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4 ways to connect your soundbar to your TV

Upgrade your TV sound setup with our helpful guide.

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Enhancing your TV’s audio with a soundbar can be a total gamechanger for your home entertainment setup. We’re talking a bigger and bolder sound that brings the immersive cinema experience to your living room — all without taking up much space.

But there are a few different ways you can connect a soundbar to a TV. With a wide choice of cables and connectors, it can be difficult to know which method is right for getting the most out of your kit. Don’t worry though, as we’ve highlighted four of the best ways to connect your soundbar to your TV.

1. HDMI cable

Using an HDMI cable is by far the best way to connect your soundbar to your TV. But why use HDMI? Well, these soundbar cables can carry large amounts of uncompressed digital audio data — resulting in a cleaner and more dynamic sound.

An HDMI cable can also cope with any sound system from 5.1 to 7.1 surround sound, and even higher. Plus, they're able to process newer cinematic experience tech like DTS:X and Dolby Atmos — which create an incredibly immersive feel in your lounge for those big blockbusters.

But you'll need to make sure that you're connecting your TV soundbar to the correct port on your telly. Most HDMI ports on TVs are input-only, so they can’t output anything from the TV and can only receive data from whatever they're connected to. So, how do you get a soundbar hooked up?

How do I connect my soundbar to my TV using HDMI?

If you want to attach your soundbar to your TV using HDMI, your telly will need to support HDMI-ARC. This stands for 'Audio Return Channel' and means that the audio can travel in both directions along the HDMI cable you’ve connected.

If your TV supports ARC connections, you’ll also be able to connect things like your gaming consoles or Blu-ray player to your HDMI soundbar (if it has enough ports) and then just use a single HDMI cable to connect your soundbar to your TV. Forget about having loads of cables dangling from your telly!

When you connect to the HDMI-ARC port on your TV, you'll need to make sure that you use either the HDMI-ARC or the HDMI Out ports on your soundbar. And you should only use the HDMI In ports on your soundbar for connecting other kit to it.

Unfortunately, not all soundbars will come with an HDMI connector. You'll generally only find HDMI on mid to high-end models, although some of the best affordable soundbars are now starting to offer it. If yours doesn't — don't worry. In the next section, we’ll explain how to get that amazing digital audio experience even if HDMI isn't an option.

Tech tip: Most TVs will automatically recognise your soundbar when it’s plugged in. If it doesn’t, you’ll just have to head to your TV’s audio settings and select the correct external speaker option (your soundbar).

2. Digital optical or coaxial cables

If your soundbar doesn't have an HDMI connector, then the next best option is to use a digital optical cable or digital coaxial (aerial) cable. These can transfer digital audio up to 5.1 surround sound, so you’ll still get a nice and big cinematic experience.

What’s the difference between digital optical and coaxial cables?

Optical cables have a square connector, whereas coaxial cables have a circular connector. Optical cables work by converting the electrical signal to optical light, and then convert it back to an electrical signal at the other end.

Some people prefer these over coaxial cables as they believe you'll get less electrical interference. But in reality, it's almost impossible to tell the difference — they're both capable of sending a high-quality digital signal. Before you go out to buy cables though, it's worth checking the back of your TV and that you’ve got a sound bar with an optical input. Most tellys have an optical connector, but not all TVs support digital coaxial.

3. RCA or 3.5mm cables

If you’ve got an older TV without HDMI or optical ports, then RCA and 3.5mm cables are your best bet for hooking your soundbar up to your TV. These types of cables carry analogue audio rather than digital, so they aren't capable of delivering a full digital surround sound experience.

How do I connect my soundbar to my TV using RCA?

Most people will recognise stereo RCA output/input sockets — they're the circular red and white connectors. The only thing to remember here is to plug the red connector into the red output socket and the white one into the white output socket on your TV. Then just connect the other end to your soundbar.

If your TV doesn't have stereo RCA outputs, you could plug your soundbar into a smart TV box or Blu-ray player you’ve got connected to your TV instead (if they have RCA ports). But remember, the sound will only play from the device you’ve connected the soundbar to.

How do I connect my soundbar to my TV using 3.5mm line-out?

With the 3.5mm line-out connector, you just need to make sure you use the one labelled 'line-out' on your TV and not the headphone jack (because they look the same). If you plug your soundbar into your TV’s headphone socket, it's probably going to sound awful. Once you've plugged the cable into the line-out port, just plug the other end into the soundbar and you're done.

4. Headphone jack

As a last resort, you could try connecting your soundbar to your TV using the headphone jack. But you'll have to adjust your telly’s settings first — otherwise, it’s probably going to sound really bad!

How do I connect my soundbar to my TV using the headphone jack?

Some TVs, like those made by JVC, have an option in the settings to change the function of the headphone jack into a line-out connection. This means that you won't have to adjust the sound settings.

If your TV doesn't have this option, then you'll need to adjust your volume, bass, and treble settings until you're happy 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 a lot higher than you normally would. Just don’t forget to turn it back down before you unplug the soundbar!

FAQs

What is the best way to connect a soundbar to a TV?

HDMI cables are considered the best option. They can transmit high-quality, uncompressed digital audio signals to make sure you get the best possible sound. Plus, they’re quick and easy to set up!

HDMI cables can also transmit video signals, meaning you can plug a Blu-ray player or a games console into your soundbar and use one cable to connect your soundbar (and those other devices) to your TV. Reducing cable clutter and making your setup look a lot neater.

How do you connect a Bluetooth soundbar to your TV?

Loads of soundbars for TVs now have Bluetooth built in, which means you can also use them like Bluetooth speakers. Want to stream music from your smartphone though your soundbar for that living room workout? If it’s got Bluetooth, it can do it.

But if your TV has Bluetooth too, you could also use this to connect your soundbar. The audio quality won’t be as good as if you were using HDMI, but it does mean that you can connect your soundbar to your TV wirelessly.

The pairing process will differ depending on what soundbar and TV you have. But most soundbars will have a Bluetooth button that you can press to put it in a pairing mode that’ll find your telly. You might also have to look through your TV’s setting to put it in Bluetooth pairing mode.

Any more questions?

Want to learn even more about connecting soundbars? Check out our how to connect a subwoofer to a soundbar guide to really add some bass to your home cinema system. Or for some shopping advice, read our which soundbar is right for you? article.

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