A Guide on Setting up A Soundbar Using HDMI, ARC and Optical

Nowadays, there’re many options you can use to connect one device to another. However, these methods often require use of different connectors and or cables to connect the devices. It’s often challenging for most individuals to know the cable or connector to use for getting the highest quality connection, be it an audio or video connection or both. The aim of this guide is to offer you details on setting up your soundbar with your TV for the best audio quality.

Generally, there’re two main ways of connecting a soundbar to a TV or any other deice.

  • One, you can use it like a hub for passing several devices through it. This way, you would only require one connection cable to the TV.
  • Secondly, you may also connect a soundbar for use as a speaker such that you can connect several devices to the television and then connect the television to the soundbar.

However, the connection option you’ll use should depend on the connection methods that your TV and soundbar have. For most TVs and soundbars, you can connect them through either HDMI, ARC or optical. Read on for guidelines on how to connect your soundbar using HDMI, ARC and digital optical.

1. Setting Up a Soundbar Using HDMI and ARC

One of the best ways of setting up a soundbar with a TV is using the HDMI connection option. In this option, you’ll connect the two devices using HDMI. Here, both devices must have HDMI ports. A HDMI cable is a great connection option for it’s able to transfer huge amounts of digital data that is not compressed. Moreover, HDMI is able to work with any sound systems including 5.1 and 7.1 or higher. In addition, HDMI is able to process latest cinematic technologies such as Dolby ATMOS and DTS-X.

Most TVs only have HDMI inputs. This means that they can only receive data but not send data from the device they are connected to. Thus, to connect aTV set to a soundbar in order to send data from the television to a soundbar, your television must have support for HDMI-ARC. ARC allows for audio signals to travel in either directions in a HDMI-ARC cable.

In case your TV has support for ARC, then you can easily connect several types of devices like gaming consoles or set top boxes to the soundbar. You’ll connect all of them to the television. Then use one HDMI cable for connecting your TV to the soundbar.

When connecting your TV from its HDMI-ARC port, you’ve to ensure that you’re using the HDMI-Out connector or the HDMI-ARC connector on your soundbar. Only use HDMI-In only to connect other devices to the soundbar like gaming consoles and a Blue-ray player.

However, some soundbars don’t come with HDMI ports. HDMI is often found on average to more expensive soundbars. Nevertheless, if you already have a soundbar but it doesn’t come with a HDMI port, you can still connect it using digital optical.

2. Setting Up a Soundbar Using Optical

Digital optical is a great connection option for a soundbar that does not come with HDMI. Optical is able to transfer digital audio surround sound of not more than 5.1. Digital optical is often confused with digital coaxial. In case you are confused on the two connectors, then you need to note that an optical cable comes with a square end connector whereas a coaxial cable is designed with a circular end connector.Generally, an optical cable operates differently than coaxial. Optical cables usually convert electric signals into optical light from one end and transmit it through the cable in form of optical light.

Once at the other terminal, the cable converts the optic signal back to the appropriate electric signal. Most people prefer optical with the belief that it is less prone to electromagnetic interference. However, both optical and coaxial are efficient in sending digital signals of high quality. Before you buy the cable, first check whether your TV set has an optical port.

Tweaking Your Soundbar for Better Sound

Now that you know more about setting up your soundbar, you can go ahead and tweak it for better sound. Simply try out these tweaks:

  1. Soundbars are not only made to make a TV set louder. They also come with options for adjusting sound. Try adjusting your soundbar for better sound.
  2. Some soundbars come with specialized options for modes such as sports, gaming, music and movies. Try these options to make the sound better.
  3. In case you have issues with hearing dialog over the background sound, you can try enhancing dialog to make it easier to hear spoken words.
  4. Sync the settings to remove any delays between onscreen action and the corresponding sound.
  5. Try switching to night mode to prevent the volume from getting too high to avoid disturbing other family members or neighbors when watching TV late in the night.
  6. Try enhancements for compressed music to make music streaming and MP3s sound more natural.


These enhancements may go by different names based on the model of your soundbar. Nevertheless, you can access them using the remote control or onscreen menu of your soundbar. You may also use an app on your smartphone to control sound on your soundbar. Remote apps will allow you to access settings that you may not get using your standard remote.

Also, most soundbars come with a wireless subwoofer for rounding the sound. Most subwoofers and soundbars are usually preset to work together such that you’ll get an automatic connection. However, some soundbars may require you to activate their subwoofer from the onscreen menu.

Both HDMI-ARC and digital optical transmit digital sound from a TV to a soundbar and are better than analog RCA cables. Also, both HDMI-ARC and optical can transmit multi-channel sound and are very affordable. The only major different is that HDMI connectors are able to pass audio of higher resolution than optical. Thus, the choice you’ll use will mainly depend on the connection that your TV set and soundbar supports. However, for the best sound, especially surround sound, it’s best using HDMI if your devices support it.

David M Foster
 

David M Foster is an award-winning sound engineer with over 13 years in the sound industry. He now works as a freelance sound engineer. He uses his insider knowledge and vast experience of the industry to shed more light on sound systems. He is a family man and the head content at Speakerchampion. Learn more about us.

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