Can you Connect a Soundbar to a Receiver? - The Home Theater DIY
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Can you Connect a Soundbar to a Receiver? – The Home Theater DIY

Can you Connect a Soundbar to a Receiver? – The Home Theater DIY

How to connect soundbar to amplifier

Sound bars are usually sold as an all-in-one unit, meaning it contains one or more amplifiers, drivers for multiple speakers, and processes incoming signals on its own. this is an active soundbar. connecting a powered soundbar to a receiver is rare, but still possible!

So, let’s dig a little deeper into soundbars. there are two main types. active soundbars are the main type; they are extremely common and can range in price from very cheap ($70) to very expensive ($700).

The second and less common type is a passive soundbar. Passive soundbars are simply enclosures that contain multiple speakers. they do not contain amplifiers or signal processing capabilities. passive soundbars require a separate receiver or amplifier to function as intended.

which sound bar can be connected to a receiver?

Technically, both an active and passive soundbar can be connected to a receiver. However, active soundbars are not designed to be used in this way. they are usually meant to be the all in one piece for your home entertainment system.

Passive soundbars are specifically designed to integrate with an existing receiver or amplifier. the type of soundbar you use will typically depend on your specific situation. For example, if you already have an active soundbar and receiver, think about your end goal.

Do you want to use your current equipment? Do you want to buy a sound bar designed to work with a receiver? Or would you like to upgrade one day, but want to pay with what you have?

If your ultimate goal is to use equipment you already have, by all means, connect your current soundbar to a receiver. if not, I’ll show you some alternatives.

why would you want to connect a soundbar to a receiver?

Most people want to connect a soundbar to a receiver to use it as the front 3 channels (left, center, right) and then have separate surround speakers. however, I don’t really recommend this because active soundbars are not designed to be used this way. the three front channels will be merged and can severely affect audio quality.

Instead of connecting the sound bar to the receiver and using separate surround speakers, I suggest getting a sound bar that comes with wireless surround speakers. These systems are designed to be extremely easy to set up and are built to create an immersive surround sound experience.

my favorite soundbar with wireless surround sound speakers is the nakamichi shockwafe pro 7.1.4ch soundbar system (on amazon). for everything you get with this system, it’s actually very fairly priced! for a more brand name system like this, it would cost you about twice as much.

However, if you’re on a tight budget and want to use all of your current equipment to set this up, read on!

different scenarios to connect an active soundbar to a receiver

Connecting an active sound bar to a receiver is not a typical setup, but there are a few scenarios that may justify this decision.

using the sound bar as your center channel speaker.

This is a perfectly understandable reason to connect your soundbar to a receiver, however it’s probably not the best idea. this is why. your soundbar and other front facing speakers are likely to be different brands, shapes, sizes, etc.

Because the sound bar and other speakers are of different sizes, the audio will not sound the same from all of them. Due to the characteristics of a sound bar, it will most likely sound very different from the other speakers connected to the receiver.

For example, you are watching a war movie with lots of explosions and gunshots. if the camera pans from right to left or vice versa, the audio (if designed correctly) will also follow.

then, as the sound moves from the front right speaker to the soundbar (center speaker) and then to the front left speaker, you’ll probably notice a difference in sound as it moves from one speaker to another.

To use the soundbar as a center channel speaker, the receiver must have a pre-out for the center channel and an rca or 3.5mm input on the soundbar itself. previous outputs will look like this:

you will need an rca to 3.5mm (auxiliary) or rca to rca cable depending on the receiver and sound bar. connect the rca cables to the corresponding pre-out connections on the receiver, then connect the 3.5mm (aux) or rca connectors to the soundbar. note that you may need to enable the preout center channel on the receiver. this is what this configuration will look like:

Connect an RCA to the center channel pre-out on the receiver, then connect the other end to the soundbar via RCA or AUX port.

If your receiver does not have a pre-out for the center channel, then there is another method to connect the soundbar as the center channel speaker. You can connect a line level adapter or converter (example) from the receiver to the soundbar’s aux or RCA input.

To set this up, connect the receiver’s speaker cables to the line level adapter input, then connect the line level adapter’s rcas to the soundbar’s rca input or aux ports.

using the sound bar as the only speaker

There are actually a few ways to use a sound bar as a main speaker with a receiver.

You can connect the soundbar to a receiver using an optical cable. Connect one end to the receiver’s digital optical output port and the soundbar’s optical input port. the receiver will, of course, need a digital optical output port.

You may need to adjust your receiver settings to point the audio in that direction. You should also note that the digital encoding standards must match on both the receiver and the soundbar. if they don’t, you might have some weird sound issues.

you can also use hdmi arc (audio return channel) to connect a soundbar to a receiver. this option can also have some problems, because hdmi arc is not 100% reliable and compatible with all components but it’s still a decent option if your receiver doesn’t have a digital optical output connection.

to use hdmi arc, simply connect an hdmi cable from the receiver’s hdmi arc connection to the sound bar. then connect the receiver’s hdmi to the tv. all devices must support arc capability for this solution to work properly. you may also need to configure the receiver and other devices to use arc, they may not use it by default.

reduce your receiver to a glorified hdmi switcher. in this case, you would connect the optical, aux, or even rca cables from the TV to the soundbar. keep all hdmi connections handled through the receiver, but would basically disable all audio functions of the receiver.

it will simply act as an hdmi switcher by passing the video and audio signals to the television. the sound would then play through the soundbar. note that this method might require a lot of tuning on the receiver side. Not all receivers will allow you to disable their audio features, so heed my warning!

connect a passive soundbar to a receiver

this is really simple. Depending on which passive soundbar you have, there may be multiple channels or it could be merged into a single channel. simply connect the speaker cable from the receiver to the soundbar.

If the sound bar is single channel, connect the cables to the sound bar and to the center channel binding post on the receiver. If the sound bar has multiple channels, usually 3, connect 3 pairs of speaker cables from the receiver to the sound bar. one each for left front, center, and right front.

You could merge all those channels into one if you really wanted to, but your receiver or amplifier must have ample power output to handle that much power. In the end, it’s so simple to connect a passive soundbar to a receiver because that’s what it was designed for!

conclusion

I really wouldn’t suggest using a soundbar with a receiver unless you’ve bought a passive soundbar. Otherwise, take the active soundbar you have and put it in another room. it will serve its purpose better there. Just about any home theater or A/V professional will suggest you buy surround sound speakers to use with your receiver.

one, it will sound 10 times better. two, it’s much simpler to set up and use (minus the cable). and three, surround sound speakers are not that expensive. you can find a very good 5.1 surround sound set for a reasonable price.

You’ll be much happier with it in the long run, I promise. If you want to use a soundbar with your a/v receiver, I suggest you buy a passive soundbar and not an active soundbar.

If you’re interested in learning more about soundbars, check out my article on soundbar specifications. dives into the different specifications outlined for soundbars and how they can be a bit misleading.

definitely an interesting read! Also, here is an article on the general operation of a home theater system! I would suggest reading this if you want to use the receiver to its full potential!

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