Can You Hook up a Soundbar to an Older TV?

Are you trying to figure out how to hook up a soundbar to an older TV? Then you came to the right place. Connecting a soundbar to an older TV can be relatively straightforward, as long as both devices have the same connectors.

Chances are you’re on this page because you assume your soundbar and TV are not compatible. If both your TV and soundbar do not have the same connectors, for example, the TV doesn’t have HDMI ARC, and the soundbar only supports HDMI ARC, then you’ll run into some problems.

Not to worry, even when it looks impossible, there are a handful of ways to connect a soundbar to an older TV, and we’ll cover the most practical solutions in this article.

Can You Hook up a Soundbar to an Older TV?

The best way to hook up a soundbar to an older TV is with the red and white RCA cables. If your soundbar does not have RCA ports, the best alternative would be an optical cable (also known as Toslink). If both your soundbar and TV do not have matching connectors, you will need an adapter, which we’ll talk about later on.

How to Connect a Soundbar to an Older TV:

Normally, the best way to connect a soundbar to a TV would be to use HDMI ARC. But your older TV most likely does not have an HDMI ARC port. The good news is you can probably still get both of the devices to connect.

First, we’ll walk through the most popular ways to connect a soundbar to an old TV and then discuss the use of adapters.

Before I start, make sure to check the outputs. In some cases, like when a TV has a built-in antenna, the TV will be able to output the audio. Most of the time, TVs don’t actually create the source of audio, it comes from a cable box or another source.

RCA Cables (analogue):

RCA ports are very common on TVs, and even modern TVs and cable boxes support RCA. As mentioned earlier, connecting a soundbar to a TV via RCA cables is the most common and practical solution.

The key point here is that RCA uses analogue signals, which don’t support the audio formats that are probably advertised on your soundbar.

While the audio quality is still decent, it won’t be as good as if you were using digital audio (such as HDMI or optical). Check to see if both your TV and soundbar have RCA connections. If one of them does not, move on to the next solution.

Optical Cable (digital):

If you can’t hook up the soundbar to the TV with RCA cables, the best alternative would be to use an optical cable. Look for the optical audio port on the back of your TV, it’s usually labelled with “Toslink” or “Audio out”.

Next, run an optical cable from the port on your TV into the matching port on your soundbar, change the audio output settings on your TV, and the sound should come from your soundbar.

Don’t see an optical audio port? Read our article on how to connect a soundbar to a TV without optical cables.

Aux Cable (Headphone Jack)

Do you see an aux port on both your soundbar and older TV? It’s not a common port for older TVs but some include it. For this case, you would need a male to male aux cable, connected to the aux ports on each device.

Use an Adapter:

When your TV and soundbar do not have any of the same connection options, you will probably need an adapter to connect them.

Most Modern soundbars usually use HDMI, and old TVs usually only have RCA ports. So what you need is an RCA output to HDMI converter. The good news is there are plenty of RCA to HDMI converters you can use which should do the trick.

Before you buy an adapter, make sure that it is designed for RCA to HDMI (AV to HDMI) and not the other way around. To save you the trouble, I found a few adapters that should work.

RCA to HDMI Converters:

An RCA to HDMI converter, such as this one, should allow you to hook up a soundbar to an older TV that only supports RCA.

RCA to HDMI converters are usually designed to connect old devices such as VCRs and consoles to modern TVs, but they can be used for audio devices too.

Bear in mind, these adapters convert analogue to digital and therefore require external power, usually from a micro USB cable. So you’ll need to make sure you have extra space near your TV as well as an extra power outlet.

If only one of your devices has an Aux port and the other only has RCA, one solution could be to use an RCA to Aux cable. These cables are cheaper than RCA to HDMI converters and they can usually deliver decent audio. You can also use these to extract the audio from older devices to your phone.

How to Connect an RCA to HDMI Converter:

To use an RCA to HDMI adapter, you’ll need RCA cables and one HDMI cable. Most converters include all three RCA connectors, but since we’re only using the audio, we only need white and red, also known as the left and right channels.

Now, unbox the converter, insert the power cable, and make sure it’s powered on. Most manufacturers recommend connecting the power first before any other connections. Next, Connect the red and white cables into the ports on your TV and then into the same ports on the converter.

Finally, run an HDMI cable from the output on the converter to the HDMI port on your soundbar. If all the connections are secure, the audio from your older TV should come through the soundbar. You may also have to change the audio output settings on your TV to RCA.

You might be wondering:

Will any HDMI port work for HDMI ARC? Yes! You can connect an HDMI-ARC ready device to any HDMI port and it will work.

Conclusion:

So that wraps up our article on how to hook up a soundbar to an older TV. Don’t worry, with the right adapter or cable, it can be done. Most connectors can be converted in one way or another, so it’s a matter of finding one that works.

About S. Santos

Tech columnist and tech blogger, audiovisual aficionado trying to keep up with the ever-evolving world of gadgets, home entertainment, and personal technology. If not fiddling with AV cables at home or in front of the computer, he can be found playing tennis or padel.

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