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Can You Use a Soundbar Without a TV?

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

Maybe you are looking for a bit more volume from your stereo or record player, or you want that movie-quality sound even though you may be on a computer or laptop Perhaps you just need a speaker for a dance party. Whatever the reason, using your soundbar can be a quick and simple way to get a bunch of sound without having to figure out another speaker solution.

But can you use a soundbar without a TV? As long as your soundbar has more input options than just HDMI, you can use a soundbar without a TV. Most soundbars feature multiple input types which can be used to connect a number of devices to your speaker.

So, you know you can connect your other devices to the soundbar, but what are the best methods? Below, we’ll detail the typical inputs you’ll encounter on your soundbar, the wires needed to use those inputs, and the best way to connect certain devices. These options will help you figure out a way to use your phone, computer, laptop, or record player with your soundbar.

Methods for Using a Soundbar Without a TV

While not all soundbar have the same amount or even the same types of ports, these are the ones you’ll come across most often. Be aware some cables or converters will be more readily available than others, so be sure you identify your connection type and any equipment needed before you plan to connect your soundbar.

Bluetooth

While certainly not standard, Bluetooth is becoming more common on all devices and is typically the best connection, once paired, in terms of speed and convenience. Continued use without wires is an added bonus. With no plug and play option, though, you may need to consult your user manual or online instruction to ensure proper ‘pairing’ with your device.

Bluetooth is the ideal connection for phones, laptops, and other smaller devices you may want to boost the sound of. However, it is typically considered inferior to wired connections due to the compression of data which enables wireless transmission. That’s the price you pay for convenience though.

AUX

Aux or 3.5mm Cable

Standard on most audio devices these days the AUX port or 3.5mm jack cable is an easy and effective way to connect many devices. Often cheap and widely available, including pharmacies and gas stations, the cord itself is a simple wire with a small pin on each end, should quickly and easily get you hooked up to any soundbar featuring the port.

This connection type is ideal for any device with a 3.5mm ‘line-out’ jack, such as PCs, laptops, some phones, and gaming consoles. If your device does not have an AUX port, you can find inexpensive Bluetooth devices with AUX connections, which can turn your TV speaker into your personal DJ station in a flash.

RCA

RCA cable

There are three colored RCA ports that are a common sight on older TVs: the yellow (composite video), white (left audio channel), and red (right audio channel) ports you may recall hooking up your DVD player to, or maybe a previous generation gaming system. The white and red RCA audio ports are common on soundbars as well, being such a widely used connector.

These ports are ideal for stereos and record players, which often have these chords attached already. With an AUX to RCA cable, this connection is identical to all options under the AUX section. Also, RCA and AUX connections, which are both analog audio connections, are generally equal in terms of quality.

The idea being that permanent fixtures could use the RCA ports (typically on the back of devices), while also being able to plug and play with other devices using the AUX (generally on the face or somewhere more accessible).

USB

Another port you may find on some soundbars is the rectangular USB port. Newer soundbars are starting to include this port more and more, for quick and easy connections. It’s ideal for phones, as your charging cords often end in a USB connection. As an added bonus you may even be able to charge your phone as well.

USB, as well as the remaining options on our list, are digital audio cables, which transfer the audio as information, and can therefore effectively transfer more complex ‘data’ in higher quantities. Digital audio cables are effective and, as previously stated, becoming more popular.

Digital Optical

Digital Optical Connector

Also known as TOSLINK and optical audio cable, has a hexagonal head and a protruding pin. Soundbars often come with this input option, though it’s limited to 5.1 channel sound. It has some advantages compared to HDMI (check out our full comparison here) but for now, know that you can use this port to get sound to your soundbar.

While not the most readily available method, digital optical may require a converter like the PROZOR 192KHz RCA analog to digital Toslink adapter (on Amazon). This isn’t the ideal for most devices outside of TVs, stereos, and CD players, but it will do the job if your input options are limited.

HDMI

HDMI Connector

First developed in the early 2000’s, HDMI quickly optical which had been around roughly 50 years. It’s since become the standard home theater equipment connector, carrying both the video and audio streams.

While there are some HDMI to USB-C adaptors online, some branded options as high as $50, they specifically only mention the connection to a TV, and even that comes with a list of compatibility questions that very for each individual device. Before you spend your time checking the specs of your phone port, soundbar port, cable, and adapter specifications, you may want to stick with another connection method.

Why limit the selection though? If you are wondering why your soundbar’s inputs may be limited to HDMI and maybe one other option, it is because HDMI has been far and away the best communicator of audio and more complex types of audio to date.

Summary

While soundbars are a great way to amplify and clarify audio compared to stock speakers on today’s flatscreens, the best and most dynamic sound comes from multiple speaker systems. These systems are also able to connect to other sources and devices to treat yourself to the best audio no matter what device you may be using, or which type of media you may be enjoying. 

But if you’re trying to connect to you soundbar from a different device, not your TV, you do have some options for filling a room with sound from your phone, laptop, or other wired connection.

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