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This way you connect a soundbar to a TV without HDMI



While most modern sound bars rely on HDMI to connect to HDTVs and 4K TVs, there are still plenty of sound bars on the market with legacy audio inputs that work with older TVs – and yes, that includes CRT TVs. (also called ‘tube’ TVs) decades old.

By connecting an outdated TV to a soundbar, you can give your older set a massive audio boost, complete with thumping bass and even virtualized 3D sound. And if your old flat screen or tube TV has the right outputs, connecting to a new soundbar is a piece of cake.

Look for optical or RCA audio outputs

The first step is to check the back of your old TV to see what audio outputs are available. If your aging TV doesn̵

7;t have HDMI, the next best thing is an optical (or Toslink) audio port, which has a square opening with a few small notches on each side. Optical audio connections are not only suitable for compressed (but not lossless) 5.1 and even 7.1 channel Dolby Digital and DTS sound, they are also widely supported by the latest sound bars.

Optical Toslink and RCA audio outputs on a TV Ben Patterson / IDG

Many older TVs have at least analog stereo RCA audio outputs or even a multi-channel optical digital audio output.

No sign of an optical output? Then look for a stereo pair of RCA audio outputs, one for the left channel (usually white and marked “L”) and a second for the right channel (usually red and marked “R”). Many older TVs – even those back in the 1980s – have these familiar-looking RCA plugs on the rear input / output panels that can deliver analog stereo audio signals.

Shopping for the right soundbar

Once you’ve determined that your older TV has optical or analog RCA audio outputs, you’re ready to hit the soundbar shopping – and, if we may be bold, your first stop should be our roundup of the best sound bars where we have reviews of the best sound bars at various price points.

When shopping, look for sound bars with audio inputs that match your TV’s outputs. If your set has an optical audio output, then that’s good news: sound bars with optical inputs are (as mentioned earlier) easy to find. That said, there are more and more sound bars (especially newer ones) that have that nothing but HDMI ports, so watch closely.

soundbar aux and optical inputs Ben Patterson / IDG

There are plenty of sound bars on the market with optical and 3.5mm analog audio inputs that are suitable for older TVs.

You’ll see fewer current sound bars with analog audio inputs than optical connectors, but they’re still fairly easy to find, especially when it comes to budget sound bars in the under $ 200 range. What You’re Looking For, is a 3.5mm audio jack (commonly labeled “AUX In”) that connects via a Y-shaped adapter cable to the dual RCA connectors on your TV (read on for help choosing the right cables).

Related: 10 Things to Consider When Shopping for a Soundbar

In addition to the correct connections, also think of a soundbar with virtual surround or 3D mode. Many of the latest sound bars have become remarkably adept at teasing surround and 3D audio from 5.1 or even 2.0 channel audio sources. In particular, DTS Virtual: X is impressively effective in making your ears think they are hearing sound from behind and even overhead, even when the original audio is only in stereo (which will be the case if your TV only has RCA) . analog audio outputs). And here’s the really good news: You can find DTS Virtual: X processing in sound bars that cost well south of $ 200.


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