A projector’s primary function is the display or playback of video. Projectors do offer audio output connections, and there are a few we will need to consider in order to output sound to the speakers.
To get sound from the projector to speakers, the two need to be connected appropriately using wired or wireless methods. However, only active speakers can connect directly to a projector using the correct cables and adapters, while passive speakers require the use of an AV receiver or powered stereo amplifier.
Check out my top picks for home theater projectors.
In this article, we will visit what connection types a projector usually comes fitted with. Then we will look at active and passive speakers and the connection types and equipment needed to connect them to one another and then to a projector.
We will look at both wired and wireless options for connecting these speakers, and then finally, we will also cover how to obtain sound if your projector does not have any audio output connection types.
Also read: 12 Ways To Connect A Phone To A Projector
Projector audio overview
Many different types of projectors sport various features in terms of their connectivity. This includes connectivity for audio.
Although a projector is mainly a video reproduction device, many manufacturers have started equipping their projectors with built-in speakers, built-in soundbars, and connection types that enable the projector to send and receive analog or digital audio.
We need to consider all the various audio connection types a projector may have and then consider what kinds of speakers we have, what connection types they have, and how they are set up in order to understand how we can link them together to get sound from a projector.
How will a projector receive and send audio (sound)?
Remember that a projector is a piece of equipment that’s primary function is to relay and playback video. Luckily today’s projectors support connectivity types that transmit video and audio such as HDMI, MHL, Composite with RCA, and USB.
One thing to keep in mind though is that the USB connection type has to be either USB version 3.0 or higher because the previous versions of USB do not support video transmission. The other USB type that can also be used is USB-C (this also transmits video).
Older projectors may not have the functionality to receive audio because their design was primarily for video, so their primary connectivity type was a VGA port. In some cases, projectors have previously and still do support other video connection types such as;
- Component video (which transmits as three separate signals)
- Composite video (which is the original analog video connection where all the data travels across one cable)
- S-video (which is also an old type of analog video signal)
If your projector only supports connectivity types for video, then you will have to set up your speakers another way, and we will cover that later on in this article.
What outputs for audio does your projector support?
Depending on the type of projector you have (modern projectors), it may have some or all of these connectivity types. Suppose you do not have a projector and are in the market to purchase one.
In that case, you can look for one that sports some or, if possible, all of these connectivity types because that would make the setup of audio very easy for any situation that may arise.
3.5mm jack inputs and outputs
More than likely, even an entry-level projector will support this type of connectivity. This connection type is the one that looks like the headphone jack on your smartphone. You need to check what connection type in terms of input and output this 3.5mm jack will come in.
Some projectors may only have one 3.5mm jack, so you need to check which type it is (either input or output). If it is only an input type, then you will not be able to use this connection type to send audio, not receive it.
Some projectors have two 3.5mm jacks, and one will support the receiving of audio, and one will support the sending of audio. Keep in mind that 3.5mm jack connection types send and receive analog audio.
RCA connection types
One step above 3.5mm jack inputs and outputs are RCA. Don’t get too excited, though. Both 3.5mm jack and RCA send the same analog signal and have more or less the same interference level from external sources.
Both feature split signals, which in turn produces a stereo sound (one left signal and one right signal). They are just designed differently in terms of their actual structure, which makes one or the other better suited for a specific situation (usually that of a situation needing to use the same connection types or for problems that need to use compact connections).
Another thing to note is that projectors can feature only input or output RCA connection types, just like 3.5mm jack connections, so you have to make sure that the projector you have or are going to purchase supports RCA out.
If it supports both, you can send an analog audio signal to the projector and out to your speakers. We will look at that process in a little bit.
S/PDIF connection types
From analog audio to digital, S/PDIF connections transmit digital audio via coaxial cable. These connection types will be more common nowadays because migration from analog to digital is taking over in all aspects of life, not to mention we can transmit more data faster and without interference by using digital connections.
If your projector supports S/PDIF, then that is great because the sound you get will be of the highest quality, but the only two things you review are that just like RCA and 3.5mm jack, S/PDIF can have either an input or output connection type.
The other thing to note is that speakers are not built with S/PDIF connections because speakers are designed around analog sound principles utilizing electrical current and not binary code.
You will then need to have an audio device that acts as a medium between your projector and speakers, which we will discuss later.
If your projector has Bluetooth functionality, you are in luck because it would be the easiest way to connect speakers to your projector (regarding the fact that your speakers also have Bluetooth capability).
All you would have to do is pair your Bluetooth speakers to your Bluetooth projector. It’s as easy as that. Also, keep in mind that you would only need to send audio to your projector, and more than likely, you will be either using Bluetooth because you have a Bluetooth device, or you will be using HDMI, which sends compressed and uncompressed audio, so there will be no need to look for a projector that had other audio connection types.
Built-in speakers or soundbars
Incredibly some projectors now come with built-in speakers or even with higher-quality projectors, soundbars. This is fantastic because then you do not need any additional speakers for your home entertainment setup.
If you are lucky enough to purchase or own one, you will not need to worry about your projector having any other audio output connections. However, one thing to consider is that because the sound comes from your projector, you will need to place it within earshot; otherwise, you will need to utilize other audio connection types to connect to additional speakers.
How to setup up speakers for your projector to get sound
Keep in mind, audio of some type has to be sent to your projector for this method to work correctly (either digital or analog audio via some connection type). As we said, a projector’s primary function is to playback video, and we discussed the various audio connection types a projector can have.
Now we need to connect our speakers to a projector, but this can be tricky because depending on what speakers you have, you may need various AV devices, adapters, or cables.
Active speaker setups
If you have active speakers (speakers with a built-in powered amplifier), then this is relatively simple. Unlike the terminal connections that ordinary passive speakers will have, active speakers will have other connection types.
These connection types can also vary, so you need to check what connection types your active speakers support before purchasing a new projector; otherwise, you will need to purchase additional adapters.
The standard connection types that active speakers usually come with are XLR connections, ¼ inch jack connections, and RCA connections. More than likely active speakers will not come with digital audio connection types (AV receivers and external powered amplifiers will).
Due to the fact that the speakers have a built-in amplifier, all you would need to do is purchase the correct cable or adapter plus additional cables if your projector does not have the same connection type as your active speakers.
Adapters are easy enough to use; you just plug them in for power and plug in the cables linking the adapter to your active speakers and projector.
When trying to figure out which cables or adapters you need just look at what audio outputs your projector and what inputs your active speakers have and purchase the correct cables. We have listed the most likely options (in terms of cables and adapters) that you will come across for various situations.
- RCA to RCA Cable
- RCA to 3.5mm Cable
- ¼ inch Jack to 3.5mm Jack Cable
- XLR to 3.5mm Cable
Passive speaker setup
Passive speakers will be a little more complicated than active speakers. Due to the fact that passive speakers will use speaker wire and terminals or posts as a connection type, you would need an AV device or amplifier to act as a medium between the projector and the speakers.
The two main pieces of equipment you would need to have or consider is an AV receiver or a powered stereo amplifier.
An AV receiver is different from a powered stereo amplifier in that it allows for the pass-through of video in addition to speaker amplification. In contrast, a traditionally powered stereo amplifier’s sole purpose is just for speaker amplification.
So you would need to connect your passive speakers to your AV receiver first or to your powered stereo amplifier and then connect the amplifier or receiver to your projector.
One cool thing is that modern AV receivers and powered stereo amplifiers will have the ability to transmit digital audio, so if your projector supports digital audio with a S/PDIF connection, then you are good to go.
You would still have to consider what connection inputs your receiver or amplifier has in correlation with your projector and then again, as we discussed for active speakers, purchase additional cables or adapters. Listed below are the most standard cables and adapters you would need to use an AV receiver or a powered stereo amplifier and try to connect it to your projector.
- S/PDIF Cable
- Digital to Analog Audio Converter
- Analog to Digital Audio Converter
Remember to purchase the correct adapter and not to get them confused. Then reference the cables we mentioned above if you need additional cables.
As we discussed under the Bluetooth heading, if your projector has Bluetooth capability, all you need is a set of Bluetooth speakers and then pair them together. This would allow you to have a wireless connection and transmit audio from your projector to your Bluetooth speakers.
Bluetooth audio receiver
If you do not have Bluetooth speakers or want to use your home entertainment HiFi system, you could consider another solution. Your projector would still need Bluetooth capability, however, for this method to work.
You would need to purchase a Bluetooth audio adapter that lets you transmit wireless signals and then convert them into analog audio signals. You would take this device and use an RCA cable to connect it to your active speakers, AV receiver, or power amplifier.
Check out this Bluetooth Audio Receiver on Amazon here
The added benefit of acquiring one of these receivers is that you would also be able to connect and stream audio from other mobile devices that you use, such as your smartphone or tablet.
How to set up audio for a projector with no audio connections?
What if your projector has no audio connections or it does not support wireless connectivity? There is a way in which you can still connect your speakers and obtain sound.
External AV Reciever
In the previous examples where we connected speakers to your projector using an AV receiver, the set up was different.
The set up entailed audio being sent from your projector to the AV receiver or powered amplifier, and then one of those devices would drive the speakers.
In this scenario, because your projector does not have audio outputs, you would have to first send the data (video and audio) through the AV receiver and then to the projector last.
Due to the fact that an AV receiver is able to allow the pass-through of video and audio, you would be able to do this. However, a powered amplifier would not work here because it only amplifies the sound and does not support video pass-through.
Depending on what you wanted to use (Xbox, Play Station, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, etc.), you would route that data signal (consisting of audio and video) into your AV receiver.
The most likely scenario is that you would use an HDMI connection to do this. You would then send the video signal from your AV receiver to your projector and the audio signal from your AV receiver to your speakers.
The process is pretty simple; you just have to remember the correct order in which you have to route all your devices.
HDMI audio splitter
If you had equipment that could not use an AV receiver, then you would need to purchase an HDMI audio splitter. This scenario would entail the use of a PC, laptop, Mac, or camera.
Remember, as, in the previous example, the equipment’s order and chain would split the signal, enabling you to acquire audio from your speakers and video to your projector.
Our example uses a laptop, but this will work for any device with an HDMI output. If you had a laptop with HDMI out, you would plug the HDMI audio splitter into your laptop and then send the HDMI video to the projector.
The HDMI splitter would then send the audio signal via RCA connections to active speakers, an AV receiver, or a powered stereo amplifier.
We conclude that there are many ways in which you are able to connect your projector to speakers for sound. This is because modern projectors have various connection types that allow for transmitting audio.
The only way you can connect speakers without the use of a medium (powered amplifier or AV receiver) is if you have Bluetooth speakers, a Bluetooth audio receiver, and a projector that supports wireless capabilities or if you have active speakers.
The way to connect passive speakers to your projector is to utilize an AV receiver or powered amplifier and route the projector’s audio. Both of these methods may require additional adapters or cables.
Then finally, we also realized that if your projector does not support any type of audio output, you are able to route the signal from your source and split it, sending the video to your projector and the audio to speakers in the form of active speakers, a powered amplifier, or an AV receiver.
If you do not like any of these methods, you could always just purchase a projector that has a built-in soundbar or speakers, negating the need for any other equipment.