a stand or in a cabinet. In this case, you should just set the soundbar right in front of the TV. But now you have to measure the spaces to make things fit properly.
First, you need to make sure that you have enough space between the top of the stand and the bottom of the TV. The soundbar must fit in so that it doesn’t block any part of the screen. If the soundbar is thin enough, then usually it’s positioned with the speakers facing forward. But if they’re a bit wider, then the soundbar may lay flat with the speakers facing up so that the TV screen isn’t blocked at all.
The second reason you need to measure spaces is to make sure that your soundbar doesn’t stick out at all. If the soundbar does stick out, they you need a larger base on which to set the TV so you can also accommodate the soundbar. Some soundbars measure only a foot long, but then the longest ones can reach a length of up to 5 feet.
How to Connect Soundbar to TV with HDMI
Many consider the HDMI cable as the best way to connect your soundbar to your TV. It’s simple enough to connect to the port, and the HDMI cable can transport huge amounts of uncompressed digital audio data. This type of cable can deal with 5.1 and 7.1 sound systems, or even more complicated setups. It can also accommodate cinematic options like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, though for these cases you have to make sure you’re using the right port.
Some of you might think that HDMI ports are only for inputs. This means that the TV can receive the data from an outside source (like a game console or a DVD player), but will be unable to send anything from the TV. But the TV can send signals to the soundbar if the TV supports HDMI-ARC. The ARC stands for “audio return channel” and it indicates that the audio can travel both ways along the HDMI cable.
So if you want an HDMI connection for your TV and soundbar, you should buy a TV that supports these ARC connections. What makes an HDMI ARC soundbar truly advantageous is that you can use the soundbar as some sort of hub for your other entertainment devices like your cable box, DVD and Blu-ray players, and game consoles. You then just need a single HDMI cable to hook up soundbar to the TV.
Not all soundbars come with an HDMI connector, though. In fact, this feature isn’t normally available in the cheaper soundbar models. Only the premium and some of the mid-priced soundbars have it. But the ease of setup and the quality of the data transfer makes an ARC soundbar worth every penny. With HDMI-ARC, learning how to hook up a soundbar is a cinch.
Just make sure that when you connect via the HDMI-ARC, you use the right port to hook up the sound bar. This will be either the port labeled HDMI-ARC or HDMI Out. The HDMI In should be reserved for audio sources like your game consoles and Blu-ray players.
How to Connect Soundbar to TV with Optical Cable
How do you install a sound bar without the HDMI option? You still have an alternative by using optical cable. This means you can either go with the digital optical cable, or the digital coaxial cable. The optical cable is the one with a square connector. The coaxial soundbar cable comes with a circular connector. Either way, you can transfer digital audio from the TV to your soundbar with this cable, or even to your 5.1 surround sound system.
Many people generally prefer the optical cable over the coaxial cable. Supposedly, it’s because the design of the optical cable reduces much of the potential electrical interference. Optical soundbar cables are somewhat unique, since they first transform the electrical signal into optical light to move it down the cable. Then at the other end, it’s turned back into an electrical signal. As it moves as optical light, it’s theoretically more immune to electrical interference.
But the truth is that you generally can’t tell the difference in the audio results when you use each one and compare them to one another. You can use either, though most TVs have an optical connector but fewer have the support for digital coaxial cables.
Connecting the optical cable when you connect a soundbar to a TV is rather easy. The port will usually be labeled as “optical in” or something similar. But even if it’s not labeled, the square design of the port is a dead giveaway.
How to Connect Soundbar to TV without Optical Cable: Using RCA
If you don’t have an HDMI soundbar and you don’t have the optical cable option connecting soundbar to TV, you will have to resort to analog. You can use the stereo RCA cable or the 3.5mm line to hook up soundbar to TV.
Most members of the older generation of audio equipment users know about the stereo RCA output/input sockets. Using these to connect soundbar to TV just requires you to match the colors of the connector with the socket. You have to plug the white connector into the white output socket and then you plug the red connector into the red output socket. That’s it.
What if your TV somehow doesn’t have a stereo RCA output as well? One option is to plug the soundbar into the Blu-ray or DVD player. This means that when you use this player to play your digital movies, it will send the video signals to the TV and the audio signals will be sent to your soundbar.
Obviously there won’t be a sound from the soundbar if you’re using the game console while the soundbar is connected to the Blu-ray player, but it’s better than nothing. At least your movies sound great.
Another alternative is to use the 3.5mm line out connector as your audio cable for sound bar. Connect one end to the TV, and the other end to the soundbar. You just have to make sure that you plug this into the port marked “line out” on the TV. It’s easy enough to make a mistake and plug this into the headphone jack instead, because the 2 ports look very similar to each other.
Using the Headphone Jack
Now what if all these options are unavailable except for the headphone jack? Theoretically, it is possible to set up a soundbar using the headphone jack. If this is the sole kind of port available on your TV for the soundbar, you can still manage.
First of all, you need the cable that will fit into the soundbar and into the headphone port of the TV. Second, you will have to adjust the volume setting. That’s because most TVs automatically reduce the volume of any sound through the headphone jack to protect your eardrums from excessive decibels. So you will have to compensate by boosting the volume much higher than you’d normally would. Just return the volume settings to their regular levels when you’re done using the headphone jack as a line-out option.
In some TVs (especially a few JVC models), there’s an option that turns the headphone jack into a “line-out” connection. This means you can then use this without having to boost the volume settings.
How to Hook Up Soundbar to TV with Cable Box
If you want to enjoy cable TV and shows like Game of Thrones and live athletic events, you’ll need a cable box for your TV. Obviously, to get the maximum enjoyment out of these shows you’d rather hear the audio from your soundbar instead of from the LED TV’s tiny, tinny speakers.
One way to do this is to just connect the cable box to the TV first. Once that’s done, you can then connect the TV to the soundbar. When you watch a cable show, the audio signal will pass from the cable box to the TV and then to the soundbar. It’s that simple.
Another option, however, is to connect the cable box to the soundbar. Some people prefer this when the TV is mounted on the wall and the soundbar is placed on a piece of furniture under the TV. The soundbar can then act as the hub for your various audiovisual components, and then you need only a single cable to connect to the TV. This cable won’t clutter up the wall where you’ve mounted the TV, unlike if you all these sound bar connections between the other components and the TV mounted on the wall.
When the soundbar acts as the hub, it’s best if you can use HDMI cables for your soundbar connections. This type of connection ensures that you can move digital data easily, and so your soundbar can pass on the video data from the component source to the TV. In general, this type of soundbar sends an onscreen display on your TV to let you choose which data source you want the soundbar and the TV to use.
The ideal situation is to have a TV and a soundbar that both have the HDMI-ARC port. Then you have an HDMI sound bar, it means you only need a single HDMI cable (version 1.4 or higher). Without this HDMI-ARC input, you will need both HDMI and optical connections between the soundbar and the TV. You may then have to activate the ARC on the TV.
Setting Up the Subwoofer
Hooking up a soundbar that comes with a subwoofer isn’t all that difficult either. Many of the newer soundbars come with this component. It’s easy enough to understand why when you’re used to the older soundbars and your new one comes with a subwoofer. It just sounds so much better, and the bass sounds are much more satisfying. Besides, the soundbar and the subwoofer are designed to work with one another and so you don’t get any compatibility issues.
The addition of the subwoofer doesn’t add to the cable clutter at all. That’s because this often uses a wireless connection to the soundbar. All you need to do is to plug it into an electrical socket. You may, however, need to activate the subwoofer through the onscreen setup menu.
As the subwoofers are wireless, you can pretty much place them anywhere. Just put it about a foot or so away from the walls for best audio effects. Also, make sure you place it near enough to the soundbar to maintain the wireless sound bar connection.
Now that you’ve connected the soundbar to the TV, it’s time for you to adjust the settings to your liking. Here are some tips to consider when you set up the sound bar:
Many TVs and soundbars offer you the chance to adjust some of the settings to make the sound more suitable to what you’re watching. There may be special audio modes for movies, concerts, and sports events. Modes for movies may boost the dialog so you can understand what they’re saying. Concert mode can improve the quality of the music.
If you’re having trouble understanding the dialogue over the various background noises, check if there’s an option for dialogue enhancement. This may be called by different names depending on the brand you have, so may encounter audio options such as “Clear Voice”.
Make sure that the sync settings are set so that there is no delay between what’s happening on screen and the accompanying sound. It can get very frustrating when the mouth of the actor doesn’t match what he’s saying!
Are you watching a movie late at night? If you have family members sleeping nearby, you may want to switch to “night mode”.
Most soundbars these days come with their own remotes. Try to reserve an afternoon figuring out what each button on the remote does, so you can get a better sense of the features and adjustments available. In some of the newer soundbars, adjustments can even be done through apps.
Hooking up soundbar to TV isn’t really all that complicated at all. After all, a sound bar set up is a lot simpler than putting up a 7.1 surround sound system. That’s the point of the soundbar after all. You get better sound without the headache of a confusing setup.
Picking a great soundbar can be a more complicated task, but you don’t need to spend a lot of money. The best soundbars under $200 will be more than adequate for your needs. Read up on the best sound bars under $500 reviews and you’ll find terrific options. Just make sure you read up on how easy these things are to install so that you can be sure you can do it yourself.
Just read the manual and then follow our guide on how to connect soundbar to TV, and you’ll be fine. You can make things better for you by getting a soundbar with HDMI in the first place. You get the best sound with a soundbar with HDMI ARC, and the connection procedure is a piece of cake!