How to Connect a Majority Soundbar to Your TV

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Struggling to hear crisp dialogue during intense movie scenes or make out subtle musical details over your TV’s anemic built-in speakers?

Adding an external soundbar offers an easy and affordable audio upgrade to amplify entertainment immersion.

Let’s explore how to seamlessly connect a soundbar to your television using optimal cables for fidelity while merging functionality into an intuitive unified system.

How to Connect a Majority Soundbar to Your TV

To connect most soundbars to your TV, you will need an audio cable that matches up with the inputs and outputs between devices.

Common options are HDMI ARC, optical audio, RCA, or AUX cables.

Simply connect the same port type between the soundbar and TV, then change your TV’s audio settings to route sound externally rather than the built-in speakers.

We’ll explore specifics on achieving optimal connections, consolidated controls, and customized sound below.

Now let’s dive deeper into setup.

Determine Compatibility Between Soundbar and TV

It is important to start by checking that your soundbar and TV have compatible ports and connectors to enable an audio connection between the devices.

On the back of your television, look for ports such as HDMI Arc, optical audio out, RCA audio out, or a headphone jack. 

Make note of which audio output ports are available.

Next, examine the ports and connectors on your soundbar. 

Soundbars commonly have HDMI, optical, RCA, or headphone input ports.

Compare the outputs on the TV to the inputs on the soundbar and identify a shared connector type that can facilitate transferring audio signal.

For example, if your TV has an optical audio output and your soundbar has an optical input, you will be able to connect them using an optical audio cable.

Confirming compatibility ensures you purchase the proper cables and adapters if needed.

It is critical that you check that the input ports on the soundbar match up with the output ports on the television set. 

For example, if your TV only has RCA analog outputs but your soundbar lacks RCA inputs, that would be an incompatible situation requiring an adapter or different cable choice. 

Study both specs carefully.

You also want to ensure that the TV’s operating system and software provides the ability to redirect internal audio through external outputs.

The physical connections or cables only solve part of the connectivity equation – the settings and firmware must also allow audio to be channeled out.

Research your television manufacturer and model details online to determine if other owners have successfully connected soundbars or receiver systems.

There are always complexities involved so validating compatibility helps avoid later issues.

Connect with HDMI ARC

If both your television and soundbar support HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC), this is the simplest and often best way to connect them.

HDMI ARC allows information to be both sent and received through the connection.

Enable HDMI-CEC and HDMI ARC options on your television if they are available.

Using a certified high-speed HDMI cable, connect the HDMI ARC port on the soundbar to the HDMI ARC port on the TV. 

The ports may be clearly labeled as ARC or indicate Audio Return Channel.

In some cases, you may need to enable external audio output in the settings of your smart TV after making the physical connection. 

Since HDMI carries both audio and video signals, a single cable can handle both duties. 

ARC also supports advanced audio formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.

The convenience of a single cable along with higher bandwidth makes HDMI ARC the best choice.

One major benefit of HDMI Audio Return Channel connectivity is bi-directional communication between devices.

This means the TV can send command signals to the soundbar for power, volume, mute control and more while the soundbar shoots audio at the TV for processing and output.

It merges input and output through the ARC HDMI port.

HDMI cables also preserve quality better across longer distances than analog options.

Make sure your HDMI cable is rated for the features you want as higher bandwidth enables higher resolution, frame rates and color depth.

When possible, directly connect soundbar HDMI ports to TV ports to avoid intermediary boxes that can influence quality.

For the widest compatibility, put both the TV and soundbar on the same brand family when affordable so handshaking is seamless.

Keep TV and soundbar software updated since ARC depends on recognition protocols aligned between manufacturers.

Turn both devices all the way off and back on if linking does not automatically occur when HDMI-CEC is enabled.

Connect Optical Audio Cable

If your TV lacks HDMI ARC capability, you can still connect your soundbar using an optical audio cable.

Optical cables send digital audio signals as pulses of light through flexible fiber optic cables.

The connectors may be labeled SPDIF, TOSLINK or Optical.

Plug one end of an optical audio cable into the Optical Out port on the TV.

Connect the other end to the Optical In port on your soundbar.

After cable insertion, you will likely need to specify audio output to external speakers in your TV settings. 

Menu options may refer to external speakers, audio receivers or sound bars.

This option routes sound away from the built-in TV speakers so audio can be processed by the soundbar before output.

Optical audio cables provide better sound quality over analog connections, and allow you to listen to Dolby Digital audio tracks on Blu-ray movies and streaming platforms.

They are also widely available and affordable.

Drawbacks include bandwidth limitations, so advanced surround sound formats may not be fully supported.

The optical audio connection standard provides the ability to transfer uncompressed two-channel stereo PCM audio or 5.1 surround sound like Dolby Digital and DTS.

It cannot transmit high resolution formats like Dolby TrueHD or DTS HD Master Audio that require the larger pipeline of HDMI.

Optical is still a popular choice since the cables efficiently relay quality digital sound without the complexity or cost of HDMI.

Make sure source content will not surpass optical bandwidth – a standard Blu-Ray disc should be fine but 4K streaming could overload it.

Purchase cables labeled High Speed Optical for maximum compatibility and performance.

Shorter lengths generally test better.

Insert gently until the cable clicks and locks since the port contains delicate internal parts aligning light output to the fiber line.

Secure cables to prevent loose connections that cut audio intermittently.

Keep cable bends gradual to avoid impeding internal light waves.

Optical is noticeably enhanced over analog so first consider your content bandwidth needs.

Connect with RCA or 3.5mm Audio Cable

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If your television lacks digital audio outputs, you will need to connect your soundbar using analog red and white RCA audio cables or a 3.5 mm (auxiliary) audio cable.

Analog audio cables carry the electronic sound signal in the form of electrical impulses rather than digital data packets.

Start by identifying the audio outputs on your TV, which are typically color coded red for right audio channel and white for left channel.

These outputs may be labeled Audio Out or Audio L/R.

Corresponding color coded inputs (red for right, white for left) will be located on your soundbar.

After securely inserting the right and left connectors, most soundbars will automatically switch to the analog input.

For additional volume control, you may press the Analog or AUX button.

Set the audio output of your TV to external speakers through the settings if available.

As a last step, ensure volume is turned up on both devices.

A 3.5 mm audio cable offers another option. 

Plug one end into the headphone jack on the TV if available, and the other end into the corresponding aux input on the soundbar.

One downside to analog connectivity is sound quality. 

Because the audio signals are transmitted at basic levels rather than digital or laser-based outputs, the sound fidelity and resolution suffers.

If HDMI ARC and optical audio connectivity are unavailable either because ports are absent or bandwidth is exceeded by a 4K video source, RCA and 3.5 mm become fallback options to transmit stereo left/right audio from TV to soundbar.

You lose the digital signals, surround encoding and other quality attributes but at least maintain functioning sound.

Typically red and white RCA outs are accessible on TVs whereas 3.5 mm headphone style jacks are rarer.

Corresponding red/white RCA or 3.5mm inputs on the soundbar receive the analog signals.

Labeling varies but red connectors normally match right channel and white or black handles left duties – be observant.

Twist plugs to tightly fasten RCA terminations so vibrations do not loosen connectivity causing cuts or static in the sound.

The 3.5 mm connections friction-lock reasonably well but also confirm a snug fit.

Flickering impulses transfer the raw soundtrack in a primitive manner compared to HDMI or Optical but work adequately at standard TV resolutions and listening volumes.

Set TV audio out for external routing and increase levels moderately on both devices.

Though compromised, RCA and 3.5 remain better than TV speakers alone.

Sync Soundbar with TV Remote

After physically connecting your soundbar, you will want to ensure it can be controlled by your television remote rather than having to use multiple remotes.

Modern televisions and soundbars are designed to automatically sync control signals in a process called HDMI-CEC or Consumer Electronics Control.

When devices are connected via HDMI and powered on, this handshake protocol enables your 

TV remote to adjust critical functions like volume and muting.

Test that volume and mute buttons impact audio output to confirm.

If automatic syncing does not occur, your soundbar remote will feature a method for programming the TV remote code into its memory bank for universal control.

For example, there may be a button enabling code search. 

Press this and then use your TV remote, cycling through codes until volume and mute functions become responsive.

The remote may also have a learning mode allowing you to point the TV remote directly at the soundbar sensor so the infra-red signal frequency is learned. 

Refer to your soundbar manual for specifics on these alternative sync options.

Controlling volume or toggling sound on and off needs to be accessible from your TV’s remote control to avoid juggling two remotes constantly.

This synchronization process has been greatly simplified in the modern HDMI/ARC era with 

Consumer Electronics Control or HDMI-CEC handling communication automatically in connected devices. 

When initially setting up your system, check that volume punches impact the soundbar after HDMI linking.

If so, CEC is properly relaying infra-red remote signals through to the receiver.

If not responsive, HDMI-CEC support may require manual activation in the TV or soundbar settings to begin the pairing sequence enabling remote passing. 

Most issues trace to disabled CEC; toggling the feature prompts recognition.

Alternatively enter programming mode on the soundbar remote to capture the TV remote digital signature during a scan procedure. 

Always know your remotes in case batteries die – TV controls primary soundbar features but secondary remote tweaks equalizer profiles.

Adjust Audio Settings

Once everything is connected properly between your soundbar and television, fine tune the audio experience through the settings on each device.

Your soundbar remote will allow changes to various sound modes and equalization presets tailored for movies, music, sports, and more. 

Try different genres to determine what profile you prefer.

Also adjust speaker balancing if voices or instruments seem skewed too left or right. 

The volume of bass and treble frequencies is also commonly adjustable. 

If your soundbar has a separate subwoofer, turn its volume to balance against the main drivers.

Understand that poor audio source quality will impact performance. 

For example, streaming compressed content cannot match Blu-ray disc or lossless music quality.

However, your soundbar should project notably better sound than flatscreen TV speakers once you dial in preferences.

Maintaining latest firmware on both TV and soundbar ensures compatibility and any enhancements.

If solutions do not seem to be recognized or sync, reset devices and allow them to handshake again before tweaking settings further. 

Patience coupled with small incremental sound adjustments leads to major audio improvements from your soundbar.

Now that connectivity troubleshooting is complete between television and soundbar, audio quality optimization becomes possible through settings adjustments on both devices.

Cycle through various preset sound mode profiles on the bar remote such as Movie, Music, News, Sports to determine what emphasis suits your preferences best.

For example Movie or Surround prioritizes mid-range immersion while Music pumps bass and high treble notes.

Apply stereo balancing increments if dialogue or effects skew too left or dominate right stereo separation.

Mind your overall volume levels when discovering impactful equalization.

Audyssey, Direct and Pure modes lessen processing for source audio purity. 

Separate powered subwoofers grant independent bass control – avoid booming lows overwhelming smaller drivers and soundstage dynamics.

App or web interfaces allow more precise audio calibrations.

Maintaining latest firmware improves compatibility along HDMI, optical and analog signal paths between equipments.

If lacking latest software code, defaulting devices often resets communication. 

Whether fine tuning levels, toggling spatial effects or swapping personalized sound curves, your ears dictate best audio.

Start with a tuned center then build outward frequency coverage through the front main right, left and surrounding channels. 

The proper soundbar can tremendously amplify enjoyment of movies, streaming shows and music from the television.


Connecting a soundbar to your TV can elevate your home entertainment experience with clearer audio and deeper bass.

By taking the time to choose the right cables, enable device syncing, and customize sound settings, you’ll transform movie nights and hear music as intended.

Remember to confirm port compatibility, prioritize advanced connections like HDMI ARC, consolidate remote control, and tweak levels for optimized playback.

With high-quality soundbars more affordable than ever, better TV sound is within reach by following proper setup guidance.


Dominic is the chief editor of the Burton Acoustix blog which writes about acoustics and soundproofing to help readers with their queries and questions they might have with regard to improving any sound or noise issues that they faced in their life.