If you’re building a home theater, a 4K TV may look great, but the sound quality is usually average. A soundbar in theory can solve a lot of problems built-in speakers have with your 4K smart display.
So if you’re happy with having an average listening experience, you don’t really need a soundbar, a soundbar is an all-in-one product that offers many capabilities such as surround sound.
However, if you want to accompany your 4K display with a decent sound system, a soundbar can offer immersion that’ll make your movie experience memorable.
Do You Need A Soundbar For Your 4K TV?
Buying a soundbar comes down to personal preference, you don’t need a soundbar to have a viable experience with your 4K TV, but a soundbar will undoubtedly offer better sound quality than the standard audio that will come with your display.
4K TVs offer amazing video quality, you won’t be able to distinguish between individual pixels at most distances, however, while 4K TVs look amazing, their sound quality doesn’t quite match which can be a problem for many users.
With that being said, a lot of people will opt-in for a soundbar for many reasons, if you’re building a home theater, then it can be a great investment. Or if you just want something that can make listening to dialogue a little easier, then a soundbar can do that too.
On top of that, a decent soundbar will come with a subwoofer which will add a whole new layer of immersion when it comes to movies, it can make action scenes feel more impactful, and it can make music far more enjoyable.
Also Read: Do You Need a Soundbar for a Smart TV
How Do Soundbars Work?
When you see a soundbar, you can think of them as an all-in-one speaker system that contains a series or speakers that simulate surround sound, and they also come with a subwoofer for replicating those low frequency noises.
A soundbar appears horizontal, hence the name “soundbar”, and it sits directly in front of the display with no obstruction which can disrupt, absorb, and misdirect soundwaves.
Soundbars are pretty powerful too, while your standard 4K TVs audio will require around 20W(watts) of power to drive the speakers, a soundbar can require upwards of 1200W for it to work.
When you purchase a soundbar, it will come with a number of channels or drivers, for example, a 5.1.2 soundbar. The first number (5) represents the number of channels specifically front firing and side firing channels. The 1 represents the subwoofer which is a separate entity, and the 2 is the upfiring drivers for Dolby Atmos.
So there’s a lot when it comes to purchasing a soundbar, and there’s also many features that come with them such as balancing out frequencies, delivering bass, and enhancing any dialogue you hear when watching TV shows or movies.
How To Connect A Soundbar To A 4K TV?
Connecting your soundbar to your 4K TV is actually a pretty simple task, and there are a few ways or methods you can use to achieve it, but there’s really one worthwhile method where you’ll get all the performance you’re paying for.
There are 3 ways you can connect your soundbar to your 4K TV, and that’s by using either an Optical cable, HDMI, or Bluetooth. But the best method is undoubtedly HDMI due to the extensive support for surround sound formats, higher audio bitrate transfer, and higher resolution transfer which you will need for your 4K display.
Here’s a quick guide on connecting your display to your 4K TV:
- Turn off the TV
- Connect one end of the cable(HDMI Or Optical) to the input port on the TV
- Connect the other end of the cable to the output port on the soundbar
- Connect other devices to the soundbars HDMI or Optical port
- Turn on the TV and soundbar
How To Know If My Soundbar Is 4K Compatible
To know if your soundbar is 4K compatible, you must identify whether it allows for a 4K source to pass through without any processing. This is what we refer to as a 4K pass through.
Pass through helps preserve the high quality audio and video stream, so if you want the most out of your 4K display if you’re sending a video source through the soundbar, you will need 4K pass through capabilities.
4K pass through also makes it significantly easier to work with your hardware with fewer cables. Since soundbars can pass through video, and they usually have a decent number of HDMI ports, this can result in fewer cables and cleaner look.
So, your soundbar doesn’t need to support pass through, but it will make things significantly easier, say if you have a game console. instead of connecting it directly to the TV, you can connect it directly to the soundbar first.
What HDMI Do I Need For A 4K TV?
A standard HDMI should be fine to deliver a 4K experience, most HDMI cables, even the older ones can hold up quite well with 4K content, but they may lack the bandwidth, and be inconsistent compared to a newer HDMI cable.
In terms of versions for the HDMI cable, you should be able to get 4K to work fine with an HDMI 1.3 cable, it’s officially able to support 4K at 60Hz, but it won’t be able to support 4K HDR content.
For official 4K HDR support, you will require at least HDMI 2.0a which can even support up to 5K in resolution, so it’s a much newer cable that’s able to handle higher bandwidths.
If you want to take advantage of HDMI eARC, then you will require a High-speed HDMI cable with ethernet support, or an ultra-high-speed HDMI cable. These cables are able to handle high resolutions such as 4K, as well as carry high bitrate audio.
|Standard||Support & Max Resolution||4K HDR Qualified?|
|HDMI 1.0||4.95 Gbps / 1080P @ 60Hz||No|
|HDMI 1.1||4.95 Gbps / 1440P @ 30Hz||No|
|HDMI 1.2||4.95 Gbps / 1440P @ 30Hz||No|
|HDMI 1.2a||4.95 Gbps / 1440P @ 30Hz||No|
|HDMI 1.3||10.2 Gbps / 4K @ 60Hz||No|
|HDMI 1.3a||10.2 Gbps / 4K @ 60Hz||No|
|HDMI 1.4||10.2 Gbps / 4K @ 60Hz||No(May work depending on cable)|
|HDMI 1.4a||10.2 Gbps / 4K @ 60Hz||No(May work depending on cable)|
|HDMI 1.4b||10.2 Gbps / 4K @ 60Hz||No(May work depending on cable)|
|HDMI 2.0||18.0 Gbps / 5K @ 30Hz||No(May work depending on cable)|
|HDMI 2.0a||18.0 Gbps / 5K @ 30Hz||Yes|
|HDMI 2.0b||18.0 Gbps / 5K @ 30Hz||Yes|
|HDMI 2.1||48.0 Gbps / 8K @ 30Hz||Yes|
In conclusion, a soundbar is always an optional choice, but if you have the budget, a soundbar can be a great addition to a 4K display. With the great video quality of 4K, a high-quality soundbar can add a lot of value to your setup.
Personally, I wouldn’t be content with the standard speakers on a 4K display, they do sound horrible with dialogue reproduction, so I’d most definitely pick up a soundbar for a 4K display.