Connecting your home cinema system or soundbar.
Guidelines for Connecting your home cinema or soundbar
There are so many different devices for sale, from televisions and Blu-ray players to game consoles and set-top boxes. For this reason, it is impossible to put together 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 about the best cables, the easiest connections and the most common combinations.
Before you start
Before you start connecting, you probably already have a hundred questions about the type of cables, the order and how it works. Before you start, it is therefore wise to make a clear overview of the devices that you want to connect to each other and which connection options these devices have. Once you have mapped out these connections, you can also quickly and easily match them. Also look for one central point, also called a hub. This can be a TV, a home cinema set, a sound bar or be a receiver. This is the point where all (or most) of the components converge. Take, for example, a soundbar with two 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.
Do you use a soundbar and do you have a recent TV with multiple HDMI inputs? In most cases, the TV is the most convenient hub. Connect your components to this and let hdmi eARC send the audio from the TV to the soundbar. Do you have a av receiver Then that is the most convenient hub. It has the most connections and can be easily operated to select sources.
If you are still purchasing equipment, make sure you also make an overview of the connections you need. For example, if you have five devices that must be connected via HDMI, buy a receiver or a TV with at least five inputs. This will save you from worrying about connecting your system later. The same goes for 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 allows both image and sound to pass, while optical and coaxial digital only let sound through. In addition, HDMI offers a larger bandwidth, so that the latest surround formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X can be forwarded.
Everything depends of course on the devices you have and which connections you have available on these devices, but if there are HDMI ports, use them too. If there aren’t any, look for optical and digital coaxial outputs and inputs first. If these are not available or you cannot match the transmitter and receiver, then you will look at the well-known and analog RCA connections.
Receiver, soundbar or TV as hub
We have already briefly stated it above, but always look for a hub, the central place to which the components are connected. We always prefer a receiver or a television, 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. If used as a hub, the soundbar or receiver is connected to the TV via 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 store everything on the receiver or soundbar? Then use the TV as a hub. For example, connect a media box, console and Blu-ray player to the TV (preferably via HDMI, but otherwise via a digital cable). If you have a TV and a receiver or soundbar with hdmi arc or hdmi earc, the audio from these connected devices is automatically sent back to the receiver or soundbar via the hdmi cable, so you have sound through the speakers of your system and image. on your television. 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.
Legacy: Sound TV channels over speakers
What some people – often in possession of an older system – 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. But, 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 or hdmi earc 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 interface. cable through which image and audio also come in. In short, you don’t have to lay extra cables. Hdmi earc is the successor to this and also makes it possible to transmit hi-res audio formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
Devices without HDMI
You may have devices that do not have an HDMI port. So you cannot use the central hub to receive audio and images, so that the audio is then displayed via the speakers and the image is displayed to the TV via the HDMI cable. If you want to run the audio from these devices over your speakers and the image through your TV, it’s best to connect the TV for the image and run 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 have too few HDMI inputs on your TV, soundbar or receiver, you will have to make choices. Which source do you view the most? Or, with 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 images via HDMI, of course). Then you go from the device with an audio cable or via the TV and HDMI arc to the soundbar or amplifier.
Connecting your home cinema or Soundbar: Conclusion
Connecting equipment to 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 is (almost) always preferred and that you must know in advance what you want and need. For the rest, your situation may deviate from what is ‘standard’ due to the choice of certain products, but with the above information you can at least get started.