Have you ever tried to watch a movie on a projector only to be disappointed by the weak, tinny built-in speakers? As awesome as projectors are for giant screen viewing, the sound is often an afterthought by manufacturers.
But don’t despair! There’s an easy way to transform your projector’s audio into a theater-like experience – adding an external soundbar.
Connecting a soundbar to a projector is surprisingly simple. With the right cables, you can enjoy booming, immersive surround sound to match the big screen viewing.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through the steps for connecting a soundbar to a projector using various methods. I’ll also share some tips for getting the best audio performance. Let’s get started!
An Overview of Your Soundbar-Projector Connection Options
When it comes to cables, you’ve got several options for hooking up your soundbar to your projector. The type of connection will determine the audio quality, so it’s good to understand what’s possible.
HDMI – The Gold Standard
HDMI is the highest quality digital connection. With an HDMI cable, you get crystal clear audio and support for advanced surround sound formats like Dolby Atmos. If available, HDMI is always the best choice.
HDMI ARC – The Audio Return Channel
HDMI ARC is a special version of HDMI that adds the benefit of two-way communication. This allows you to control the soundbar volume using your projector remote. Pretty handy!
Optical/SPDIF – Common Digital Connector
You’ll often see an Optical or SPDIF port on both soundbars and projectors. This digital connection provides excellent quality as long as both devices support it.
RCA – Analog Surround Sound
RCA cables transmit stereo or surround sound. While analog, they can deliver decent audio quality over short distances. Just be sure to match the colors.
3.5mm Aux – Basic Stereo Connection
If you’re in a bind, you can use an auxiliary cable from the projector’s headphone jack to the soundbar. Just don’t expect more than basic stereo sound.
Wireless Bluetooth – No Cables!
Bluetooth provides a wireless connection, but at the cost of lower quality, potential lag, and possible interference. Only use Bluetooth if you must.
Step-by-Step: How to Connect HDMI
HDMI is the best wired option, so let’s look at how to connect your soundbar to your projector using this digital audio cable.
Gather Your HDMI Cables
- One HDMI cable (ideally High Speed HDMI for 4K/HDR)
- Your soundbar with an HDMI input
- Your projector with an HDMI output
That’s it! Told you this was easy.
Plug In Your HDMI Cables
Here are the simple steps:
- Make sure your soundbar and projector are powered off.
- Connect one end of the HDMI cable to the HDMI output port on your projector.
- Connect the other end of the cable to an HDMI input on your soundbar.
- Turn on both devices and you’re ready to rock!
Pro Tip: Enable HDMI ARC
If your projector has an HDMI ARC port, be sure to connect to this instead of a normal HDMI port. ARC allows two-way communication for better sound control.
Enable HDMI ARC in the audio settings of both the projector and your soundbar. Now you can use a single remote to adjust the volume!
Bonus: HDMI CEC Controls All
Along with ARC, HDMI also supports CEC or Consumer Electronics Control. This lets all your connected devices communicate and be controlled together.
Enable HDMI CEC in your projector and soundbar to seamlessly control power, volume, and input switching across every device using one remote. Sweet!
Connect Optical or SPDIF for Digital Audio
If HDMI isn’t an option, both Optical and SPDIF provide digital audio connections that give you excellent sound quality. Here’s how to hook them up.
Check Your Ports
Optical uses a square, Toslink-style connector, while SPDIF can be either coaxial RCA or optical. Check your ports and grab a matching cable.
Connect Digital to Digital
With both devices powered off, connect the cable between the digital output on your projector and the digital input on your soundbar.
Make sure you keep the connectors pointed the right direction – digital ports are usually marked with arrows.
Configure Your Sound Settings
Power on your projector and soundbar. In the audio settings, set the projector sound output mode to Optical/SPDIF.
Set your soundbar’s audio input mode to whichever digital input you used. Enjoy crisp digital audio!
If you aren’t getting sound, double check that everything is plugged in securely. Also try toggling the projector audio output between options to force detection.
Get Surround Sound with RCA or Aux Cabling
In a pinch, you can still get decent stereo or surround sound by using analog connections. Let me show you how.
Choosing Between RCA or Aux
RCA uses color-coded left/right cables. With RCA, you can get stereo, Dolby Pro Logic, or 5.1 surround.
Aux uses a 3.5mm mini-jack cable like headphones. This gives you basic stereo only.
I recommend RCA if surround sound is important!
Step-by-Step RCA Setup
Follow these steps for surround sound:
- Turn off your devices.
- Connect color-matched RCA cables from the projector’s outputs to the RCA inputs on your soundbar.
- For stereo, just use red and white cables.
- For 5.1 surround, also connect green (center), blue (rear left) and grey (rear right).
- Power on your devices and switch to RCA input mode on the soundbar.
Quick Aux Cable Instructions
Using a 3.5mm aux cable is fast and easy:
- With powered off devices, connect a 3.5mm cable from the projector headphone jack to the Aux In port on your soundbar.
- Turn on your projector and soundbar. Switch the soundbar input mode to Aux.
And you’ve got stereo sound! While limited, Aux works in a pinch.
Wireless Sound with Bluetooth
Bluetooth provides the convenience of wireless connectivity between your projector and soundbar. Here’s how to pair them up.
Put Your Soundbar in Pairing Mode
With your soundbar powered on, initiate Bluetooth pairing mode by pressing the BT/Wireless button. Your soundbar manual can help locate this.
You’ll know pairing mode is active when the Bluetooth LED flashes blue. Now it’s ready to connect.
Connect to Your Soundbar Via Your Projector’s Bluetooth Settings
Next, head to your projector’s settings to enable Bluetooth and begin scanning for devices.
Select your soundbar when it appears in the list of available Bluetooth devices. Accept pairing when prompted.
Pros and Cons of Bluetooth Audio
While no cables is nice, Bluetooth sound quality is inferior to wired options. You may also experience audio lag which is no good for video.
Try to keep your soundbar within 20 feet and clear of obstructions. This will provide the most reliable wireless performance.
Tips for Optimizing Soundbar-Projector Audio
You’ve got your devices connected – now let’s tweak them for the best possible sound.
Position Your Soundbar Properly
Place your soundbar centered directly under your projector screen. This creates an enveloping stereo image and prevents any audio lag.
Adjust Your Audio Modes
Play with the audio and surround sound modes in both your projector and soundbar. This ensures the best listening experience for your content.
Match Digital Formats
If using optical or HDMI, set the projector and soundbar to identical digital audio formats like Dolby Digital, DTS, etc. Unmatched modes can disrupt sound.
Crank Up The Volume!
Don’t be shy about maxing out the decibels – soundbars and projectors were made for loud cinema sound at home! Just maybe let your neighbors know first.
With the right cables connecting your soundbar and projector, you can transform your home into a movie theater. For the best surround sound, go for HDMI or HDMI ARC if possible. But even basic options like RCA or Aux will provide an audio upgrade over puny built-in projector speakers.
For the ultimate home theater experience, also consider adding rear surround speakers and a subwoofer. Receivers and amplifiers can provide even more powerful surround sound.
But even with just a soundbar, you’ll take your big screen viewing to the next level! Just be prepared – once you hear immersive projector audio, you’ll never want to go back to those wimpy built-in speakers again.