Ask LH: Can I Convert HDMI Sound?

Dear Lifehacker, I have a new HD TV without any sound output other than HDMI. What are my options for hooking up a budget 50W(RMS) amplifier and bookshelf speakers? Are there any decent converters that can extract audio from an HDMI source and output via a 3.5mm headphone jack? Thanks, Not Quite an Audiophile

Dear NQAA,

Tch, modern TVs and their lack of audio ports, eh? You rarely had this problem back in the CRTV days — even crappy black 'n' white televisions would provide a headphone jack at the very least. The modern obsession with super-slim HDTV bezels has a lot to answer for. But anyway...

Instead of trying to leap through complicated audio hoops, you're probably better off buying a cheap home theatre receiver with HDMI inputs. You can then hook up your amplifier and speakers using the appropriate ports. Granted, this will push your budget out a bit more, but not to a ridiculous degree — we typically see models sell on eBay for around $100.

Alternatively, why not keep things simple and plump for a soundbar? These days it's not too difficult to find soundbars with HDMI inputs — provided you have a port to spare, connecting directly to your TV shouldn't be a problem.

A decent soundbar will provide enough grunt to render an amplifier unnecessary. Some models also come with extra connectivity (including Bluetooth/wireless) which allows you to connect satellite speakers or a sub-woofer if desired. When it comes to bang-for-buck, it's hard to look past this solution.

As always, if any audiophile readers wish to dispense some advice of their own, give NQAA your tips in the comments section below.

See also: How To Be An Audiophile On The Cheap | How To Build Your First Home Theatre System

Cheers Lifehacker

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    "we typically see models sell on eBay for around $100."
    I'm guessing this is a US article?

      I never said "brand new".

        Haha! stevo got burned!

          I must be a firewalker if you think I got burned.. there's no such thing as a $100 HDMI receiver in Oz, unless you're getting mates rates.

        Nor did I...
        Find me an HDMI Receiver in Australia for $100 Used or New!
        Here are the eBay links.. to "help" you get started on your search.

        The cheapest in Sydney on Gumtree are a Sherwood (shudder!) and this Onkyo, both at $150

    A quick ebay brought up this.

    Looks like it might do the job and < $80 delivered it's not too expensive.

    Last edited 06/08/13 3:17 pm

      Those cables plug into an Xbox 360; not HDMI. They're used to extract audio from 360s when you are using HDMI; not extracting audio directly from HDMI.


      How is the breakout adapter for an Xbox360 going to help??? He didn't even mention a 360
      Notice the proprietary plug at one end, it's for the pre-HDMI xbox360.

    That one mentioned above won't work.

    What you want is something like

    Note that this will only work for two channel PCM stereo sound, and the quality may not be that great, depending on the quality of the DAC built into that converter. There's also pricier options like that probably have better quality.

    You will need to confirm that your TV does do ARC, if not the only way forward is to use a HMDI enabled receiver. ??

    Did this guy even search? Seriously it would have taken longer to send the question in to lifehacker than it does to type 'HDMI to 3.5mm' into google.

    Feeling super cheap and got a few days? Get this.

    Want to get one from Australia? Couple bucks more.

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