Soundbars have become the “go-to” hardware when you need affordable yet effective audio playback solutions. But there are so many options to choose from that it can be difficult to know where to start. Therefore, this is the perfect opportunity to talk about 4k soundbars. But what is a 4k soundbar? And how is that even possible?
4k is usually a term that is reserved for video specs, not audio. These are soundbars with a 4k HDMI video pass-through function that allows you to run through your media before connecting to the TV. Let’s take a more in-depth look at what makes these soundbars so special.
What is a 4K Pass-Through on 4K Soundbars?
Generally speaking, soundbars don’t improve video picture quality, so why do these models have 4K image resolution specifications? A soundbar that advertises a “4K pass-through” essentially means it has an HDMI in and HDMI out. So you can route 4K video feeds and most other video types, and feed these signals directly through a soundbar into your TV.
A 4K pass-through is geared to bringing you both amazing video and audio quality with minimal connections. Not only is this method convenient, but it also allows you to easily “daisy chain” cable connections throughout your system. You can also use this method to connect your video or gaming console to your soundbar, and then from there to your television.
Dramatically improve your visuals…
Soundbars don’t solely need a pass-through to be 4K compatible, but it’s the most convenient option. It’s possible to connect other 4K devices to your soundbar while watching on your TV.
It will take your gaming visuals to another level with enhanced brightness and more vivid colors. Watching TV shows or movies via this method will also dramatically improve the visuals. 4K soundbars don’t improve the visuals on the same level as a receiver, but they will enhance your home theater setup.
Furthermore, minimizing the number of cables in your system will help to eliminate audio and video sync problems. But do all modern soundbars have 4K pass-through options? Not specifically, but more so than ever before. So, how do you know if your current soundbar has one? Let’s find out…
Is My Soundbar 4K Compatible?
There are a few ways to find out if your soundbar is 4K compatible or not. Check the back of your soundbar to see if it has a video input and a video out to transmit the signals. If your soundbar doesn’t have any form of video-in, it’s not 4K compatible.
But don’t fret if your current model isn’t compatible because there are dozens of highly recommended 4K soundbars that are. And they’re not that expensive. Here is a list of some of the best 4K soundbars that are currently available in the marketplace.
- Roku Smart HD 4K Soundbar
- Polk Audio MagniFi 4K Home Theater Soundbar
- JBL Bar 5.0 4K Built-In Soundbar
- Nebula Soundbar 4K Home Theater
4K Soundbar Pass-Through Q&A
Buying a soundbar will put the finishing touches on your home theater, so making the most informed decision is essential. Since we are answering the question, “What is a 4K Soundbar?” I have included the most frequently asked 4K soundbar pass-through questions. It should help clear up any queries you might still have.
Q: Is a soundbar with a 4K pass-through necessary?
No, it’s not if you don’t want to transmit video as well as audio. It all depends on your specific requirements. If you want to connect any form of 4K device to your soundbar, you will most definitely need one. The soundbar itself only manages audio, so a pass-through is needed for any sort of video.
Q: Does my soundbar need HDMI?
We would recommend that you buy a soundbar with HDMI capabilities because it’s the best option for sending high-quality audio signals. But if yours doesn’t have one, it’s not the end of the world.
Some soundbars can be connected via Bluetooth, wireless, optical cables, or even old audio cables. But remember that connecting via another option might affect audio quality. However, if you’re determined to get a 4K pass-through, HDMI is needed.
Q: Can soundbars connect to all TVs?
In nearly all cases, soundbars can be connected to any TV. There are only a few instances where it’s not possible. The first instance would be if your TV is an older model. The vast majority of older models don’t have HDMI, Bluetooth, or optical cable options. And you will need those to connect your soundbar.
Another instance is when your soundbar is a generation newer than your TV. This can cause all manner of incompatibility problems. If you have compatibility issues, there are a few things you can try. Check your instruction manual to see if it’s compatible. You will find a list of inputs in the ‘specifications’ section.
But if you’ve already lost your manual and don’t want to look for one online, you can physically check the back of your TV for HDMI or optical cable outputs. If you have one of those, it’s compatible with your soundbar.
Q: What are 2.1 channel soundbars?
Do you get confused when the subject of “2.1 channel” soundbars is discussed? This is standard audiophile terminology that essentially means the soundbar has two speakers and one subwoofer. This is the most affordable and common model. But if you need it for listening to music more than movie watching, you might need one with additional speaker options.
A 5.1 channel soundbar is five speakers and one subwoofer, which can make your audio feel like a live concert. And you can take this even further by getting a 7.1.4 soundbar where the 4 stands for how many of the speakers are elevated. This creates a truly exceptional and authentic surround sound experience, with the only downside being higher pricing.
Need a Great Soundbar or Other Speakers?
We can help you find what you need. Check out our Sony HT-S350 Soundbar Review, our Definitive Technology BP9020 & CS9040 Plus Center Channel Speaker Review, our Klipsch R-10B Review, and our VIZIO SB3821-C6 Review for awesome soundbars you can buy in 2021.
Also, take a look at our in-depth reviews of the Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $500, the Best Wireless TV Speakers, the Best Powered Speakers, the Best High End Home Theater Speakers, and the Best Sonos Speakers currently on the market.
And don’t miss our handy guides on How HDMI ARC Works with Soundbars, Can You Add Surround Sound Speakers to a Soundbar, Connect a Soundbar to TV Without HDMI or Optical, and Soundbar vs. Soundbase for more helpful information.
What is a 4K Soundbar? – Final Thoughts
If you already have a 4K television but don’t have a 4K-compatible soundbar, it’s time to make the upgrade. But if your TV does have enough inputs and you don’t mind switching the cables around, you could make do with a standard soundbar. It all depends on your current setup and your plans for the future.
Soundbars have revolutionized the way we listen to audio on our TVs and media devices. Long gone are the days of needing massive amps and speakers just to get some good quality audio output. We live in a time of exceptional, cost-effective audio solutions, where things are more affordable and more accessible than ever before.
Until next time, happy listening.