Question Using a powered 3.1 soundbar and a 5.1 receiver at the same time

URsurrounded

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Feb 10, 2020
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I want to run a powered ARC 3.1 soundbar and sub with, an ARC 4k flat panel and I also want to run a 5.1 surround receiver and speakers simultaneously. Here are the components:

JBL 3.1 soundbar
Sony XBR65 X850G flat panel TV
Denon HDMI 5.1 receiver

I have the TV and the 5.1 receiver and a full set of speakers already hard wired (L, R, passive center soundbar, LR, RR). I really like the sound stage. The center channel is cheap but not too bad and did the job when i got it. My L and R channels are about 10’ apart and I have discreet left and right rear channel speakers already placed and hard wired.

A good powered soundbar, like the JBL is going to kick butt vs. my existing cheap passive one, and you need an expensive passive center along with a good receiver to match one, and that option is a lot more expensive than the $299 for the JBL 3.1.

So by itself I get a 4’ sound stage instead of 10', but I get great, balanced sound and a Bluetooth paired sub. In my opinion the soundbar emulates the proper sound stage for a large flat panel but doesn't achieve the full theatrical experience.

If I could operate both the JBL soundbar and the Denon receiver simultaneously, I could have the best of both worlds. I could use the soundbar by itself and have the balanced 3.1 and sub, along with the voice/dialogue enhancement. I could add the 5.1 receiver, just the 4 existing speakers without the existing center channel, and I would get the wider left and right that hopefully would blend with the soundbar L and R (unless one lags behind the other) and I would have discreet hard wired rear channel surround speakers.

The receiver has a built in HDMI switcher and the person I spoke to at Denon THINKS it should pass 4k video (it didn’t exist when this receiver was built). So I could possibly plug my sources into the receiver (which I currently do), send the receiver’s HDMI out to the panel (which I do currently) and pull the ARC cable between the panel and the soundbar. If the Denon passes the full 4k HDMI image that may trick it into letting both sound systems work at the same time. I can just mute the receiver or turn its volume to 0 and use the soundbar alone when I don’t want to wake the neighbors. However that does make it so the receiver must be powered every time I watch TV. I was hoping to loop an output from the TV to the soundbar, then from the soundbar to the receiver but that isn’t possible.

I may want something impossible. I want to use the soundbar/sub with the flat panel by itself sometimes, and add other left and right, front and rear speakers to it when I want to.
 
Connect all your sources to the TV.
Split the optical output of the TV and connect both the soundbar and AVR to the TV.
You can now run either or both but will have to adjust volume twice, since the TV output is fixed volume, when you use both.
Doing it this way will shrink the soundstage since you now have 4 front speakers. The sub might not work well with this set up either
Another option is to connect a speaker to line level converter to the center channel speaker output of the AVR. Connect that to the analog input on the soundbar. You will have to set the AVR to no sub, center large, front and sur. small. It may not let you do that. If you don't set it that way no bass will be sent to the soundbar so no sub output.
I would suggest that getting the center channel that matches your front speakers will be a better solution. The front three speakers have to be voiced to work together to get the best result. Using a superior center will help dialogue but won't blend as well the the matching center would.
 

URsurrounded

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Feb 10, 2020
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"Connect all your sources to the TV."
Only 2 inputs on the set, Sony XBR65X850G, one normal HDMI input and one HDMI ARC input

"Split the optical output of the TV and connect both the soundbar and AVR to the TV."
No optical out on the Sony. I have always had problems splitting HDMI. You either get flicker or one source works and the other doesn’t. Even switchers seem to sometimes accurately switch from one HDMI channel to another, but never consistent. If you know a model that does, please share that.

The Sony’s ARC HDMI port is an input and newer soundbars and receivers have HDMI ARC outputs. Stands for Audio Return Channel. Sound from the TV goes the opposite way and plays through the soundbar, and it will pass video through the same HDMI cable into the TV.

"You can now run either or both but will have to adjust volume twice, since the TV output is fixed volume, when you use both."
"Doing it this way will shrink the soundstage since you now have 4 front speakers. The sub might not work well with this set up either"
The sound stage is the room you are in. The theatrical experience attempts to immerse you in the sound, and the picture where it can. But yes, it could go either way. It may give me the wider sound stage but the effect may be weird as it is originating from the sound bar and mirrored on the additional left or right speaker. Or if tuned right it may just give it more depth without sounding weird.

"Another option is to connect a speaker to line level converter to the center channel speaker output of the AVR. Connect that to the analog input on the soundbar. You will have to set the AVR to no sub, center large, front and sur. small. It may not let you do that. If you don't set it that way no bass will be sent to the soundbar so no sub output."
Pulling the analog center from the AVR may be my best option but if I kill the AVRs sub out I won’t get that bass. It won’t pass through the center out to the sound bar. If I do it this way I will need both subs. Only one sub would be active at a time.

"I would suggest that getting the center channel that matches your front speakers will be a better solution. The front three speakers have to be voiced to work together to get the best result. Using a superior center will help dialogue but won't blend as well the the matching center would."

I think I have 2 options. If I run the soundbar by itself, HDMI ARC out to the HDMI ARC in on the panel, it will work fine. I can get most apps right on the Sony. It is connected to WiFi. This gives me the standard soundbar 3.1 config, sub works, sounds good and I have the audio adjust for voices at low levels.

To run the full system I can either loop the AVRs HDMI out through to one of the HDMI ins on the soundbar, or I can pull the analog center out from the AVR and plug that into the aux in on the soundbar. JBL told me that using the aux in signal is treated as a single channel and plays over all 9 drivers in the soundbar.

Looping could give me an interesting effect if it syncs. I would have the 3.1 from the soundbar and my existing left and right would give me the wider soundstage I am looking for. I disagree in a surround environment that matching speakers are critical. As most of the content comes from the center channel, it needs to be a good speaker or speakers but the left and right are mainly presence and effect. It makes it.. bigger but it comes so infrequently that its sonic correctness isn’t as critical. Yea if they are crappy speakers it will suck, but if you have left and right channels that have decent sonic reproduction, you can get away with non matching speakers. Now if it is purely for music that is a different story.

Anyway, one person mentioned, that even if the AVR HDMI passthrough to the soundbar synced when I first set it up, over time it would begin to lag. Never got a clear reason why but who knows.

If I go the other route and plug the analog center out from the AVR into the aux in of the soundbar, it becomes a single channel speaker accessing all 9 drivers. Likely the sub won’t get any content so I would leave the existing sub I have on the AVR attached. I would take the HDMI out from the AVR and plug it into the standard HDMI in on the TV. Then plug the HDMI ARC out from the soundbar to the HDMI ARC in on the TV. All my sources would be patched into the HDMI switcher in the receiver. So I would switch to straight HDMI on the panel to listen to full 5.1 surround with the sound stage I want. At night I could turn off the AVR and switch to the HDMI ARC in on the panel so the soundbar and it’s sub should work as normal.
 
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