Prewiring for your Home Theater doesn't have to be difficult. The modern standard for picture (and sound) to a TV or Display is an HDMI cable. This has the ability to carry Picture and Sound, as well as having an allowance for a network (ethernet) connection, though at the moment there are very few (if any) devices that can take advantage of the ethernet channel in HDMI.
This single cable allows for Full HD picture, 3D, and some cables, even 4K. But what about getting sound from the TV, from something like FreeView, or the on-board media tuner?
ARC stands for Audio Return Channel, and will allow sound to come back from the TV to an ARC capable Home Theater Receiver. It's a part of the HDMI 1.4 standard, so both your TV and your Receiver will need to be up to this level. After that, it is often as simple as making sure you plug into the appropriate HDMI port on the TV and Reciever, which are often labeled. For more information on your specific equipment, check the manual.
But what if you have a slightly older bit of equipment, or you didn't pre-wire using an HDMI 1.4 capable HDMI cable? Not to worry, you can still get audio back the 'old fashioned' way - using your TV's 'Audio Out'. On older TV's this is often a pair of RCA plugs - similar to what you would find on the back of a CD player. For slightly more modern 'thin' TV's, sometimes it's a 3.5mm (think headphone jack) output that requires a specific 'breakout' or adapter cable.
For most modern TV's though, your only option is the TOSLINK Optical connection. This is a digital fiber optic connection that uses pulses of light to send audio. If you've ever seen a small square flap on the back of the TV that seems to be glowing red, you've seen the Optical connection.
Usually, this can be plugged directly into the Home Theater amplifier without any problems (again, check your manual), but if you are going to be using an analog only receiver (like a Stereo Amp), you may need to use a DAC to convert the signal first.
Another cable to keep in mind is the Ethernet cable. With most modern TV's having some internet capability, a network cable is a must. Sure, many TV's are also wireless, but do you really want to wait for your videos to buffer every time you want to watch one?
In any case, it's worth keeping in mind that while the HDMI has some features that can make it easy to connect, it's often a good bet to add a few additional cables, like an Ethernet cable, to ensure you've got the functionality you'll use now, as well as a robust set of options for down the road. As always, if you are in doubt about what capabilities you have, check your manuals, or if you'd like to ask a pro, contact us.
After all, you don't want to have to rip open the Gib to put in new cables when that next format comes out, do you?