Can a sound bar work with a receiver? An adventurous reader asked this question, and I’m going to do my best to answer it. They were going to buy a new sound bar with the intent of connecting it to their existing receiver setup. But, they didn’t know if it was possible.
Sound bars are extremely popular because they are a simple way to take your TV sound to a new level. They are easy to set up, don’t take up much space, and generally not pricey. Most are designed to connect directly to your TV so you don’t need to worry about a receiver. But what if you want to hook it up to your existing set up anyway? Can you? The answer to that question is not totally straight-forward, so I will try to simplify it since it doesn’t have to be complicated. But I have to ask you a delicate question first.
Why are you connecting a sound bar to a receiver?
The thing to understand about sound bars is that most of them have a built-in amplifier to independently power their speakers. That is what keeps them simple to set up. They are essentially self-contained units that just need a sound input from the TV. So, the most important point would be that normally you would not connect a sound bar to a receiver.
Your main issue with hooking a sound bar to a receiver is that the receiver also has an amplifier. Since both the sound bar and the receiver have amps, they will tend to interfere with each other. If you already have a good amplifier in your receiver, why buy a sound bar with yet another amplifier? This is somewhat redundant and you would be better off spending your money on getting some better speakers for your receiver.
Better speakers, better sound
This is a better solution for a few reasons. First, typically the amplifier in your receiver is better than what you will find in a sound bar. This is not always the case but probably true 90% of the time or more. Secondly, connecting your TV to the receiver and getting a pair of great speakers will typically give you better sound because you can get true separation between the speakers; whereas sound bar speakers are closer together and rely on electronics to create a separation effect. If you are looking at a sound bar because you are tight on space, you can get awesome sounding smaller bookshelf speakers that won’t take up any more space than a sound bar. For instance, Klipsch makes great speakers and will have excellent options that can meet whatever your space and budget requirements are.
Passive sound bars
If you insist on using a sound bar with your receiver one option would be to use a “passive” sound bar. Passive sound bars don’t have an amplifier so they need to be connected to one – alas, a receiver. Interestingly, passive sound bars, even though they don’t have an amplifier, tend to be at the higher end of the price range for sound bars. The reason is they tend to focus on the quality of the speakers and other electronics. Even though they are positioned as the higher-fidelity side of sound bars, I still think that if you have a receiver, then for the same money as a sound bar you can get high quality speakers and are better off because of the sound separation can engulf the room better.
Can a sound bar work with a receiver?
I’ll give you the short answer: yes you can connect a sound bar to a receiver. But, you need to be prepared for unexpected complications. You’re going outside the box with your home audio solution, and there may be frustrating surprises along the way. You should consider if your money and time could be better spent upgrading your existing receiver and speakers.