Now that you’ve bought that fantastic HDTV on sale, your next purchase is to buy a good sound system and learn how to hook up surround sound to TV. The problem with these flat screens is that their built-in speaker systems are inherently laughable. They offer puny and tinny audio that simply doesn’t go well with the quality of the video. 

So how do you go about learning how to connect surround sound to TV? Here are some steps you should consider:

Check Out Your Surround Sound System Manual

surround sound system

While you might think you’ve got it all under control, you still need to read the manual for your audio system and follow the specified directions to provide surround sound to TV.

That’s because there are slight differences to each particular system, and each unique setup will require slightly different sets of instructions. 

Of course, in some cases these manuals aren’t always detailed. Some audio systems come from countries where English isn’t the main language, and they may not use the best translators in providing proper instructions in English. 

In other cases, they may assume you know the basic steps and so leave vital parts of the process out. That’s why we actually have this article. We can fill in the blanks. But you should still read the manual for your audio system for instructions specific for your model. 

Do You Need a Receiver?

The typical speaker nowadays isn’t independently powered, so they need an amplifier or a receiver to play middleman between the TV and the speakers. In general, you connect the receiver to the TV, and then you connect the speakers to the receiver. You don’t go about connecting TV to speakers directly. 

If you haven’t bought a receiver yet and you’re planning too, it’s important to get one that’s also easy to set up. The reviews should mention how the setup works so you have a fair idea of what kind of setup work you need to do. If you have an idea of how to connect receiver to TV and you think it’s doable for you, then it’s all good. 

What this means is that you should really get one with HDMI ports. Learning how to hook up a receiver to a TV without HDMI isn’t too difficult, but with HDMI everything is much easier and much faster. Why make it harder than you have to? 

Find Out the Available Audio Out on TV Options

You can find this out through your TV manual, or you can just check out the back or the side of your TV where you find the connections. The options include:

  • AV. This type TV audio out cable use red and white circular ports for basic audio.

  • HDMI. Just about every modern flat screen TV has an HDMI port. This single cable transmits digital data, combining audio and video together. It’s very easy to connect, since there’s just a single port for the receiver and the TV and you’re good to go. Many DVD players and also Blu-ray players connect with the TV with the HDMI audio to TV so you can then enjoy surround sound while watching your favorite movies in HD. Learning how to connect TV to receiver with HDMI is easy—you find the ports for the receiver and the TV, and then attach the ends of the HDMI cable to each one. It’s not rocket science. 

  • Your equipment may specify the need for digital coaxial or tussling cables to carry the digital signal. This means your TV has a digital optical audio out while your sound system has a digital optical audio in. 

  • RCA-style cables may also work. However, this type of cable may not be able to fully transmit digital audio. 

  • Optical audio cables connect to a hexagonal port that’s found in newer receivers. This is even cleaner than HDMI connections. To find out how to connect optical audio cable from TV to home theater, just connect one end to the digital optical output of your television. Connect the other end to the digital optical input of your home theater system receiver. 

How to Hook Up Your Surround Sound System to Your TV

Learning about how to set up surround sound to TV starts with figuring out what kind of cables you need, and then buy the cables from the hardware store or electronics shop. Learning how to connect TV to receiver without HDMI is all about consulting the AVR manual. In some cases, you can be guided by an app on your smartphone or by the prompt on your TV screen. Remember that many modern manufacturers are well aware that not everyone is tech-savvy. 

Bear in mind that if you need HDMI with ARC (Audio Return Channel), you need to get that kind of HDMI cable. How does HDMI ARC work? From your perspective, the technical details don’t matter. What matters is that if HDMI with ARC is required, that’s what you get. 

Afterwards, all you need to do is to connect the TV to the receiver via the right cable. Then you connect the speahow to connect TV to receiver without HDMIkers to the receiver, but only after you’ve positioned your speakers where you want the to go. This will give the lengths you need for your speaker wires. 

5.1 Or 7.1 Sound System

Hooking up surround sound to TV and getting the best sound involves putting the speakers in the right places. Speaker placement depends on several factors, but it’s mainly about how many speakers you have. If you have a 2.1 system, then that means you have 2 speakers and 1 subwoofer to give a fuller sound for your bass. But this kind of setup only gives you a stereo setup and not “surround sound”. 

To get surround sound, you need at least a 5.1 system or a 7.1 system. That means you need at least 5 speakers and a subwoofer. You should get high quality speakers, and you ought to go for the best home theater subwoofer as well to enjoy reverberating bass that won’t sound muddled. 

A good subwoofer doesn’t have to be expensive at all, and you can read up on the best budget subwoofer reviews to learn about affordable options with the best sound qualities. 

Positioning Your Speakers

Let’s say you have your TV right in the middle of the wall. Then you have your living room couch right at the centerline across the TV. Now where do you put your speakers?

  • Subwoofer. This gadget is actually omnidirectional. It generally sounds the same regardless of the position in which the sound from it is coming from. Still, it’s best if you place it right beside the receiver for convenience. It may also be handy if your receiver is right by the TV too, so you’re not going all over the place when you make adjustments. 

What you don’t want is to place your subwoofer against the corners or walls of the room. The bass will reverberate and amplify which can make it harder to control and adjust. 

  • 2 front speakers. You need to place them on each side of the TV, with the same distance to the TV as well. From your seat, the speaker in the left should be at the “10:30” position, though you may of course want it to go to the 10 or 11 0’clock position if you want. 

 Surround Sound System

Don’t have the 2 speakers too near to each other, because they may feel too mixed and you don’t get the stereo effect. But if you have them too much apart, you’ll have a gap in the sound stage. 

Angle the speakers towards where you’ll be sitting most often. The angles should be the same for both speakers. Finally, make sure that if the speakers are marked as left or right, they’re placed on the right side (according to the manual). 

  • Channel speaker. This should be right above or below the TV. This speaker connects the 2 front speakers when the TV sound moves from left to right, so there’s no sudden shift from one speaker to another. Don’t put this behind the TV, or else you won’t hear any sound from it. 

  • Side speakers. If you have a 5.1 system, then the remaining speakers must be to your left and right. This can be directly 90 degrees from your sitting location, especially if you have a 7.1 system. That means you have one at your 9 o’clock and another at your 3 o’clock. 

It’s best that you have standing home theater system speakers at your sides, so you don’t need to attach them to the walls. But if you have a 5.1 system, you may want to consider putting the speakers just a bit farther behind you at about 110 degrees. That’s about one at your 8 o’clock and another at your 4 o’clock. 

It’s best if these speakers are positioned at about your ear level when you’re sitting down, or at least not more than 2 feet above ear level. 

  • Rear speakers. Now if you have a 7.1 system, them the side speakers should be at 90 degrees to your left and right. Your rear speakers should be located about 135 to 150 degrees in relation to your seat. In other words, one should about the 7:30 position, while the other one is at 4:30 clock position. 

Tweaking the Various Devices

Here are some of the more common devices and how you can adjust and set each one of them. 

  • TV. If you can find your TV manual, consult it. Go to the sound mode in the settings of your TV. You may have an option of choosing which TV speaker to use, so you can choose the external speaker option. If there are mode options (music, movie, etc.) choose one of them. 

  • Cable or satellite box. Just check the manual to find out how to connect receiver to TV and cable box. You can connect one end of the HDMI cable to the cable box, and the other side to another free HDMI input on the receiver or on the TV/SAT HDMI input. HDMI surround sound is easy to setup and very clear, so it should be no trouble. 

Does the box have a setting for Dolby Digital? If it does, set it to the “on” setting. If that option isn’t available, then hopefully it’s automatically enabled. 

  • Blu-ray or DVD player. Again, consult the manual. Find out which settings work with Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Master Audio and then choose those settings. The audio output should be set to “bitstream uncompressed” or “pass-through”.

  • PS3. This has automatic audio and resolution settings, so there should be no problem. You can use the manual and verify that Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Master Audio are selected. If your receiver supports these, then select them manually. 

  • Xbox 360. Older ones component video connections (red/green/blue) and a TOSlink optical digital cable for 5.1 surround sound. Newer ones just have much simpler HDMI output to connect this to your receiver.

  • AV receiver. For best results, run the gadget’s Auto Setup feature to setup how to play TV sound through. This will set up all the various adjustments in the setting at optimal levels to account for the placement of the speakers. 

Additional Tips

So here are some tips that should make things easy for you. 

  • Always go with HDMI whenever possible. Learning how to hook up surround sound to TV with HDMI is the easiest way of them all, since you just connect the HDMI cable to the HDMI ports. Sometimes the ports will be specified (for cable box, for example) but in many cases you can just use any available HDMI port and you’re good to go. You don’t have to know how to enable HDMI audio to send the audio to the TV. It just happens automatically with HDMI. 

  • Cover up your surround sound speaker wiring.
     It would be nice if surround sound connections are wireless, but for most audio systems that’s just not possible yet. Connecting surround sound to TV can a lot of wires, and the wires to you side and rear speakers can be tripping hazards. You may also step on the surround sound wiring and disrupt the connections. 

So learn how to wire surround sound by running the wires along the wall, or under the rug. Make a surround sound wiring diagram, and see if you can label your surround sound cables so you know where things are. There are also some coverings for floor wires you can buy to protect your wires when you step on them. 

  • Hooking up surround sound with some sound systems that have an input optical audio cable option can be problematic if they don’t have the DTS 2.0+ or Dolby Digital decoding ability. That may get you only silence from your audio system when you’re playing your TV. 

To fix this, you need to get to the audio output settings of your TV. Look for the PCM option, and this means Pulse Code Modulation. This converts analog audio signals into digital audio signals without any compression. After this, you should end up with surround sound TV audio out to speakers

  • Test everything out once you’re done. Pop in a favorite movie, and see if you can notice the surround sound bonus. Do things happen on the left side of the screen and the sound also seems to come from the left side? If that’s the case, you’ve got your left and right sides figured out. 

Test everything—your cable, your DVD and Blu-ray players, and your game consoles. Try movies, TV shows, and concerts to get the right sound. Most receivers have a source input dial so you can pick which audio source you can test next. 

If it doesn’t sound perfect, then you can make tweaks. Try to adjust the settings first before you physically move your speakers. It’s much easier to this first, since moving speakers can be a lot of bother. 

Final Notes

Now if you’re a hopeless technophobe who simple cannot learn any of these things, you don’t have to go without surround sound for your TV either. You can find a professional handyman in the neighborhood, or maybe a dedicated audio installer is based around your area. Contact him (it may not be politically correct to note, but almost always this type of audio expert is invariably a guy), and then negotiate a fee for them to set up your TV audio system for you. 

If you have a high school in the neighborhood, contact the local school and the head of the AV club. Many of these kids know how to connect surround sound and they will help you set things up for a lot less. The point is that if you don’t learn how to hook up surround sound to TV, it’s not the end of the world. You can still enjoy fantastic surround sound with just a bit of neighborly or expert help. 

About the Author David Lahav

Hi, David Lahav Here. I'm Sound Out Media Founder and a BIG music gadgets geek. I love everything from futuristic music instruments to the silliest pig-shaped headphones. Welcome to my world!

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