Make sure converters have pair of outputs

January 15, 2012 12:00 am

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Question: I received an audio soundbar over the holidays and can't connect it to my TV. My TV only has a coaxial (orange) digital output, and the soundbar has the red and white audio inputs. Is there any way to make it work?

GLENN FISCHER
Milwaukee

Answer: You can still use your soundbar. All you need is a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) to place between the TV and soundbar. The correct DAC will have a coaxial digital input and a pair of red-white analog outputs. Just connect the TV to its digital input and the soundbar to its analog outputs and your soundbar will work perfectly.

Be careful when shopping. Though most DACs have both optical and coaxial inputs, some inexpensive models only have one or the other.

The most common use of a DAC is to connect digital components like computers to home audio systems or any other device with red/white analog inputs. For example, most Mac computers have optical digital outputs. Though you can use the headphone or line output and a miniplug-to-RCA cable to connect a Mac to a stereo system, you will get better results with a DAC connected to the digital audio connection because the headphone output signal can be a bit noisy.

You can spend thousands of dollars on a DAC, but there is no need to do so, especially for what seems to be a modest soundbar/TV setup. The $28 FiiO D3 and the $20 Cables to Go DAC are available online, and both get good marks from users. Radio Shack stocks a model with coaxial and optical inputs for less than $40.

Anyone looking for a higher-end product to use in a high-grade audio system should check out the $349 Musical Fidelity V-DAC for $349. For my new stereo audio system I plan on using the V-DAC to play my Mac's iTunes library through my system since the preamp I have chosen does not have a digital input and I want the best possible sound.

2012 Consumer Electronics Show Report:

As I write this, I am in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show, checking out what the industry has in store this year. I can tell already the coming year is going to be a great one, especially for televisions and digital photography.

As you would expect, there have been a lot of expensive, cutting-edge products such as a refrigerator that can scan your grocery receipt, log in your purchases and tell you when your vegetables are going to go bad. That is not what I find so exciting, though. This year promises to be one of the best for affordable products that deliver great quality.

You will see bigger, better televisions at lower prices and high quality, full-featured digital cameras from major manufacturers at unheard-of price points. What's more, 2012 will see return of television manufacturing to the United States after a long hiatus, thanks to Element Electronics' new factory in Detroit. Element will be assembling televisions with 46-inch screens and larger to start, with smaller sizes to follow in the future. If you are looking for a budget-priced television, be sure to give them a look.

Read product reviews by Don Lindich at soundadviceblog.com .
First Published 2012-02-09 19:39:34
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