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Can You Add Surround Sound Speakers to a Soundbar?

Soundbars are always a significant improvement on poor-quality TV speakers. But they still might not be enough to fill your theater room. And if you don’t want to break the bank to purchase a surround sound system, your options could be limited. Is there another way, a quick fix, so to speak? Maybe… maybe not. This brings me to the question…

Can You Add Surround Sound Speakers to a Soundbar?

Adding surround sound speakers to a soundbar is possible in some cases, but the planets need to be aligned for it to succeed. It’s very unusual to find soundbars that are compatible with external speakers. However, there are a few ways around this issue, but you’ll have to carefully follow my advice to make it happen.

Why Can’t I Add Surround Sound Speakers to Any Soundbar?

Any Soundbar

It is possible to buy soundbars that can be connected with external speakers. But in most cases, they are only compatible with certain types of additional speakers. Surround sound-ready soundbars are available from major brands like Bose, Nakamichi, and Sonos, but even then, its sparse pickings.

Most models are not compatible, so you have to be careful when making a purchase. So, check out these soundbars that are compatible with surround sound speakers.

How Do Standard Soundbars Work?

If your current soundbar model doesn’t have a manual with instructions for adding external speakers, do not even attempt it. Step back, take a deep breath and count to ten. Let’s take a look at how most soundbars work before we go any further.

Soundbars have a unique and interesting setup and layout. They use a few smart audio tricks to simulate surround sound. The internal speakers are positioned at an angle that can bounce sound off walls in your theater room before they reach your ears.

This method gives the impression that the sound is coming at you from many different sides. Thereby mimicking surround sound.

Watch out for interference

Adding speakers to a soundbar is attempting to amplify sound that has already been amplified. It can be a strange setup. Interference is a real issue here because sound travels in waves, and you are attempting to add extra speakers that shouldn’t be there.

Generally speaking, you are advised not to add speakers that aren’t included as part of the package. And if you do, the sound quality could be ruined by using non-compatible speakers.

When Can I Add Surround Sound Speakers to a Soundbar?

When Can I Add Surround Sound Speakers to a Soundbar

Some people just have to give things a try. I’ve already advised you not to add extra speakers that are not part of your system, but you are still here! Why? Is that because you know there is another way around the problem? Rules are meant to be broken? Although you shouldn’t add speakers to a soundbar, it doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

The main issue is that the vast majority of soundbars don’t have a “speaker out” option. They were designed to be a standalone product. Do not make the common mistake of attempting to plug your speakers into the “audio in” slot because it simply doesn’t work.

Your soundbar might have a “subwoofer out” channel. But that won’t work with standard speakers because it will only transmit low-end frequencies.

How to Add Speakers to Most Soundbars

Even though it’s nearly impossible to add speakers to soundbars, there are some roundabout solutions you might want to consider. We’ve already warned you numerous times about the dangers, so the accountability is now in your hands. Before I show you some solutions, here are a few things you will need at hand.

  • A soundbar model with RCA, AUX, or digital optical outputs.
  • AV receiver with 5.1 channels and pre-outs for front right, left, and center channels.
  • Mini stereo mixing console with one output and three inputs.
  • Surround sound speakers with cable inputs to connect to the AV receiver.

1 – Connecting RCA Cables to AV Receiver Pre-Outs

Take your RCA cables and connect them to the pre-out slots for the front right, left, and center channels. If your receiver doesn’t have pre-outs, it can’t be done.

The pre-outs will only send the audio signal and don’t include power as you would find on normal speaker outputs. You can actually damage the soundbar’s internal components if you attempt to connect it to normal speakers.

2 – Connecting RCA Cables to Mini Stereo Mixing Console

Mini Stereo Mixing Console

Now you need to hook up your mini-stereo mixer to the opposite ends of your RCA cables. This ANLEON Stereo Line Mixer or this Rolls MX28 Three Channel Stereo Line Mixer are both highly recommended models to use with this method.

3 – Connecting Mini Stereo Mixer Outputs to Soundbar

There are a few different ways to connect the outputs on a mixer to a soundbar with RCA, AUX, or digital optical inputs. Let’s take an in-depth look at how each option connects.

  • Connecting with RCA Inputs – You can use another set of RCA cables to connect the soundbar’s RCA input and the other end to the stereo mixer.
  • Connecting with AUX Input – You’ll need to buy an RCA to Aux cable if your soundbar only has Aux outputs. The mini stereo mixer is connected with the RCA ends while the AUX end connects to the soundbar.
  • Connecting with Digital Optical Input – When your soundbar has a digital optical output instead of AUX or RCA outputs, you’ll need to purchase a digital optical to analog converter. Connect your mini-stereo mixer output with RCA cables and then connect the other ends to the convertor. Then simply connect your soundbar to the convertor with the digital optical cable.

4 – Connecting Your AV Receiver to Soundbar

Connecting Your AV Receiver to Soundbar

The final phase is connecting your receiver and surround sound speakers with standard speaker wires. How many speakers you can use will be defined by your receiver’s setup. It’s possible to create 5.1, 7.1, and 9.1 systems as long as your receiver allows it. Check out these highly recommended and affordable AV receivers that work perfectly with soundbars.

Why You Shouldn’t Ever Add Speakers to Soundbars

Back to our original question, “Can You Add Surround Sound Speakers to a Soundbar?” In all honesty, it’s a terrible idea to add surround sound speakers to a soundbar unless they are included with the model. Not only is it a complicated process thwart with issues, but it can also ruin your sound and listening experience.

No method will give you the high-definition audio you desire while simultaneously connecting speakers and soundbars. For sure, you can fake having a 4.1 or 5.1 surround sound system, but it will never be the real deal. And this kind of process largely depends on your soundbar’s compatibility.

For example, if you connect two surround sound speakers, your 2.1 soundbar now becomes 4.1, and so forth with higher builds. The best-case scenario with the right audio jacks and setup is a 5.1 system with poor quality sound and lots of wires jutting out from every direction.

Looking for a Great Soundbar or Speakers?

We can help with that. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $500, the Best 7.1 Home Theater System, the Best Wireless TV Speakers, the Best Ceiling Speakers For Dolby Atmos, and the Best High End Home Theater Speakers you can buy in 2021.

Also, have a look at our detailed reviews of the Best Smart Speakers, the Best JBL Floor Standing Speakers, the Best Sonos Speakers, and the Best In-Ceiling Speakers currently on the market.

And don’t miss our handy guides on How to Mount a Soundbar to a TVHow to Control a Soundbar With a TV RemoteHow to Make a Soundbar Sound Better, and Soundbar vs. Soundbase for more useful information.

Can You Add Surround Sound Speakers to a Soundbar? – Final Thoughts

You don’t have to overload your soundbar with speakers to get great sound. In most cases, the sound will be vastly inferior compared to proper surround sound systems, so it could be a pointless exercise.

Just let your soundbar do what it was designed to do, and if the audio quality doesn’t fit your expectations, it’s time to invest in a home theater system. The audio quality coming from your soundbar is still better than tinny TV speakers, so it’s pretty much a first-world problem.

But if you really need to improve your soundbar’s audio quality while eliminating gazillions of wires, you could opt for a model that includes wireless speakers. Otherwise, it will be a complicated and possibly expensive affair that has mixed results at best.

Until next time, happy listening.


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About Jennifer Bell

Jennifer is a freelance writer from Montana. She holds a BA in Creative Writing and English, as well as an Associate of Applied Science in Computer Games and Simulation Design.

Her passions include guitar, bass, ukulele, and piano, as well as a range of classical instruments she has been playing since at school. She also enjoys reading fantasy and sci-fi novels, yoga, eating well, and spending time with her two cats, Rocky and Jasper.

Jennifer enjoys writing articles on all types of musical instruments and is always extending her understanding and appreciation of music. She also writes science fiction and fantasy short stories for various websites and hopes to get her first book published in the very near future.

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