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How To Connect Your Bookshelf Speakers to Your TV

Many TVs are designed to produce great video with razor-thin panels. Often this means built-in audio components and speakers are an afterthought, resulting in some terrible sound. 

This is why it’s common for people to ask how to connect bookshelf speakers to a TV.

This process should be straightforward, that is until you check the back of your TV and see the various ports at your disposal. If you’re left scratching your head about the different connection options, this guide will walk you through the entire process.

How To Connect Bookshelf Speakers to a TV

There are various audio output ports on a TV, depending on the model. Since it is extremely rare to see powered-speaker outputs on a television, you’ll need to connect these ports to the input connectors on the receiver/amplifier connected to your bookshelf speakers. Remember that your bookshelf speaker’s amplifier can sometimes be built-in.

After connecting the two devices using the correct cables, you need to set up your TV’s audio system using the menu settings. You can check the back or review the user’s manual to find out which connectors are available on your TV. You can also find this information by going to the manufacturer’s website.

Identify the Audio Connection Options on Your TV

The first step to connecting your bookshelf speakers to your TV is identifying the available connection options. Depending on its model, your TV can have several audio connection options. This includes RCA, analog, optical, and HDMI.

On modern systems, HDMI is generally the preferred option, but you must make sure your TV and Receiver support audio-over-HDMI (more details below). If this is not available, a digital/optical connection is the next best option, followed by Analog/Aux/RCA outputs.


If you want to get surround sound for your TV, use the High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) output. However, you must ensure both your Television and Receiver/Amplifier features HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) or eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel).

Modern HDMI has the greatest bandwidth and can transmit surround sound signals in high quality. Components with eARC can carry an uncompressed multichannel audio signal (for surround sound, Atmos, TrueHD, etc.).

If you’re setting up your bookshelf speakers as part of a surround sound system, it is best to use an HDMI connection. Most modern TVs today are equipped with multiple HDMI ports.

Digital and Optical Cables

Digital cables come in two flavors, Coax and Optical (Toslink). Optical cables were invented by Toshiba back in the 1980s, but you can still find them on some TVs today.

This connection can transmit surround sound, which is a clear advantage over RCA connections. They’re used less nowadays, but if it’s the only available option for surround sound for your speaker system, you might need to give it a shot.

These connections can handle multiple audio channels for surround but can not carry a Lossless Surround Signal such as Dolby’s TrueHD (which is really only found on Blu-Ray discs these days).

They can, however, carry a Lossless stereo signal.

RCA Output

RCA ports are one of the oldest and simplest ways to connect your TV to a pair of bookshelf speakers. This output port only carries stereo sounds and features to 2 channels, so they’re usually color-coded, such as black and red or red and white.

RCA cables were also used to transmit video on older TVs. The other end of the cable splits into three plugs: red for the right audio channel, white for the left, and yellow for the video. It’s pretty basic, but it has its uses, especially if it’s the only connector available.

3.5 mm Headphone Port

The headphone output port transmits a stereo analog signal that can be used to connect your TV to any analog input with the right cable. Generally, you would use a 3.5mm-to-RCA cable. The 3.5 mm audio jack should be connected to your TV, and the RCA jack should go into your bookshelf speaker.

This audio output connection should be used as a last resort but can be a good option if your TV doesn’t have RCA but your speaker supports RCA. However, just like the analog RCA outputs, it is stereo-only and doesn’t produce surround sound.

Analog vs. Digital Connection Options

You need to check the back of your TV and find out what ports it has in common with your bookshelf speaker. In most instances, they will have several similar ports. However, you only need to choose one. The choice will also depend on which type of cable you have available.

Some of the connection options mentioned earlier offer digital audio, while others can only provide analog. Most people prefer digital connections because they offer better audio processing, allowing cleaner signal processing. More often than not, your audio receiver will have better digital-to-analog conversion capabilities than your TV has built-in.

Digital audio output options on your TV include:

  • HDMI
  • Optical 
  • Digital Coaxial (Looks similar to RCA, but only one cable is used, and a higher quality cable is sometimes required)

On the other hand, analog options include the following:

  • Headphone output ports
  • Line out RCA
  • Aux out 3.5 mm ports

If you’re trying to connect an older TV to your bookshelf speakers, your options may be limited to legacy audio inputs, which aren’t digital. 

Find Matching Connections on Your Bookshelf Speakers

After identifying the available output ports on your TV, you should look for matching connectors on your speakers. Many speaker systems today offer digital connections and provide support for legacy systems.

For example, the ELAC Debut ConneX DCB41 is a flexible speaker system with a small footprint. It also features multiple input options and support for older TVs with analog connections.

This bookshelf speaker supports the following connection options:

  • USB
  • Analog/Phono
  • Bluetooth
  • Optical

Some bookshelf speakers, like the ELAC Uni-Fi Reference UBR62, may not have multiple audio connection support. In this case, your next option is to connect your TV to an amplifier with matching ports at the back. After that, you can connect your bookshelf speakers to the amplifier. This setup allows you to enjoy fuller sounds with better bass response. Just remember that you control the quality of the sounds using the amplifier, not the TV.

Other bookshelf speaker models provide flexible connectivity instead of support for legacy audio connectivity. For instance, the ELAC Vela VBS403 offers bi-wiring and bi-amping features, which allows two amplification channels to power the speakers.

Setup Your TV’s Audio Settings in the Menu

Now that all the devices and appliances are connected, you don’t have to do anything. However, there are times when the interaction between your TV, amplifier and speakers doesn’t go as expected. Sometimes you hear sounds from the TV’s internal speakers and the external bookshelves simultaneously. Some homeowners have reported no sounds coming from the bookshelf speakers.

You need to check your TV’s menu settings for audio output if that happens. Sometimes you have to select which output audio device your TV should use, such as Bluetooth, optical, HDMI or TV speaker. Next, select the speakers you connected to the TV’s back panel. In some models, you may have to lower the volume of the TV’s internal speakers and then raise the volume of the external speakers. After learning how to connect bookshelf speakers to a TV, you can now choose your favorite show or music and experience better sounds.

Choose Premiere Bookshelf Speakers with Better Connectivity

Connecting your bookshelf speakers can sometimes be challenging. It’s crucial to know the available ports on both devices. Check out our selection of bookshelf speakers that offer plenty of connection options to set up your TV’s audio output, so you can relax and enjoy the music.