HDMI and digital optical audio connection are two of the most common ways to connect a soundbar to a TV. They transmit audio signals without degrading its quality, and could even enhance your listening experience. But what if, for some reason, your devices don’t support these two?
If you want to connect a soundbar to the TV without HDMI or optical, you have two options: go high-tech with a wireless connection or mid-tech with 3.5 mm aux or RCA cables. You can also use an auxiliary device to convert coaxial cables to another type of connection.
Sometimes, the process of connecting your soundbar to your TV will require a bit of creativity, a dash of mix and match, and sprinkled with a few adjustments. We’ll discuss all the options in great detail, so stick around to find out how you can do the same for your setup.
1. Connect with Aux or 3.5mm Cable
The main reason why you want to connect a soundbar to a TV without HDMI or digital optical is that you could be working with one that doesn’t support both of these connections.
It’s almost always the case for old TVs, but you can use aux cable or auxiliary input to transmit audio signals. This connection is similar to the ones that we have in mobile phones and other audio devices.
If your TV happens to support this connection, we recommend using Syncwire nylon braided aux cable (Amazon link). It has universal compatibility with any device that supports a 3.5mm jack. It also comes with a 24K gold-plated connector to improve the reliability and lossless transmission of audio signals.
However, if either your soundbar or TV doesn’t support this connection, you can try using an aux to RCA converter. These cables are inexpensive alternatives to HDMI or optical.
AmazonBasics 3.5mm to 2-Male RCA Adapter (Amazon link) is an excellent choice because there are no fancy features, just plain corrosion-resistant connectors and lossless transmission of audio signals that won’t break the bank!
Most soundbars that are available today support 3.5mm auxiliary connection. So, you don’t need to have the technical know-how when it comes to connecting to a TV using an aux cable.
It’s an inexpensive alternative, and you can have your connection cable for less than $10. It’s not the perfect solution, though, because you’ll have to deal with some issues when using this connection for audio.
Cons of Auxiliary Cables
3.5mm aux cables are reliable and capable of transmitting sounds with an unnoticeable drop in audio quality. However, you can only use an auxiliary cable for stereo output. It will only work for your left and right speakers, so you won’t be able to take advantage of soundbars with 3.0, 3.1, or more channels.
Sure, your audio will still sound good, even when you’re only using left and right speakers. But, unfortunately, an aux cable isn’t capable of transmitting signals to frequencies that are responsible for creating surround sound effects.
If your goal is only to connect your soundbar to TV, 3.5mm aux is an excellent alternative. However, if you’re trying to set up a media room with heart-pounding audio, then you might want to consider investing in a newer TV or go wireless.
2. Connect with RCA (Yellow, Red, and White) Cables
Most of the TVs you’re apt to see these days have 3.5mm connection, HDMI or optical ports. However, if you’re working with an older TV, you’re only left with two audio options; RCA or coaxial cables. Both connections can effectively transmit audio signals, and you can find these cables in many electronic stores.
You’re in luck if your TV uses RCA cables because most soundbars today can handle two-channel audio configuration. When using an RCA cable for connection, make sure that your TV and cable has RCA output ports.
If you only have a cable with input ports, you can fix it by connecting the yellow video cable into the TV port; the white and red audio cables go straight into your soundbar.
The TVs that we use these days can serve as a central hub for processing audio and video signals, providing both input and output. Older TVs, however, are only capable of receiving audio and video. So, if you’re going to use RCA cables when connecting a soundbar to a TV, you’ll have to split the signal before it reaches the TV to produce audio.
Monoprice Premium 2 RCA Plug (Amazon link) is our recommended cable for connecting a soundbar to a TV using an RCA connection because it removes the guesswork. You only have two connectors for audio—red and white. You don’t have to worry about the extra yellow video connector, and simply connect your soundbar and TV.
Cons of RCA Cables
Similar to auxiliary inputs, RCA cables can only transmit left and right audio signals. If you’re using a soundbar with 3.0 or higher channels, you won’t get the best audio juice from it.
However, if you’re only looking for a way to connect your soundbar to a TV, without the need for hi-res audio, RCA is an inexpensive solution that can get the job done.
Even if your TV has a 5-channel RCA output, you still can’t take advantage of surround sound. That’s because soundbars that work on three channels or higher only support HDMI, optical, or wireless connection.
You can get around this problem and produce better audio quality, without upgrading your TV, by using an AV RCA to HDMI adapter, such as the Mini RCA Composite CVBS (Amazon) adapter.
With this device, you’ll be able to take advantage of 3 or more channels without going over your budget just to upgrade your TV. However, since older TVs aren’t capable of producing surround sound effects, you can’t get true high definition audio signals.
Nonetheless, it’s a nice trick that you can use to instantly upgrade your sound system without relying on modern digital connections.
3. Connect with Coaxial Cable
If you’re using an even older TV, it’s possible that you only have one option—coaxial cable. That’s because TVs in the past were only capable of playing cable programs. You connect directly from a cable service provider to your TV using this cable, then your audio and video output comes from the TV.
Some say that coaxial cable is an outdated technology, but you’ll still find a lot of devices using this type of connection. If you’re not sure what it looks like, it’s a cable that has a nut on both ends with a piece of wire sticking out of the cable.
You’ll need a VCR or a DVD player to use coaxial cable when connecting your soundbar to TV. These are devices that we use to play videotapes and video discs. The process may be a bit complicated, but it’s your best—or probably the only—option that you have for establishing an audio connection using coaxial cable.
You can do this by plugging the coaxial cable into the VCR or DVD output, then connect the other end to the TV’s input. You will then connect the VCR or DVD audio output to the soundbar using RCA cables. When using this setup, you’re basically removing every feature that your TV has, and will only serve as a monitor.
There are other options that you can use for coaxial cables, but most of them aren’t worth the clutter and price. For example, you can find an adapter that converts coaxial to HDMI, but it requires an external power source. These connections and additional devices only add up to the already cluttered and clunky setup that you might have.
Plus, if you’re going to spend money on an adapter and an external power source, you’re better off upgrading an old TV to a modern one with HDMI capability.
Cons of Coaxial Cable
Using a coaxial cable to connect your soundbar to a TV may be a bit complicated, but you can still make it work. However, since it’s an old technology, connecting your devices will require more than just your soundbar and TV.
Aside from that, if you don’t have a VCR or DVD player lying around your house, it can be tough to find an electronic store that still has one.
Another problem that you’ll encounter when using this type of connection for audio is that you’ll have a hard cap on the number of channels that you can use.
If you can find a VCR or DVD player with a 5-channel connection, you can also use an AV RCA to HDMI adapter, but, then again, you can’t expect it to transmit true high definition audio signals.
4. Go Wireless
Now, we’re moving to the best alternative to HDMI or optical audio connection. We can even consider going wireless as an upgrade to your existing soundbar. It allows you to get rid of the nasty wired connection without sacrificing the quality of audio that your soundbar can produce.
What makes this option even better is that some wireless conversion kits (my top picks) work with aux or RCA cable. That means you can have an old TV that only supports auxiliary jack or RCA and still have a wireless capability!
You don’t have to worry about nasty adapters that convert old audio connections to HDMI because wireless conversion kits can provide all of your devices with the same reliable connection.
The installation will also be easier because you don’t need different devices to connect your soundbar to a TV. Just connect the transmitter to your TV, then the receiver to your soundbar, and you’re good to go! It’ll even come in handy if you’re trying to keep the connection cables out of sight!
Types of Wireless Speaker Connections
Wireless conversion kits are true plug-and-play systems for your TV and soundbar. But before you start looking for the best that you can use, it would be better if you familiarize yourself with the types of wireless speaker converters that you can buy.
It’ll help you pick the right one for your set up, and, possibly, bring out the best in your soundbar without upgrading your TV.
Here are the most common types of wireless connections that you can use when connecting a soundbar to TV:
- Bluetooth® is the most common type of connection that you’ll find in speaker conversion kits. It uses two devices—a transmitter and a receiver—that can connect to various devices using HDMI, optical, aux, or RCA cables. The transmitter will then send audio signals to the receiver via Bluetooth®. Simply put, it gives TVs Bluetooth® capability. Yes, even the ones that can only connect via RCA will get Bluetooth® connectivity.
- Qualcomm® aptX™ also uses Bluetooth®, but Qualcomm refined the connection solely for transmitting high-resolution audio signals. So even if your TV can only connect via RCA cables, you can still enjoy true high definition audio signals without degrading the sound quality.
- Radio Frequency is another connection that wireless conversion kits use for establishing a connection. These devices typically use the 2.4Ghz band to provide better coverage. Other more advanced conversion kits even use frequency hopping to minimize interference from other devices that also use the same frequency.
- WiFi is the least common connection that you can use to give your TV the wireless capability you want. The transmitter will send the audio signals over the Internet. Then the receiver will download uncompressed audio signals for your speaker’s output. It can produce the best sound quality, but the latency is highly dependent on Internet speed. So, the faster your connection is, the better it gets in providing you with hi-res audio.
You can use all of these types of connections if your TV has RCA, auxiliary jack, optical, or HDMI, but not for TVs that can only use coaxial cables. Wireless conversion kits cover most of the TV connections that we have today, making it the best option for connecting a soundbar to TV.
Pros and Cons of Wireless Connection
Wireless is, undoubtedly, the best way to connect almost any device, but it’s not cheap. So it would be best for you to know the pros and cons of using one to weigh in on whether you should have one for your setup. Here are some of the pros that you’ll get from using wireless speaker conversion kits:
- You can build a less cluttered media room. Even if you’re using digital optical or HDMI for audio connection, you’ll still have to deal with long, messy cables. It’s a huge disadvantage in a world with an ever-growing reliance on wireless connections. If you’re going to use conversion kits, you can forget about setting up connection cables and trying to keep them out of sight.
- You can take advantage of more channels. As you may have noticed, all the connection options that we’ve discussed have one striking disadvantage—limited support for speakers that have 3.0 or higher channels. If you’re going to use a wireless connection, it can provide you with surround sound effects without going through the complexities in the configuration.
- It offers an all-in-one audio connection, except for one—coaxial. HDMI, optical, 3.5mm jack, and RCA cable; you can use all of these connections to go wireless. So you’re most likely to establish a wireless connection, regardless of the options that your TV supports.
- You can take advantage of lossless audio transmission. Since it transmits audio signals through the airwaves, there’s barely any noticeable degradation in sound quality.
Although there are many advantages that you can get from using wireless kits, it’s still far from being the perfect solution. In fact, if you’re going to use it when connecting your soundbar to TV, you’ll have to deal with the following:
- You need to spend a bit more on wireless speaker conversion kits. You can find cheaper options, but if you want to get the most out of your TV and soundbar, without interference, you may have to opt for more expensive devices.
- It’s not 100% free from connection cables. You can only minimize the length of cables that you need because you still need them to connect your TV to the transmitter and your soundbar to the receiver.
- Wireless conversion kits use various connection options, but none of them are error-free. Qualcomm® aptX™ provides the best connection possible, but even that has a limit with its range. If you’re planning to use it for large spaces, you’re better off using cables for connection.
HDMI and digital optical may be the new standard for audio connection, but these aren’t the only options that you have. If your TV doesn’t support both of these connections, you can still use the following:
- 3.5mm auxiliary jack or aux cable
- RCA (yellow, red, and white) cable
- Coaxial cable
- Wireless connection
All of these options can provide you with the audio that you need. However, the type of connection that you can use will depend on your TV. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of setting connection cables, then using wireless speaker conversion kits will do the trick for you!