Soundbars are an all-in-one audio solution. Designed for convenience and to save space. Often they will contain one or more amplifiers, multiple speakers, and also processes their own audio signals. These are known as active soundbars.
Less common is the passive soundbar, which is simply an enclosure containing speakers. There aren’t any amplifiers or processing abilities. In this guide, I will explain if either of these types of soundbars can be connected to a receiver. I will also answer the more important question, “Can you connect a soundbar to a receiver?”
Let’s find out…
Which Soundbars can Connect to a Receiver
It is possible to connect active and passive soundbars to a receiver without too much difficulty. The difference is that active soundbars are not designed with this intention, while passive soundbars need an amplifier to operate.
Active vs. Passive soundbars…
An active soundbar has been optimized to provide the best sound possible without the need for any further amplification or processing. In fact, adding any further processes could have a detrimental effect, lowering the sound quality it produces.
On the other hand, passive soundbars need to be integrated with an amplifier and or receiver. When purchasing a soundbar, consider if it’s active or passive. If you already own a soundbar and wish to use your existing equipment, that is possible too.
Why Would you Connect a Soundbar to a Receiver?
Unless you are connecting a passive soundbar, the only other reason you would connect an active soundbar is for surround sound. There are two different options available when connecting either an active or passive soundbar to a surround sound receiver.
The first option is to use your soundbar as the center channel. The second option would be to provide the center, left, and right channels. While this is entirely possible and will provide decent results, this isn’t what soundbars are designed for.
Choosing the right equipment…
Most soundbars are designed to provide their own immersive experience using clever virtual surround sound technology. This is usually achieved using processing techniques to trick the ears into hearing spatial and immersive sound.
There are some soundbars available with their own surround speakers included within the system. This will provide a more authentic experience. It’s somewhere between virtual surround sound and a full 5.1 or 7.2 channel surround sound system.
Here is a product I highly recommend if that’s something that might interest you…
Included with the Klipsch Cinema 600 system is a 43-inch soundbar. It contains a linear travel suspension tweeter, dual Tracktrix horns, and four fiber composite woofer cones. This is all contained in a wooden enclosure.
For the full surround experience, there’s also a 10-inch wireless subwoofer and two wireless 3-inch full-range driver rear speakers. It can be connected to your TV using either HDMI with ARC compatibility or an optic TOSLINK cable.
An LED-backlit remote control is also included, along with a 5-ft (1.5 meters) HDMI cable, plus speaker mounting clips and template.
Connecting an Active Soundbar to a Receiver
Sometimes our budget just doesn’t allow for purchasing everything at the same time, especially when upgrading. Having an active soundbar as your center channel is better than not having a center channel at all. But we want to know, “Can you connect a soundbar to a receiver?” and the short answer is, “yes.” Now, let’s learn how.
Things to be aware of…
Chances are that when connecting a soundbar to your surround receiver, the other speakers are going to be different brands, styles, sizes, etc. This means that the difference in sound between your soundbar and the other speakers could vary greatly.
Audio quality might not be completely balanced and will be most noticeable when making transitions. For example, when a car passes across the screen from left to right, there might be either a peak or drop when passing the center channel.
How to Connect an Active Soundbar to a Receiver
The most common connection method is using RCA cables between both your soundbar and receiver. You will need to locate the center channel output at the rear of your receiver, which should have a red and white connection.
Plug one end of the RCA cables into the output and the other corresponding red and white connections to your soundbar’s input channel. There are some other possibilities you might encounter when attempting to make the connection.
RCA to 3.5mm auxiliary…
Your receiver may have RCA outputs, but your soundbar doesn’t have RCA inputs. In this instance, you should check your soundbar for a 3.5mm auxiliary input. You will then require an RCA to 3.5mm male cable. Here is one I recommend…
This 6.6-ft (2 meters) RCA to 3.5mm auxiliary cable from JSAUX provides a clean and clear audio signal. It uses dual shielding to reduce interference, along with gold-plated connections and OFC copper wire for superior conductivity.
Line level adapter…
Another situation you could be faced with is either your soundbar or receiver requiring the use of speaker wire and the other having an RCA connection. If you find yourself in this position, take a look at a line level adapter. It looks like this…
This device from Kicker connects directly to the speaker input or output using speaker wire. Within the compact unit are two female RCA connections. You can then easily connect your devices using a standard RCA cable.
How to Connect a Passive Soundbar to a Receiver
Passive soundbars are designed to be connected to a receiver. Therefore the setup is a simple process. There are usually two different styles of passive soundbars; however, they are both simple to connect.
If there is only a single channel in your passive soundbar, then connect it directly to the center output on your receiver. You might need to make some adjustments in your receiver’s menu system to direct all the processing through the center channel.
Multiple channels on a passive soundbar…
You might discover that your passive soundbar has three pairs of speaker wires or channels. If this is the case, they should have clear labels. There will be a center channel, a left channel, and a right channel. Connect each to your receiver accordingly.
Not all receivers are the same. It is best to have a look at the menu system to check what options are available. It might be possible to disable the subwoofer and rear speakers if you don’t have any. Instead, the sound diverts to your soundbar.
Need a Great Soundbar or Other Speakers?
Then check out our in-depth Fluance Signature Series HiFi Review, our Definitive Technology BP9020 & CS9040 Plus Center Channel Speaker Review, our Klipsch R-10B Review, and our Sony HT-S350 Soundbar Review for amazing audio you can buy in 2021.
Also, take a look at our comprehensive reviews of the Best 7.1 Home Theater System, the Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $500, the Best High End Home Theater Speakers, the Best Ceiling Speakers For Dolby Atmos, the Best Smart Speakers, and the Best Sonos Speakers currently available.
And don’t miss our handy guides on Connect Sonos to TV Wirelessly, How to Program an Xfinity Remote to a Soundbar, Connect a Soundbar to TV Without HDMI or Optical, and our comprehensive Bose SoundTouch 300 vs. Sonos Playbar comparison for more useful information.
Can you Connect a Soundbar to a Receiver – Final Thoughts
Unless you own a passive soundbar, which aren’t that common, then connecting an active soundbar to a receiver isn’t the best option. While it is possible and could provide a temporary solution, the sound quality isn’t going to be great.
It will be better to use your soundbar in a different room or hand it down to a family member. A surround sound receiver really should have surround sound speakers connected for the full experience.
When each component works together properly, you will notice a dramatic improvement in the sound quality.