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How to Fix Common Soundbar Problems

Get your soundbar back in working order with these simple instructions.

The physical buttons on the right side of a Vizio V21d-J8 soundbar
Justin Duino / Review Geek

Modern TVs are incredibly thin and have awful built-in speakers. As a result, soundbars are marketed as a quick and easy solution to bad TV audio. And while soundbars usually work just fine, problems are inevitable and frustrating.

Thankfully, soundbar problems are fairly easy to pin down. And you can always go nuclear with a factory reset, if necessary. Here are some common soundbar problems, plus the solutions you’re searching for.

Before Troubleshooting, Try These Quick Fixes

By default, your smart TV should choose the correct audio settings for your soundbar. And for this reason, soundbar problems are usually due to software bugs, bad cables, or the settings of an external video source (such as a DVD player, streaming stick, cable box, or game console).

So, before diving into this article for your specific problem, try the following solutions:

  • Power Cycle: Try unplugging your TV and soundbar from the wall for at least 10 seconds. This forces the TV and soundbar to reestablish their connection, which can solve glitches and other problems. (The power button doesn’t completely turn these devices off, hence the need to unplug them.)
  • Check Soundbar Audio Source: Your soundbar may be trying to play audio from the wrong source. Select your desired input (usually HDMI or optical) from a button on the soundbar or its remote.
  • Firmware Update: If your soundbar suddenly stops working properly, or if a new soundbar just won’t work, a smart TV firmware update may be the answer to your problems. Be sure to power cycle your TV and soundbar after the update is installed. (If you prefer to keep your smart TV offline, you can disconnect it from the internet after updating.)
  • Check Your Connections: Make sure that there aren’t any loose connections between your TV and soundbar. If your soundbar and TV are connected via HDMI cable, be sure that you’re using the HDMI ARC or eARC jack on both devices. (And if you’re using Bluetooth, try a wired connection)
  • Try Another Cable: Even the best HDMI cables break. Try using a new one. I suggest buying an HDMI 2.1 cable, as it will support both the HDMI ARC and eARC standards.
  • Check Video Source Settings: Your streaming stick, cable box, DVD player, or game console may be the source of your problems. Check its audio settings—enable “comfort noise” if available, set its audio output mode to “auto,” and calibrate any audio sync settings if available.

Of course, some problems may be resolved by a factory reset. You can factory reset both your smart TV and soundbar by following the manufacturer’s instructions—the process differs from brand to brand, so consult your instruction manuals or perform a Google search for your equipment’s manuals.

Soundbar Won’t Connect to the TV

The M215a-J6 connectivity routing.
Andrew Heinzman / Review Geek

Soundbars are very easy to set up, and generally speaking, you shouldn’t have any problems if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. But here are some steps that you can take if your soundbar won’t connect to your TV.

  • Follow the Instruction Manual: I know it’s preachy, but you should really follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing a soundbar.
  • Check Your Cables: Look for any loose connections between your TV and soundbar. If you’re using an HDMI ARC or eARC connection, make sure you’re using the correct ports on your TV and soundbar. They should be labeled “ARC” or “eARC.”
  • Try a New Cable: HDMI cables can break, and older HDMI cables may not support the ARC or eARC standards. So, try a new cable. If HDMI gives you trouble, try optical or AUX.
  • Set Your TV’s Audio Output: Go into your smart TV’s settings and make sure that the correct audio output is selected. If you’re currently on the “auto” setting, try the “AMP,” “audio system,” or “digital” setting instead. (If these steps don’t work, reenable the “auto” setting.)
  • Try Disabling eARC: Some soundbars and HDMI cables don’t support eARC. Try disabling the eARC setting on your smart TV. (If disabling eARC doesn’t fix anything, reenable it! The eARC standard provides higher-quality sound than basic HDMI ARC.)
  • Enable HDMI-CEC: Open your TV’s settings and enable HDMI-CEC. This allows your TV and soundbar to communicate.
  • Firmware Update: Try updating your TV’s firmware. It sounds silly, but it often works.

When all else fails, consult your soundbar’s instruction manual to perform a factory reset. This usually involves a unique button combination. You could also reach out to the manufacturer, as you may have a faulty soundbar.

Soundbar Is Glitchy, Quiet, or Noisy

Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus on a TV stand
Justin Duino / Review Geek

Does your soundbar sound a bit unusual? If it always sounds weird, a loose or broken cable may be to blame (or you’ve just got your volume settings wrong). But if this problem occurs after a few hours of playback, it’s probably a software issue.

  • Soundbar Always Sounds Weird:
    • HDMI Connection: Try replacing the HDMI cable between your TV and soundbar (I suggest using an HDMI 2.1 cable, as it will support both HDMI ARC and eARC). If possible, set up an optical or AUX connection to narrow down the problem.
    • Optical or AUX Connection: Turn down your soundbar and crank the audio on your TV. If the audio signal hitting your soundbar is too “quiet,” it may cause problems or introduce noise.
    • Check TV Settings: Your TV’s audio mode may sound unpleasant. Cycle between the audio modes (sport, cinema, night mode, etc) to see if any resolve the problem.
  •  Soundbar Audio Gets Weird After a Few Hours:
    • Update Your TV: If your soundbar starts to sound glitchy after a few hours of video playback, it’s probably a software problem. Try updating your smart TV to see if it resolves the issue. (Be sure to power cycle the soundbar and TV after updating).
    • Update Streaming Apps: If possible, update your streaming apps. They may be responsible for this problem.
    • Replace Your Cables: Maybe your cables are failing. Try using new ones.

Note that these issues may be due to manufacturer defects. Perform a Google search to see if anyone else has encountered these problems with the same model of soundbar. Or, reach out to the manufacturer.

Surround Sound Won’t Work

The M215a-J6's Dolby Atmos and DTS:X logos.
Andrew Heinzman / Review Geek

Most soundbars offer some kind of surround sound. This may be achieved using additional speakers, though it’s not uncommon for a standalone soundbar to offer virtual surround sound through DTS X or DTS Virtual:X. Thankfully, if your soundbar isn’t outputting surround sound audio, the problem is usually easy to fix.

First, let me explain something. If your soundbar came with a bunch of extra speakers, you’re enjoying Dolby Atmos audio. Soundbars with DTS X reproduce a genuine surround sound signal (using several channels of audio from your video source), while DTS Virtual:X takes basic stereo audio and converts it to a multi-channel format.

  • Check Your Content: Some shows, movies, and streaming apps are only mixed for stereo audio. Obviously, this doesn’t matter when using DTS Virtual:X.
  • Soundbar Settings: Check your soundbar’s settings using the included remote (or TV interface, if available). You may need to manually enable surround sound. Note that a soundbar’s “music” mode will turn off any of your surround or rear speakers, while “all channel stereo” will play 2.0-channel stereo audio through all of your speakers.
  • TV and Video Source Settings: Check your TV and video source settings, as they may be set to “stereo.” I’ve run into this problem with game consoles and streaming sticks.
  • Cable Choice: Be sure to use an HDMI 2.1 cable for full HDMI ARC and eARC support. If surround sound is a priority, skip the optical cable, as it lacks the bandwidth of HDMI.

These steps should solve most surround sound problems. Unfortunately, surround sound is a difficult topic with a lot of moving parts. For additional help, you’ll need to consult your soundbar’s manual or contact the manufacturer.

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Video and Audio Are Out of Sync

White Sonos Beam (Gen 2) mounted under a TV
Justin Duino / Review Geek

The software in your TV and soundbar should prevent any audiovisual syncing issues. But if your video is ahead of your audio, or vice-versa, there are a few steps you can take to resolve the problem.

  • Test Your TV’s Speakers: Unplug your soundbar or disable it within your TV’s settings. Then, see if your TV’s built-in speakers are out of sync. If so, try updating your smart TV’s firmware, or perform a factory reset following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Test Input Sources: Test a variety of video sources with your TV. Your DVD player, streaming stick, cable box, or game console may be responsible for audiovisual problems. If so, check if your video source has an “Audio/Video Sync” or “Lip Sync” setting. (I’ve encountered this problem on a few Android streaming sticks.)
  • Plug Everything Into Your Soundbar: Instead of plugging video sources into your TV, plug them into your soundbar’s HDMI ports. This can resolve audiovisual sync problems and video decoding problems. (Note that this setup requires HDMI ARC or eARC.)
  • Test Streaming Apps: If audiovisual problems only occur in one streaming app, that particular app is probably to blame. You can try updating or reinstalling the app, but you may need to wait for a fix from the app developer. (This issue may also indicate a problem with your soundbar’s Dolby Atmos processing.)
  • Turn Off Audio Processing: Soundbars often feature audio processing technologies that imitate surround sound. Try turning off audio processing or virtualized Dolby Atmos on your soundbar, or set your TV’s output to PCM. Note that these settings may reduce audio quality.
  • Adjust Your TV Settings: Your TV may offer an “Audio/Video Sync” or “Lip Sync” setting.
  • Switch to Wired Audio: Wireless audio, such as Bluetooth, can introduce a ton of latency. I suggest using a wired connection whenever possible.

Audio sync can be a difficult problem to pin down, especially if you have a lot of video sources. If you’re desperate for a quick fix, you could always switch to an optical or AUX connection—if everything works fine when you unplug your soundbar and use your TV’s speakers, an optical or AUX connection should also work.

That said, HDMI offers superior audio. You’ll want to resolve this issue even if audio works fine over optical or AUX cable.

Audio Still Comes Out of the TV’s Speakers

A lineup of Samsung OLED TVs at CES 2023.
Josh Hendrickson / Review Geek

By default, smart TVs will turn off their built-in speakers when a soundbar is connected. If your soundbar and TV are playing audio simultaneously, you can quickly fix the problem from your TV’s settings. (If audio only comes from your TV, check our section on “Soundbar Won’t Connect to TV.”)

  • Turn Off your TV’s Speakers: Check for a “speaker” or “Dual Sound” setting on your TV. You may need to set this option to “external speakers” or “auto” to prevent audio from coming out of your TV’s built-in speakers.
  • Enable HDMI-CEC: Open your TV’s settings and enable HDMI-CEC. This allows your TV and soundbar to communicate and may resolve the problem.
  • Firmware Update: I’ve encountered this problem a few times, and in one case, a TV firmware update was the only thing that resolved the issue.

If the above steps fail, I suggest performing a factory reset of your TV and soundbar. This process differs from brand to brand, so consult your instruction manual or do a Google search.

My TV Remote Can’t Control My Soundbar

The Vizio M215a-J6 remote control.
Andrew Heinzman / Review Geek

When connected via HDMI or optical cable, your TV remote should automatically gain control of your soundbar’s power and volume settings. But if pressing the volume button on your TV remote doesn’t affect your soundbar, it’s time to dig through some settings.

  • HDMI-CEC: If you’re using an HDMI connection, open your TV’s settings and enable HDMI-CEC. This allows your TV and soundbar to communicate and should resolve any problems with your remote.
  • Optical Output Setting: If you’re using an optical connection, check that your TV’s audio output is set to “optical” or “optical digital.”

If these steps don’t work, try unplugging your TV and soundbar for 10 seconds. You could also try updating your smart TV’s firmware (which solved this problem for me recently), or perform a factory reset using your manufacturers’ unique instructions.

Unfortunately, your smart TV and soundbar cannot share a remote if you’re using an RCA or AUX connection. In either case, I suggest upgrading to an optical or HDMI connection for the best sound. (HDMI eARC is ideal, though it may not be supported by your soundbar or TV.)

Soundbar Randomly Disconnects from TV

Collection of audio products, including soundbars and earbuds, with the Review Geek logo.
Hannah Stryker / Review Geek

If your soundbar randomly disconnects from your TV, it’s probably due to an energy-saver function. This is a common problem in amplifiers and powered speakers, which tend to rely on a very simple auto-off function—if they don’t receive an audio signal for some time, they turn off.

Generally speaking, this problem will only occur over an optical, RCA, or AUX connection. If you’re using one of these connection methods, try the following:

  • Increase Audio Output: Turn down your soundbar and increase the volume of your TV. This ensures that the soundbar receives a powerful audio signal, which should prevent the energy-saver mode from kicking in.
  • Comfort Noise: Your smart TV or streaming stick may offer a “comfort noise” setting, which provides a continuous audio signal to the soundbar (outside the range of human hearing). If you can find this setting, make sure that it’s enabled.
  • Check Your Cables: A faulty cable may be responsible for this problem. Try swapping in a new cable, or switch to an HDMI ARC or eARC connection if possible.

But what if you encounter this problem while using an HDMI ARC or eARC connection? In that case, update your smart TV’s firmware, unplug everything from the wall for 10 seconds, and swap out your cables. You can also check your smart TV or soundbar settings for energy-saver modes, or try enabling CEC in your TV’s settings—CEC allows your TV and soundbar to communicate and share a remote control.

Soundbar Won’t Pair with Wireless Subwoofer

Subwoofer for a Vizio V-Series 2.1 soundbar kit.
Cameron Summerson / Review Geek

The average soundbar doesn’t produce a ton of bass, which is why wireless subwoofers are often included (or sold alongside) soundbars. These wireless subwoofers are supposed to automatically pair with your soundbar, but if you encounter a problem, the following steps should help you get the bass pumping.

  • Flip the Subwoofer’s Power Switch: Wireless subwoofers usually have a power switch. Ensure that your subwoofer is powered on. The subwoofer should use an LED to indicate its power status. (If your subwoofer won’t turn on, try a different outlet.)
  • Power Cycle Everything: Unplug your soundbar, smart TV, and subwoofer from the wall for at least 10 seconds. This may resolve connection issues between the soundbar and subwoofer.
  • Check for a Pairing Button: If your wireless subwoofer has a pairing button, press and hold it for about 30 seconds (while your soundbar and TV are turned on).
  • Move Your Subwoofer: Try moving your subwoofer closer to the TV. Something may be obstructing its wireless signal.
  • Check Your Settings: Your wireless subwoofer may be disabled due to settings on your smart TV or soundbar. Try toggling settings like “quiet mode” or “night mode.” Note that your soundbar may have dedicated settings that can only be accessed with its original remote control.
  • Factory Reset Your Soundbar: You can always factory reset your soundbar. This process usually involves a unique button combination, which you’ll find in the manual or on Google.

If you continue to have problems with your wireless subwoofer, you should contact the manufacturer. You may be dealing with a strange bug (which the manufacturer should know about), or you may have a faulty product.

And if you purchased a subwoofer separately from your soundbar, you may want to double-check that they’re compatible. This mistake isn’t very common, but I’ve seen it happen more than once.

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Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is the News Editor for Review Geek, where he covers breaking stories and manages the news team. He joined Life Savvy Media as a freelance writer in 2018 and has experience in a number of topics, including mobile hardware, audio, and IoT. Read Full Bio »