How to connect speakers to your TV

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So you’ve joined the 21st century and finally replaced your TV’s tinny-sounding speakers with a more serious audio setup. Now what? There’s a bunch of cables in the box, and you don’t know where to hook them up. Let us help you connect speakers to your TV.

Step 1: Look at the back of your TV

Before we set anything up, we need to know a couple things. Namely: how to connect your speakers to the TV, and how much space you have to work with.

If you’ve mounted your TV to the wall, you may want to find some diagrams online that go over the ports of your specific model. If you can’t do that, you may need to take the screen off the wall for a bit, so get as many blankets as you can and place it face-down on as soft a plane as you can. If you don’t have blankets, a carpet devoid of clutter is fine too.

The inputs on the back of the Creative Sound BlasterX Katana.

Pay close attention to the ports on the back of your soundbar or receiver. You’ll need to match them to your TV.

What we’re looking for is anything that says “audio out,” or any other dedicated port to sending audio out of your TV and to your sound system. This could be over coaxial, optical, RCA, 3.5mm, or even HDMI—it just has to be an output port that your receiver or soundbar has available for input. Here are the types of ports we’re looking for to connect speakers to a TV:

  1. Digital out: HDMI, Optical, SPDIF (coaxial)
  2. Analog out: RCA, 3.5mm, AUX

We want a digital connection instead of an analog one because it allows your sound setup to handle audio processing, rather than just use the output of the TV. Sometimes TVs can add in some distortion, or not quite support the material you’re watching, so it’s best to let the audio hardware handle the audio stuff.

Step 2: Reconnect your TV

Pictured is both ends of an optical cable.

An optical cable is probably the best way to transmit audio data over short lengths.

If you’ve had to remove all the cables from your TV in the first step, now’s the time to make sure everything’s back the way it’s supposed to be; with the addition of whatever cable you’re going to be sending the audio to your sound system. Once you’ve plugged in the audio cable to the right audio output port, we can get a better sense of the best place to put the receiver (or soundbar).

Step 3: Connect speakers to your TV

The JBL Link Bar remote lying atop the smart soundbar in front of a TLC TV.

Placing your audio system close to the TV helps hide unsightly cabling.

With the audio output cable connected to the TV and presumably dangling in the breeze, we’re ready to connect your receiver or soundbar of choice. The cables these products include are likely short, so putting your hardware directly underneath the TV on a stand, shelves, or entertainment center will be ideal. This also has the added benefit of fewer cabling rat’s nests.

If you have a soundbar

Congratulations! After hooking up the power cable and the other end of the audio cable, you should be basically ready. Just follow the manufacturer’s instructions and setup notes, and you should be good to go. If you have a Dolby Atmos or MPEG-H enabled soundbar like the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar, you may need to do a little more setup to enable the 3D sound features.

If you’re hooking up a receiver

Ensure you’ve hooked up your main channels and satellite speakers using the provided cables. If you bought your system piecemeal (as separate pieces, rather than a whole package), place your speakers the way you’d like them to be arranged, then use the shortest length of speaker wire you can to connect them to your receiver. You probably won’t run into any power issues, but read up on it first just in case.

Once you’re done with this, you should be all set with the physical connections!

Step 4: Toggle the audio out in the TV’s settings

A photo showing the sound options menu screen on a Samsung 4K Smart TV.

For Samsung TVs in particular, the audio output menu is easy to find.

For most TVs, you can find the audio settings through the “menu” button on your remote. Once you’ve done this, look for the “sound options” or “sound” menu, and look for an item called “sound output,” or just “output.” From there, you should be able to toggle what device you want the TV to use for its audio. Be sure to turn on your receiver or soundbar, and give it a few seconds to connect. Also make sure you have the correct output selected—sometimes picking the right one can be a little confusing.

Turn your volume all the way down before you power everything on. When the settings on both the TV and the system are correct, slowly turn the volume up until you hear whatever’s playing on the TV, and you’re good to go.

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