Do Soundbars Need to be 4k Compatible?

Back in the day (two years ago) I played a lot of video games. When the newest Xbox came out, I purchased a new 4K TV to enhance my gaming experience. Then, I began looking at buying a sound bar to take my gaming experience to another level. One question I attempted to find online is the following:

Do sound bars need to be 4k compatible?

In short, no sound bars do not need to be 4K compatible. Sound bars are designed to output audio, they can receive the audio signal from the TV. There are sound bars that accept video signals via a pass through. Soundbars to not manipulate video signals themselves.

Continue reading to learn more about sound bars and their compatibility with 4K. Also, will discuss 4K pass through, including when you may need one, and when you may not need one.

As I mentioned, your sound bar may be compatible with 4K TVs out of the box. Before we address any other issue, let’s take a quick look at what a sound bar is, and how it works.

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What is a Soundbar?

According to Wikipedia, a soundbar is ‘a type of loudspeakers that project audio from a wide enclosure… Basically, in a sound bar cabinet, multiple speakers are placed which helps create surround sound and/ or stereo effect. A separate subwoofer is typically included with a soundbar.”

The number of channels included in the system classifies sound bars. The number of channels indicates the number of speakers that are included in the system. It is very common to see a sound bar that is marketed as have “5.1” channels.

“5.1” simply means that the soundbar has 5 speakers and one subwoofer. A sound bar with 2 speakers and 1 subwoofer is the most common type of soundbar on the market.

What does it Mean?

A sound bars first responsibility is to handle sound, and if it connected directly to a TV, then the sound bar does the job that it’s good at. However, if a sound bar is asked to handle the task of working with 4K video and audio, the sound bar will need assistance.

What is 4K?

According to Cnet, “4K is a resolution of an electronic display.” This resolution provides an enhanced picture quality when compared to high and standard definition. Currently there are four resolution types:

  • Standard definition: resolution up to 576 video signal
  • High definition: resolution up to 1080P
  • 4K: resolution up to 4,000 pixels
  • 8K: resolution up to 8,000 pixels

Currently, the 4K resolution is the standard, but 8K should be adopted within the next few years.

DVRs, DVD players, and Blue-ray Players

These devices send audio and video signals to the TV. DVRs (Digital Video Recorders) are used to send recorded audio and video signals. DVRs are most commonly associated with metal boxes supplied by cable companies.

DVD and Blue-ray players are devices that allow you to play audio and video from a physical disk. The physical disk is like a CD but it has been configured to accept audio and video.

4K TVs, Soundbars, and other Devices – Putting it All Together

In this section, I will briefly discuss when your sound bar is, and isn’t, compatible with 4K. Then I will discuss some options that you can to get you sound bar up to speed. There are a few very simple tests you can conduct to determine if your sound bar is 4K compatible.

First, look at the back of the soundbar; if your soundbar does not have a way to send video out, or accept video in, your sound bar does not accept video. If your soundbar has HDMI, it does not automatically that it accepts video.

The second test is to connect your device to your soundbar first, then connect your soundbar to the TV. If you have audio and no video, your sound bar is not video compatible.

Now that we know if your sound bar is compatible, let’s take a look at our options.

When is my Soundbar is 4K Compatible?

If your sound bar is video compatible, you can either leave it as is or connect your device to your TV, then connect the TV to the soundbar. My personal preference is to connect my devices to the TV, then connect my TV to my sound bar

Now, lets look at out options if our sound bar isn’t 4K compatible.

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What if My soundbar isn’t 4K Compatible?

If you were unable to receive video via the device -> sound bar -> TV connection, there are a few options we can pursue to get everything working again.

Option one is simply connecting the device directly to the TV, and then connecting the TV to the soundbar. This is the easiest and most straightforward option. This method will allow each component (TV, device, sound bar) to do what they do best.

The second option is to by a sound bar that accepts video in and out. This is an expensive option, but it is a possibility if you want to spend money. Here are a few examples of sound bars that accept HDMI input and output:

  • Richsound Research TB232SW 32-inch 2.1 Channel sound bar
  • Yamaha YAS107 Sound Bar
  • Sony HT-XT2 2.1 Sound Base
  • JBL Bar Studio 2.0 Sound Bar with Bluetooth

The third and most expensive option is to buy a receiver that has HDMI input and output. You would simply need to connect your devices and sound bar to the receiver, and then connect the receiver to the TV.

This is an unnecessarily and expensive option.

Out of all of these options, I recommend connecting your TV to your sound bar, and then connect your device to your TV.


To, conclude, sound bars do not need to be 4K compatible because they can be connected directly to the TV. We learned that ‘4K ‘describe TV resolution, while sound bars output audio signals. We also learned that some soundbars include pass-through, which allow you to send the signal from a device to the TV without any video distortion.

Also, we learned a few quick ways to test if your sound bar is 4K compatible. The first and easiest way is to look at the back of your soundbar. If your sound bar has both audio in and audio out, it is 4K compatible.

The second way to test is to connect your device to the sound bar, then connect your sound bar to your TV. If you receive audio but no video, your sound bar is not compatible. Also, if you attempt this method and run out of inputs, your sound bar isn’t 4K compatible.

Additional Questions

Do I need 4k pass through sound bar?

A 4K pass-through is an additional feature on some sound bars and other audio receivers that allows video to continue its route to the TV.

This usually occurs when a device that sends audio and video is connected to a device that only output audio, the pass-through enables the video to continue without being distorted or manipulated.

Do you need HDMI for soundbar?

No, you do not need an HDMI cable to connect a soundbar to a TV. Soundbars can connect to TVs using optical cables, Bluetooth, WIFI, and the old left/ right audio cables. HDMI cables are used because they can transmit audio and video. Also, HDMI is a better option because the cable sends a higher quality audio signal when compared to the other cables.

Can You Use Any Soundbar on Any TV?

Yes, any sound bar should work on any TV with the following exceptions:

  • Your TV is really old. It doesn’t include an HDMI, optical cable, or Bluetooth inputs.
  • Your sound bar is next generation and doesn’t accepts a format not offered on current TVs.

In most cases, your sound bar will work with your TV.

There are a few ways you can verify that your TV works with your new soundbar. The first way is to look at the back of your TV. If your TV has an opticalcable, or HDMI input, it will work with your soundbar.

The second way is to look at your products manuals. You can find connections options in the specifications section of the manual.

What Does 2.1-channel Soundbar Mean?

The numbers in front of the word ‘channel’ refer to the number of speakers and subwoofers that are included with the system. In this instance, ‘2.1’ means that there are 2 speakers, and 1 subwoofer.

There are systems as high as 7.1.4, where the number on the right refers to the number of speakers that are elevated. In this example, 4 of the 7 speakers are elevated.