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How to setup
surround sound on a Dish HD DVR satellite TV receiver

How to connect a digital satellite TV set-top-box to a A/V Receiver 

How to Set Up Surround Sound for a DISH HD DVR SATELLITE BOX

DISH Satellite Receiver

Surround Sound has many considerations including what equipment you have, what content source and which user settings. In order to get true surround sound, you need to look at several settings, cables, hookups and gear.

Basic connection for DISH satellite receiver to flat screen TV

Connection diagram without surround sound

Using HDMI cable for High-Def video and audio
but not surround sound

For surround sound you need a soundbar or an Audio Video Receiver
with speakers.

Connection diagram for Analog TV

With this hookup, you get surround sound
using a digital optical audio cable

Soundbar connection ports

Connection diagram for surround sound
using HDMI cables

Connection diagram with surround sound

Set DISH Receiver for Surround Sound

Press the MENU button once or the HOME button twice, depending on your remote.

Select Settings.
Select Audio Output.
Select Dolby Digital Pass-through. Set to ON.

Use the remote of the soundbar to select the correct input.
Use the remote of the TV to select the correct input.


What is surround sound?

Surround sound is designed to enhance the audio experience for the listener by literally surrounding them with multiple loudspeakers, each assigned their own channel which can be voice, music, very low sound or sound effects such that the audio is more realistic and closer to real world sound experience.

Surround sound is stored digitally on DVD/Blu-ray or broadcast digitally over the air or via satellite for TV. The standard for surround sound is Dolby Digital 5.1, a six channel standard which is compressed digitally and requires decoding and amplification by a home theater system or audio/video receiver with six loudspeakers.

Surround sound is only available on certain TV channels such as some high definition channels or pay-per-view type channels. The two channel audio standard, stereo, is not surround sound. Two channel stereo, two speakers, is analog audio, the white and red RCA cable connections.

Some DVD or Blu-ray players have built-in decoders. They will have audio outputs for connection to an amplifier for each audio channel.

The six audio channels (5.1) are left, right, center, surround left, surround right and subwoofer low frequencies. The left, center and right speakers are typically in front of the listener. The surround left and right are typically in the rear of the listener and the subwoofer can be placed where the listener prefers.

Surround sound - how to get the sound you want

Audio and video content you receive from your provider can be sent to you in a variety of formats. In addition, the original content creators have decided what formats will be available. So if you want a certain format and it is simply not available, either from the content creator or from your provider, it does not matter how capable your equipment is, you will not get the format.

Think of a chain and each link in the chain as a part of what is required to get the sound you want. If any link does not have the capability to process the audio format you want, then you will not be getting the audio as desired. For example, if you want Dolby ATMOS but the movie does not have it or your provider does not transmit the format, you cannot hear that format. Every link in the chain must be capable of handling the format you want. Your sound processor, soundbar or audio video receiver, your cables and equipment must all be capable of processing the sound you want to hear.


HDMI ARC or Audio Return Channel allows you to send audio from your TV to your soundbar or AVR using a single HDMI cable. It is a two-way path, audio from the TV and video to the TV over the same HDMI cable. Look for the HDMI port labeled HDMI ARC or HDMI ARC/eARC on TV, soundbar, AVR.

HDMI 2.1a features Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) which is an advancement over the previous Audio Return Channel (ARC). eARC supports the latest high-bitrate audio formats up to192kHz, 24-bit, and uncompressed 5.1 and 7.1, and 32-channel uncompressed audio. It also supports DTS-HD Master Audio™, DTS:X®, Dolby® TrueHD, Dolby Atmos®.

eARC enables the audio to a TV that originates from cable, satellite, streaming or source devices to be sent to an AVR or sound bar through a single HDMI cable.

If your source devices are connected to TV, make sure the TV has audio passthrough capability for each audio format you want because TVs usually do not decode surround sound into individual channels. Unless the TV passes the original audio to a surround processor, you may get a downmixed version.

The alternative is to connect source devices to a capable soundbar or AVR but again, make sure the soundbar or AVR can passthrough the video quality you want to the TV.


Sound has been recorded since the early 1900s. Back then there was only one loudspeaker because all sounds were on a single channel. In the 1950s, a two channel sound setup called stereo became popular. A left and a right loudspeaker gave a more realistic sound experience. In the 1990s, a movie theater experience in the home became possible with the six channel or surround sound setup. As technology moves forward even more advanced sound systems will emerge to give a truely realistic audio experience.

Speaker Formats

1.0 - Mono - one speaker
2.0 - Stereo - two speakers
5.1 - Surround - six speakers
7.1 - Surround - eight speakers
7.1.2 - Surround - ten speakers
9.2.4 - Surround - fifteen speakers

The first number is the number of full range speakers, the second number is the low frequency effects (bass speakers) and the third number is the number of height speakers.

Surround Sound Formats

The most important characteristics of different surround sound audio formats


LPCM is lossless audio format. It supports a maximum of 8 channels (7.1), but LPCM surround sound format on a DVD or Blu-ray disc more often supports only 6 channels (you will need 5.1 system to get the maximum out of this format). You can use any type of HDMI connection (starting from 1.0) to pass LPCM audio. Using a digital coaxial or digital optical, LPCM audio will be downmixed to 2 channels (stereo).

LPCM is the basic lossless surround sound audio format (not compressed) and every audio track is recorded in this format. Every receiver or Blue-ray player supports this format. LPCM supports 8 channels maximum and it will work fine with 7.1 system but it performs best when used with 5.1 systems. LPCM can be transmitted via any HDMI cable.

Dolby Digital (Dolby AC-3 or DD 5.1)

DD 5.1 is the DVD and Blu-ray standard. Unlike LPCM, this is a lossy format (audio gets compressed and some data is lost). DD 5.1 supports up to 6 channels.

Dolby Digital was invented in 1992 and it is also one of the mandatory formats supported by all kinds of AV receivers and Blue-ray players. However, it is not lossless, which means it is compressed, which also leads to partial information loss. This format supports 6 channels max, and it works best with 5.1 systems. Dolby Digital can be transmitted via HDMI connection as well as optical or digital coaxial.

DTS (DTS 5.1)

DTS 5.1 is the direct rival of DD 5.1. This one is almost the same as DD 5.1 – it’s lossy and it supports up to 6 channels. It offers slightly better audio bitrate, but in reality, the difference between DTS 5.1 and DD 5.1 is not that noticeable.

DTS is Dolby’s competitor and rival. It appeared in 1993 and it is also mandatory lossy format, just like Dolby Digital. It also supports 6 channels max so it is recommendable to use it with 5.1 speaker systems. As far as sound quality, these two are essentially the same. DTS supports the same types of connection as Dolby Digital.

Dolby Digital Plus (DD+ or E-AC3)

Dolby Digital + is the first optional encoding format. It offers much better audio quality than DD 5.1 (significantly higher bitrate) but it is still a lossy format. DD+ supports up to 8 channels (you will need 7.1 system to get the maximum out of DD+). Considering the size of DD+ file you will need at least HDMI 1.3 connection to pass DD+ audio (you will need HDMI 1.3 input port on your receiver).

This format first appeared in 2004. It is one of the lossy formats, it supports maximum 8-channel systems and in order to get the expected sound quality, you will have to use at least HDMI 1.3 cable. Not all receivers and players support it but it definitely offers better audio quality than the original Dolby Digital format (higher bitrate).

DTS HD High-Res Audio

Just like DTS 5.1 was a direct rival of DD 5.1. DTS HD High-Res Audio is the competitor of DD+. It’s also lossy format and it supports up to 8 channels (7.1 system). DTS HD High-Res and DD+ have pretty much the same bitrate and need the same type of connection (minimum HDMI 1.3). Digital optical and coaxial connections are not supported.

Dolby True HD

Dolby True HD is Dolby’s lossless digital format. It offers the best audio quality with much greater audio bitrate than DD+ and DTS HD High-Res audio. It can support up to 14 channels, but most of Blu-ray Dolby True HD soundtracks will have up to 8 channels (made for 7.1 systems). You need HDMI 1.3 connection on your home theater receiver along with Dolby True HD decoder.

DTS HD Master Audio

A direct rival of Dolby’s True HD. It is also lossless, it has slightly greater bitrate than True HD, but there is no real difference in audio quality. Maximum number of supported channels is 8 (7.1). Required connection is HDMI 1.3.

Note: Not all home receivers support both Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio. Check the supported formats or you may end up with a receiver that doesn’t support the format that you want. (that doesn’t mean you won’t get any audio, you can get a mandatory audio track, but you won’t get the best possible audio quality)

Object-based audio formats.

They allow studios and film makers to include additional audio objects and improve listening experience by adding another dimension (height) to the sound. You will need two or four additional height speakers in order to hear all those additional sound objects.

Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos is a lossless format, it supports up to 34 channels, but Blu-ray discs will have a maximum of 12 channels supported (7.1.4). Required connection is HDMI 1.4 and you need this connection on your receiver in order to make use of Dolby Atmos.

Dolby Atmos, this format started a true audio revolution in 2012. It is the optional lossless audio format that supports up to 34 channels and it requires minimum HDMI 1.4 cable. Receivers that support Dolby Atmos decoding require minimum 7 channels to reproduce Dolby Atmos audio track, which means that it is not enough to have 5.1 speaker system to achieve the expected sound quality. You will need at least two additional speakers and it should be two height speakers.


DTS:X is a direct rival of Dolby’s Atmos. This format exploits DTS HD Master Audio and adds object-based sounds to HD Master Audio track. It’s very similar to Dolby Atmos. The maximum number of channels is 13 (you can easily make a 7.1.4 or 7.2.4 system). You need HDMI 1.4 connection (digital optical or coaxial inputs can’t be used).

You don’t have to have height speakers (if you have 5.1 or 7.1 system) since DTS:X uses standard 5.1 or 7.1 soundtrack and adds object-based sounds to these tracks. Any 5.1 or 7.1 system will be able to play DTS:X audio (your receiver has to support DTS:X audio format). DTS:X appeared later (in 2015) and it’s the greatest rival of Dolby Atmos. It is lossless, it supports up to 13 channels and it requires minimum HDMI 1.4 cable in order to reproduce DTS:X audio. However, it doesn’t require the use of height speakers and it works normally with regular 5.1 or 7.1 home theater systems.


Soundbars are not true surround sound as they only present front speakers and sometimes also height speakers for Dolby ATMOS audio. Soundbars attempt to create surround sound but for true surround sound, you need an audio/video receiver which can send audio to each appropriate channel and 6 or more speakers around the listener.

Soundbars are popular because they are less complex, do not require wiring and can fill a small room with better sound than the TV speakers. A true surround sound experience will create a bubble of sound, all around the listener, and is much richer and distinct using high end loudspeakers with a quality decoder, amplifier and discrete sound channels.

As surround sound advances, even more speakers will be used to enhance the audio experience and a true surround setup with height or ceiling speakers will be desired. This requires the extra effort and cost of wiring plus new gear.

Satellite Receiver set-top-box
Cable Connections

1) You can use the optical cable connection for up to 5.1 surround sound with a 5.1 capable Audio/Video Receiver. Some older Satellite receivers may have a coaxial audio output which uses a single RCA cable connection. This is virtually the same function as the optical cable connection.

2) Or you can use HDMI cable connection for 5.1 and more advanced surround sound to a capable Audio/Video Receiver.

Your satellite receiver has to have surround sound capability. It has to have an optical audio output or HDMI output. Not all satellite receivers are surround sound capable. Check your DISH receiver to make sure and if it does not have surround sound capability, consider upgrading to a high-end satellite receiver like an HD DVR model. Some receivers will not output surround sound over their HDMI outputs, only their optical audio output, but most modern satellite receivers will output surround sound over HDMI.

You can hookup the optical audio output on your DISH receiver to the optical audio input on a decoder (Audio/Video Receiver) with loudspeakers to get surround sound.


Digital Audio Outputs (Optical cable and optical jack)

The Digital Audio Optical cable provides up to 5.1 surround sound audio. The jack and cable use light to send digital audio data to A/V receivers equipped to receive and interpret it. The jack and cable must be aligned before plugging in, and may be covered by protective caps, which must be removed before making connections. Use caution when handling optical cables.

Optical Audio Cable

Jack for Optical cable connection

Cables and Connections

Surround sound has to be available in the source signal from the satellite provider. Not all programs have surround sound available. Also, surround sound has to be decoded by an external decoder like an Audio/Video Receiver or a home theater system with Dolby Digital 5.1 capability. These decoders must have HDMI or optical audio inputs. These decoders will have the loudspeaker connections. Usually six speakers are required for Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.

Diagram of hookup for DISH satellite receiver to A/V receiver using optical audio cable for surround sound


The HDMI option is better for high-end audio as HDMI can carry both HD video and multi-channel audio including 5.1 surround sound, Dolby ATMOS and more.

HDMI Cable

HDMI jack has a 19 pin connection
HDMI is the best method for hook up in the future because it can carry much more information.
HDMI even has a hybrid cable of both copper wires and optical fiber for longer length.

How to connect the Cables:

Connect one of the HDMI cables to the back of your Dish Receiver HDMI output port. Then connect the other end of the HDMI cable to the back of the appropriate HDMI input port on the A/V receiver.

Some receivers will require you to "assign" an HDMI port to a certain setting on the receiver, for instance, assign an HDMI port to the mode that will control your television. Check your A/V receiver's manual for more information on this.

If your TV has an HDMI input port, connect the second HDMI cable to "Monitor Out" or "Out to TV" on the back of your Audio/Video receiver. Then connect the other end of this cable to the HDMI input port on the back of the TV. If your TV has HDMI ARC or eARC capability, connect to this HDMI input. This way the TV can send audio back to the AVR.

If you do not have an HDMI input port on your TV, do the same with your component video cables, connecting them according to color code (your receiver will have a Video Out, or Monitor Out for these as well). Set the TV to the appropriate input.

Turn the volume on your TV all the way down or set the TV to external speaker to cut off the TV speakers; if you have sound coming from your TV speakers AND surround sound, it's apt to sound off-balance. You'll just need your home theater surround sound system now.

Hooking Up the Loudspeakers

Position the speakers where you want them around the room. For each speaker, take a roll of speaker wire and measure out how much you'll need to get the wire from the speaker to where you've placed your Audio/Video receiver, then add an extra 6 feet or so. Allow for the entire route of wiring including turns, angles, up, down, and around. About 6 inches from the end of each wire that you've placed near the receiver, make a mark that will help you figure out which wire goes to which speaker (left front, right front, center, left rear, right rear and sub).

To connect the wire, strip off about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch off the end, then pull the ends apart, separating a bit of the remaining wire. Twist the threads of each side of the wire together. Connect this side into the red speaker connector. Insert the other side into the black speaker connector. Complete this process for each speaker. At the receiver, complete the stripping process for each of the wires, then insert the ends into the appropriate speaker port--these should be well marked on your receiver. Connect your subwoofer into the back of the receiver using your subwoofer cables. Also, if your receiver has a power port on the back, plug your subwoofer into the receiver. This will allow you to shut off power to your subwoofer by simply shutting off the receiver.

Surround Sound for TV Streaming

Speaker setup surround sound

Connect to the Receiver

Either a stand-alone audio/video receiver with 5.1 or more digital audio capability or a home theater in-a-box 5.1 audio system is required to decode, amplify and output the surround sound.
HDMI Supported Audio Formats

• 2-channel linear PCM (32–192 kHz, 16/20/24 bit)
• Multichannel linear PCM (7.1 ch, 32–192 kHz)
• Bitstream (Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS, DTS-HD High Resolution Audio, DTS-HD Master Audio)

Your source component (cable/satellite receiver or DVD player, etc.) must also support HDMI output of the above audio formats.

Digital audio signals received by the HDMI IN jacks are output by the loudspeakers connected to the A/V receiver/AV amplifier. Normally, they are not output by the HDMI OUT (To TV), unless the HDMI Audio Out setting is set to ON.

How to hookup audio video receiver


Both the A/V Receiver and the Dish receiver have audio settings which may need to be selected for the proper output. Check owner's manuals here. Example - Press the MENU button on the DISH remote control. Navigate to the proper selection such as SYSTEM SETUP or AUDIO SETTINGS and select. Hilight the Dolby Digital option and select DONE. This allows surround sound instead of stereo or standard audio.

Dolby Digital Passthru is set to OFF by default. Set to ON to allow surround sound to pass thru.

How to hookup TV and DVD with surround sound - DISH satellite box

Hookup diagram - DISH satellite surround sound, DVD surround with video to TV
Blue is optical cable and red is HDMI cable connection.

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