Getting the most immersive audio experience from your TV requires connecting it to a dedicated speaker system. While modern slim TVs boast impressive visuals, their built-in speakers often leave much to be desired. Adding external speakers allows you to hear all the audio details in your movies, TV shows, and games.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through the process of connecting speakers to a TV. We’ll cover the different connection options based on your equipment, placement tips for an optimal setup, as well as wireless alternatives like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Why Connect Speakers to Your TV?
Here are some key reasons why adding speakers can drastically improve your home theater:
- More powerful, nuanced sound – External speakers have larger components and better amplification than TV speakers.
- Surround sound – With multiple speakers, you can create an immersive audio environment.
- Improved clarity – Dedicated speakers separate the audio signals from the TV’s electronics that can cause interference.
- Bass – TVs lack the cabinet space for adequate low-frequency reproduction that a subwoofer provides.
- Volume – Speakers can safely play louder than small built-in TV speakers.
- No distortion – Speakers won’t distort at high volumes like built-in TV speakers often do.
Connecting a speaker system to your TV is the single best way to improve your audio experience. Movies and shows will come alive with dynamic, detailed sound effects and crystal clear dialogue.
Speaker Options for Your TV
There are many speaker configurations available to enhance your TV’s sound. The options range from simple stereo pairs to elaborate multi-speaker surround sound setups.
The most convenient audio upgrade is a soundbar. This is a single elongated speaker enclosure that sits below or above your TV. Models with a wireless subwoofer are common for adding bass.
Soundbars come in all shapes, sizes and price points. Some even simulate surround sound with multiple drivers angled around the room.
Bookshelf Speaker Pairs
For improved stereo separation, many choose compact bookshelf speakers placed on stands flanking the TV. This creates a wider, more enveloping soundstage compared to a soundbar.
Bookshelf speakers come in passive (requiring an amplifier) and powered options with built-in amplification. They output very clean, accurate sound from specialized driver components.
Larger freestanding floorstanding speakers can take the place of bookshelf speakers. Their bigger enclosures allow for louder volumes and stronger bass than smaller models.
Floorstanders are sold individually, so you need two for proper stereo. But their immersive room-filling sound makes them a popular centerpiece.
Surround Sound Systems
For the ultimate home theater experience, surround sound systems add speakers behind the viewing position. This creates the 3D audio effect you hear in cinemas for the most immersive experience.
Full surround systems require at least 5 speakers: Left, Center, Right, Rear Left, and Rear Right. But 7 and 9 speaker setups are also common for larger rooms.
How to Connect Speakers to Your TV
Connecting external speakers to your TV involves linking the audio ports between the devices. Let’s go over the step-by-step process.
1. Identify Connection Options
First, examine the rear panel of your TV to determine available audio outputs. Also check the speaker or receiver inputs if possible.
Here are typical audio ports used to connect a TV and speaker system:
- HDMI – Transmits digital video and audio over a single cable. Requires both devices have HDMI ports.
- RCA – Analog red and white (or black) connectors sometimes found on older A/V gear.
- Optical – Also called S/PDIF. Carries multichannel digital audio as light pulses through a TOSLINK cable.
- 3.5 mm – Also known as an aux input. Used by portable speakers and headphones.
2. Choose Complementary Connections
After scouting available ports, identify compatible connections between the TV and speaker system.
Prioritize digital audio connections like HDMI and Optical that offer pristine signal transfer. Analog RCA and 3.5mm will also work fine over shorter distances.
If the electronics don’t have matching ports, adaptors can bridge the gap. For example, you can connect HDMI-equipped TVs to optical-only receivers using an HDMI-to-Optical converter.
3. Connect Cables Between Devices
With compatible connections identified, obtain the correct cables to link your TV and speaker system.
For digital options, use:
- An HDMI cable for HDMI ports
- A TOSLink optical cable for Optical ports
For analog connections, use:
- RCA stereo audio cables (red and white)
- A 3.5mm stereo audio cable
Connect one end of the cable to the TV’s audio output port, and patch the other end into the speaker system’s input. Consult device manuals if you need help locating the ports.
4. Securely Mount Components
If you had to remove your TV from the wall to access the ports, remount it securely now. Position the external speakers or speaker stands according to your room’s layout.
Neatly organize all cables out of sight. Coil up excess wire and fasten it with cable ties as needed.
5. Configure TV Audio Settings
With everything connected, power on the TV and speaker system. Switch the TV’s audio output to the connected port.
For example, if using an optical connection, change the audio settings from the TV speakers to Optical Out. This ensures sound is routed to your external speakers.
Test that audio plays as expected from the connected speakers. Troubleshoot any connectivity issues and adjust cables as needed.
Speaker Placement Guidelines
Where you position speakers greatly impacts the listening experience. Follow these general home theater setup tips:
Stereo Pair Placement
For the optimal two-channel stereo setup, place speakers equidistant from the centered TV screen. Angled slightly inward, at the same height as each other and level with the viewer’s ear position.
Surround Sound Speaker Placement
In a surround setup, position all speakers the same distance from the central seating area. Place the side and rear speakers at 60 to 90 degrees from the center sweet spot.
Avoid cramming surround speakers right against a wall. Give them some breathing room to image the 3D audio field properly.
Set the subwoofer between the left and right speakers. Run calibration routines on surround receivers to tailor the sound to your room.
Soundbars function best when placed directly below your TV, about 2-3 inches out from the wall. Elevated TVs may benefit from an articulating wall mount to angle the soundbar towards the viewer.
If the soundbar includes an external subwoofer, position it alongside the TV stand rather than behind it. This avoids muffled bass tones.
Wireless Speaker Connections
If your speakers offer wireless connectivity, you can eliminate cables running to your TV. Just enable pairing mode on both units to connect them.
Many TVs have integrated Bluetooth connectivity. This allows you to directly pair compatible Bluetooth speakers, soundbars, and headphones to the smart TV.
Look for Bluetooth 5.0 devices for extended range and reduced latency. Position Bluetooth speakers within about 30 feet and free of obstructions for robust reception.
Higher-end speaker systems with Wi-Fi can network directly with smart TVs. Both must connect to the same wireless router.
In your TV settings, add the Wi-Fi speakers to the audio output options. Some setups may require you to use an app to connect the units.
Because they use local network connectivity rather than Bluetooth, Wi-Fi speakers aren’t subject to the same range and latency limitations.
Enjoy Your Enhanced TV Audio
Adding dedicated speakers to your TV provides a serious audio upgrade for movies, games, and music. Match the capabilities of your equipment, use quality cables, and optimize placement for an immersive listening experience.
Remember to change the audio output settings on your TV to direct sound through the connected speakers. Consider advanced surround sound receivers and components to create an incredible home theater environment.
With the proper connections and positioning in place, you can finally hear your entertainment the way it was meant to sound. External speakers unlock the emotion, excitement and impact that TV audio alone lacks.