How to wire your home theater: Now you know what the wires are and what they do. It’s time to put that knowledge to work. The first thing you want to do is pick your equipment. It all starts with the right equipment. If you haven’t done that, check out our buyer’s guide. Please contact us with any questions.
Making a Diagram
If you’re still following along, I’m assuming you have your system all picked out and you’re ready to fire that baby up. Our example will be semi-complicated so we can be sure to touch every aspect of the wiring process. Start by drawing a diagram. Here is a quick one I threw together. In this system, we are using a new 3D TV, 3D Blu-ray, 3D receiver, a generic iPod dock, a Wii video game console, and an old cable box. I’m streaming Netflix and Pandora Radio through my Blu-ray player. The receiver is also a 2 zone receiver that I want to use to power a pair of speakers in the kitchen.
Choosing video cables: The first thing we need to do is find the highest quality video output on each device. For the Blu-ray player and the receiver, that’s an HDMI cable. For the old cable box, it’s component video. The kids don’t care about the quality of the Wii system, so we’ll stick with what came in the box (a composite video cable). The iPod dock doesn’t have any video output (some do, but this one doesn’t). Once I have the video cables selected for each device, I need to make sure the receiver can accept all these cables. I asked So Cal Home Theater for a recommendation and they told me to get this receiver, so I’m all good. It can accept all the different types of video cables.
Choosing audio cables: Now, I need to choose the best audio output on each device. The best quality audio from my Blu-ray player is HDMI so we’ll use that. Since it carries audio and video, I only need the one HDMI cable. The old cable box only has an optical audio out for digital sound. I prefer HDMI, but since this old box doesn’t have it, we’ll use the optical audio out. I’m still only using the analog RCAs for any Wii audio. The iPod dock only has a set of analog RCA outputs so we will use those. The receiver will keep all the audio to itself, so we won’t be passing on audio to the TV.
We can’t forget that we are using Zone 2 to power the speakers in the kitchen. Zone 2 only sees analog audio inputs. This is very important and will save you a lot of troubleshooting and frustration if you can remember it. This goes for every receiver with Zone 2 or Zone 3 features. That means you will double connect the audio when you are using a digital audio connection. The Blu-ray and old cable box have to be double connected for audio: a digital connection for surround sound in the living room and an analog connection for music in the kitchen.
Making the connections: Now that I have all my cables picked out, it’s time to plug them in. It’s impossible for me to explain how to do that through a website since every receiver is different with different labeling schemes. For example: one receiver might use input labels like “DVD, Blu-ray, Cable/Sat, etc” while another brand uses labels like “HDMI1, HDMI2, Video1, Video2, etc.” All I can say is take your time and try your best to match up the device with the description. It doesn’t matter where you plug them in as long as you take note of it. You won’t have an input labeled “Wii” so you might use the “DVR” input, for example. Try to plug the audio and video cables from a single device into the same input label on the receiver. You can’t plug the component video cables from the cable box into “Video1” then plug the audio into “Video3” unless you can “assign” the inputs. If you get stuck or run out of the inputs you need on the receiver, you’re going to have to “assign” the inputs.
Assigning inputs: This is the last step of the connection part of the job. Manufacturers know that you might have trouble matching video inputs to audio inputs. For that reason, they make several inputs assignable. This means you can take the audio input labeled “DVD” and assign it to the video input labeled “Cable box” for example. It sounds complicated, but it only takes a minute or two. You will have to read the receiver’s owner’s manual to find out how to do that, but it’s usually (not always) done through the internal setup menus. The manual will tell you exactly how it’s done. You might end up plugging the component video cables from the cable box into “Video1” and the optical audio cable into “Audio6.” Once they are assigned to each other, it’s fine.
Summary: I know this seems confusing, but once you get it, you’ll have a lot of fun experimenting with different things. Don’t be scared to try. Anything you do can be undone, and you can always call out a professional (preferably us) if you get stuck. We might be able to walk you through the problems over the phone. GOOD LUCK and please let us know if our guide helped you.
Page 1: Wiring Bootcamp Page 2: Audio Cables Page 3: Video Cables Page 4: Making the Connection