Shopping for a new soundbar can be an exercise in confusion because there are so many different options and features. Wi-Fi allows you to connect your TV to a soundbar effortlessly, but it’s not as stable as a wired connection. Given this fact, do you need Wi-Fi for a soundbar?
You usually don’t need Wi-Fi for a soundbar. Most soundbars on the market can connect to a TV using an ARC/eARC HDMI connector or an optical digital audio cable. Wi-Fi is not required for a soundbar to work, but it adds convenience by allowing wireless audio streaming.
This article will explain whether you need Wi-Fi for a soundbar, what Wi-Fi on a soundbar does, the difference between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on soundbars, if you can connect a soundbar to a TV wirelessly, and if you need a subwoofer with a soundbar.
Do You Need Wi-Fi for a Soundbar?
You don’t need Wi-Fi for most soundbars. Soundbars usually connect to your TV with a wired connector, and many of them don’t come with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Wi-Fi on a soundbar allows you to connect the soundbar to your network. You can then use your phone or another device for wireless audio.
If you don’t want to use Wi-Fi on your soundbar, you don’t have to. Wi-Fi is a commodity feature on your soundbar, not a requirement. That said, if you want the soundbar to double as a smart speaker with a voice assistant, you should get a model with Wi-Fi.
However, having a microphone listening to you at all times doesn’t sit well with many. If you’re one of them, get a soundbar without Wi-Fi.
Most soundbars have at least one physical audio connector that lets you connect the soundbar to your TV. You won’t lose sound if your Wi-Fi connection drops suddenly.
A simple HDMI ARC or eARC (HDMI 2.1) cable is all you need to connect most soundbars.
HDMI ARC stands for “Audio Return Channel.” Your TV sends the audio signal to your soundbar, allowing you to use one HDMI cable for video and sound.
eARC is the enhanced version of ARC. It has a higher bandwidth rate, allowing for higher quality audio than traditional ARC.
Some soundbars only have an optical digital audio port. The red LED in the TV’s optical digital audio output port makes it instantly recognizable.
You can also use Bluetooth to connect your TV to your soundbar if both devices support it.
What Does Wi-Fi on a Soundbar Do?
Wi-Fi on a soundbar allows you to connect the soundbar to your local network. You can then connect any other Wi-Fi-enabled device to the soundbar and use it as a wireless speaker. Moreover, some soundbars have built-in voice assistants that require a Wi-Fi connection to work.
If a soundbar is marketed as a “smart soundbar,” it probably has Google Assistant, Alexa, or another voice assistant. A voice assistant uses Wi-Fi to answer questions, check the weather, book appointments, and, most importantly, play music.
If your soundbar has Wi-Fi, you can say a command like, “Ok Google, play my favorite playlist on Spotify.” The soundbar will confirm your command and start playing music without additional input.
There’s a wide range of music and podcast streaming services that you can use with a Wi-Fi soundbar, such as Amazon Music, Pandora, SiriusXM, Deezer, iHeartRadio, and more.
In addition to Wi-Fi, look for Chromecast or Airplay if you want a smart soundbar.
That said, if a soundbar has Wi-Fi but lacks any smart features, you can probably still use it as a wireless speaker with your smartphone, TV, tablet, or computer.
Wi-Fi vs. Bluetooth on a Soundbar
Both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are super handy and versatile features in soundbars.
Although there isn’t a clear winner between the two, Bluetooth is somewhat more convenient and easier to set up.
You can connect your soundbar using Bluetooth to any other Bluetooth device. Since pairing method details vary between models, consult your manual to see how to turn on Bluetooth on your soundbar.
Wi-Fi also lets you connect the soundbar to any other wireless device, including a smart TV. However, it’s generally not a good idea to rely on Wi-Fi for sound. If the Wi-Fi signal drops, you’ll hear a stuttery mess instead of the movie you’re trying to watch.
Wi-Fi does allow for better overall range compared to Bluetooth, though. A Bluetooth connection drops at a range of just 32 feet (10 m) and often even less.
Can You Connect a Soundbar to a TV Wirelessly?
You can connect a soundbar to a TV wirelessly using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. However, you must have a smart TV with built-in Internet or Bluetooth to connect to the soundbar. If both devices are compatible, you can connect the TV to the soundbar like any wireless audio output device.
The exact steps you’ll need to take to connect the soundbar to your TV depends on the models of both the soundbar and TV. However, here’s a generalized guide for using Bluetooth with your soundbar and TV:
- Enable Bluetooth mode on the soundbar.
- For Bluetooth, open the Bluetooth settings or audio device list on your TV.
- The soundbar will pop up in the Discoverable devices list. Pair your TV with the soundbar.
- Play content to check if the soundbar is working correctly.
For Wi-Fi, you can usually follow the same steps through the audio settings as well (though you, of course, choose Wi-Fi rather than Bluetooth).
However, some smart TVs can’t connect directly from the TV to the soundbar over Wi-Fi. In that case, use the smartphone app that came with your TV to add the soundbar as an audio output device.
Do You Need a Subwoofer With a Soundbar?
You don’t need a subwoofer with a soundbar. A high-quality soundbar will work great without a subwoofer, providing a rich, punchy bass. However, a subwoofer can add a lot of depth to the bass, complementing your soundbar. If your soundbar has a subwoofer output, consider getting a subwoofer.
A subwoofer is a special speaker that can reproduce low frequencies (bass) exceptionally well. Many soundbars have a dedicated subwoofer port that allows for a simple subwoofer installation.
If you want a loud, boomy quality to your songs, movies, and TV shows, you should get a subwoofer. However, if you’re happy with how your soundbar sounds right now, there’s no need to upgrade.
A soundbar doesn’t need Wi-Fi to work. Soundbars typically connect to your TV using HDMI ARC/eARC or an optical digital audio cable.
That said, Wi-Fi on soundbars does let you wirelessly connect the soundbar to your TV or smartphone. Plus, if the soundbar has a built-in virtual assistant, it can play music and podcasts independently, making it a convenient all-in-one audio device.
- Cnet: HDMI ARC and eARC: Audio Return Channel for beginners
- Real Homes: Smart assistants: a guide for beginners and the confused
- Jabra: Why Does My Bluetooth Headset Keep Disconnecting?
- Wikipedia. Subwoofer
Jason is a home theater expert with over 10 years of experience in setting up home cinema rooms and systems. What started out as a hobby soon transformed him into an authority in the audio-visual field. He is passionate about providing readers with accurate and up-to-date information on the latest audiovisual technologies and their applications for home theaters. Read more about Jason.