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Audio – Video

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How to connect Speakers to flat screen smart TV

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º PC to stereo hookup

PC or TV to Stereo

How to listen to your computer or TV on your home stereo or powered speakers

Connecting speakers to your TV or computer gives you a much richer sound experience. There are a number of connection options and an almost unlimited choice of speakers.

1. Powered/Active Speakers have a built-in amplifier. Connect using RCA, Optical or even wireless.

2. Passive Speakers connect to a stereo amplifier or Audio Video Receiver using wires.

Audio is what you hear and video is what you see.
The audio is there but not allowed to escape via the inadequate internal TV speakers. The same is true for laptops.

How you connect speakers depends on what gear you have and what audio output ports you have available on the TV. You can connect a stereo system or bookshelf speakers or a full surround system or a soundbar.

Modern flat screen TV will have HDMI and Optical outputs. Older TV will have RCA (white, red) or 3.5mm aux audio out. Using the single HDMI ARC connection from TV is best but your soundbar or audio video receiver must support HDMI ARC also. If you use the optical audio connection from TV to soundbar or audio video receiver, make sure to set the TV audio to PCM or surround. If your TV supports Bluetooth, you can use a wireless Bluetooth speaker setup.

Audio Video Cables

PC or Laptop 3.5mm audio connection

Audio Cable - 3.5mm stereo (AUX) headphone to RCA left and right

Option for powered stereo speakers connected to laptop or PC using 3.5mm to RCA cable

Passive speakers - Stereo Amplifier - Computer

Connection diagram for 3 methods to hookup speakers to TV using an audio video receiver surround system. You could also use a soundbar instead of an Audio Video Receiver as they have HDMI, optical and RCA inputs as well.

Connection diagram to stereo receiver/amp if TV has analog RCA audio OUT

You can use any analog RCA stereo (white and red) INPUT except the Phono input.

What is the difference between FIXED and VARIABLE audio output?

The FIXED or VARIABLE audio output setting changes the way audio is sent through the television AUDIO OUT jacks.

Many TVs have a setting in the SOUND menus so that you can select FIXED or VARIABLE.

FIXED: When this setting is selected, the television audio through the AUDIO OUT jacks does not change when using the TV remote control volume buttons. The audio is fixed at one level. So the volume is controlled by the device used as output such as a soundbar.

VARIABLE: When this setting is selected, the television audio through the AUDIO OUT jack changes when using the volume buttons on the TV remote control. The audio varies based on signals sent from the TV remote control.

Audio Video Receiver surround sound

Soundbars can have HDMI, optical, analog RCA, 3.5mm inputs.
Soundbars have multiple speakers across the front and can have additional side speakers and subwoofers. Soundbars can also have Bluetooth wireless capability.

The HDMI ARC or audio return channel is a two-way signal transmission in one HDMI cable. Video to the TV and audio from the TV. The eARC or enhanced audio return channel is the newer interface which allows higher capacity for audio such as Dolby Digital Plus or Dolby TrueHD surround. Not all TVs will passthrough the higher surround formats.

Soundbar inputs - Optical in, Bluetooth wireless, Aux in (3.5mm)
HDMI OUT (To TV), HDMI In, USB, Ethernet

Optical audio output on TV to connect Speakers

Many TV displays have no audio output except the optical audio out port. You need a converter to take the optical output and convert that to RCA so you can connect to a stereo system or powered speaker setup.

Optical audio cable

These audio cables use light instead of electricity over copper wires to send audio signals from the TV. Using a dac or digital to analog converter, you can connect a vintage stereo or powered book shelf speaker setup to the TV.

TV rear panel

TV sound out to converter using optical cable then converter out to stereo receiver or powered speakers using analog RCA cables

Digital to Analog Audio Converter DAC Digital SPDIF Optical to Analog L/R RCA Converter Toslink Optical to 3.5mm Jack Adapter

Optical audio cable

You may need to set the audio output to PCM in the TV audio menu.

Connection diagram if TV has 3.5mm audio OUT and Soundbar has 3.5mm IN

How to connect speakers to vintage analog CRT TV

If your TV is an older analog tube model and you want to improve the sound quality or volume, you can connect speakers using your old vintage stereo system and your mandatory since 2009 digital to analog converter box for over-the-air broadcast TV. The same concept applies for a cable box or satellite receiver. Connect the white and red audio out from the box to the stereo receiver white and red audio inputs. You can use PLAY (Tape) or AUX in or CD in. Do not use PHONO in.

Connect the TV using coaxial cable or the yellow composite video cable. Turn the volume all the way down on the TV. Adjust the volume on the stereo system and select the input on the stereo you used to connect the box (DTV converter or cable box). On the TV select channel 3 or 4 if using coax cable hookup or select the VIDEO input if using the yellow composite cable hookup. You should see video on the TV and hear sound on the stereo system speakers.

Connection diagram vintage TV, stereo speakers to improve sound

Solutions to better audio are varied, from wireless headphones to soundbars to home theater systems.

Passive speakers and active or powered speakers

A passive speaker requires an external amplifier like an audio video receiver or stereo receiver. It has no power cord, only a speaker.

A powered or active speaker has a built-in amplifier and plugs into a wall outlet.

Stereo amplifiers or powered speakers can be connected to your TV or laptop for superior sound and extended positioning using audio cables and adapters. You just need to know what sound output ports your sound source has available. For example, many TV's today have stereo RCA audio output and/or Aux audio output (3.5mm). Laptops have an earphone output (3.5mm) for private listening which can be used for external speakers or an amplifier. Then your powered speakers or stereo receiver will have RCA stereo inputs or a 3.5mm stereo input jack.

Hookup diagram for powered external stereo speakers for TV sound.

TV has analog RCA outputs (white, red) older models. The speakers have a built-in amplifier. Speakers have an A/C wall plug.

Powered speaker front with volume control and Aux input (3.5mm)

Powered speaker rear with analog RCA cable inputs

Powered speakers cords - power cord, speaker wire, audio adapter cable and Aux audio cable 3.5mm

Powered Bookshelf Speakers - 2.0 Stereo

Connection diagram for TV to powered speakers

The 3.5mm connector is on top in the image above. This is also called 1/8in. and consists of a stereo connector which plugs into the HDTV or a powered speaker Aux input. The red and white RCA connnectors form a stereo sound connection just like the 3.5mm connector only using physically different plugs.

Some HDTVs have only the RCA (white and red) audio outputs on the rear panel while others have a 3.5mm AUX audio output.
Some have both RCA and 3.5mm as well as a digital audio output for surround sound. Some HDTVs have no audio output at all. In this case you may be able to use your Cable TV or Satellite TV set top box to connect audio to speakers or use a DTV converter box (around $40) or if your HDTV is ARC capable, use HDMI cable connection to a ARC capable Audio/Video Receiver with attached loudspeakers. ARC is the Audio Return Channel, part of the HDMI specification.

The above HDTV rear panel has RCA white and red analog audio output and an optical digital audio output.
These jacks are on the far right side lower (Audio Out).

There are adapters available for RCA or 3.5mm stereo audio hookups so that you can swap and match your jacks on your TV or speakers.

By using adapters and extension cables, you can position speakers away from the laptop or TV. Powered speakers with a volume control allow you to adjust the sound level. This setup may allow the elderly to hear the TV sound better by positioning the speakers next to their viewing chair.

Extension cable for 3.5mm audio - cable increases distance. Can also be used for laptop connection to powered speakers.

Laptop hookup to external stereo speakers.
Use earphone jack on laptop and adjust volume on laptop and speakers.

Laptop to Stereo.

Cable RCA to RCA stereo 50 feet.
cable audio RCA 50 feet

With a wired hookup, you can add distance easily by using audio extension cable with 3.5mm male plug at one end and a female 3.5mm connection at the other end. Several of these cables can be hooked together for longer distances.

What about cable TV and my older TV with no audio outputs?

Older TVs with no audio output or no earphone out can use a VCR as audio output.

For analog cable TV, connect the cable to your VCR antenna input and connect another coax cable from the VCRs coax output (round silver jack) to your TV as normal. Most VCRs also have RCA output jacks, either white only or white and red for stereo sound.
Connect a RCA audio cable (white / red) from the VCRs out jacks to the white / red input jacks on the powered speakers.

For anyone with a cable box, analog or digital, you can connect the RCA audio cable from the cable box white and red RCA outputs to the powered speakers RCA inputs.

For a TV with only optical OUT, use an optical audio cable to connect to a soundbar optical input or for full surround sound where available, an Audio/Video Receiver's optical input.

Optical audio cable connection is for stereo audio and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.


HDMI connection is for stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby TrueHD and if you have eARC capabilty, even higher bandwidth audio signals Like Dolby ATMOS.

If the source has these audio formats (Netflix) the TV can output the audio to the speakers via the HDMI connection.

How to connect Speakers to TV with HDMI




Wireless speakers - Bluetooth

If your laptop or TV has Bluetooth (most phones also have bluetooth) you can pair to a Bluetooth wireless speaker.

If your TV or laptop does not have Bluetooth, you can setup a wireless transmitter and receiver for stereo sound. Bluetooth or RF or Wi-Fi is all possible depending on your devices. Some TV has Wi-Fi built-in and can connect to your home network for wireless sound to a soundbar.

Setup Bluetooth wireless sound to Bluetooth capable soundbar or Bluetooth speaker

Bluetooth is a short range wireless stereo sound technology built in to many TVs, phones and sound systems.

1. Be sure your soundbar is bluetooth capable and powered ON.

2. Press the PAIR button on your soundbar remote.

3. Go to SETTINGS on your TV.

4. Navigate to the TV SOUND menu or on some TVs it may be REMOTES and SETTINGS or ACCESSORIES.

5. Go to SOUND OUTPUT or on some TVs it may be BLUETOOTH SETTINGS. Be sure Bluetooth is set to ON.

6. Select Bluetooth speaker list or on some TVs it may be ADD DEVICE.

7. Your soundbar should appear in the list on screen, Select it.

8. Select PAIR and CONNECT. It may take a few seconds for the TV and the speaker to pair together.

9. Message on-screen should say CONNECTED.

Using an external soundbar or speaker should give you enhanced sound, better than the internal TV speakers.

Q: I don't have an aux port on my tv, only optical output. how do I hook up?
1. Place your Bluetooth audio receiving device within a 3 feet range and set it to pairing mode.
2. Set the adapter to TX mode. Press and hold the Power Button for 5 seconds (LED indicator flashes blue slowly) and tap twice to enter pairing mode (LED indicator flashes red and blue alternately). After approximately 30 seconds, the pairing will be done (LED indicator in solid blue).
3. Connect it to the audio output of your TV.
Note: Please set your TV sound settings to PCM as it does not support Dolby Digital or DTS.

Transmit TV sound out

Receive sound and send to speakers

Receive sound and send to amplifier stereo or audio/video receiver with speakers.

Small Sound Bar for TV with Bluetooth, RCA, USB, Opt, AUX Connection, Mini Sound/Audio System for TV Speakers

A few Bluetooth notes in regard to TV and Bluetooth speakers:

You can only pair one Bluetooth audio device at a time.
You can't use Bluetooth devices and the Wi-Fi Speaker Surround Setup feature (also called Surround), or TV SoundConnect simultaneously.
Compatibility issues may occur, depending on the Bluetooth device. For instance, some Bluetooth headphones are designed for mobile devices exclusively and won't pair with a TV.
Lip-sync errors (audio delay) may occur.
The TV and Bluetooth device may disconnect, depending on the distance between them.
A Bluetooth device may hum or malfunction:

When a part of your body is in contact with the receiving or transmitting system of the Bluetooth device or the TV.
When the device is subject to electrical variation from obstructions caused by a wall, corner, or office partitioning.
When the device is exposed to electrical interference from same frequency-band devices including medical equipment, microwave ovens, and wireless LANs.

Pairing a Bluetooth speaker

1. Put the speaker into Bluetooth pairing mode and make sure it is discoverable.
2. Navigate to the Bluetooth audio device list on your TV and select the speaker to pair with.
The process is slightly different depending on what model of TV you have.

for example:
MENU > Sound > Additional Settings > Bluetooth Audio or
Home > Settings > Sound > Sound Output > Bluetooth Speaker

HDTV Antennas

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