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


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