So you've just bought new new home theater amplifier, only to find the back panel is full of connections that you've never even heard of before! If your installation might be beyond you, it may be worth bringing in a professional. Let us know if we can help.
If you're set on doing it yourself, this article should show you all of the basics of everything required to get you up and running.
If you have a basic stereo system, this article might be a bit more help:
Basic Stereo Set Up
This article is broken into several sections:
- Connecting Speakers
- Connecting Sources
- Optical Digital
- Connecting Displays (TV's or projectors)
- Connecting to your network
- Other Connections
First, let's connect your speakers.
If you have a home theater amplifier you may anything between two and 13 speakers to plug in! Placing your speakers correctly in the room is the most important way to get the best sound from your system. There's heaps of information online, but here are some good articles on speaker placement:
Surround Sound Speaker Placement Guide (Dolby.com)
Most people don't have purpose built rooms, so just try and make the best out of whatever situation you happen to have. If you have a difficult room, contact us and we can make a professional recommendation.
Lets zoom in on the speaker connections on the back of the amplifier:
No red and black on cables
If your cables don't have an obvious red and black, some times there will be a ridge or writing on one side, so use that to connect the red side so that you know the difference.
Surround or Surround Back
If you are connecting a 5 speaker system, remember that the output you will use is marked "Surround" not "Surround Back" Surround back is only used for 7.1 systems.
Left or right?
It's also worth remembering that the left and right side, is as you would see it sitting in your listening position looking towards the amplifier.
My speakers have four (or more) connectors
If your speakers have 4 plugs on them, you can look at "bi-wiring" or "Bi-Amping" your speakers. This can increase the performance but requires running two sets of cables to the speakers. You can run a single speaker cable as long as you have the jumpers between the two red and two black connectors on the speakers.
Connecting your sources:
Usually it's best to keep things as simple as possible, but sometimes each device will require multiple connections.
This is the easiest way to connect most Video sources like Sky boxes and Blu-Ray Players. However, because of all the copyright protections and complications in place, it can sometimes be a little un-reliable. Make sure your cable is of reasonable quality, to ensure stability and make sure you don't make any connections while your devices are still on.
Connect all your HDMI sources from their HDMI outputs to the HDMI inputs of your surround sound receiver.
We usually never recommend using Audio Return Channel or HDMI control, due to the fact that it causes operation to be quite tricky and unreliable.
HDMI is the only way to get the highest quality picture and sound, so this connector is a staple of modern home theaters and surround sound systems.
Many receivers won't be able to output sound to extra zones from HDMI sources, so if you want to do this, consider running a separate analogue audio cable as well
Analogue audio is the most common way to connect any of your devices, and is a very reliable and simple way of connecting older source component like CD players. It is also useful for connecting sources that you want to send easily through to any other zones.
If you have a component that only has analogue audio outputs for surround sound you want to connect it to Multi-Ch Input, otherwise it's best to connect it to the input that corresponds to the device best.
This connector is very commonly used as an audio output from TV's. This allows you to have sound from the internal tuner or smart functions of the television. It is also commonly used on streamers and audio players.
Connect this cable from the digital audio output on your television through to the TV input of the receiver, or whatever audio input is most appropriate.
Connecting your TV or Projector
These should usually be connected using HDMI cable to the HDMI out of your receiver. If you have to run it for a long distance (Over 10m) HDMI cables will become expensive and unreliable. It may be better in this situation to use an HDMI balun. If you need sound from the internal functions of the TV it is best to use an Optical cable as well for "audio return"
Connecting to your home network (and the internet)
We recommend running a network cable between your router and amplifier if at all possible. Many amplifiers will have wireless networking, however this is never as reliable or fast as a wired network.
Sometimes, your home network wont be configured correctly. This could be for any number of reasons. If you are having trouble connecting your theater amplifier to your network, it is best to talk to a professional who can help. Often, the best thing you can do, is to get a decent quality router / wireless access point and throw away the one you were given for free by your ISP.
- AM/ FM Aerial: Used for plugging in AM and Fm aerials, worth playing around with the location to find the best reception
- Co-axial digital audio: Very similar to optical audio in use, but uses a RCA type plug
- Pre-Out / Pre-Amp output: Used for connecting external power amplifiers for difficult to drive speakers
- Subwoofer outputs: Designed for connecting an external subwoofer. Make sure the cable is a shielded RCA cable so that it doesn't pick up any hums
- IR in / out: Used for connecting to Remote control repeating systems. Crucial if the amplifier is being hidden away
- 12V / Trigger out: Used for turning on and off external power amplifiers or other devices when the amplifier is turned on.
- Component / Composite Video: Used for connecting older video devices like game consoles, VCR's etc.
- RS-232: Used for connecting to an external controller. This allows you control the device with a different remote or as part of a home automation system.
As always, if this is getting over your head, call a professional and get it done correctly the first time.