While the onboard speakers on most newer TV sets are becoming rather impressive, many viewers prefer a dedicated speaker system to elevate their viewing experience, especially when it comes to enhancing soundstage. Whether you’re running a soundbar, surround sound system, in-wall speakers, or a Bluetooth setup, there is always a way to connect them to your TV that will provide reliable results.
How you link your TV to your speaker system depends on the I/O available on each device. By working through the steps below, you’ll be able to find the best option for your needs.
The below list is written for those with powered speakers or a passive speaker set with a dedicated amplifier. Wireless connections are covered further down.
Step 1: Identify the output options on your TV
The input and output options for TVs may vary slightly between models, but most TVs made in the last 15 years offer the same selections.
Some TVs have the I/O panel on the side, allowing for easy access, while others have theirs at the back. You may need to unmount your TV to take a look. Some commonly seen output options include:
- HDMI: a connector that can transmit both audio and video on a single cable
- RCA: the multicolored jacks are also used on some HiFi equipment. For audio, we only need to worry about the red and white (or black) cables.
- Optical: Seen on many TVs today, though not all speakers and amplifiers can accept an optical input.
- Auxiliary Out/Headphone Out (3.5mm): The same as what is commonly referred to as an ‘aux’ cable, many speakers support this.
If you’re using an outdoor TV, just ensure that your speakers can handle the same conditions as the television or are well protected from the elements.
Step 2: Evaluate the input options on your speakers/amplifier
On any speaker or amplifier, you should be able to find at least one common connection you can use to link your TV to your sound system.
Digital connections such as HDMI and optical are preferred, as it allows for cleaner, uninterrupted signal transmission, though if only analog connections like RCA or Aux are available, it’s not the end of the world.
If your TV or sound system is slightly older and doesn’t have a pair of connectors in common, you’ll have to make use of an adaptor or specialty cable. Such cables are easy enough to find online, or if you have some basic soldering skills, you can make your own for a fraction of the price and even use higher-quality connectors and cabling.
Step 3: Connect the matching cables
Once you’ve identified which connectors your TV and sound system share, you can patch it in. To save some troubleshooting time later, make extra sure you’re running from an audio output on your TV to an input on your speakers or amplifier. Older TVs with what looks like hundreds of RCA ports can be confusing sometimes, so take your time during this step.
Step 4: Remount your TV (if necessary) and set up your speakers
Once your TV is back on the wall or stand and your speakers are roughly in place, it’s time to give it a test before fine-tuning your setup.
If you’ve got sound coming through all the speakers, great. If not, try not to stress, and ensure your cables are plugged in correctly and into the correct ports. If there’s still no audio, it may be a dodgy cable- that old box of tangled RCA and Ethernet cables from the garage may have a bad one in there, so try another if you have one on hand.
Alternatively, your TV may require you to select the audio output you want to use, so browse the settings function on your TV until you come across an ‘audio’ section, which may be labeled as ‘output’ or ‘sound.’
Once sound comes through your speakers, you’ll want to get them roughly where you want them before fine-tuning the system.
Step 5: Perfect your listening setup
For home theater systems, speaker placement is incredibly important, as correctly aligned speakers can elevate your listening experience and create a highly-immersive listening zone that puts you right in the action.
For a stereo pair of speakers, you’ll simply want to situate them on either side of the TV at the same height and distance from the edges of the TV, preferably firing at ear level, if possible.
For a surround sound system, it becomes a little trickier, but the same concept applies: you essentially want your speakers to be equally distanced from you as they are from the listening position, avoiding walls, mirrors, and other obstacles, if possible. Your subwoofer should ideally sit directly between your two left and right speakers, though for lower-volume listening, a few feet on either side won’t complicate things too much.
You can also do some additional tuning in the settings menu on your TV under the audio tab. Here you might find some equalization and surround sound-related settings that could further improve performance relative to your listening position and speaker specs. I really recommend checking this out.
If you’re running speakers over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, the connection process is somewhat simpler:
If your TV supports such connections, simply establish a Bluetooth pairing between the two devices under the audio/output/Bluetooth tab on your TV’s settings menu, and you’re good to go. For Wi-Fi speakers, all it takes is linking your TV and speakers to the same router and setting up the link in your TV’s settings function.
You may experience some latency issues with certain Bluetooth speakers and TV sets; this depends on the Bluetooth code used by both devices; I wouldn’t recommend running Bluetooth unless your TV and speaker support Bluetooth 5.0.