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Bluray/DVD surround sound connections
Bluray Basics

How to hook up an Audio Video Receiver

How to connect your Audio Video Receiver to HDTV, DVD, Satellite, Cable TV, surround sound

How to Set Up multi-channel surround sound, High Definition Video, HDMI, audio components.

In the 1960s and 1970s there were just 2-channel stereo receivers and these units were only for sound, no video. These receivers had a built-in tuner mostly AM/FM so you could listen to music on the radio, then you hooked up your turntable for vinyl LP records, your tape deck to record music and your two loudspeakers and that was it.

Today we call them audio video receivers because video has become as important as audio. Modern A/V receivers act as central switches for all your connected components including HDTV. Many additional features have been added over the years to AVRs such that we now have almost too many options to manage and use. You can hook up your iPod, get satellite radio, surround yourself with 8 loudspeakers and upconvert video to higher resolutions.

Yes, modern AVRs can get very complex, but if you break it down and take one step at a time, you will be able to hookup your gear in no time. All your components connect to the rear panel of the receiver. The rear panel of a modern AVR looks very intimidating at first but if you look at the various sections and learn what each section does, it becomes much easier to understand. The image below shows each functional area of the rear panel.

Hooking Up the Loudspeakers

Speakers each have two terminals on them for connection to the receiver, usually red and black. Red is the positive and black is the negative. Speaker wire is typically used to hookup speaker to receiver. This consists of two wires connected to the red and black terminals at each end, receiver and speaker.

When connecting speaker wires to the loudspeakers and receiver, make sure not to cross the wires, meaning be sure you connect positive to positive and negative to negative. With a 5.1 system, you connect 5 speakers, each with two wires plus a subwoofer speaker.

The speakers are front left, front right, center speaker, rear left (or surround left) and rear right (or surround right). The subwoofer is for deep bass and can be powered, meaning it has an amplifier contained in the speaker enclosure itself. With a 6.1 or 7.1 receiver, you just are adding more rear speakers.

Speaker wire is measured by the AWG or American Wire Gauge and can be 12AWG, 14AWG, 18AWG and so forth. The smaller the number, the thicker the wire. Why does this matter? Because thin wire cannot handle as much current flow as thicker wire and thicker wire allows a longer length run from receiver to speaker.

Receivers are usually marked so you know exactly which speaker terminal goes to which speaker. Look for LF (left front), RF (right front), C or center, SL for surround left and SR for surround right. Some receivers color code the terminals. The center speaker for example might be color coded green while the other terminals are color coded differently.

After connecting all the speakers, power on the receiver and select the tuner. (You may need an external antenna for FM stations) Tune to a known station and make sure the speakers are working.


Speaker Wire

Speakers connectors can be bare wire, banana plugs, spade lugs, pin connectors, and more. The banana plug slides into the binding post and requires no manual disconnect but the spade lug provides the tightest connection.

Hook Up your Audio Components

If you have CD or Tape or other audio only components, these are typically a 2 wire connection, color coded white and red for the 2 stereo channels. Only this time you will use an analog RCA phono style cable.

Connect white to white and red to red from component to the receiver. Look for a label on the receiver's rear panel to match the device you are connecting. CD for example would be for your CD player. Audio recorders require an additional 2 RCA cable connection (PLAY/RECORD) for a total of 4 wires for a recorder. Turntables are coming back in style so connect to the PHONO inputs on the receiver if it has one. If not, buy a good phono preamp and connect the output to the PHONO input on the receiver.

Hook Up your Audio/Video Components

If you have a DVD player, BluRay player, cable TV box, satellite receiver (Dish Network, DirecTV) or other audio/video device, connect the video (yellow) and the audio (white and red) to the appropriate inputs on the AVR's rear panel. However, for High Definition, use an HDMI cable to connect. Again, the inputs are usually labeled DVD, SAT etc. so you can connect to a matching port.

HDMI cable

When you get to the audio/video devices, particularly current components, you have some choices as to video and audio connections. High Definition (HD) requires a component video or HDMI connection. Instead of the yellow composite video hookup, HD requires either the HDMI or the component video hookup. HDMI is a single cable connection for both audio and video. Component video requires 3 RCA cables (green, blue, red) for the video and 2 RCA cables (white and red) for the audio.

HDMI is a rectangular jack and has multiple pins. Your source device must have a HDMI output such as a Bluray player. HDMI is the connection of choice for the highest video resolutions. Some better A/V receivers can do video conversion, taking a composite video source and output to the HDMI port for your HDTV.

Hook up the surround sound

Surround sound is one of the main reasons for having a A/V receiver. Virtually all current AVRs will decode Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound found on commercial DVDs. Surround sound can be processed by your AVR if a cable(s) is connected from the source device to the AVR. There are 4 ways to hookup surround multi-channel audio.

1) Optical (Toslink)
2) Digital Coaxial (RCA)
4) Analog RCA (multi-channel)

The first two are traditionally used for 5.1 bitstream digital audio with HDMI becoming a new alternative. HDMI will eventually overtake the first two because HDMI has more capacity and capability for the newer audio surround sound sources.

Optical and digital coaxial are both the same in function but use different cables. Optical uses an optical or light method of sending the digital stream while coaxial uses the more traditional electrical over copper wires method. Optical jacks are usually black and square while coaxial are usually orange and round. A good AVR will have plenty of inputs for optical and coaxial digital audio connections.

The analog RCA hookup is used when the source device does the decoding of the bitstream and then passes the channels to the AVR already decoded. One RCA phono cable is used for each channel. So all the AVR has to do is amplify and route to the speakers.

Analog RCA multichannel hookup

When the player does the decoding you can use RCA audio cables for each channel if your AVR has the inputs. Dolby TrueHD lossless audio could be sent this way instead of using HDMI.


It is very important to read your AVR owner's manual. There are many options with modern AVRs and several settings may need to be done before you can get what you want from your AVR.

Top brands of Audio/Video Receivers

Pioneer, Yamaha, Onkyo, Sony, Marantz, Denon

Turntable hookup

The LP record has made a comeback and newer AVRs now have again a PHONO input. If your AVR does not, you can get a small phono pre-amp for a turntable and connect through that to a line audio RCA input.

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