The biggest question when buying pieces of technology is will it work with the previous generation and is it “future proof.” This very question can be extended to sound bars as well.
Will sound bars work with any TV?
Yes, sound bars have the technology to work with both older and newer TVs. Sound bars can use a few different technologies to make the connection
In addition to this current technology, I suspect there will be additional technologies that will make the TV to sound bar better.
Continue reading to learn more about the current connection, as well as what I believe will happen in the near future.
Currently, a sound bar can connect to a TV in four different ways:
- Optical Cable
Of these four methods, HDMI is the preferred connection followed by Bluetooth and WIFI. Finally, the optical cable, which is the oldest of the four methods, is the least preferred. Let’s take a look at the HDMIs role in the connection between TV and Soundbar.
Connection Type: HDMI
In this section, I will briefly discuss what an HDMI cable is, how it connects to a soundbar and the benefits of using an HDMI cable.
What is An HDMI Cable?
HDMI cables send the highest audio and video signals from a device (usually a DVD player, Blue-ray player, or DVR) to a device that can display the audio and video (TVs, projectors, or sound bars).
How Does an HDMI Cable Connect a Soundbar and TV?
An HDMI cable can connect to a TV in by simply connecting the port marked “HDMI OUT” on the back on the sound bar to the port labeled “HDMI IN” on the back of your TV. Note: this will only work if your sound bar and TV have labels that are audio return channel (ARC) inputs.
What are the Benefits of Using an HDMI Cable?
There are several benefits to using an HDMI cable to connect your soundbar and TV. These benefits include:
- Fewer cables
- Highest quality sound
- Highest quality videos
- Widely available
Fewer cables: If you use something other than an HDMI cable, you will need at least one more cable. Most of the time, the second cable will be an optical cable, Depending on the age of your TV, you may need 3 or 4 cables to send audio and video to your TV.
Highest quality sound: HDMI cables are able to send the following audio signals:
- Liner Pulse Code Modulation
- Dolby Digital/ Dolby Digital Plus
- Digital Theater Systems
- HD High Resolution Audio
Widely available: This cable has been the standard for some time, and
And many others.
What if My TV Doesn’t Have HDMI or ARC?
Don’t worry if your TV doesn’t have HDMI or your TV/ sound bar don’t have ARC included because you still have options. If you fall into one of these categories, you can simply connect your TV to your sound bar via an optical cable.
Also, if your device (DVD player, Blue-ray player, DVR) has an optical cable port, you can connect the sound bar to the device, and connect the device to the TV using an HDMI cable.
Connection Type: Optical Cable
In this section, I will briefly discuss what an optical cable does, the benefits of using an optical cable, how to connect an optical to a TV.
What is an Optical Cable?
An optical cable (also called Toslink) is an audio-only cord. This cable uses fiber-optic lines to send audio signals in one direction. Optical cables send 32-but audio packets to a device that produces audio.
The optical cable was created in 1983 by Toshiba and the cable works by plugging in the optical cable into two optical ports called a Sony/ Philips digital interface (S/PDIF).
How Does an Optical Cable Connect a Soundbar and TV?
As I mentioned, you connect one end into the optical port on the TV, and the other end to the sound bar. You will know it is connected correctly when the ends of the optical cable turn red. In addition to connecting directly to the TV, you can connect your sound bar directly to any other device that has an optical cable port.
What are the Benefits of Using an Optical cable?
While there are more benefits to using an HDMI cable, there are a few benefits to using an optical cable. Those benefits include:
- Widely available
- Dedicated audio
- Cheaper cable
- Good sound quality
Widely available: Because
Dedicated audio: This cable only has one job, and it does it well. If your audio isn’t working, you can troubleshoot the optical cable first.
Cheaper cable: The cost of this cable is greatly reduced because of newer and better technology on the market. Also, some optical cables are included when you purchase a new device.
Good sound quality: While the sound quality isn’t as good as HDMI, the sound quality is still better than many of the other options that are available.
What if My TV Doesn’t Have an Optical Input?
As I mentioned, optical cables have been publically available since 1983, and if your TV is working, it should have a port for an optical cable. However, if you don’t have an optical cable port, there are several cords that will convert input types.
For example, you could use an optical cable to auxiliary (AUX) cord. Instead of two S/PDIF ports, one end of the cable has an AUX connection. Note that using this type of cord will result in your audio be degraded a bit. Also, some of these adapters don’t work with every TV.
Connection Type: Bluetooth
In this section, I discuss the newest technology: Bluetooth. I will provide a brief definition of what Bluetooth is, how it works, and how to connect Bluetooth to your TV.
What is Bluetooth?
According to Wikipedia, Bluetooth ‘is a wireless technology standard for exchanging data ever short distances using short-wavelengths. The standard distance Bluetooth can send and receive data is 30 feet. Newer models can extend that range to 50 feet.
How Does Bluetooth Connect a Soundbar and TV?
As I mentioned, Bluetooth is a wireless technology, so data is sent and received wirelessly. This is the same technology that powers wireless headphones and microphones. In addition, Bluetooth powers everything from video game controllers to TV remotes.
What are the benefits of using Bluetooth?
Currently, there are a few benefits to using Bluetooth instead of other technologies. Thbenefitsfits include:
- Industry standard
- Digital transmission
- No wires
Industry standard: Currently there are over 30,000 companies in the Bluetooth Special Interest group. This group oversees all aspects of the Bluetooth technology. The SIG Is responsible for the development, trademarks, and the qualification program. Because of the SIG, a new product must meet SIGs standards before it can be marketed as a Bluetooth device.
Digital transmission: Digital transmission provides better audio and video signal than analog. Digital is the current standard for many industries including the audio industry.
No wires: When you use Bluetooth, you save yourself the hassle of one less wire.
What if My TV Doesn’t Have a Bluetooth Connection?
If your TV doesn’t have Bluetooth technology, you may still be able to use the technology. There are aftermarket products called Bluetooth Adapters you can use to upgrade to Bluetooth. As long as you have a USB port on the back of your TV or sound bar you can upgrade the device.
Future Connections Between the Soundbar and TV
This section will be just speculation on the direction of sound bar to TV connections will go.
Zigbee is a wireless protocol that allows you to create networks of connected devices. This device would be a network within a network. You could connect services of devices to your Zigbee network, then when a device needs to connect to the internet it would reach out to your home network.
I envision a world where you enter your home and everything inside of your home is connected to your smartphone or watch using a Zigbee type network. You could control everything in your home with a single app, and the chances of these devices being hacked are greatly reduced because there are no individual connections to the internet.
The benefit of using this device is that there is one, secure connection to the internet. While I don’t believe Zigbee is working on this technology, it is something that would be interesting.
Near Field Communication (NFC)
Near Field Communication is another set of communication protocols that enable two devices that communicate with each other. The most common example is when someone at the grocery store taps their credit card against the machine.
It is very possible that NFC could be expanded to include other items like sound bars and sink faucets.
To conclude, yes, your sound bar will work with any TV. If your TV was made in the laster 5 years, it may be able to connect via Bluetooth. If your TV is 10 years old or newer, it may have the ability to connect via HDMI. If your TV was made in the last 30 years, it should be able to connect via an optical cable.
If your TV doesn’t have any of the above, there are adapters you can purchase that will convert formats. One example is the optical cable to AUX converter cord.