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How to Connect a Soundbar to a Projector

In How-to-Guides, Projector, Soundbar by Jonah MatthesLeave a Comment

If you have a soundbar and a projector, you may be wondering if you can connect them together. And even if you can, there’s another discussion to be had around whether or not you should.

Connecting a soundbar to a projector is usually possible, as long as your devices have compatible ports. However, some limitations to this option can result in getting lower-quality sound than a traditional surround system.

Ensuring the best sound experience is usually a simple matter of consulting your device manuals. Most can be found online, but this guide can help you know what to look for.

Options for Connecting a Soundbar to a Projector

In general, projectors are not intended to be a central hub for your devices. Many projectors have options for sound output, but often they don’t support the more advanced digital sound formats or analog sound beyond stereo. Sometimes, however, it’s your only option.

Your projector may support any of the following formats to transmit audio to a soundbar:

  • HDMI or HDMI ARC
  • Analog Connections like RCA and Auxiliary
  • Digital Optical or SPDIF
  • Wireless (Bluetooth and WiFi)

Connecting your projector to your soundbar is usually as simple as connecting with the correct cable. If you’re connecting with a cable, always be sure both devices are off when you make the connections.

Connecting via HDMI

What Is HDMI CEC

HDMI is the best option when it comes to connecting audiovisual devices. As far as digital sound, HDMI will give you the widest range of options. In addition to supporting surround sound, HDMI cables are also capable of transmitting advanced digital formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X when using the right connections and source.

Connecting HDMI with the Projector as the Source

Many projectors are now capable of downloading and using apps such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc. Since most projectors either don’t have a speaker or not a very good one, a soundbar is a streamlined audio option. Soundbars are compact and usually lightweight.

Hooking up a soundbar with a projector as a source is as simple as plugging in an HDMI cable into the HDMI port on the project. Your projector may or may not have an HDMI ARC or eARC (our guide) port to allow improved audio quality, but, unfortunately, HDMI ARC ports are rare with projectors. Here’s how you should hook them up:

  1. With the devices off, connect your HDMI cable into the HDMI/HDMI ARC port on your projector.
  2. Plug the other end of the HDMI cable to the HDMI/HDMI ARC port on your soundbar.
  3. Turn both devices on.
  4. Ensure both devices are set to the HDMI channels that you connected to.

A lot of projectors don’t have an HDMI ARC port, in which case this approach will work, but maybe without some of the high-quality audio streams like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. That said, there are some great options like the LG HF65LA Ultra Short Throw LED Projector (on Amazon) and the XGIMI MOGO Pro (also on Amazon) do have ARC ports.

If you’re using streaming service, the Dolby Atmos should be fed across an ARC or eARC connection just fine. If you’re using a source like a Blu-ray player, the HDMI connection (even ARC) will be stripped down to a simple 5.1 channel sound. And if you’re just using a “normal” HDMI connection, you’ll still get that 5.1 channel sound.

Connecting HDMI with an Auxiliary Source

If you are using an external source for your media, such as a laptop, DVD player, or TV box, things may get a little more complicated. Ultimately, your setup will be determined by the equipment you have.

This will require your soundbar to have an HDMI out and an audiovisual input channel that matches an output channel on your auxiliary source. For this setup, do the following:

  1. With all devices off, connect an input channel on your soundbar to a matching output channel on your external device with a compatible cable.
  2. Connect the HDMI out on your soundbar to the HDMI input on your projector with an HDMI cable.
  3. Turn on all of your devices, and turn the source of your soundbar to correspond to the one your external device is connected to.
  4. Turn the source of the projector to the HDMI channel the soundbar is plugged in to.

Although these general instructions are usually sufficient, consult your manual if you aren’t able to get sound on your soundbar or video on your projector.

Using CEC

If you’ve connected all of your devices with HDMI ARC or eARC, you can use Consumer Electronic Control or CEC (our guide). This feature allows your HDMI-connected devices to not only send media between themselves but also finder control fo audio levels and quality.

This feature also allows you to use one of your devices’ remote controls for all of your devices. It also allows you to have a master volume control, rather than having to calibrate the volume between your devices.

If your devices have HDMI ARC or eARC, it will usually be indicated on the label of your HDMI port. Setting up your devices is usually as simple as navigating the system or audio controls of your devices to find HDMI ARC and CEC. If your devices support HDMI eARC, the features may be enabled automatically

Connecting via Analog Connections

RCA cable

Dealing with analog connections will involve more cables, but in some ways it can be more intuitive than digital connections. This is because each cable connects a specific component. There are individual cables for each of the audio channels as well as a separate one for video.

One distinct advantage of analog over digital is that you don’t have to worry about compatibility issues. As long as the ports are compatible, the devices will be compatible. There are two common types of analog connections: RCA and Aux.

Unlike digital connections, a live analog port will push out and broadcast sound signals whether the devices are connected or not. Because of this, connecting your devices while they are on can result in damage to your speakers. Thus, it is especially important when making analog connections to have the devices off.

Connecting with RCA

For RCA connections, the process for connecting a projector to a soundbar involves numerous cables. Although this can seem intimidating, it’s as simple as ensuring you use cables to connect RCA ports of the same color.

There are sound arrangements you may be able to get with an RCA connection. The simplest, 2.x sound, will require you to connect the red and white ports together, giving you a left and right channel. For 3.x sound, connect the green ports to add the center channel.

Some soundbars emulate 5.x surround sound by directing the surround channels to bounce off the walls in your room. To make this connection, you will need to connect the left and right surround channels, which are usually blue and grey.

If your soundbar has a subwoofer, it may have a subwoofer input which is usually purple. Often, if there is nothing plugged into the subwoofer channel, the soundbar will separate out the bass from the other channels to be amplified by the sub.

Connecting with Aux

Auxiliary jacks, also known as mini-jacks, 3.5mm jacks, or ⅛ inch jacks, are an analog connection that allows 2.x sound. Generally speaking, this should be your last option when it comes to connecting to a soundbar.

With the appropriate cable, connect to the aux output on your projector and the aux input on your soundbar. You may have to configure your audio settings, but otherwise, it’s really that simple.

Connecting via Digital Optical

Digital Optical Connector

Digital optical is an audiovisual format that was a much more popular digital option before the wide-scale adoption of HDMI. It is unlikely you will find a projector that supports digital optical, particularly a new one. Some portable models still have compatibility though.

To set up a digital optical connection:

  1. With the devices turned off, connect one end of the digital optical cable to the soundbar.
  2. Plug the other end of the cable to your projector.
  3. Turn the devices on, and switch the projector to the digital optical channel.

If you are connecting to an auxiliary device, as with an HDMI connection, your best option is usually having the soundbar in the middle. In this case, the soundbar would need a digital optical out and the projector needs a digital optical in.

Connecting via Bluetooth

Unlike wired connections, wireless connections require that your devices are on in order to set them up. Rather than setting your devices to a particular source or output channel, your devices need to pair.

There are two kinds of wireless connections: Bluetooth and WiFi. As long as both of your devices are enabled for either WiFi or Bluetooth, you can connect wirelessly.

  1. With both devices on, set your soundbar to pair with Bluetooth according to the instruction manual.
  2. In your projector’s device settings, find the option to connect with Bluetooth.
  3. Find your soundbar from the list of devices that are displayed.
  4. Select your soundbar, and wait for it to pair.

Usually, the soundbar will make a chime or otherwise indicate that the device is paired before broadcasting audio.

Should You Connect Your Soundbar to Your Projector?

One of the advantages of connecting a soundbar to a projector is that it can be a very portable audiovisual option for a quick and dirty home theater situation. There are, however, a number of drawbacks.

Most soundbars and projectors are not designed to be all-in-one devices. Many have the ability to serve that function, but may result in compromising on advanced audio and video features. Hooking up all your devices to a decent A/V receiver can ensure that your devices can reach their full potential.

But! If you just need to get up and running now, without purchasing any more advanced hardware, these are all great options to get the sound out of your projector and into your soundbar.

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