Today's TVs are a gateway to more TV show and movie content than ever before, but they also provide access to a host of music listening options.
As you select music to listen to, depending on the source, you may see album art and notes, artist profiles, lyrics, title, the time elapsed, etc... displayed on your TV screen, along with playback controls. This means that listening to music on your TV can also provide a different type of viewing experience.
You can also use your TV as a background music source while doing other tasks around the house.
Let's check out how to get started using your TV for music listening.
Get Familiar With Streaming Music Apps
The easiest way to listen to music on TV is with music streaming apps.
There are dozens of music streaming apps, but here are some popular ones:
- iHeart Radio
- TuneIn Radio
- Apple Music
- Amazon Music (Amazon Prime Music)
- Google Play Music
Pluto TV: Another app to consider that offers streaming music is Pluto TV. This is a free ad-supported service that primarily offers free TV and movie content, but, in addition, offers about 30 music listening channels.
Many dedicated music streaming services also provide a free listening tier but may require a paid subscription to access their complete music library.
There are several devices you can use to access music streaming apps and listen to them on your TV.
Play Music Apps Included on a Smart TV
If you have a smart TV, you have what you need to get started listening to music streaming apps.
The number of music streaming apps provided on specific brand/model TVs may vary, but ones that may be pre-installed include Pandora, iHeart Radio, and Spotify. For more options check out your Smart TV's app store. App download and installation is easy, but steps may vary depending on the smart TV brand/model.
Play Music Apps From a Media Streamer to TV
If your smart TV doesn't offer all of the music streaming apps you're looking for, you have an older smart TV that doesn’t allow you to add more apps or update the ones you have, or you don't have a smart TV, but it has an available HDMI input, you can connect a media streamer.
A media streamer may be either a plug-in stick that looks like a large USB flash drive that has a built-in HDMI connector (Roku or Fire TV Stick), or a box (Roku Ultra, Apple TV, Nvidia Shield TV) that connects to the TV using an HDMI cable.
For examples of media streamers that may work for you, check out our companion article: Streaming Devices for Home Theater.
Just as with smart TVs, some music streaming apps for media streamers will be pre-loaded, but more can be added from the media streamer's app store. Just as with smart TVs, the exact steps vary by the brand/model of each device.
Use Cast or AirPlay to Send Music From Smartphone to TV
Whether you have a smart TV or a media streamer, for added flexibility, you can mirror or cast music from streaming apps on your smartphone to your TV.
- If you have an Android or iPhone you can cast music using Chromecast connected to your TV or if the TV has Chromecast built-in.
- If you have an iPhone, you can also use Airplay (or AirPlay2) to send music to an Apple TV or AirPlay 2 compatible media streamer connected to your TV or you can send music to your TV directly if it is Apple AirPlay 2 compatible.
One convenience with Chromecast and Airplay is that if you come home and are already listening to music on your phone, you can just continue listening on your TV.
For iPhone users AirPlay 2 is more flexible but uses up more battery power than Chromecast. Technically, Chromecast provides better audio quality (depending on the source), but on TV speakers, you wouldn’t notice a difference. There are also additional feature differences that may affect your decision as to which is best for you.
If you have a smart TV, you may have another way to play music from your Android smartphone using DLNA (iPhones not included). This allows the TV and smartphone to communicate if they are on the same Wi-Fi network. When DLNA (Content Sharing) is engaged on both the TV and smartphone, the TV can find and play music files stored on the smartphone.
On select TVs, you may also be able to physically connect an Android smartphone using Micro USB or Micro HDMI (MHL) connector. iPhones may require a Lightning Digital AV to HDMI adapter.
NOTE: Bluetooth typically can’t be used to stream music from a smartphone directly to a TV (check your TV’s user guide). However, you can connect a third-party Bluetooth receiver to your TV’s analog audio inputs that can receive Bluetooth audio from a compatible smartphone.
In addition to streaming music from apps, you can play music on your TV from other devices that can be connected to it, as discussed below.
Play Music From a PC or Media Server
Select Smart TVs can access and play music files stored on network-connected PCs and Media servers (the TV and PC or media server have to be on the same network). This is done using DLNA or UPNP.
If this capability is provided, your TV will locate the music files (or the folder they are stored in) on your PC/Server. Select and play the music files you want. However, your TV may not be compatible with all music file types. Check your TV's user guide as to which music files are compatible for playback on your TV.
Play Music From a USB Flash Drive
Another option you have to play music on your TV is via a USB flash drive. You can copy music files from your PC to the flash drive. Also, if your PC has a CD drive, you can also “rip” the CD music content onto a flash drive. In addition, select Blu-ray Disc players allow users the ability to "rip" CDs to a USB flash drive.
If your TV has a USB port (that allows for media playback), you can plug the flash drive to the TV and play the saved music files. However, compatible music files may vary with the brand and model of TV. Check your TV's user guide for compatible music files that can be accessed on a USB flash drive and make sure you save the files in the compatible format(s).
Play Music From CDs
Although Streaming and other non-physical music sources are convenient, if you have a CD collection, you can play them on a DVD, Blu-ray, or UHD Blu-ray Disc player. If you have one connected to your TV just pop in a disc and press PLAY. Another bonus is that most players provide access to a selection of music streaming apps, although not as extensive as a smart TV or plug-in media streamer.
Play Music From Cable/Satellite
Another option if you have cable or satellite, is to check what music channels are available to listen too. One music service that is offered on cable and satellite services is Music Choice.
Music Choice channels are categorized by genre or collections (Jazz, Rock, 70's, 80's, Holiday Music, etc...)
Music Choice also provides an internet streaming version of its service, but in order to use it, you need to verify you also have access to it on your local cable or satellite service.
In addition to Music Choice, your cable service may also provide channels for local radio stations.
Get Better Sound Quality For Your Music
Using your TV to play music might be convenient for very casual listening, but the sound quality of TV speakers isn't very good. However, it doesn't have to be that way.
Bluetooth: Select smart TVs include Bluetooth, which allows the audio transmission to a compatible Bluetooth headset or external Bluetooth speaker. Consult your TV's user guide for details on built-in Bluetooth. If your TV doesn't have Bluetooth built-in, you may have the option of connecting a third-party Bluetooth transmitter to the TV to accomplish this task. However, using Bluetooth doesn’t provide as good of audio quality due to how it compresses audio when compared to connecting the TV directly to one of the additional options below.
Soundbar: You can connect a soundbar to your TV. This option is better than listening to music through the TV's speakers, and better than most Bluetooth speakers as it provides a wider soundstage, but is not always the best solution for music listening.
Stereo or Home Theater System with Wired Speakers:Connect your TV to a stereo or home theater system with wired speakers. This allows you to use better speakers than a soundbar offers, and place them in your room for better sound performance in relation to room acoustics and listening position, but using wired speakers does create additional clutter.
Home Theater System with Wireless Speakers: An alternative to a stereo or home theater system that requires wired speakers is to connect your TV to a WiSA Certified Enclave Audio CineHome II or THX CineHome Pro home theater audio system.
What makes either Enclave system a great option is that they employ wireless speakers. This means, it's easier to connect to your TV than a traditional stereo or home theater system and still improves the sound quality of your TV dramatically.
Two audio settings that Enclave Audio provides to enhance your music listening experience from traditional two-channel stereo sound mixes are:
- Whole Room Stereo: This feature enables you to duplicate the left/right stereo sound directed by the main speakers in the surround sound speakers. This provides the same music listening experience in both the front and back of the room. Whole room stereo also helps those that may have a hearing impairment to better hear dialog or vocals.
- Dolby Pro Logic Mode: This allows you to expand any stereo 2 channel signal (whether from movies or music) from your TV to 5.1 surround sound, creating a more immersive music listening experience.
For Multichannel capable music sources (such as select content from Apple TV with Tidal), the Enclave Audio systems can natively decode Dolby Digital 5.1 music mixes for a more immersive music listening experience than traditional stereo or virtualized surround sound.