Okay so for whatever reason you’ve decided that you don’t want to connect your soundbar to your TV using HDMI or optical cables. Or perhaps, you cannot use an HDMI or digital optical cable because of the equipment you own. You know the advantages of these kinds of connections–they deliver a surround sound experience and high definition audio–but you want or have to avoid them. Maybe you have an old TV. Maybe you just want to downgrade your sound experience. Suit yourself.
There are many ways to avoid using HDMI or optical connections. You can connect wirelessly with Bluetooth, or use a 3.5 mm AUX cable, RCA cables, or even an auxiliary device that converts coaxial cable to another kind of connection.
Sometimes it may take a little creativity, but there is almost always a way to connect your TV to your soundbar without HDMI or optical.
You likely have a good reason for ditching HDMI or optical connections. Or maybe you don’t. Whatever. In any case, here we will review the various ways you can connect your TV to your soundbar without HDMI or optical.
If you’re interested in learning everything about the different connection methods for soundbars, then checkout this video:
Ditch the Cables: Connecting Wirelessly
The best alternative to HDMI or optical is a wireless connection like Bluetooth or WiFi. These will preserve the surround sound, high definition experience you can expect from HDMI or optical. This solution may even be preferable since it avoids the mess of wires that collect dust behind your TV console.
There are a number of TV and soundbar configurations that impact exactly how connecting happens. Some TV’s are built with Bluetooth and/or WiFi capability. Others will require adapters. We’ve already gone through the technical details here: (how to connect your soundbar wirelessly). Just follow the instructions for your TV and soundbar, and you’re good to go.
Going Mini: Aux Cables
Maybe you don’t have a TV with wireless capability. Some TV’s come with a 3.5 mm output jack. This is the same kind of connection that is used in headphones. Simply plug one end into the TV and the other into the soundbar.
If your soundbar doesn’t have a 3.5 mm input, you can get an AUX to RCA cable (on Amazon). These cables are usually pretty inexpensive and simply split the stereo signal between two RCA cables.
The drawback to this method is that you will only get left and right sound. Thus, if you have a 3.0 soundbar or higher the audio may not sound exactly as it’s intended.
Older TV’s: RCA Cables
Most TV’s that have either 3.5 mm or wireless capability have HDMI or optical ports. However, older TV’s will only have RCA and coaxial inputs. In the case of RCA cables, soundbars can usually handle a two-channel RCA configuration.
Make sure, however, that the RCA ports on your TV are output ports and not input ports. If you only have input ports, you may need to split the signal before it gets to the TV. One way of doing this is to connect the yellow video cable into the TV and the white and red audio cables into the soundbar.
Unlike modern TV’s that are meant to be the central connecting hub between the input to the TV and the output to speakers, older TV’s were designed to be receivers only. Adding speakers often meant getting another piece of equipment to split the signal before it reached the TV.
Just like with 3.5 mm cables, RCA cables largely only have left and right outputs. Thus you’ll need to get creative with the center channel of a 3.0 or 3.1 soundbar.
In some instances, there will be a 5 channel RCA output in which case you should hook up the front left and right and center jacks to your soundbar. Unfortunately, while soundbars are so good that there’s no point in having your TV’s default speakers enabled (as we explained in our guide), most soundbars that are three speaker channels or higher only connect with HDMI, optical, and wireless.
You can often get around this problem with an adapter that converts RCA to HDMI, but you won’t be getting a true high definition signal since the signal is ultimately designed for standard definition RCA and not HDMI.
Even Older TV’s: What to Do with Coaxial Cables
Older TV’s may not even have RCA connections. This is because older TV’s were meant to play cable TV, and that’s it. Back then, you had to get an auxiliary piece of equipment that went between your cable service and your TV.
The connection on these TV’s is known as a coaxial connection. The jack looks like a raised cylinder with a hole in it, and the cable plug looks like a nut with a piece of wire sticking out the middle.
Using such a connection will require a piece of equipment such as a VCR or a DVD player to split the signal. A VCR is an outdated piece of equipment used to play videotapes. A DVD player is a slightly less outdated piece of equipment that is meant to play video discs.
To connect with a coaxial cable, plug the coaxial cable into the VCR or DVD player’s output and the TV’s input. Then, connect the audio output (usually RCA jacks) to the soundbar. The VCR or DVD player will likely have coaxial and RCA inputs. With this configuration, you will need to use the VCR or DVD player’s remote to switch between input sources rather than the remote for the TV. Here, the TV acts more like a computer monitor than like a modern television.
You could also accomplish this with a series of splitters and adapters but this will likely be more of a headache setting it up than it’s worth. For instance, if you’re going from HDMI to coaxial, you can get an HDMI splitter (on Amazon), feed one end into the HDMI-to-coaxial converter to send a coaxial signal to your TV and the other directly into your soundbar. Many converters require an external power source, however, creating a bigger mess of cables and taking up plugs on your power strip.
No matter what your configuration, you can always find some way to connect your TV to your soundbar. With a little creativity, you can get that sweet simulated surround sound from your soundbar with any TV.