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How to set up a soundbar to work with your Xbox Series X

Stock TV speakers are bad. It’s time for an upgrade.

xbox series s and series s on white background
Image: Microsoft

So you managed to grab an Xbox Series X or Series S while they were still on shelves, beating out thousands of other Xbox fans and more thousands of scalpers and bots.

You’ve got it set up on your TV, you turn it on, fire up your favorite game, and… oh, the cinematic experience you were expecting is lacking somehow. That’s probably because the speakers in most TVs are barely adequate, and to really get your pulse racing while gaming, it’s worth getting a soundbar.

Every genre of gaming will be enhanced by a soundbar, especially if you get one that supports the Xbox Series’ best audio feature – Dolby Atmos. You’ll want to look for a soundbar that also supports HDMI ARC (audio return channel), or eARC (enhanced audio return channel), which when coupled to your TV and console will turn your battlestation into a cinematic masterpiece.

Here is how you set up your Xbox Series X with a soundbar

nebula soundbar
Image: Ste Knight / KnowTechie

When Microsoft designed the Xbox Series X and Series S, they removed the optical port that the prior consoles had. According to the company, that’s because not many gamers were using the port and it helped save some space on the new consoles.

To start, you’ll need an HDMI ARC-enabled soundbar and TV, and your Xbox Series X or Series S:

  1. Connect the HDMI output from your console to one of the HDMI input ports on the soundbar

  2. Take a second HDMI cable, and connect the soundbar to the TV using ARC- or eARC-enabled ports on both

  3. If you don’t have ARC-enabled ports but optical ports on your soundbar and TV:

    Connect the Xbox Series X or Series S to your TV’s HDMI input

  4. Use an optical cable to connect your TV to the soundbar

Now it’s time to set up surround sound, which varies depending on both your connection method and which types of surround sound your soundbar can support. Dolby Atmos only works over HDMI, so you won’t be able to get this over optical.

For a non-Dolby Atmos soundbar, open the Settings on your Xbox. Then navigate to General > Volume & audio output. Then choose your audio format based on your hardware configuration:

  • Soundbar without surround: Choose Stereo Uncompressed
  • Soundbar with surround and HDMI: Select either 5.1 Uncompressed or 7.1 Uncompressed
  • Soundbar with surround and optical: Select Bitstream Out, then choose either DTS Digital Surround or Dolby Digital as the format

About Dolby Atmos

To get Dolby Atmos working, you’ll need the Dolby Access app from the Microsoft store installed on your Xbox. Once installed, ignore any prompts to buy a license, that’s only for some Atmos-enabled headphones.

Go back into Settings > Volume & audio output and look for Speaker audio. Select Bitstream out here, then choose Dolby Atmos for Home Theater as the format. Now you’ve got your soundbar connected and working with Dolby Atmos, for immersive sound. Enjoy!

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