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Can You Add Surround Sound Speakers to a Soundbar?

Speaker surrounding room

Soundbars are good on their own, but what if you want to connect a few more speakers to achieve surround sound? It’s not as simple as it looks, and if you’re not careful, you may actually end up with bad sound.

Here, we answer the question, “Can you use a soundbar and surround sound together?”

Can You Use A Soundbar and Surround Sound Speakers Together?

Why Surround Sound Speakers Can’t Be Added to Just Any Soundbar?

Some soundbars, like the Bose Solo 5, are made to stand alone. You can’t connect any additional speakers to some models like this, so that’s something to consider when buying a soundbar. 

Then, there are also surround sound-ready soundbars that are made to be added to – like some Sonos and Nakamichi models. And even then, you have limited options with the speakers you’re adding. You may even have to buy specific units that are exclusive to the brand. 

With all the factors you should look into, you can’t just add surround sound speakers to any soundbar model. If you want to push this idea, we’ll get to the steps later.

How Common Soundbars Work

Most soundbars are meant to be independent. Depending on the model, they’re already equipped with the build and technology that’s needed to simulate surround sound even without physical speakers around the room. 

Some drivers inside the soundbar itself may be angled to face the left and right directions, bouncing off the sound to the walls before it enters your ears. So even if the soundbar is in front of you, this trick gives the impression that the sound is coming from the sides. 

Subwoofer with wood design

With that in mind, adding surround sound speakers can mess up this system. The speakers will amplify sound that’s already amplified by the soundbar. There’s a high chance that interference will happen, causing some areas in the room to be louder while others are quieter.

As such, we don’t recommend going for this setup unless your soundbar already comes with surround speakers. Whether your soundbar is a standalone unit or an entire home theater system, it will work as it’s supposed to. Fiddling with it can cause undesirable effects. 

Can You Directly Add Surround Sound Speakers to a Soundbar?

Technically, you can. But that doesn’t mean you should. Despite that, we know that some of you may want to push through with adding surround sound speakers even if there’s a chance you’re doing more harm than good.

Directly adding surround sound speakers can be tricky, particularly because most soundbars don’t have a speaker out. Again, the reason behind that is because they’re meant to be independent systems already. he solution?

Speaker and Apple screen in a rustic room

The way you can get around this is if your soundbar has an audio out, and not all soundbars come with this feature as well. Remember not to plug speakers to the audio in channels because no sound would come out.

If your soundbar has an external subwoofer out, that won’t work well either because only the bass frequencies will be relayed. 

With all these technical difficulties present, it’s easy to see that manufacturers don’t want you to use additional surround sound speakers – again because it’s a bad idea. If you’re still adamant in going down this line, what’s the solution?

Steps in Adding Surround Sound Speakers to Most Soundbars

You will need a few things for adding surround sound speakers. The setup will be a bit specific, so patience is required as well.

Here’s what you need:

  • Soundbar with any of these connections: RCA, AUX, or digital optical input
  • RCA cables
  • Surround sound speakers with speaker cable inputs
  • 5.1 channel receiver with pre-outs for center, front left, and front right channels
  • Mini stereo mixer with an output and at least 3 inputs

Once you have everything on the list, here’s what you need to do:

1.Connect the RCA cables to the pre-out connections on the receiver. Don’t connect your soundbar to the normal speaker outputs because this sends power directly to the soundbar, damaging the internal components.

2. Connect the opposite ends of the RCA cables to the stereo mixer. 

3. From the mini stereo mixer, connect the output to the soundbar. The way you do this will depend on the soundbar you have.

Speakers in a row

If your soundbar has an RCA input, you need to connect one end of another RCA cable to the mini stereo mixer output, then link the other end to the RCA input of the soundbar.

If your soundbar has an AUX input, use an RCA to AUX cable. Connect the AUX end to the soundbar and the RCA ends to the stereo mixer.

For soundbars with a digital optical input, you need to have an analog to digital optical converter. Just connect RCA cables to the RCA output of the mini stereo mixer, connecting the other ends to the converter. Lastly, connect your digital optical cable from the converter to the soundbar.

4. Finally, use normal speaker wires to connect the surround sound speakers to the receiver.

Reasons Why You Should Avoid Adding Surround Sound Speakers to a Soundbar

There are a good number of reasons why adding surround sound speakers to a soundbar is a bad idea. 

The first and most obvious reason is that there’s a high chance you’ll mess up the sound. We’ve already mentioned that soundbars are meant to stand alone unless they come with speakers already. If you decide to add your own, the sound quality might turn worse. 

While you can fake 5.1 surround sound [1] by adding speakers, the results won’t be true high-definition surround sound. If you really want to achieve this, we recommend getting a soundbar system that’s made with true surround sound technology.

And as you can see with the steps provided, the entire process of adding speakers is tedious and difficult. You’d need a lot of additional paraphernalia too, which in turn clutters your setup with wires and converters.

If you really want the easy way to get surround sound, buy a soundbar that already has a subwoofer and rear speakers. You’ll get the package in one and you don’t have to sacrifice the sound quality. 

TV with netflix screen in a room

FAQ

Can you use a soundbar with other speakers?

Yes, you can use a soundbar with other speakers but the process can be tricky. It varies depending on the model of the soundbar, the connectors, and the external speakers. 

Can I hook up a soundbar to my surround sound?

Yes, you can hook up a soundbar to your surround sound by connecting the receiver to the soundbar. Use a digital optical cable, connecting one end to the receiver and the other end to the soundbar’s optical port. 

Can a sound bar replace surround sound?

No, a sound bar can’t replace surround sound. While soundbars do simulate surround sound, the audio quality is still different from systems that have a dedicated subwoofer and two rear speakers.

Can I add wired speakers to my soundbar?

Yes, you can add wired speakers to your soundbar. However, it’s going to be difficult because soundbars are made to stand alone. They’re not manufactured with speaker outs so you have to use a receiver, a stereo mixer, and RCA cables to add wired speakers.

Focal Speaker large

Conclusion

To answer the question, “Can you use a soundbar and surround sound together?” – yes, technically you can. However, we don’t recommend doing it because it’s difficult to set up, and adding speakers to a soundbar can mess up the audio quality.  

Want to introduce a new soundbar to your home or need to replace your old, outdated one? Peruse our list for the best soundbar recommendations!

Willie Greer

Willie Greer is the founder of The Product Analyst. A cinephile, he has made it a personal quest to achieve the awesomest home theater possible. He now shares what he has learned through the years on the site, and has enlisted the help of tech-savvy colleagues in providing more insight about today’s most sought-after gadgets.
Willie Greer

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