With all the activity lately on the Shack from new members who are having difficulties hooking up the receivers properly I thought it would be a good idea to have a dedicated post on how to hook your speakers and other equipment up to get the best results.
As with all home theater setups there is a plethora of wires and connections that if not connected properly you wont be able to get the full potential out of your gear.
Receivers seem to always be the biggest part of the confusion and alot of questions seem to come up about "how to get something working" or "why dont I hear this properly" so Below is a step by step guide as to how to go about this:
Although there are many manufacturers of receivers, DVD players and other components they all have alot of similarities with regards to connections on the back.
We will start with the what I call the heart of the system the Receiver.
The first thing you need to decide is what speaker connections you need to use and this seems to cause alot of confusion. Do you have a two speaker setup or a full 7.1 setup meaning 7 speakers and one subwoofer.?
Above I have highlighted the speaker terminals that are most commonly used,
In light Blue I have marked the Front or main speaker connections. These are to be connected to your front Left and Right speakers the red terminal is the positive and the black is the negative (do not reverse these or you can cause problems but it wont damage anything).
Now you need to know what Ohms your speaker is (this is important) look at the back of the speakers where you connect the wires and there should be a label saying what wattage and Ohms they are the Ohms symbol looks like an upside down horseshoe and will usually be 8 or 4 ohms. write this down for use later.
Now here is where the confusion starts so just follow these instructions and you will be fine:
With most home theater receivers that are newer they have either either 5.1 or 7.1 channels and you need to know what you intend to use, in small theater rooms (less than 180sq ft) a 5.1 speaker system will do just fine. If you have a larger space then it may be necessary to use all 7 speakers This also depends on if you have one or two rows of seating.
is a link to a diagram of what a 5.1 speaker layout should look like. You can also place the side speakers on the back wall as well but keep the at least 4ft apart.
is what a 7.1 speaker layout should look like. Again the back speakers should be spread apart at least 4ft not what the diagram shows (I will explain later why).
Ok, now that we have decided what we have for a speaker layout if you receiver is 7.1 channel and your going to use all 7 speakers skip to point number 4, if you want to only use a 5.1 speaker setup continue on to next point.
On receivers with 7 speaker connections you will not be using the 6th and 7th speaker terminals usually labeled "Rear speakers" or "Surround back" seen in light green in the picture. On a 5.1 channel only receiver you will use them.
The confusion always seems to be because most people have there speakers placed on the rear wall and the label on the receiver is not worded this way.
The surround channels need to be hooked up to the terminals labeled Surround side seen in Yellow. If you leave these blank and hook the speakers up to the rear surround terminals the receiver will not (in most cases) send any sound to them when listening to movies. Continu to hook up the centre channel speaker as well labeled red and finaly connect the subwoofer to the line output labled sub out shown in dark green.
For a full 7.1 surround experience you hook up all the speakers to the appropriate terminals shown in these colors:
Subwoofer (connect to line out rca jack)
Ok, now you have the speakers hoked up. Now what. Well if your receiver has on screen menu capabilities the next step is to hook up the display.
You will need to know what your display has for a connection but for most people it will ba a flat screen with a HDMI (High Definition Media Interface) input.
If you have an older display it may only have component (Red Green and Blue connectors) or even a S-Video or composite input (Yellow).
Lets assume you have HDMI run a HDMI cable between the receivers HDMI out seen in Dark blue on the far left of the picture above and your displays HDMI input.
Select that input on the display and turn on the receiver (you will need to check the receivers manual for more detailed instructions)
Go into the receivers setup menu (at first you will have to use the display on the receiver) and select HDMI out "On" so that it will output your receivers menu through HDMI.
Now this is where you need to remember the Ohms rating on your front speakers that I had you write down earlier. Go into the Speaker settings section of the receiver and find the setting that adjusts the Ohms to match what you have. Select the closest one available in the menu sometimes it only gives you two choices 6 or 8ohms (for 4ohm speakers select the 6ohm setting if there is no 4 listed).
Note: this setting may also just be a switch on the back of the receiver.
Most newer receivers have many different surround modes (to many to list) and we will leave this for another post. what you need to understand is that some modes are more useful than others and may or may not work well for music and movies. just because you have 5 or 7 speakers set up does not mean that music will sound right if using a mode that sends it to all the speakers. It takes time to find what you will like and dont get frustrated if you dont like what you hear right away.
earlier I stated that the rear speakers should not be placed together like in the diagram THX recommends This is because the rear channels are in stereo and work better spread apart particularly now with the newest movies using them much more than ever before.