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Do sound bars work with receivers?
The short answer to this question is, yes you can but it is not recommended. If you have an active sound bar consider getting a subwoofer or wireless speakers instead of a receiver.
If you have a passive sound bar then a receiver may just work for you.
Connecting a sound bar to a receiver should be an exception and never a norm. This is especially true for active sound bars.
Active sound bars have built in amplifiers and surround sound processors that separate their center channel sound.
So, you do not need an external amplifier (such as a receiver) to power the sound bar and produce quality sound.
Active sound bars are meant to be an integral component of your home theater system. Active sound bars should be used in conjunction with wireless speakers and / or subwoofer.
Can you connect a passive sound bar to a receiver?
Yes, you can connect a passive sound bar to a receiver. In fact, passive sound bars are designed so that they can be powered by an amplifier.
Often, they can produce better sound than an active sound bar because their design is focused more on the quality of the speakers and not any amplifiers and other electronics.
The downside to passive sound bars is that they can be costly
A passive sound bar is a sound bar that does not include and in-built amplifier or signal processing abilities. Therefore, it needs an external amplifier or receiver to power it.
For more information on sound bars, please refer to the following link.
A sound bar and an AV receiver perform almost the same function. So, connecting one to the other has no inherent tangible upside.
If you are however adamant, then there are a few ways in which this can be done. Do note that the sound will not sound all that clear and will in all likely hood sound inconsistent.
You can connect your sound bar to an AV (Audio-Video) receiver
An AV receiver includes an amplifier that powers your speakers. An AV receiver uses an audio processor to decode signals, such as DTS or Dolby digital from your source device.
How does a sound bar differ from a receiver (in this case an AV receiver)?
All the components of a soundbar are in an enclosure. Within a single unit you have your audio processor,a amplifier and speakers all housed in the same box.
The AV receiver on the other hand has the processor and the amp, but no speakers.
I think many people are under the misconception that your sound bar would be acting as an extra speaker. This is not so.
One thing you could do is try and use your soundbar as a center channel, then a complete your front sound stage by having 2 speakers on the left and on the right.
This will pose a few challenges. The first of which is that the sound that comes from your soundbar is going to sound different from your left and right speakers.
This could be compounded further by the fact that your soundbar may not be the same brand as your speakers.
You will notice an immediate difference in the sound once the sound hits your sound bar in between your left and right speakers.
So, in order to pull this off you need to make sure that you have the right receiver, which can be tricky to accomplish.
How would you connect a sound bar to an active receiver?
Let’s specifically talk about how to accomplish connecting a sound bar to an AV receiver. You will need a AV receiver that has a pre-out.
This is in effect the process audio signal coming out of your receiver without any amplification. Notice in the image below you have the front, center and height channels,
Next you need a line level cable such as an RCA (with red and white cables) cable with a 3.5mm aux. Plug the aux into your sound bar. Plug the white cable into the center pre-out.
That simple. Again, realize that the sound coming from your sound bar will not gel with the sound from your other speakers.
You may also have to tune your AVR settings. Do this by changing the amplifier settings to get power sent out to your pre-outs
Ways a sound bar can be connected to a receiver
What then are your alternatives?
Since it is clear that a sound bar and a receiver do not work well together, what then is your alternative if you want to achieve quality sound.
Quite simply, you either invest in an active sound bar with wireless speakers and/ or a subwoofer or you get the AV receiver with some nice speakers.
If you can get the correct combination of speakers and receiver then you can get amazing sound. With this combination, you can get amazing surround sound and Atmos.
In truth, an averaged price sound bar offers only marginal performance on the speakers on your TV (if the TV you have is a decent flat screen).
Sound bars are supposed to mimic surround sound. However, they often do an average job and if you want a high-quality sound bar be prepared to pay.
Sound bars tend to have fewer source inputs than AV receivers.
Disadvantage of a AVR with speakers
Whilst the sound you get will be superior to a sound bar there are some drawbacks to the AV receiver option when compared to a sound bar.
For you to get maximum output and value for money you must invest in all 5 speakers (at least).
This will give you a full surround sound experience. This also ads the added frustration of having to do a lot of wiring, which is not ideal if you are not a person who is good with electronics.
A sound bar is nice and simple to set up. Plus, it makes your living space a whole less cluttered.
Benefits of an AV receiver
Nothing can beat a set of speakers all around you are playing sound from all directions.
I would suggest a basic AV receiver (AVR) and 5.1 speakers
An AV receiver is essentially the driving force behind your system.
With an AV receiver, you can easily select your audio and video input and switch easily from your gaming system to your cable to your phone or other device player.
The sound that you hear from an AV receiver is the equivalent of sound you would hear in a theater. The ability for a receiver to amplify sound is unmatched (For the home at least).
An AV receiver is suitable for any room or living space size. The sound given off is powerful no matter how big or small the room is.
A sound bar on the other hand becomes less effective in larger living areas and rooms.
One issue here though is that 5 speakers and a receiver can take up space, so this could pose a challenge for people that live in small apartments.
Also if you crank up the sound too much you could disturb the neighbors and the walls could start shaking (And you could get evicted).
Because of the multiple inputs that a Receiver has available, it gives you tremendous flexibility in the setting up of your system.
The bottom line.
In reality, a sound bar is a poor substitute for a receiver. However your decision of whether you want to use a sound bar with a receiver or a sound bar and a receiver will be determined by a number of factors.
If you have an active subwoofer, you achieve nothing by connecting it to a receiver, because the sound produced will be inconsistent and poor over all.
The other important consideration is cost. Whilst there are some rather expensive sound bars in the market, you will on the average spend more on a decent 5 or more speaker system than you will on a sound bar.
Therefore, it is important to consider exactly what your options are when it comes to deciding between a sound bar or a receiver and speaker system.
If you have the space and the money, and want the best possible sound then a receiver and speaker package cannot be matched.
However, if space is a problem, say for instance you live in an apartment then a sound bar may be best for you.