EDITOR NOTE: this is an older post but since many people found it to be very useful we have not changed the content. The original product links are no longer valid because those products are not available any more. I have added some links to the best soundbars available this year to help people see what is available now.

 

Soundbar and Receiver.JPG

This question was asked by one of our readers, because they were going to buy the Samsung 120W Sound Bar (HW-355)and wanted to hook it up to their receiver but weren’t sure if that 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 what about connecting to your receiver instead?

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. The thing to understand about Soundbars 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.

Polk TSi Speakers.jpgDouble Amplifiers

The main problem with hooking a Soundbar to a receiver is that the receiver also has an amplifier. Since both the Soundbar 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 Soundbar 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.
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 Soundbar. 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 Soundbar speakers are closer together and rely on electronics to create a separation effect. If you are looking at a Soundbar because you are tight on space, you can get awesome sounding smaller bookshelf speakers that won’t take up any more space than a Soundbar. For instance, Polk makes great speakers and will have excellent options that can meet whatever your space and budget requirements are.

High End Passive Soundbar.jpegPassive Soundbars

If you insist on using a Soundbar with your receiver one option would be to use a “passive” Soundbar. Passive Soundbars don’t have an amplifier so they need to be connected to one – alas, a receiver. Interestingly, passive Soundbars, even though they don’t have an amplifier, tend to be at the higher end of the price range for Soundbars. 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 Soundbars, I still think for the same money you can get high quality speakers and are better off because of the sound separation can engulf the room better.

Connecting Amplified Soundbars

If you have an amplified Soundbar and still want to connect it to your receiver, that can be done a couple of ways. You could simply connect the receiver to the Soundbar with an optical cable and set the amplifier to send the sound that way. Another option is to connect the two together using an HDMI cable and then and HDMI-ARC connection to the TV. Basically an HDMI ARC cable has an Audio Return Channel (aka ARC) and the video will pass to the TV and the sound remains in the Soundbar. One of the issues with ARC is that all pieces of equipment need to have ARC capability for this to work.

Solution Simplified

I think my solution is pretty simple. If you have a good receiver, and it is part of your entertainment system then for the same price as a Soundbar, get some great sounding speakers. You will get better separation of sound than what you can get with a Soundbar. Buying a Soundbar instead will result in redundant amplifiers unless you get a passive soundbar. But getting a good set of speakers is a better option than a passive Soundbar because you can get great sounding smaller speakers with better sound separation.

If you have reasons to go with a different solution, I would love to hear from you to see what that might be.

Here are some of the top soundbars available at Best Buy in 2017:

 

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Tom Brauser
I love to try new technologies and I have a practical approach to techie stuff - it has to be easy to use and make my life better. I have my house fully wired, with a surround sound system in my family room for music and TV viewing, but also drive music throughout the house as well as outdoors. I Internet stream content on all my devices at home, which provides a huge variety of entertainment to enjoy.

20 COMMENTS

  1. I have a new Sony TV, and I’ve hooked it up to our existing 5.1 amplifier set-up via the optical out of the TV. It works
    As of now, we listen sometimes to the TV’s sound, others to the 5.1 set-up.
    What I’m wondering is whether I can get a soundbar that will be our sound for normal TV watching, then go to the 5.1 set-up for movies or higher-quality sound reproduction.
    I think what I’d need is a soundbar with an optical out – one that would then send signal to the amplifier.
    Am I thinking crazy? Does this sound possible?

    • Hi Bob,

      I sent your question to the Home theatre team at Best Buy’s head office and received this reply:

      We would need to know a bit more information about the set up to the receiver, and what type of receiver the customer has.

      However, usually it would not make sense for the customer to buy a sound bar when they already have a 5.1 system. Realistically, they would be able to adjust the sound settings on the receiver for each component ( ie. TV cable box, Blu-ray player..etc).

      • Understood it doesn’t make huge amount of sense – idea is to use the 5.1 receiver speaker set up for movies and such, but add a soundbar for daily listening to make the TV sound better than it does now – again, without going to all the trouble of going to the surround sound system.
        Trouble is, the TV has only two settings: TV itself, and external.
        The receiver is a Pioneer from 5-6 years back.

  2. I have a 2009 Samsung Tv model
    PN50B430P2D. I have a wireless crystal sound surround model HW -C450 with sub woofer both purchased at same time.
    It was working great until my satellite reciever model DSR505 died so I brought the identical one same model same age from another TV connecting it exactly the same. What no one can answer is why no sound on sound bar or TV but picture???
    Other is why does my satellite receiver shut off on its own along with sound bar??? It never did that before. I want to use my satellite remote to get satillite signal and My TV remote only to power up the TV and use my small Samsung remote to turn on power bar.
    Can ANY ONE HELP ME get a simple answer since I’m not techie.
    Thanks in advance for all those who want and can answe my question .

    • Hi Jo

      I consulted with the home theatre team here at Best Buy’s head office and they did not have an answer to your problem. One person responded:

      I can’t explain why the satellite receiver shuts off on its own. However, the reason the sound bar may also shut off is possibly because the satellite remote may be connected to the sound bar through set up? Also, the reason that the sound bar may not be providing sound is possibly related to the input settings on the sound bar?

      It’s hard to diagnose such issues without information on how the components are hooked up. You should reach out to the service provide of your satellite signal (shaw?). You could also request a home visit from Geek Squad: Home membership covers every device in your home.

  3. What if you have a Sony receiver from the 80’s (STR-VX5) and want to use your Bose 301 system? Can you hook the receiver to a bluetooth transmitter and send the signal to your Sound bar? Why? So I can play cd’s and cassettes through the speakers instead of wiring more speakers into the living room.

  4. My Samsung HW-J8500R wireless subwoofer is broken. Can I just buy any sumsung wireless subwoofer and connect it to the soundbar? Or it has to be the same HW-j800r subwoofer?

    • Hi Eric,

      Samsung doesn’t sell that subwoofer separately but if you call their customer service (I believe the number is at the back of the manual for the soundbar that you have or try online) they may be able to offer a solution to your problem.

      take care,

  5. I have a soundbar that I want to connect to my receiver mainly for when I’m playing music from the receiver. The receiver is connected to speakers in other rooms of the house. All 3 components (TV, receiver, soundbar) are ARC compatible. Can I just connect the cable box to the TV’s HDMI input with HDMI cord. Then connect the TV’s ARC HDMI socket to the HDMI input of the receiver with HDMI cord. Then connect the receivers HDMI output to the soundbars HDMI input with an HDMI cord?

  6. Hi..I’ve a simple question..I’m having a JBL SB 350 which includes a soundbar and Subwoofer..and JBL control one Bookshelf speaker pair..want to combine this SB 350 set and control one speakers..is that possible using AV receiver and how???

  7. Hi I want to use my Samsung soundbar as a speaker independently of the tv through my iPad using Bluetooth? Can I do that? Without connecting it to my tv at all?

  8. Hi Thanks for the information.Recently i purchased a soundbar JBL SBS 350,but unfortunately the sub woofer fallen down from my TV stand and spoiled.Now i purchased a Harman Kardon 151 AV receiver and a pair of Boston Accoustics A 26 bookshelf speakers with a BA subwoofer.Now I want to add the soundbar of JBL 350 to this setup.As per your suggestion can i hook the soundbar with AV Receiver via Optical cable? and the BA speakers with speaker out connections of the receiver?

    • Hi Binu , The only way I can see that a soundbar can be connected to the Receiver in conjunction with additional speakers connected to the receiver is as follows; Connect the HDMI (ARC) output from the receiver into the soundbar HDMI (ARC) In, from the soundbar HDMI (ARC) to TV’s HDMI (ARC) input. This will allow the TV to receive audio information, and send it back to the soundbar via the ARC (Audio return Channel), You can then connect the Boston Acoustics A26 to the rear(surround) speaker output of the receiver.
      You will need to configure the HK receiver speaker outputs appropriately, noting that the Front speaker output cannot be turned off, you can turn off the center speaker output, since the soundbar will be connectedand will operate as a stereo unit for Front Left and Right.
      This setup will not provide proper surround sound, because the receiver does not have dedicated pre-amp audio output, such as the Denon AVR-X3300 http://www.bestbuy.ca/en-ca/product/denon-denon-avr-x3300w-7-2-channel-dolby-atmos-3d-4k-ultra-hd-network-av-receiver-avrx3300w/10447768.aspx?

      • Thank you so much Elliot,sorry for the delay to answer. I did not connect my JBL to the receiver and i am planning to buy M Center Speaker of boston to my setup Thanks!

  9. Hi, I have an older AVR-588, thatvI want to connect to a Vizio 2.0 soundbar. I upgrade the 588, and want to put the avr in the garage

    Just wondering if this is possible.

    • Hi Al, the only way to connect a soundbar to the Denon AVR-588 receiver is to use the HDMI output from the receiver, into the Vizio soundbar, You can then connect a TV from the Vizio’s HDMI output to get a picture, You will need to turn off the TV’s internal speakers for proper sound.

  10. If your analysis the same for 5.1/7.1 surround soundbars (eg Yamaha) as a stereo soundbar?  Would running the signal through a receiver chop off the surround content?  Do you need a special receiver?  Is there enough connections?  Are there passive soundbars for surround?

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