How to Hook up Surround Sound - Connect your Surround Sound to complete your Home Theater

This How-To article is aimed at those of you interested in learning how to hook up surround sound.

The primary focus is on your receiver, speakers, subwoofer, and DVD/Blu-Ray player.

What its not is configuring your settings, connecting other components (like amplifiers, record players, CD players, etc.), or audio/video switching.

You'll just be able to get your speakers hooked up and your DVD/Blu-Ray properly connected to your receiver so you can get full 5.1 surround sound.

Feel free to click on the Receivers link at the top of the page for a more thorough walkthrough including additional components, more speakers and an explanation of what all the inputs/outputs are for.

Step 1: Identifying Components of Surround Sound

The first step in hooking up your surround sound is determining what types of inputs and features your system is capable of. By "system", I mean your surround sound receiver, your speakers (five speakers and a subwoofer), your TV, and any other components (like a DVD player).

In order to setup true 5.1 surround sound, you'll need a surround sound receiver with digital inputs: fiber optic or digial coaxial.

Without one of these, you're stuck with stereo surround.

That means you'll get sound from all your speakers, but it will be simulated surround sound. Rather than playing the 5.1 soundtrack on the DVD, your receiver will take the stereo track and decide what to play in the rear speakers. Your subwoofer will be incredibly underused, and you'll end up hearing much of the same out of your front speakers as your rears.

In reality, your rear speakers should be relatively silent during a movie. They are used very seldomly, while your center channel puts out almost all of the voice and main action in the movie. You just can't get that out of two channel stereo surround sound.

Obviously, if your receiver has digital audio connections, your DVD player has to have them, too. You'll also want to have a subwoofer pre-out on your receiver. This is usually colored purple and included with a whole set of inputs labeled "Pre-Outs". Check your receiver's manual to determine whether or not you have a subwoofer pre-out and to figure out where it is on your receiver.

If you don't have a sub pre-out, there's an alternate way of hooking up your subwoofer, but its not optimal. Your bass will be drastically reduced and you won't "feel" it as much.

Step 2: Gathering Cables for 5.1 Surround Sound Capability

For an optimal surround sound setup, you'll need the following:

- (1) Fiber optic OR digital coaxial cable

- (1) Subwoofer cable (or a regular RCA cable, but an actual subwoofer cable is preferred)

- (1) Y-Adapter (this plugs into the red and white RCA jacks on your subwoofer and combines them into just one jack)

- Enough speaker wire of 14 or 16 gauge quality to connect your 5 speakers and your subwoofer (200ft is safe for most rooms)

The Y-adapter is optional but recommended. Your subwoofer expects two inputs from your receiver, but for your use, you'll only be outputting one cable (from the subwoofer pre-out) to the subwoofer. The Y-adapter is the optimal method of hooking up your sub, but if you don't have one, just plug the cable from the receiver into either red or white RCA inputs on your subwoofer.

If you don't have digital inputs on your receiver and/or DVD player, you'll need a pair of RCA cables (red and white). And if you don't have a subwoofer preout, you'll need a little extra speaker wire.

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