Does your TV have only an optical digital audio output, only
analog RCA stereo out or no audio output options at all?
Often, TV manufacturers today only offer an optical audio output, a
stereo output or no output at all for
sound from your TV.
Many people do not have an audio/video receiver
with the capability to decode surround sound or have any audio device
with an optical input.
So how do you get sound out from the TV to
external amplifiers or speakers for richer audio?
Depending on what gear you have or are willing to buy, there are many
options. Surround sound is available from a variety of sources
including over-the-air TV broadcasts, cable, satellite programming,
games (XBOX, Playstation), Blu-ray discs, DVD, and more.
converter boxes, switches, adapter cables and more, all available to
meet your audio goals.
Audio Goals -
1. Get surround sound or stereo sound from TV to a soundbar,
audio/video receiver, or stereo amplifier for richer sound.
2. Get surround sound or stereo sound from TV with no audio outputs.
3. Get sound from TV with only optical output - only using stereo
4. Get sound from multiple A/V sources when TV does not have enough
HDTV REAR PANEL
Some HDTVs have both analog audio out and digital audio outputs but
many TVs only have digital optical
audio out using an optical jack. In the
image above, the optical output jack is bottom right. It is labeled
DIGITAL AUDIO OUT
(OPTICAL). This is capable of surround sound or stereo (PCM). Some TVs
3.5mm audio output jack for stereo sound. Just above the optical,
labeled AUDIO OUT.
Optical audio cable hookup is good for stereo or 2-channel audio or Dolby Digital 5.1, but not for more modern audio sound such as 7.1 or Dolby ATMOS.
The point is that as technology advances, HDMI will be the connection of choice as HDMI can handle
every possible sound configuration from created sources in the near future.
Soundbars will not yield true surround sound. You need an Audio/Video Receiver for that with 6 or 8 loudspeakers or more.
However, a soundbar will indeed yield better sound than TV speakers. Remember to set the TV sound to the appropriate output using the TV menus.
The image above shows a closeup of an optical jack. You use a Toslink
audio cable to connect to a soundbar or audio/video receiver or home
theater optical audio input. This way you can get surround sound or
For the analog audio 3.5mm audio out, use a audio
cable with either
3.5mm plugs at both ends or an adapter
cable which has 3.5mm at one end
and two RCA plugs at the other end to connect to stereo amplifier or
Soundbar for TV sound solutions
If TV has only RCA analog audio Outputs, use a RCA stereo to 3.5mm adapter cable to connect.
Diagram - TV Sound Output
Diagram - Converter box takes optical
input and outputs to RCA analog
audio. For TV with only optical audio output.
Use a DAC to convert TV optical audio output to a analog stereo input to amplifier or receiver for better sound from TV. Vintage stereo gear can use the AUX RCA inputs.
PROZOR 192KHz Digital to Analog Audio Converter DAC Digital SPDIF Optical to Analog L/R RCA Converter Toslink Optical to 3.5mm Jack Adapter
Set TV audio output to PCM
DIAGRAM - HDTV optical connected to SoundBar or Home Theater for
TV has NO audio
Solution 1: Use
your Cable TV or Satellite TV receiver box.
you are using a cable TV box or satellite TV receiver box to get your
TV programming, connect the analog audio outputs (white and red audio
OUT on the rear panel of the cable box) using a standard RCA stereo
cable (white and red) to your stereo amplifier inputs or wireless
speakers or other device.
The white and red analog audio outputs are
next to the yellow video output. These analog outs are usually
available on todays cable boxes for older TVs or VCRs but you can
hookup cables to the analog audio outs only and get the sound for your
TV show sent out to an amplifier and speakers. This also works for a
DTV converter box when using only an antenna for over the air TV
broadcasts. These converter boxes have RCA audio outputs to carry sound
to an amplifier.
DIAGRAM - TV stereo sound from cable/satellite TV set top box
Digital Cable/Satellite TV
set top box rear panel
Surround sound (when available) from the SPDIF output (7) can be used
to connect to a soundbar or home theater if TV has no audio output.
Usually requires a Toslink audio cable to connect.
Sometimes this solution works well and you do
not need to buy anything.
Some issues may occur with this solution such
as an audio delay. Your TV may have a feature to adjust audio delay but
if it does not and you are getting an audio delay, then go to the next
For DVD, Blu-ray, Xbox, Playstation sources, connect to A/V receiver
via HDMI or optical audio.
Use an HDMI switchbox for multiple sources such as games, DVD,
HDMI switch box
Use this HDMI switch to access sound from all your sources, including
cable TV or
game boxes and also a TV tuner box such as an ATSC TV tuner box. Just
the audio output on the HDMI switch box to your audio
amplifier/receiver. Use the
optical audio or the HDMI output if your receiver has HDMI input, then
cable on to the TV. You can also use a soundbar.
Diagram Hookup TV HDMI Switch
box for sound
TV Tuner Box with
ATSC, HDMI out
ATSC Digital TV Converter Box and Media Player w/ Recording PVR
Function / HDMI Out / Coaxial Out / Composite Out / USB Input
Using this TV tuner box and a audio/video receiver, you can connect the
HDMI or digital audio output from the tuner to the AVR and then HDMI to
Solution 2: Use an
cost around $30 to $40. Connect a UHF/VHF
antenna to the tuner box,
HDMI cable to TV and connect, typically a coaxial digital audio cable
a surround sound soundbar or A/V receiver. Or use the RCA white and red
stereo outputs on the ATSC tuner box to hookup to stereo receiver and
These boxes usually record also to a USB thumb drive. Watch
one program using big screen TV tuner while recording
another show using the ATSC tuner box. These tuners will give you audio
output if your TV will not. Usually these tuner boxes have surround
sound outputs such as a digital coaxial which you can connect to a
surround sound receiver.
Diagram - Use two TV tuners, one for richer sound or if TV has no audio
output and one for viewing.
Solution 3: Use a HDMI audio extractor.
For more than one HDMI input device, use a HDMI switch box to connect multiple HDMI source devices.
an audio converter.
This solution involves an audio converter box which
you will need to buy. Cost can be from $25 to $68 or so. These small
devices will accept the optical cable connection from your TV and allow
the stereo analog RCA output connection to your amplifier or other
There are some considerations here, such as:
Does the converter box actually convert the digital audio to analog or
whatever the TV is sending out from the optical output? Some converter
boxes actually convert
the digital bitstream to analog audio but others will only pass a PCM
2-channel signal to the analog RCA output.
If you see a warning regarding the audio converter box you intend to
buy such as the example below, be sure your TV can output 2-channel
stereo and not just 5.1 signals.
NOTE! This device will NOT decode
5.1-channel signals. It will ONLY convert 2-channel digital stereo
(PCM) input signals to analog stereo output. This will not work with
TVs that only output 5.1-channel digital signals!
The best converters will convert surround sound to 6 channel analog
audio. Look at the audio converter box. Does it have 6 RCA output jacks
just 2 RCA outputs?
The reason this is important is because some TVs do
not have the option to output their audio as 2-channel PCM over the
only as Dolby Digital
5.1, which needs to be decoded. Go into your TVs audio menu to check
which audio output options are available.
If your TV has the option to output
sound as 2-channel PCM or Dolby Digital 5.1, then you can buy a
only 2 RCA outputs (although you may want to buy a box with 6 analog
outputs). Set the TV to output PCM audio and connect a
standard stereo RCA cable to the converter box RCA outputs and then to
your inputs on a stereo receiver or other sound device.
If your TV can only output Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, then you
need a converter box which can decode the optical bitstream to 6
channel analog audio.
Audio converter box which takes optical input and outputs 6 channel
If you only have a stereo amp, only connect the FL (front left) and the
FR (front right) cable connections.
Converter box with only 2 analog audio connections. This box does not
convert the optical digital audio so you have to be able to give it PCM
This box accepts optical or coaxial digital audio cables.
Audio converter box for 6 channel analog audio output.
There are also soundbars
with optical inputs and wireless headphones
with optical inputs that may offer a solution. Soundbars for your TV
will give you some
enhanced sound while headphones will allow private TV listening. You
could also buy a home theater in a box system from Samsung, Sony, Onkyo
or Panasonic. These have optical inputs and give you richer sound from
loudspeakers. Just connect an optical audio cable from the TV to the
sound system and start enjoying better sound than your TV speakers can
to PC hookup / record vinyl LPs to computer
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cassette to computer hookup - how to record audio cassettes to PC
there a speaker which accepts an optical input?
Behringer makes a stereo speaker setup with amp and DAC which has an
optical input. See below.
Speaker MS40 Digital 40-Watt Stereo
2-way active studio monitors ideally
computer studios, audio and multimedia workstations and keyboard
Built-in 2 x 20-Watt amplifiers
Powerful woofers and high-resolution
provide an ultra-linear frequency response
Ultra-high resolution 24-bit/192 kHz D/A
for an incredible dynamic range
Optical and coaxial inputs to directly
digital audio sources by S/PDIF interface
25.6 x 9.1 x 13 inches ; 21.3 pounds
Rear of Behringer Speaker - Optical Input and Coaxial Input plus Analog
HEADPHONES for TV
Headphones for a TV has many uses including private listening, volume increases for older folks without disturbing others, mobile listening and more.
There are basically three types of hookups, 1) wired, 2) wireless Bluetooth and 3) wireless RF. Wireless Bluetooth has some limitations such as about a
30 feet maximum distance of signal reliability and Bluetooth can suffer from an audio lag issue where the audio is not in synch with the video
creating a lip synch issue. More expensive Bluetooth headphones can sometimes fix this problem. Wired headphones are also limited in distance
and create a possible tripping hazard with the wire connection. Wireless RF headphones work up to 100 feet and do not suffer from audio lag.
Since TVs can have 3.5mm audio out, RCA stereo audio out or optical audio output, make sure to get a headphone transmitter unit with the proper connection
to your TV. Connect the TV to the headphone transmitter unit using an audio cable. If the TV has only optical audio output, connect the optical cable only from the TV to the headphone
transmitter unit. Next, set the TV to external speakers and the audio output to PCM. Headphones should have volume control.
Wireless RF Headphones with transmitter
Has 3.5mm, RCA and Optical connections.
Avantree HT280 Wireless Headphones for TV Watching with 2.4G RF Transmitter Charging Dock, Digital Optical System, High Volume Headset Ideal for Seniors & Hearing Impaired, 100ft Range, No Audio Delay
Optical Cable for connecting TV to headphone transmitter
Audio Return Channel - ARC
is a newer technology, part of the HDMI spec. Your TV must have ARC
capability and the other devices such as soundbar must also be ARC
capable. ARC lets
your digital TV output digital sound to an audio device and input
digital sound from the same audio device over a single
HDMI cable. ARC is
only available through the HDMI (ARC) port and only when the TV is
connected to an ARC-enabled A/V
With ARC you no longer need to connect an optical cable from the TV to
a soundbar or A/V receiver for sound. The same HDMI cable from the A/V
receiver to the TV which carrys DVD, Cable, satellite, Xbox, Bluray can
also carry, in the reverse direction, sound from the TV back to the A/V
receiver. You can send audio from internal TV sources like the
HDTV tuner, or
built-in web streaming apps to home theater, soundbar with HDMI.
Send out the audio from other
HDMI sources as the TV becomes the central hub.
The TV switches all the sources, and the audio for each one (Blu-ray
player, cable box, etc), would get sent to a soundbar or Home Theater.
If your TV has ARC already, you’ll just need to get a
soundbar, HTIB, or A/V receiver that also has ARC.
HDMI cables needed:
An Audio Return Channel-enabled TV allows you to send audio over an
already connected HDMI cable. Typically, in order to transfer audio
from your source (TV tuner) to your home theater you would need a
separate audio cable (analog audio or digital optical) going from your
TV to the home theater. With the ARC function, you can send any audio
from your TV back to an ARC enabled home theater receiver and listen to
your TV's audio through the home theater system without having to
connect an optical audio cable.
are one example of the steps to enable ARC (Audio Return Channel)
sure your audio receiver
is ARC compatible
and that your HDTV is ARC compatible.
that you have an HDMI 1.4
that is multi-directional.
- Use HDMI 1
or HDMI (ARC) on your TV. This will need to be plugged into
the HDMI OUT
of the audio video receiver.
- MENU -
Sound - Digital Audio on
your TV, change to Dolby Digital.
- MENU -
Sound - Turn off
the TV internal speakers.
the receiver is in TV control and is in discoverable mode.
- (You may
to reference the user manual for your receiver)
for the device under CEC menu
will unlock System Audio Control
(under CEC), turn to ON.
a TV compatible with the Audio Return Channel (ARC) function via an
Diagram ARC for TV sound
If your TV
supports the Audio Return Channel (ARC) function, set the receiver by
the following procedure to output the sound of the TV from
connected to the receiver.
Settings] from the home menu.
HDMI Switch Box
Some HDMI switch boxes have ARC
Diagram for HDMI switch box