Getting a soundbar is one of the most effective ways to improve the sound of your home entertainment system and speakers. If your TV’s sound reproduction is less than stellar or you simply want to increase the excitement level of your gaming, movie viewing, or music listening, upgrading your system with the best soundbar you can get is a no-brainer. This article will help guide you through some options when setting up your soundbar.
Here are some of the most important things you need to know about soundbar installation and setup.
How to Connect a Soundbar to a TV
When connecting a soundbar to a TV, you will have to consider two factors:
- Cable connections
Where to Mount the Soundbar
You can install your soundbar just below your TV if you have your TV on a stand, a table, or a shelf. This works well in most cases since the sound will come from the area of the room you are facing.
If you opt to install your soundbar below your TV, make sure that it doesn’t obstruct your view of the screen. You can avoid this by measuring the height of the soundbar against the space between the TV’s bottom edge and the supporting surface.
If you place your soundbar on a shelf, position it as close to the front as possible. This will make sure the sound comes out of the soundbar unobstructed.
Be aware some soundbars may not work well in cabinet shelves. In particular, soundbars that have Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, or DTS Virtual:X capabilities are not suitable for cabinet placement. These soundbars are best installed in a spot where they can project sound upward for optimal surround sound distribution.
Also, many soundbars are designed for wall mounting. These designs allow for placement under or above a TV mounted on a wall. However, it is usually best to mount the soundbar under the TV to ensure optimum sound from most viewing positions and provides an easy way to hide the power and other cords.
Most soundbars have templates that help make it easy for you to find the ideal spot for placement. These templates show you the appropriate screw points for the wall mounts that come with the soundbar.
If your soundbar does not have wall mounting hardware included, check the installation instructions to find out what you need to mount it to your wall. In some cases, the necessary hardware may be available as aftermarket options.
After you have placed or mounted your soundbar, you can connect it to additional speakers and the other components of your home entertainment system. If you are mounting the soundbar to a wall, it helps to set up the connections properly before finalizing the wall installation.
Most soundbars will have the following connections:
- Digital Optical
- Digital Coaxial
- Analog Stereo
The digital optical connection routes audio digitally between the TV and the soundbar. If your TV does not have a digital optical connection, you may use the analog stereo connection instead, provided your soundbar supports it. If your TV has both types of connections, you can select the type you prefer.
You can connect the digital coaxial connections for DVD or Blu-ray players or any other device that has the appropriate connectors. Most devices do not have digital coaxial connectors and use digital optical or analog connectors to route audio. Mobile devices most commonly use Bluetooth.
Some soundbars may additionally have a 3.5 mm (⅛-inch) mini-jack stereo input. These options make it easy to connect your soundbar to play music or other audio from mobile phones, tablets, laptops, or another device.
Why does my Soundbar have HDMI Out?
The most basic soundbars have only a few connections, the most common of which are analog stereo, digital optical, and digital coaxial. However, higher-end soundbars may have HDMI connections as well.
HDMI connections allow you to connect DVD and Blu-ray players and HD-cable and satellite boxes to your TV via the soundbar. These connections essentially pass video signals through without added processing. On the other hand, audio signals are typically extracted and decoded by the soundbar.
One of the advantages of having an HDMI connection in your soundbar is that it reduces the number of cables needed to connect your various devices. With an HDMI connection, you won’t need a video cable for your TV or audio cables from your media players.
Some soundbars even have HDMI-ARC outputs. “ARC” in this case stands for “audio return channel”. These connections let you send sound from the TV to the soundbar using one cable that transmits video from the TV. This particular feature eliminates the need to connect a dedicated audio cable between the TV and the soundbar.
In soundbars with this feature, it may be necessary to set up the connection from the HDMI setup menu of the TV. The process for activating this feature varies between different TV and soundbar models, so check your user guide beforehand.
Connect a Subwoofer to Your Soundbar
Adding a subwoofer to your system will increase the power of your music especially. Your soundbar may have a subwoofer output as well, which will let you extend the bass reproduction of your system. The resulting low frequencies often help bring an extra dimension of excitement to gaming, movie viewing, and music listening.
You will have to find a place in your room for your subwoofer. Ideally, you will want to choose a spot that is as close to a power outlet as possible. You will also want to position your subwoofer for optimum sound quality.
your subwoofer and make the proper connections, check to see that it is balanced with the sound coming from your soundbar. You will want to make the extended bass audible but not overwhelming.
After you set upIf you can barely hear a difference in the bass response with the subwoofer turned on, the volume is probably too low. If the bass makes you feel uncomfortable or overwhelms the audio from the soundbar, you should probably turn it down.
Once you have dialed in the optimal balance between the soundbar and the subwoofer, the soundbar’s master volume control will allow you to adjust the overall volume levels as needed. This ensures that you maintain the proper balance between the two, even when you raise or lower the volume.
Are Soundbars Easy to Install?
Most soundbars are fairly easy to set up and install. In most cases, all you need to do is connect a pair of cables from the TV or media player to the appropriate input connectors on the soundbar.
The process becomes slightly more complicated with each device you want to connect to your soundbar. But if you have some experience setting up a home entertainment system, installing a soundbar shouldn’t be too difficult. If necessary, it might help to read through the user guide that comes with most soundbars or browse through online guides that explain the process. The guide typically provides the pairing code for your mobile device to connect.
Connect with HDMI or Optical?
Some soundbars give you the option to connect your TV or AV system via HDMI or optical connectors. Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages. The choice often depends on the other components you connect to your system.
In many ways, HDMI and optical cables are similar to each other. They both pass digital audio between devices that support the relevant protocol. In fact, there is practically no difference between the sound quality when you pass multi-channel audio such as Dolby Digital from one device to another.
HDMI cables do pass higher resolution sound data than optical cables. Between the two, only HDMI supports formats such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio, both of which are used in Blu-ray media. Optical cables do not support these high-resolution sound formats.
HDMI also supports video signals, making them a more versatile option than optical cables. If you want a solution that supports both high-resolution audio and video, and you want to minimize cable usage, HDMI is the better option.
Of course, not all devices have HDMI and older or cheaper receivers may not have HDMI connectivity.
You may also have your set up working just the way you want and are hesitant to move things around just to send audio to your new soundbar. In such scenarios, using optical cables might be preferable.
The good news is that optical cables will provide the same high-quality sound that you get with HDMI cables. They are also useful for sending surround sound from mobile devices directly to the soundbar, thus bypassing TVs that do not send surround sound signals via optical connections.
Here are a few more differences between HDMI and optical cables:
HDMI cables are typically made of copper, which is a relatively inexpensive material. Unfortunately, this makes HDMI cables more prone to interference than optical cables.
Optical cables, on the other hand, are typically assembled from fiber optics, which are bundles of minute strands of glass. These strands transmit data in the form of light signals instead of electricity. Although more expensive than copper, fiber optic strands are more resistant to interference. They also have dark sheaths that help prevent light from entering the cable and interfering with the signal.
Length is frequently a concern when choosing cables. There is generally a greater degree of signal loss with longer cables, which results in reduced quality. Whether you opt for HDMI or optical, it is always best to choose the shortest length of cable when possible.
That being said, optical cables are less prone to signal loss than HDMI cables. Although most experts recommend keeping optical cables shorter than 10 meters will help. Though it may be possible to run 30-meter lengths without any issues.
There are no such restrictions with HDMI cables. However, it is always best to keep HDMI cable runs at five meters or shorter for optimum quality. If you could choose between HDMI and optical and you have to set up long runs, optical cables would be best.
The shortest length is always the biggest help.
Optical cables can transfer surround sound over 5.1 channels. HDMI, on the other hand, supports the following formats:
- Dolby Digital Plus
- DTS HD
Almost all TV programs currently broadcasted feature surround sound. But Blu-ray media supports an even more enhanced sound. If you watch a lot of Blu-ray content, it would be best to go with HDMI cables.
HDMI cables support audio as well as video, which eliminates the need for dedicated cables. With optical cables, you will need a second set of cables for video. Taken together, the cost of these cables will be more than one HDMI cable.
For most home entertainment systems, HDMI is the better option. They are simpler to set up and are cheaper as well. However, if your AV equipment doesn’t have HDMI capability, you won’t be able to enjoy the high-resolution sound provided by Blu-ray.
Can I Connect my Soundbar to Multiple Devices?
Most soundbars have only a few connectors available for connecting audio and video playback devices. Many have only a single set of input connectors. But what if you want to use your soundbar for all your entertainment devices?
In most cases, you could make your TV an ad-hoc switcher. This will help you to use your soundbar for many more devices than it would typically be capable of supporting.
With most TVs, it is possible to have the audio from your DVD player, Blu-ray player, gaming console, and streaming music device all coming from your soundbar. As a bonus, using your TV makes it easier to select the device playing through your soundbar.
Here’s how to use your TV as an audio switcher:
- Connect your entertainment device to your TV. Most modern devices will use HDMI connections. For devices that don’t have HDMI, simply use the analog input connections of your TV.
- Connect the soundbar to your TV. Follow the instructions for connecting your soundbar to your TV earlier in this article. In most cases, you will want to connect both via the digital output connections. If you wish, you could use the analog audio connections instead.
- Disable the internal speakers of your TV. You will probably want to disable the onboard speakers of your TV. You can do this from the audio settings section in your TV’s setup menu. Set your TV’s audio to “external speakers”. This effectively disables the onboard speakers and routes the audio to the soundbar.
- Choose the device you want to route through the soundbar. You can select any of the devices you have plugged into your TV via the remote control or on-screen display. The beauty of this system is that you can quickly switch between devices without having to pull cables or crawl behind your TV.
Thankfully most new soundbars also come equipped with Bluetooth which is handy when connecting a mobile device.