TV speakers tend to be subpar. Even at full volume, your TV speakers likely leave a lot to be desired. Whispered dialogue remains hard to hear followed by loud explosions that vibrate and sound muddy. Today’s soundbars are much improved. As a centralized speaker unit, the soundbar is often the first piece of equipment installed in a home theater. Some owners may even stop there, satisfied with the audio provided through the soundbar itself. If you are new to the home theater world, you may believe that you should run both the TV speakers and soundbar at the same time. This is a novice mistake!
So can you use a soundbar while simultaneously using your TV speakers? Some TVs do allow you to use both the built-in speakers and a soundbar at the same time. However, if you want quality sound, you should only use the soundbar and disable the TV's built-in speakers.
Using both your TV speakers and your soundbar at once does nothing to improve your listening experience. While it certainly will not damage the TV or soundbar, it dilutes your sound and can detract from your experience instead of enhancing it.
You invested in your soundbar for a reason. For most, that reason is that your TV speakers leave a lot to be desired. After all, as TVs have become sleeker, the speakers built into them have become even worse. Limited space within the TV not only impacts the area available for speakers but also space to properly reverberate and cool.
To some, it may sound like a great idea to run both your TV speakers and soundbar at the same time. After all, the more speakers, the better the sound, right? Wrong. Below, I list the top three reasons why this idea in inaccurate and why you should not use your soundbar while also using TV speakers.
Soundbars are designed to replace your TV speakers; they are not meant to work in parallel with your television’s built-in speakers. The primary reason for this is the echo.
When you run both your TV speakers and your soundbar at the same time, the same audio signal is relayed to both. This means both attempt to produce the same sounds. Because the audio profiles of both are very different, however, the actual sounds that come from each will also be different, often creating what sounds like an echo.
After all, the soundbar offers greatly improved sound quality when compared to even the most expensive TVs available today. So if you have noticed a muddy sound when your TV speakers hit low tones, this same sound will be produced while your soundbar provides a cleaner, deeper bass.
Overall, your listening experience will suffer should you play audio through both your TV speakers and your soundbar at the same time.
Your TV speakers are cheap, built-in models that often do not support the nuances and fluctuations of even every day television shows. TV speakers typically face in one direction based on the make and model.
Your soundbar, however, is built to handle all of those fluctuations. Many models also help to relay sound the way it should be through multiple, directionally placed speakers within the soundbar itself.
The Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4Ch soundbar (our review), for example, includes four 2.5-inch full-range speakers along the left and right sides, two 2.5-inch center channel drivers and a single driver at each end of the soundbar for “extreme” left and right sounds.
This helps with accurate sound relays that you may be subtly missing since your TV produces sound one-dimensionally.
Another issue with running both your TV speakers and soundbar simultaneously is that your sound control actually becomes more limited and more complex.
Most modern TVs will allow you to either silence your built-in speakers or disable them entirely. You then switch your sound output through your TV’s audio set up menu to “External” to relay signals directly to the soundbar itself.
When you do this, most models will then allow you to easily adjust and control sound settings with the same TV remote. This gives you full control from one remote, used for both the TV and soundbar devices.
When you run the TV speakers and soundbar in parallel, however, you will have to use two separate remotes to control the overall volume and individual settings. Want to switch to an “action movie” mode? You will have to do this within both your TV menu and your soundbar settings.
Quickly need to turn down the sound because it is waking the baby? You will have to turn down both the TV and soundbar independently in order to do so. Is this a show stopper? Of course not, but it is certainly an inconvenience that you can easily avoid simply by deactivating your TV speakers and relying on the soundbar alone.
The fact of the matter is – your soundbar is an investment. Depending on the model you chose, it can be a rather steep investment at that. Almost any soundbar will be an upgrade to the sound produced by your TV.
This is true even if you bought the most advanced TV on the market today and paired it with any one of the soundbars featured on my Best Soundbars for the Money - Buyer’s Guide.
If you are going to make the investment in a soundbar, even a budget option, let the device do its job. As an expert in home theaters and home entertainment systems, I cannot stress this enough. For those who are worried their soundbar may be too hard to set up, rest assured that almost all models are plug-and-play in today’s market.
However, as stated above, you should disable or mute your own TV speakers when you connect a soundbar (our guide). For many TVs, this is a simple process. Often user-friendly, your TV manufacturer should have provided a manual that can explain this process in-depth.
Some soundbars can enhance your entire home theater set up in addition to just boosting sound quality. From built-in Alexa or Google Assistants, to being able to stream media content, a soundbar can do more than just help improve your TV’s sound.