When it comes to enhancing the sound of a new generation flat panel TV, we may choose to purchase external equipment such as a sound bar, powered speakers, receivers plus passive speakers, etc. which gives us more power and functionality.

However, you may have another resource at your disposal which does not involve economic expenditure and even gives you superior sound quality: use old stereo audio equipment, either modular type with separate components and speakers, or chain type or mini music system with everything integrated.

Some time ago, we commented on the possibilities of recycling components of an old mini system, an aspect that can be transferred to music equipment in general that we have probably stored in the storage room or even installed in a room in the house that we never turn on because we prefer to listen from cell phones with headsets, from a PC, etc.

This type of equipment will be clearly obsolete in terms of digital sound formats, latest generation connectors, they will not have WiFi, Bluetooth, you will not be able to handle them with your mobile or access streaming services or play music. MP3 files, but nonetheless they may be able to provide you with the extra power and sound quality you need for television, and without having to spend anything or at most a cable to connect them.

How to connect an old stereo to the TV

If you have an old stereo that you bought over 15 or 20 years ago, it probably doesn’t have HDMI connectors or Audio Return Channel (ARC) functionality. It will also be strange if it offers some type of digital coaxial connector, although it could be that if it was a high-end set you would find a digital optical port with a TosLink connector.

This TV to stereo output port allows us to send a digital audio signal under the S / PDIF protocol, hence the port is often marked under these acronyms on the TV cabinet, and supports signal transmission PCM stereo and multichannel audio compressed in formats such as Dolby Digital and DTS.

In our case, as the sound equipment will be old, we will not be able to choose to decode this type of Dolby Digital or DTS tracks, so we will send the TV sound to PCM stereo and we have to indicate this in the TV setup that it is the decode the sound signal.

If we have this type of optical input, it should be our first choice, as we won’t have electromagnetic interference and we will maintain the best signal quality until we hit stereo. But if the hardware is older, you will most likely have to opt for analog connections.

Here we have two basic possibilities to get the sound of the TV: the classic stereo RCA connectors (the typical black cable and red or red and white cable) or the traditional 3.5mm stereo audio output in headphones, computers, readers and mobiles until a few years ago.

RCA cable

RCA audio outputs if we use good cables should provide us with very good transmission quality, although here we can end up with the opposite problem: that the TV is so modern that it no longer has these types of connections. Paradoxically, this situation occurs with the newer models of the higher range, although if your television is of a mid-low range, you probably have it available.

3.5mm jack cable

Finally, we have the option of using a 3.5mm jack cable capable of transmitting a stereo sound signal between the TV and the stereo. It’s usually available on all optional TVs to stream sound to speakers or headphones, although you can’t find it as such in the stereo. But that’s no problem, since you can still get a 3.5mm jack to RCA connector cable adapter in both male and female terminated versions.

KabelDirekt – 0.2m stereo audio coaxial adapter (1 male 3.5mm jack to 2 female RCA connectors, for connecting 3.5mm RCA cables), Pro Series

Parameter setting and commissioning

Alright, we’ve got everything plugged in and now it’s time to set up both teams to make it all work. To start with, you need to select the corresponding audio output (eg RCA, jack or headphone) in the TV setup menu and in turn choose the corresponding audio input with this connector on the audio system.

After that, it is convenient to adjust the equalizer settings and sound modes available on both devices. At this point, we’ll basically have two options: adjusting the settings directly in the music channel, if it has EQ controls (usually they have knobs for bass and treble at least) and some listening modes. Or do it from the TV menu, which will be more modern, advanced, and likely have more options to choose from.

Which system is the best? Well, that will depend on each particular case and especially on the range of musical material available. If it was performing well, it probably has quality filters that offer precise levels of adjustment that will produce better sound quality. Otherwise, the TV will be our best option.

Another interesting point to evaluate is whether we can install an additional subwoofer on the TV and / or the audio system to help us improve the low frequencies. On some models it is possible to have this function, which can be useful to complement the sound of the music system when watching movies.

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