We’ve all been there – wondering if there is some way to connect the guitar to a TV soundbar, computer speaker, and/or home theatre system. Some of you might want to do it for convenience while others may be looking for a makeshift solution until they have the money to buy a decent guitar amp or wait for there’s to be repaired?.
So can you connect a guitar to a TV soundbar?
Technically, you cannot connect your guitar to a soundbar or any loudspeaker without a preamp. Soundbars are not powered speakers. Many soundbars do not even have a mic or line-in. However, there are workarounds to these issues. Whether it is a good idea or not will depend on your goals and the capabilities of the soundbar.
In this article, I will outline how you can connect your guitar to a soundbar or computer speaker alongside some helpful tips that ensure no damage is caused to the equipment.
What Is A Soundbar?
A soundbar is a long, slim, and compact cabinet that houses two or more speakers that is available in 2.1 and 5.1 configurations. It functions as an all-in-one speaker system for a life-like experience while watching TV.
Based on the specs, they may have built-in Bluetooth, Dolby Digital stereo or surround sound, and several other audio tricks. Many high-end units have up-firing speakers with integrated or accompanying subwoofers for deep bass.
You must bear in mind that most soundbars are designed as compact all-in-one speakers to enhance the AV experience of watching TV. While they do offer fantastic fidelity, they are not designed to act as an electric or bass guitar amp, especially the latter.
How To Connect Your Guitar To A Sound Bar?
Generally, there are two types of soundbars. Most high-end modern soundbars are self-powered i.e. it is an active unit with a built-in amp. Others may be passive or non-powered and thus, you will need to connect it to a receiver (amplifier).
In either case, the basic issues you need to contend with are bringing the guitar signal to line-level using some sort of preamp.
In addition, you also need the appropriate jack (cord or cable) to connect your guitar. The cord/cable has to be compatible with your soundbar as well. You cannot use the usual ¼” jack that you use to connect your guitar to an amplifier.
You will need a Stereo plug or a ¼-inch to 3.5mm adapter.
For example, if you have a 2.1 system, then you can use a jack-to-3.5mm converter attached to a buffer aux cable and connect your guitar to the soundbar. You will have to put up with some loss of signal strength because you are using an adapter, but it will get the job done.
- If you use distortion and crank up the volume, you can overdrive the soundbar.
Once that is all settled, you may not be able to play it too loud unless you want to blow out the speaker, which probably is not made to handle such low frequencies.
This is the very reason why normal powered speakers are not used for the job.
Check out my article on how to connect a guitar to regular speakers. You can read it here.
Guitar amplifiers are impervious to this damage because they are built with special circuitry and hardy speaker cones made from different materials (ceramic, neodymium, etc.). That is also the reason why they cost more than regular loudspeakers.
There are some workarounds to this problem. For instance, you could run your guitar through a mixer or a limiter pedal and set a threshold to avoid ruining the soundbar. However, if you want to do this for convenience, it might defeat the purpose.
Connect A Guitar To A Soundbar with an AUX + Adapter:
Things might be easier if your guitar is active, i.e. it has active electronics. In such a case, you can find an inexpensive ¼” to 3.5mm adapter on Amazon and use it with an aux cable to connect directly to a soundbar.
Bear in mind that your soundbar is not built for this purpose.
Playing the guitar with a loud volume and modulations can damage it. As a precaution, you should start with the volume as low as possible. Adjust it to find a balance between what is audible (and satisfying) and what your soundbar can handle.
Immediately lower the volume if your speaker or soundbar starts distorting.
Connect A Guitar To A Soundbar With Multi Fx Unit:
Another option is to use a Guitar Multi-fox unit. It can be something simple such as the Zoom G1 or something advanced such as Boss GT100. The important thing is that it should have a ‘headphones out’ option on the unit.
Wait, does this mean you can connect it through any analog or digital single effect pedal with a headphone out? Nope! It has to be a multi-fx pedal. These units have amp simulation features and you need that before going to a portable speaker like a soundbar.
The additional advantage of the multi-fox pedal is that you have control over the EQ and you can tame the low-end. You should cut the lows on the EQ (control panel or via the multi-fx unit) unless your soundbar is powerful or connected to a subwoofer.
For the same reason, 7 or 8-strings guitars or distorted guitars, in most scenarios, will overload tiny speakers and low-quality soundbars. Too much power and low-end for the soundbar will cause it to distort and eventually be damaged.
Connect A Guitar To A Soundbar Using A Headphone Amp:
As explained above, you can run an ‘aux’ cable from the headphone out on a headphone amp into the audio input of the soundbar. Any headphone amp such as the Blackstar amPlug2 Fly or Vox Amplug will get the job done.
In this scenario, the headphone amp is acting as the amplifier to bring your guitar’s signal up to line-level. This method (and the multi-fx one) will also work with any Bluetooth speaker such as the JBL GO or JBL Flip as well.
Although, if you have a headphone amp you can just use that with headphones to rehearse and this whole process might seem/feel redundant.
I cannot think of any particular reason wherein it would make sense to do this at home unless you want someone to listen in to what you are playing.
Related Questions: Guitar Connectivity With Audio Equipment
What is an aux cord? What is it used for?
AUX cables or cords have a universal 3.5mm (TRS) jack or pin on each end and are portable cords that are commonly used to connect smartphones to audio equipment like car stereo or home theatre systems.
The jack resembles the connector of a headphone but is universal for audio i.e. it allows you to input sound from any device.
What is a Stereo Plug adapter?
In the context of this article, a Stereo plug refers to an adapter that allows you to connect the ¼-inch jack of a guitar cable to a unit that has a 3.5mm jack.
This is also known as a 1/4inch (Female) to 3.5mm (Male) adapter. Cable adapters vary based on the two devices that you intend to connect to one other.
Which is the best soundbar to buy?
Soundbars have become a mainstay of the home theatre experience.
Their features range often includes integrated subwoofers, up-firing speakers, or true rear sound capabilities. The best soundbar will vary largely on your budget. Sonos Arc, Denon HEOS Bar, Sennheiser Ambeo 3D, and Bose TV Speaker are some well-regarded names in home cinema audio.
For more information on soundbars check out www.thehometheaterdiy.com
Check out this website Youtube channel here and his full playlist on Soundbars.
I hope this article has been helpful in helping you understand the ins and outs of connecting to a TV soundbar. Regrettably, it is not the best way to hear your guitar but it can get the job done if you just want to jam or practice.
Even if you pull it off, you will have to tame or tone down your guitar volume to the level of the speaker.
In theory, you can do it, but it will not feel satisfying or sound great. There are some high-quality soundbars, mostly high-end ones with 5.1 capabilities that may sound reasonably good.
There are some dangers to avert in trying to play your guitar through a soundbar. I have tried to explain the ways to get the job done. Although, I feel it may be a better idea to invest in a microamp like the Fender Mini Deluxe or even lookup the Vox amPlug 2 and a pair of decent headphones like the Tascam TH-02.