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Solving the TCL TV and Sound Bar Problem

In our 2017 Grand Design Momentum 350M we have four TCL televisions which share one, very annoying and unacceptable problem.

They all LACK an acceptable audio output option!

I don’t know why, I don’t know how…but there is NOTHING that is a common, acceptable, simple solution for getting audio out of the TV and into something else, like a Sound Bar! I looked at this and thought “WTF????” Then I read the manual…(RTFM! It’s important!)

Let’s back up a bit…and be fair.

Grand Design doesn’t necessarily put these TVs into the models from the factory floor. What happens a lot of the time is the Dealer orders a unit with specific features present and other features omitted. This allows the Dealer to get a better price and then install certain features (TVs, for example) that they have purchased in bulk and further increase their margin! But, they’re cheap…always cheap. Not to say TCL is a flat panel of crap…they just aren’t known for a “full” feature set. I know for a fact this is what happened with our Momentum 350M — and since we’re not afraid of modding the HELL out of this thing…well…

TCL TV Sound Output Options

Our main TV actually does have 2 audio output options.

  1. HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) – but that is a well known and confirmed bad joke in the Tech Industry. It’s a poorly designed, half-assed, shitty implementation. And it RARELY works as planned, if it works at all. In our case, it does not work at all, so screw it.
  2.  Analog SPDIF (or S/PDIF) – a digital audio output for short distance audio transfer. Problem here is? It’s a Digital solution with an analog implementation; another “WTF!!???” moment that produced strongly worded letters.

And of course, there are the completely shitty TV speakers. Only the pretty high-end TVs have built in speakers that are worth half a shit.

The Solution and the Sound Bar

I’m a recovering Audiophile and before moving into this lifestyle, I had a full audio studio with glorious amplifiers and speakers. Most of that is gone. I knew I would never be able to justify a full system, so I searched for a small sound bar that would “fit the need” – sound good, crank tunes, throw sound and actually fit into the limited spaces. I found one (the Polk Magnifi Mini)…but now I faced the task of connecting it to the TV!

What I needed was a splitter/converter that would accept an SPDIF connection and convert it to an Optical Toslink output for the sound bar. I did some research and found the magic box! Small, compact, tough! It’s the (take a deep breath) ROOFULL SPDIF Toslink to Coaxial SPDIF and Coaxial to SPDIF Coaxial Optical Audio Converter Bi-directional Optical SPDIF Toslink Coaxial Audio Switcher Signal Amplifier Splitter.

Next, a nice, shielded analog SPDIF cable. Why such a beast? Well, there’s a LOT of electronics happening around this TV, so something that’s not well shielded is going to be prone to interference. I also wanted to make sure it was at the proper resistance for SPDIF…since it’s meant for short distances, might as well make the most of what you’ve got! This beast is longer than I needed, but that’s not hurting anything.

Out from the TV, into the Converter.

Now, get the signal from the Converter to the Sound Bar!

There’s a LOT of controversy in the Audiophile world about digital Toslink cables. As a former junkie, I understand it, but don’t really buy into it. Just buy one that fits your needs. Remember, it’s fiber optic, so cheapest isn’t the best–you want good fiber! But there’s also no need to spend a lot of money on these. $7 was perfect for mine.

Lastly, since I’m putting the TV on a new mount, I wanted the Sound Bar above the TV (more room up there and it doesn’t block the IR receiver for the remote control!). This Sound Bar mount works perfectly!

That’s it! Problem solved! I have the main bar (small and powerful) mounted to the TV and I finessed the subwoofer (Horray for wireless that works!) behind the couch. Yes, it’s not the perfect placement, but it is adequate, keeps Julie happy and works! I’ve got the converter and all of the wiring tucked and velcroed behind the TV (with the Roku…since it’s a wireless remote and NOT IR)…so things are out of site and tidy. Turn off the TV speakers (good riddance!), switch the SPDIF output to Dolby and …ahhhhhhh!

BTW, I discovered that whomever tuned the Sound Bar must have been a Rush fan…it seems to be made for Rush! So, yeah for Rush fans!

Below is a very simple diagram of the setup. If you have any questions, please ask! I hope all of this helps!

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