Right up there with picture quality, sound is definitely one of the most important setups for getting the most out of your Xbox Series S/X gaming experience.
Connecting an HDMI soundbar to your Xbox can take the audio feel to an entirely new level, and it makes complete sense to me that you want to get it right the first time.
So what is the best way to connect your Xbox Series S/X console to an HDMI ARC soundbar?
Follow along as I share with you step-by-step the best connection methods for getting the best Xbox audio out of your favorite soundbar.
Let’s hear more about it!
Determine If There Are One or More HDMI Ports On Your Soundbar
Before jumping into the actual connecting of the soundbar and Xbox Series S/X gaming console, we should see how many HDMI ports are on the soundbar itself.
This is important to know right away because it will help to determine if you can connect your Xbox directly to an HDMI port of the soundbar, or if the Xbox and soundbar need to connect to your TV/monitor screen separately.
How to Connect 1 HDMI Port Soundbars to Xbox Series S/X
The soundbar that you are using is most likely designed to solely connect to the TV or monitor directly, as there is no “passthrough” signal that can route in through one HDMI port and out another HDMI port and to the TV.
When connecting this type of soundbar to your TV or monitor, be sure to plug it into the HDMI ARC port of the screen.
You may also need to adjust any audio settings, such as turning off TV speakers, using external speakers only, or enabling HDMI ARC for audio from your video source.
Also, there is no need to buy a high-speed 8K or HDMI 2.1 cable in order to connect your soundbar in this case, as the Xbox Series S/X will connect separately to the TV/monitor.
Once you’ve connected the soundbar to the HDMI ARC port on your TV, connect your Xbox Series S/X to a separate HDMI port on the TV.
If you wish to get the full 4K 120hz video rate capability out of the Xbox Series X, be sure to use an HDMI 2.1 cable (or the cable that came with the console out of the box).
How to Connect Soundbars with 2 or more HDMI Ports to Xbox Series S/X
These types of soundbars allow you to connect directly to your TV, or “pass-through” the video signal from the Xbox Series S/X to the TV while producing an audio signal inline. Let’s get into more detail about these two connection options:
Direct To HDMI ARC Option: Similar to the soundbars mentioned above that only have 1 HDMI ARC port, connect your soundbar from the HDMI ARC (out) port of the unit to the HDMI ARC port of the TV or monitor.
Separately, connect the Xbox Series S/X to another HDMI port on the TV.
This option works best for competitive gamers that want extremely minimal input lag since the Xbox video connection runs directly to the monitor and not through the soundbar.
This method also works well for gamers that either can’t get fully updated audio capabilities from their soundbar (like Dolby Atmos) or the HDMI ARC port of the TV or monitor does not support the full 4K 120hz video rate from the Xbox Series X.
As always, be sure to use an HDMI 2.1 cable or the cable that came with your Xbox Series X to get the full audio and video capabilities of the console.
Video Pass-through Option: If you want to get the absolute best, and clearest, audio direct from your Xbox Series S/X, look no further than this connection method.
First, you’ll want to use either an HDMI 2.1 cable (or the one that came with your console) to connect the Xbox Series S/X to the HDMI (not the ARC) port of the soundbar.
Then, connect the soundbar to your TV or monitor using the HDMI ARC ports on each unit.
Unless you own one of these fresh-selling 8K Dolby Atmos soundbars, the video that will send from the soundbar to the TV or monitor using the passthrough video method will likely perform below 4K at 120hz with no HDR capability.
So using an HDMI 2.1 cable in these cases will not automatically unlock this higher video rate from the soundbar, as the soundbar is limiting the passthrough of the video signal.
Soundbars that do support higher video rate transfers should also have at least an HDMI 2.1 cable that connects from the HDMI ARC (out) port to the HDMI ARC port of the TV or monitor so that the full audio and picture capabilities of the Xbox Series S/X will pass through.
Also, check to make sure that there is not a significant amount of input lag or picture quality degradation from the Xbox Series S/X when connecting directly to your HDMI soundbar (like screen tearing or additional picture noise).
You can also go to Settings > General > TV & display options on the Xbox Series S/X to adjust any picture settings so that they are best optimized for your soundbar and TV, including video rate and color.
Should I Plug my Xbox Series S/X into HDMI ARC?
Depending on the video rate that the HDMI ARC port is capable of on your TV or monitor will determine whether you’ll want to plug your Xbox Series S/X directly into that port.
Newer monitors and TVs have HDMI ARC ports that also support the highest video signal that the Xbox Series X can produce, which is 4K at 120hz. Just make sure to use at least an HDMI 2.1 cable to connect your console so that the higher video rate will send to the TV.
If you have an HDMI ARC port, say for a 1440p 144hz gaming monitor, you should be able to get 1440p at 120hz from the Xbox Series S/X even with an HDMI 2.0 cable.
However, TVs and monitors that have an HDMI ARC port but do not specifically label the maximum video rate might support a lower video rate than the additional HDMI ports.
In this case, you’ll want to plug your Xbox Series S/X into any of the additional HDMI ports if they support a higher video rate than the HDMI ARC port.
You can also see if one of the HDMI ports is better than the other by going to Settings > General > TV & display options > 4K TV details and then checking to see if one port supports higher video and audio than the others.
Many soundbars also have HDMI ARC ports, but these are designed as an output to a TV or monitor and not as an input connection for the Xbox Series S/X.
Therefore, connect the Xbox Series S/X to any of the additional HDMI ports (if provided) of the soundbar if you want video passthrough, otherwise, you’re better off connecting to the TV or monitor HDMI port directly.
How Do You Use Optical Audio on Xbox Series S/X?
Believe it or not, the Xbox Series S/X does not come with a built-in digital optical audio port (even though a potentially leaked Xbox prototype did show a SPDIF optical port originally!)
The good news is that since the Xbox Series S/X utilizes an HDMI 2.1 connection to your TV or monitor, there are accessories out there that can effectively split this signal into separate video and audio counterparts.
Like this HDMI audio extractor that’s highly rated on Amazon. What this unit allows you to do is take the incoming HDMI signal from your Xbox and add the flexibility of connecting speakers and soundbars that use 3.5mm or SPDIF optical audio.
Just a couple of things to note if you decide to use an HDMI audio extractor.
Similar to the potential limitations of video passthrough in a soundbar, an HDMI audio extractor can only pass through as many video and audio channels as it is capable of.
Many HDMI audio extractors can produce up to 2.0 audio channel and 4K at 60hz video rate when connected to the Xbox Series S/X, but a few, including this one from Avstar, can support 4K at 120hz as well as up to 7.1 channel audio.
Don’t forget to connect the other end of the HDMI audio extractor to your TV or monitor with at least an HDMI 2.1 cable so it will send that higher video signal without cable limitation.
Yes, I completely agree, audio can be just as critical to creating the best gaming setup for the Xbox Series S/X as video.
Connecting an HDMI ARC soundbar to the Xbox, or inline with your TV or monitor, can be quite confusing, especially because it can alter the audio and picture based on the method that you choose.
Whether it’s competitive or story-driven, I hope that sharing all these HDMI soundbar connection options has provided a clearer path for you in creating the ultimate best setup for your Xbox gaming sessions.
If you also like to listen to your Xbox Series S/X through a headset, I also published another article sharing some tips on how to connect them to your Xbox in order to get the best audio possible here on GizbuyerGuide.com.
Happy gaming, friends!