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How to Hook Up A Soundbar to a TV
With & Without HDMI or Optical Cable

The best soundbar for a TV should be a breeze to set up. However, with all the ports and multiple connections, it can still be confusing. We’ve put this guide together to make soundbar connection easy and simple, so you can go straight to using the unit itself.

What is the Best Way to Connect a Soundbar to TV?

The best way to connect a soundbar to your TV is through the HDMI input [1]

Not only can it process Dolby Digital technology for clear sound, but it’s also the one that comes with the cheapest cables, and it’s very easy to use. So if you’re after the clearest audio you can get, HDMI is the way to go.

Plus, if you’re streaming content that uses Dolby Digital, Dolby Atmos, or DTS:X, you may need to use an HDMI connection to fully decode the sound provided by these technologies. That’s because other input connections like digital or analog won’t be able to deliver the crystal clear sound that HDMI ARC can. 

In all the tests we’ve done with multiple soundbars, HDMI and optical digital input connections are the best ways to connect any soundbar to a TV. 

HDMI cable

How to Connect a Soundbar to TV with HDMI ARC

Connecting your soundbar to your TV with the right audio cable is crucial for the two to work seamlessly together. If the soundbar has an HDMI ARC (audio return channel) capability, you should go for that compared to other connectivity options. The HW-J450 from Samsung is an example of a soundbar with this capability.

You will find the HDMI ARC port at the back of your soundbar. It will be labeled on most soundbars, so you won’t have a hard time figuring out which one it is. 

Assuming that the HDMI cable came in the box with your purchase, you can easily connect the soundbar to your TV via the HDMI port – but more on this later. If you don’t have the HDMI audio return channel cable, you may need to purchase your own.

Then again, this particular cable is among the cheapest in the market so it won’t set you back too much. Once you plug it in, you need to make sure it’s a tight fit so no technical issues would arise.

Then, you need to take the other end of the cable and connect it to your device (your TV). The HDMI port on the back of your soundbar is called the “in port” and the one located on the back of your TV is the “out port”. 

Turn on your TV and your soundbar. If you have a remote, you need to press the source button then select D.IN. This ensures that the connection was successful. 

How to Connect a Soundbar to a TV without HDMI Arc (4 Alternative Connection Options)

Optical Cable

Similar to connecting the HDMI cable, the digital optical cable should also come in the box. Most excellent soundbar devices should have it already so it’s not likely that you’ll have to purchase one yourself.

Find the labeled plug accordingly on the back of your TV and plug one end of the cable in the digital audio “out”. 

The next step is to take the other end of the digital optical cable and plug it into your soundbar’s digital audio “in”.  Make sure you push the optical cable all the way in on both ends so the audio won’t suffer any loss of quality. After you have double-checked the cable connection, it’s time to switch on both devices.

Once your soundbar and TV are on, select the source button on the remote or the side of the soundbar and then press D.IN. This should successfully connect your soundbar to your TV via optical digital audio.

Overall, this is a good way to connect any external device to your TV, not just your soundbar.

hand pointing remote at TV

Bluetooth

If cables are too messy for you, you can actually go wireless with Bluetooth. It’s an easy connection method without unsightly cables that clutter your interior setup.

One of the best things about Bluetooth connection is it won’t require you to search on your hands and knees for the correct input. That’s one of the frustrating parts of any wired setup, especially if your TV stand is closer to the floor. Plus, you won’t need to double-check if you have wires included in the box because Bluetooth is actually built right into your device.

Before you try to hook up your device to your TV, you need to make it “discoverable”. This means that when you search for your device with other Bluetooth-enabled devices, you can find it.

Once that’s done, you can then search for the device name on your TV. You may not know the label (or the name of your device) outright, but most of the time it follows the model number or brand name. 

After you have “discovered” your unit, you can then join the two devices together. This is usually done on the audio source device. Just select your device name and wait for audio pairing. 

Auxiliary Cable

Compared to previous connectivity options, the auxiliary cable is a more conventional way to connect devices. It’s what people typically used back when wireless streaming wasn’t available. 

However, the one difference is that the auxiliary cable uses analog connection rather than digital, and connecting your soundbar to your TV using a analog won’t produce sound quite as good.

But if this is your preferred method, simply connect the cable to the “in” and “out” ports on your soundbar and TV. Make sure you wriggle the cables a little bit to make sure everything fits tightly. To sync the TV to the soundbar, you need to change the mode settings.

Grab your remote control and select “source”, and this time select the AUX mode. After a connection is established, you can then enjoy significantly enhanced audio compared to what your TV speakers provide.

If your soundbar doesn’t happen to have a remote, it should be able to pair with a universal remote, have a compatible app, or a control panel on the side. You can then select the AUX mode from there. 

man facing flat screen TV

3.5mm Line Out or RCA (Red and White Cable)

Often known as the red and white cable, the RCA or 3.5 mm cable is an old-school option that we may have seen before digital connection or wireless streaming. They’re the the red, white, and black colored connectors used back then.

To connect your TV to the soundbar using this option, first make sure that both devices are turned off. Then, check the audio ports both on the back of your soundbar and back of your TV. Once you found it, just insert the corresponding color cables to the out ports.

Again, to avoid any lag time or audio interference, check to see if you have pushed all the plugs all the way in. You can then turn on both devices and enjoy the sound streaming from your soundbar without having to adjust the settings.

Since they are analog cables, you can expect the sound quality to be lesser in quality compared to digital connections.

FAQS

Is it better to connect soundbars with HDMI or Optical cable?

It’s better to connect your soundbar with an HDMI cable because it provides better quality sound. While HDMI and optical connections both pass digital audio from one device to the other, HDMI is capable of handling higher-resolution audio.

Can You Connect Soundbars to a TV wirelessly?

You can connect soundbars to a TV wirelessly via Bluetooth. Most soundbars offer Bluetooth as a basic feature and there are even some that allow Wi-Fi connection. Either way, both wireless options can save you the trouble of cluttering up your entertainment system.

How do you connect soundbars to a TV without a port?

You can connect your soundbar to a TV wirelessly through options like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Many people prefer these connections because there’s no hassle of finding and plugging in cables.

home soundbar with Samsung logo

Do I connect the soundbar to the TV or cable box?

You should connect the soundbar to the TV. However, the soundbar can be connected to a cable box or other device that produces audio as well. However, it works best with the TV to minimize lag time.

Can you use any soundbar on any TV?

You can use any soundbar on any TV in general. However, to guarantee that two devices will work well together, you need to be sure they have compatible connections.

Our experts also agree that certain brands create soundbars that work best with their own TVs. For instance, here’s the list of soundbars that are best for Samsung TVs.

How do I sync my soundbar with my TV?

You can sync your soundbar to your TV by pressing the audio sync button on the remote. If your remote doesn’t have the audio sync button, you can access audio syncing through the remote by pressing sound control. Then, you simply adjust the audio with the left and right buttons.

Conclusion

It’s easy to find out how to hook up a soundbar to a TV if you have a guide like this one. 

But while a soundbar device comes with many connections,  HDMI is still the best option if you want high-quality sound. However, if that isn’t possible with the model you bought, there are other great choices and even wireless options to choose from.

Overall, whichever way you choose to connect your soundbar to your TV, it will still be a great upgrade from your usual TV sound.

Need help with sound delays instead? Here is how you fix a soundbar delay.

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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