We will all agree that modern technologies make our lives much easier. It is easier to communicate, we can work from home, etc. The devices are being improved every day and we aren’t stuck with one piece of equipment for a long time. The good thing is we get to choose and we have more options than before.
However, every improvement changes the way we use our devices. They used to be very simple, each of them had only one purpose, and we could connect it to only one device. Today, we can use them in many different ways. Modern devices, especially TVs, speaker systems or soundbars, can be connected to many different devices and they have numerous input and output ports.
Connecting your soundbar to your TV is not very difficult and there are two main ways to connect them but the way you connect your TV to your soundbar can significantly change the quality of performance. That’s why you should read our article carefully.
How Can You Connect Your TV to Your Soundbar?
As we have said, there are two ways you can connect your TV to the soundbar. You just have to choose whether you want to put your TV or your soundbar in charge of the whole system of devices connected to each other. In other words, you have to choose which device is going to be the hub of your system – your TV or your soundbar. In some cases, soundbar manufacturer makes that decision for you – if the soundbar has only one or two audio inputs (analog and/or digital), you have no other choice but to use your TV as the hub and connect all the output devices to your TV and then connect the TV to the soundbar.
Connecting all the devices to the TV
If you choose to use your TV as the media hub and connect all the audio/video output devices to the TV, you choose the easy way of connecting the soundbar to the TV. Of course, it’s easy only if you have a modern TV with all kinds of digital input and output ports and even some analog inputs and outputs.
If you have that kind of TV, you can connect your Blu-ray player, game console, cable box or any other video or audio device to the TV. That means you need only one cable to connect the TV to the soundbar and you can do it using digital optical or digital coaxial cable.
This type of connection allows you to watch all kinds of content on your TV and your TV will send all the audio to the soundbar. You don’t need the soundbar with numerous input/output ports, not even HDMI connector. You can concentrate on finding the soundbar with the best sound quality for the price you can pay because all the other devices will be connected to your TV. You just need one audio input port on the soundbar (digital optical or coaxial depending on the available audio outputs on your TV).
In this case, you might have problems recognizing the difference between digital optical and digital coaxial cables. They are similar but you can tell the difference by looking at the connector as the digital optical cable has square connector while the digital coaxial has the circular connector. Many people prefer using digital optical cables because they believe this cable ensures better performance. However, they are both great and they both can be used for sending the high-quality digital signal from one device to another.
In addition, you should be aware that digital optical connector is more common than a digital coaxial because the second one can’t be found on all TVs.
Connecting all the devices to the soundbar
Connecting the TV to the soundbar via HDMI cable is the more complex way. This means you should have a highly functional soundbar with many different inputs and at least one HDMI output. That way you can connect all the audio and video output devices directly to it. The crucial thing is that your TV has an HDMI input port, which you can use to connect the TV to the soundbar. In this situation, your soundbar handles all the audio and video inputs and it sends video to your TV. In this case, the soundbar is used as the media hub and it’s so much more than a regular speaker.
Related : 10 Best Soundbars Under $300 in 2018
However, this is not as simple as it seems. You have to be aware that most of HDMI ports on TVs are only input ports, which means they can only receive the signal but can’t send it anywhere. This kind of HDMI port can be used for connecting the soundbar to your TV if all the devices are connected to your soundbar. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case because soundbars have limited number of HDMI inputs (for connecting different video sources) and if you have more video sources than HDMI input ports on the soundbar, you will have to connect some of the video sources to your TV. If that’s the case, you will also have to send some audio from your TV to your soundbar. In order to enable two-way communication between your soundbar and your TV, you need HDMI ARC connection on both of devices.
ARC (Audio Return Channel) is the technology that enables your TV not only to receive audio content but also to send audio content back to the soundbar – the content can go in both directions. This means that audio can be sent to the soundbar through one HDMI cable.
In case your TV doesn’t have HDMI ARC port, you can use the optical cable to connect your TV to the soundbar and send audio from your TV to the soundbar through it.
If you have a modern soundbar and a modern TV with HDMI ARC ports on both of your devices, you should definitely use HDMI ARC connection. It is very simple, it offers quality performance and the only thing you need is one HDMI cable.
Additional Ways to Connect a Soundbar to a TV
We understand that many people still have older TV and soundbar models, so we decided to help them too. HDMI and optical cables aren’t the only way to connect soundbars to TVs. They are currently the best options, but here are some other options that could come in handy in case you are stuck with older pieces of equipment.
RCA to 3.5mm cable
RCA to 3.5mm cable is highly recognizable and it often comes with different audio and video equipment. It can’t offer you high-quality digital audio, but it can be a good replacement when the previously mentioned connections can’t be established.
The connection process is very easy. The 3.5mm connector has to be inserted into the “line out” port on your TV. The red and the white RCA connectors have to be inserted into the red and the white ports on your soundbar. You can also use RCA ports on your TV and 3.5mm port on your soundbar – it all depends on the available connections on your TV and soundbar.
To connect the TV to the soundbar using the headphone port, you will need only one 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable. Most of TVs have headphone jacks and they can be used as line out ports. You would just have to adjust the settings on the TV so that it recognizes the headphone jack as the line out port. Either way, the sound quality won’t be great. It will also be significantly quieter than normal so the volume on the TV would have to be cranked up.
What Type of Connection is Best?
After all we have said, it is quite easy to answer the question. Our winner here is HDMI connection and we will explain our choice to you.
Connecting TV to soundbar using HDMI cable is rather simple. It saves you time and space. This type of connection can be used in every situation, no matter if your TV is mounted on the wall or if it stands on some kind of shelve or table. HDMI cables enable quality performance as they can transfer great amounts of digital audio data without the necessity of compressing it. These cables can be used with serious surround sound systems (7.1 for example) and they can process DTS.X and Dolby Atmos.
Digital optical cables also offer great performance as they use light to send the digital audio signal, which causes less interference. However, if you choose this way, you should think about the soundbar’s position. If you use the soundbar as the hub, you can’t move it a lot because of the cables connected to it. The best option is to hold the soundbar on some table or shelve so the rear panel is always reachable.
The two alternative ways of connecting soundbar to your TV are described because you should know what you can use in case of emergency, but you have to be aware that not all types of connection ensure the same sound quality.
However, we all live in different apartments/houses and have different devices. Depending on the available input and output ports on your devices, you will choose different type of connection. If you have more than one option, you should know that HDMI is always preferred connection. If there are no HDMI ports on your TV or soundbar, you can use digital input and output ports (digital optical or coaxial), and if you can’t use those, you will have to use analog ports (RCA or 3.5mm).
Hello, my name is James Longman.
I’m a writer and editor at AudioReputation. I disassembled my first portable AM/FM radio when I was only 8. At the age of 11, I burned the circuit board on my old boombox cassette player. I’m not going to explain how but it was reckless and stupid.
Since then, I have become much more careful around radios, boomboxes, and other audio devices (at least, I like to think so) but I have never lost the passion for audio equipment. Throughout 20 years of my professional career, I’ve been working for various audio equipment manufacturers and even started building speakers on my own in my little workshop.
I love the work we do here at AudioReputation. Testing, comparing, and evaluating all kinds of audio devices (speakers, soundbars, headphones, home theater systems, etc.) is something I truly enjoy. I try to be unbiased and give you my honest opinion on every piece of equipment I test. Still, you should take my reviews with a pinch of salt and always be just a little bit skeptical. The fact that I liked some speaker or soundbar doesn’t mean that you are going to love it. If you have the opportunity, you should test it/hear it before buying it.