What is a sound bar? It’s the elongated gadget that usually gets to sit right beneath your TV and improve the output sound quality of music, movies or games. A few years back, sound bars were pretty much straightforward; you had one jack to connect to a TV and that’s it. However, modern sound bars come with more options for various A/V components – and that’s not a bad thing either; once you figure out the setup, the result is truly rewarding.
Quick guide: Connecting components to a TV
If all your multimedia components (music player, Blu-ray reader, game console) connect directly to your TV, setting up a sound bar is as easy as it gets. You just have to connect an optical digital audio cable which will route audio signal from the TV to the sound bar.
First off, turn your TV’s speakers off. This can be done either through the built-in menu, or, if there’s no specific option, choose “external speakers”.
Depending on what kind of sound bar you are using, it may or may not be able to decode digital surround sound (DTS) format. To still be able to hear sound through your sound bar, set your TV to output audio via PCM.
The longer path: Connecting components to the sound bar
Another option when setting up a sound bar is to have your multimedia components connect directly to it rather than having them connect to the TV.
The best way to extract high quality sound from media devices such as Blu-ray Discs is to use HDMI connections. Check if both your TV and sound bar feature an HDMI/ARC jack. ARC stands for audio return channel. If you’ve got one on both devices, then you’re in luck. Any HDMI cable that’s version 1.4 of higher will work just fine in transmitting both video and audio data from your TV. If your TV or sound bar doesn’t have an HDMI/ARC jack however, you will also have to bring along an optical cable.
Don’t give up yet; now the fun part starts. It is time to make use of all those awesome features that your sound bar has. For example, your sound bar may come along with a subwoofer. The main purpose of a subwoofer is to enhance low-frequency sounds and provide an enhanced listening experience. Just plug it into a wall socket and keep it anywhere within 30 feet of your sound bar. Subwoofers and sound bars are generally configured to work together by default if they’re produced by the same company, so no setup is required on your side. Just in case it doesn’t work by default, check your sound bar’s settings menu for a subwoofer activation switch. It is recommended to set you subwoofer in the corner of the room in order to fully benefit from its sound performance.
Bluetooth: no more wires
You can probably name quite a few streaming-capable devices from the top of your head. Tablets, smartphones, smartwatches, laptops; they can all be paired with a sound bar via Bluetooth. The best part? No wires are involved. You can use the sound bar to emit sound when you are watching a video on your smartphone.
Here’s how to set up a Bluetooth sound bar and pair it with your devices:
- First, activate Bluetooth on your smartphone or similar gadget
- Pair it with the sound bar once its listed in the Bluetooth device list
- Play any kind of audio file and hear it through the speakers of your sound bar.
Networking takes it even further
Many modern sound bars will provide network access. While the network setup pocess will vary from brand to brand and between models, the overall idea is to get the sound bar connected to your wireless router. From this point, the device will be able to receive over-the-air firmware updates, act as part of a multi-room sound system and also play media from any device connected to the internet.
About the remote
Generally, it’s convenient and easy to use your TV’s remote to control the sound bar. It’s generally easy to do so and it only takes a few tweaks that can be found in the user manual. However, in the case of some more advanced sound bars that feature a bunch of jacks and inputs, a separate remote may come along with the product. After all, there’s a very good chance you won’t find a “subwoofer volume” button on your TV’s remote.
Finally, some tuning
The sound bar definitely sounds better than your TV speakers; still, you can get even more out of it by doing some smart tweaks.
For example, browse around the sound bar menu for specific sound modes: movie, music, games, sports, etc. These will tune the equalizer into matching the type of audio you are experiencing.
Some sound bars will provide dialog enhancement features – you will be able to better understand the actors dialogue during a movie, especially when the TV is streaming DTS sound.
Low quality MP3’s or compressed music streams can get a boost of fullness with various enhancers integrated into the sound bar firmware.