So you have a soundbar, but you want more sound in your room. You’re not trying to fork over for a proper surround sound system, but figure you can get away with a few speakers hooked up to the soundbar.
Adding surround speakers to a soundbar is typically not recommended, as it can compromise sound quality and involves complex setups. While technically possible with specific equipment like a compatible receiver and mixer, it’s generally better to use soundbars as standalone units for optimal audio.
This article will explain why using a soundbar with speakers might not be the best idea. For those who consider this setup, we also provide instructions for integrating a soundbar into a surround sound system, as well as a list of recommended soundbars you can use for this purpose.
- Audio Quality: Adding surround sound speakers to a soundbar usually degrades audio quality. This setup is complex and often incompatible with high-definition audio.
- Setup Steps: If you still want to add speakers, use a soundbar with the correct inputs, a 5.1 channel receiver with pre-outs, a mini stereo mixer, and compatible surround speakers. The process involves connecting these components carefully.
- Better Alternatives: Consider purchasing a full surround sound system or a soundbar with integrated wireless surround speakers for a more effective and hassle-free experience.
Why You Shouldn’t Add Surround Sound Speakers to a Soundbar
Besides possibly ruining your sound with mismatching speakers and being incredibly difficult to set up, using a soundbar and surround sound speakers simultaneously cannot be done using high-definition audio. Most soundbars are made to stand alone, and here is why.
Generally, hooking up a soundbar to surround sound speakers is a bad idea. It can ruin the sound, it’s a pain to set up, not as stable as a normal setup, and ultimately you won’t get true high-definition surround sound like you would with a true surround sound setup.
Based on your soundbar, you can fake either 4.1 or 5.1 sound, depending on whether you have a 2.1 or a 3.1 soundbar.
A soundbar has multiple speakers in one cabinet to deliver stereo and surround sound, often accompanied by a separate subwoofer. It is an excellent standalone unit, already providing simulated surround sound. (Source)
If you’re really itching to get true surround sound, better to ditch the soundbar for a surround sound system or for a soundbar that includes wireless speakers. Alternatively, take a look at our tips on how to make a soundbar sound better.
How Most Soundbars Work
If your soundbar doesn’t have specific instructions about hooking up surround sound speakers, you should never supplement your soundbar with external speakers as an “improvement” to your home theater surround sound system. To understand why, it’s important you know a little about how soundbars work.
Soundbars are designed to mimic surround sound using audio techniques, such as angling speakers to bounce sound off walls, creating the illusion of sound coming from the sides of the room instead of just the front.
Adding surround sound speakers to a soundbar can result in interference, as they amplify sound that’s already being amplified. This can cause uneven sound levels in different parts of the room, with some areas quieter and others louder.
Therefore, it’s advised to avoid this setup unless the soundbar comes with surround speakers or is designed for surround sound. Otherwise, you risk degrading your audio quality with incompatible equipment.
When Can You Add Surround Sound Speakers Directly to a Soundbar?
Still, some of you are stubborn and can’t be convinced that this is a bad idea. Just because you shouldn’t hook up surround sound speakers to a soundbar, doesn’t mean you can’t.
While it is possible in some cases, the issue with connecting surround sound speakers to most soundbars is that they typically lack a speaker output, as they are designed to be all-in-one units. Even if you could connect speakers, it would require an audio out on the soundbar. Plugging speakers into a soundbar’s audio input won’t work, as these inputs don’t output sound.
In general, manufacturers make it as difficult as possible to use external speakers with a soundbar because, as stated above, it’s a terrible idea. Even so, there are still roundabout solutions to using surround sound speakers with a soundbar.
How to Add Surround Sound Speakers to almost any Soundbar
Warnings aside, we’ll now go over the steps to connect surround sound speakers to almost any soundbar. Keep in mind, that you will need a pretty specific setup for this. Before taking the time to process the list of the things needed to have to add speakers to a soundbar, check out our video on this topic:
- Soundbar with an AUX, RCA, or Digital Optical input.
- A 5.1 channel audio/video receiver that has pre-outs for the front left, front right, and center channels.
- A mini stereo mixer with at least 3 inputs and a single output. The Rolls MX42 4-Channel Passive Mini Stereo Mixer (on Amazon) will work for this setup.
- Surround sound speakers that accept normal speaker cable inputs or a way to wirelessly connect them to the receiver.
1) Connect RCA Cables to the Pre-Outs on the Receiver
First, connect RCA cables to the pre-out connections for the front left, front right, and center channels.
You’ll definitely need a receiver with pre-outs. Pre-outs are outputs from the receiver that only outputs the audio signal for each channel. Pre-outs don’t include the power for each channel like normal speaker outputs. If you tried to connect a soundbar to normal speaker outputs, it would send power directly into the soundbar and damage the internal components.
2) Connect the Other Ends of the RCA Cables to A Mini Stereo Mixer
Connect the other ends of the RCA cables to a mini stereo mixer. The Rolls MX42 4-Channel Passive Mini Stereo Mixer (on Amazon) will work perfectly for this setup.
3) Connect the Output from the Mini Stereo Mixer to the Soundbar
You’ll need a soundbar with an RCA, AUX, or Digital Optical input.
- Soundbar with RCA Input: Connect another set of RCA cables to the output of the mini stereo mixer, then connect the other ends to the soundbar’s RCA input.
- Soundbar with AUX Input: If your soundbar only has an AUX input, simply buy an RCA to AUX cable, then connect the RCA ends to the mini stereo mixer and the AUX end to the soundbar.
- Soundbar with Digital Optical Input: If your soundbar doesn’t have an RCA or AUX input, but does have a digital optical input, then you’ll need an analog to digital optical converter (on Amazon). Connect a set of RCA cables to the mini stereo mixer’s RCA output, then the other ends into the analog to digital optical converter. Then connect a digital optical cable from the converter to the soundbar itself.
4) Connect Your Surround Speakers to the Receiver
Lastly, connect your surround speakers to your receiver using normal speaker wires. You can use as many surround speakers as your receiver allows you to. Using this method, you can make a 5.1, 7.1, 9.1, etc. sound system as long as your receiver will allow it. If you’d prefer to make the traditional speakers wireless, then check out our article on how to make regular speakers wireless.
Great Soundbars You Can Use To Add Speakers
Some soundbars are built to include additional surround sound speakers (and connectivity to things like Google Home Minis – our tutorial). However, you are limited to very specific additional speakers, there is usually only a single option available.
Sonos, Bose, and Nakamichi all make surround sound-ready soundbars. And note that we even have an article on connecting surround speakers to a Samsung soundbar, if you opt for this brand.
Below is a list of great soundbars that are capable of adding wireless or wired surround sound speakers.