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Connecting home cinema system or soundbar: You should know this

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In this article, we’ll cover the most important cables, connections, and ways while connecting home cinema system or soundbarr.

Guidelines connecting home cinema system or soundbar

There are so many different devices for sale, from televisions and blu-ray players to audio systems and set-top boxes. For this reason, it is impossible to find the correct connection method and the correct cables for every device and every combination of devices. Nevertheless, we can give you a general direction, with tips on the best cables, the easiest connections and the most common combinations. 

Before you start Connecting home cinema system or soundbar

Before you start connecting this, you probably already have a hundred questions about the type of cables, the sequence and the operation. It is therefore wise to make a clear overview of the devices you want to connect to each other and what connection options these devices have before you start. If you have mapped these connections, you can also match them quickly and easily. Also look for one central point, also known as a hub. This can be a TV, a home cinema set, a soundbar or be a TV. This is the point where all (or most) of the components converge. Take, for example, a home cinema set with three HDMI inputs and one HDMI output. Connect your components (players, decoders, etc.) to those inputs and have the image sent to the TV via the HDMI output. One hub gives you an overview and also makes adjustments easier.

If you still purchase equipment, make sure that you also make an overview of the connections you need. For example, if you have five devices that need to be connected via HDMI, buy a receiver, a home cinema set or a TV with at least five inputs. This will save you having to worry about connecting your system later. The same applies to other connections, such as RCA ports, optical and digital coaxial inputs and outputs.

Digital is preferred

The very first tip is actually quite simple; if something can be connected digitally, connect it digitally. Digital is always preferred (unless you are a hi-fi enthusiast who can hear the difference from analog) as it is less prone to interference and is also compatible with the latest audio formats. And when we talk about digital, HDMI is always preferable to optical (Toslink) and digital coaxial. The main reason for this is that HDMI transmits both image and sound, while optical and coaxial digital only transmit sound. In addition, HDMI offers a larger bandwidth so that the latest surround formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS: X can also be forwarded.

Of course, everything depends on the devices you have and which connections you have at your disposal on these devices, but if there are HDMI ports, use those too. If these are not there, look for optical and digital coaxial outputs and inputs first. If these are not available or you cannot match the transmitter and receiver with it, then you will look at the well-known and analog RCA connections.

Read more about the types of cables (mentioned above)  you can use and the audio cables for optimal sound.

Receiver, soundbar or home cinema set as a hub

I have already briefly indicated it above, but always look for a hub, the central location where the components are connected. We always prefer a receiver, a home cinema set or a soundbar, provided they have enough inputs to store all your components. Here too you first look at the digital possibilities, preferably HDMI. All components are connected to this. The home cinema set, soundbar or receiver is then connected to the TV by means of one (HDMI) cable, while the soundbar, set or receiver simultaneously provides the audio reproduction. You can then choose the desired input on the receiver, soundbar or set so that the correct image is displayed on the TV and the corresponding audio sounds over the speakers.

Can’t you lose everything on the receiver, soundbar or home cinema set? Then use the TV as a second hub. For example, connect a media box or a console to the TV (preferably via HDMI but otherwise via a digital cable). If you have a TV and a receiver, soundbar or home cinema set with HDMI arc (more about this below), the audio from these connected devices is automatically sent back via the HDMI cable to the first hub (soundbar, receiver or set) and you therefore have sound through the speakers of your system and image on your TV. If the TV and first hub do not support HDMI arc, connect an audio cable directly from the devices connected to the TV to the receiver, soundbar or home cinema set.

Sound TV channels over speakers

What many people often encounter is getting the sound from the TV through the speakers of the receiver, the soundbar or the home cinema set. If you have connected everything as described above, via one central hub, you will automatically receive that sound over your speakers when the decoder or set-top box is switched on and you select the correct input on the hub. However, if you watch analog TV or have the decoder or set-top box connected directly to the TV, you will only get the sound on TV. You can lay an extra audio cable between the decoder, set-top box or TV and the hub, but HDMI arc is the best solution.

HDMI arc (Audio Return Channel) is a function that both the TV and the receiver, soundbar or home cinema set must have and makes it possible to return sound from the TV itself (own tuner and own content) via the HDMI cable where image and audio also comes in via. In short, you do not have to lay extra cables. Read more about HDMI Audio Return Channel .

Pay attention; hdmi arc is a standard that can often cause problems and that does not work the same on every device. If you cannot hear sound from analogue channels or sound from apps within the smart TV platform of your TV via HDMI arc, use an audio cable between the TV and the central hub. Again applies here; digital is preferred.

Devices without HDMI

You may still have devices that do not have an HDMI port. So you cannot use the central hub to receive audio and image, so that the audio is then displayed via the speakers and the image via the HDMI cable to the TV. If you want the audio from these devices to run over your speakers and the image through your TV, then it is best to connect the TV in front of the image and lay an audio cable to the hub for the sound. You can also choose to put audio and image to the TV and then send the audio via the TV to the hub via HDMI arc or a separate audio cable. If you want audio and image via the TV, use a scart cable between the device and the TV, for example.

If you have too few HDMI inputs on your home cinema set, soundbar or receiver, you will have to make choices. Which source do you view the most? Or, for which source is high-quality (surround) audio quality important? This source is then connected via HDMI. You can connect the other sources directly to your TV (for image via HDMI of course). Then you go from the device with an audio cable to the hub or via the TV and HDMI arc or an audio cable to the hub.

Read more about issues with audio over HDMI and using HDMI over long distances .

Conclusion

Connecting equipment in your home cinema system requires some preparation. So make it clear for yourself which devices you have and which connections are available. Unfortunately, there is no single set-up or unambiguous conclusion, except that digital (almost) always has preference and that you need to know well in advance what you want and need. For the rest, your situation may deviate from what is ‘standard’ by choosing certain products, but with the above information you can at least get started. 

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