While soundbars are great all-in-one audio devices, there are some situations where you would want to use them simultaneously with other speakers.
Maybe you want to use directional speakers to enhance the 3D audio experience. Whatever the case may be, there are a few ways to use your soundbar with other speakers, which we’ll discuss in this article.
Can You Use a Soundbar with Other Speakers?
Yes. You can use a soundbar with other speakers but the exact steps will vary depending on a number of factors, such as your soundbar model, your external speakers, the output device’s connectors, and others.
In short, it’s possible to use a soundbar with other speakers but it’s a little complicated. In this article, I’ll walk you through some of the most common and easier ways to use a soundbar with other speakers.
There are a couple of pointers you need to keep in mind.
For starters, soundbars rarely support audio output, they’re mostly input devices, which means you can’t directly connect other speakers to soundbars.
Having said that, if you’re experienced with electronics, it may be possible to rewire and configure the internal circuitry of your soundbar to create an output signal. But that solution is a bit complicated.
Secondly, one way to use a soundbar with other speakers is to connect an optical cable splitter to your audio output device, and then run two optical cables from that splitter to both your soundbar and external speakers.
The problem with that solution is the two audio devices won’t really be in sync and the audio quality from each will be a little different which could result in strange-sounding audio.
The audio also won’t mix well, unless you have a stereo mixer or 5.1 channel audio receiver with outputs for multiple channels. The audio also might only come from two speakers.
For those reasons, after a lot of research, I feel that using a soundbar with other speakers is not a practical idea. It requires too many adapters, cables, and other devices.
Can You Make a 2.1 Soundbar into a 5.1?
While technically you can’t change a 2.1 soundbar into 5.1 because that requires different hardware, it’s possible to add more speakers to a soundbar. The downside is the audio quality won’t mix well, and you’ll have a lot of wires to deal with.
Most soundbars use a 2.1 (left, right, center) audio channel and use audio-tricks to simulate surround sound. Changing a 2.1 soundbar to 5.1 is rather complicated and not something I recommend because the price for the additional components, cables, and adapters, is much more than just buying a surround sound system.
Having said that, there are a few ways to add additional rear speakers to your soundbar. With these methods, you won’t be getting that true surround-sound experience, but it will be close enough.
If you’re looking to add surround sound speakers to your soundbar, such as rear speakers, here are some solutions.
1 – Use Officially Supported Surround Sound Speakers
Certain soundbars are compatible with very specific surround sound speakers, usually made by the same manufacturer.
As a matter of fact, if you’re looking to add additional surround-sound speakers to your soundbar, then finding a compatible directional-speaker kit is probably the easiest and best solution.
Of course, not every soundbar supports external speakers. In the case that your soundbar does not then move on to the next solution.
2 – Use a Universal Rear Speaker Kit (Ideally with two outputs)
These kits include a transmitter, receiver, and optional speakers. Several people have found these useful for adding rear speakers to soundbars, but the result will vary depending on your particular soundbar.
Before you buy one of these kits, make sure to check that your output device (Blu-ray player, Xbox, Playstation, etc) has the same connectors as the transmitter. The most common way to connect these devices would be with an audio optical cable.
One tip a fan recommended is connecting the soundbar to your TV (or other media device) through HDMI ARC and then using optical output from the device to the transmitter on the universal speaker kit.
3 – Use a 5.1 AV Receiver
Most audio experts will not recommend this method but it’s an idea you can try. With an AV receiver, you’ll have access to more channels, such as rear, center, and whatnot. You’ll also need an AV receiver that has pre-outs, or output ports.
You’ll want to plug your soundbar into the AV receiver using either an RCA or Aux cable. From there, run a cable from your external rear speakers into the receiver too. Once the AV receiver is connected to a source, and everything is powered on, everything should work.
The problem is, once again, it won’t be true surround sound, and you’ll likely have to play around with wire configurations to find a combination that works best.
In my opinion, if you’re going to use an AV receiver, then you might as well forget about the soundbar and just use regular speakers, the audio quality will be much better.
Remember to Check Audio Output Settings:
With these kinds of DIY audio setups, you probably won’t get the audio working on the first attempt. You’ll need to play around with different configurations, with the wires and connectors, as well as the audio output settings on your devices.
In some cases, disabling Dolby Atmos (or other Dolby versions) on your output device works better because you don’t need a device to encode or decode signals. In short, it’ll take a while to get the audio working correctly, but it can be worth it.
The Best Solution:
If you’re looking to use a soundbar with other speakers, instead of trying to combine both of them, I would suggest either sticking to a soundbar-only audio setup or a regular speaker setup. There are benefits to both audio setups, but combining them can be tricky because each audio device is designed in a different way and for a separate purpose.
Either get a surround sound soundbar kit with external speakers or simply buy a 5.1 home theater speaker setup without the soundbar. With either method, you should get a really good home theater audio experience.