How to Connect 5.1 Speakers to a TV

By Shea Laverty

How you connect your 5.1 surround system to your TV depends on the available connector ports on both devices.

Things You'll Need

  • 5.1 speaker system with cables
  • Y-adapter with 3.5mm jack and two RCA jacks
  • Stereo RCA cable

The speakers in a surround system don't directly connect to your TV. Instead, they connect to a central receiver, which in turn connects to the TV and your other media devices. Usually, the central receiver is either a separate device or is incorporated into a sound bar or subwoofer.

Tip

  • Connect your surround system's speakers to your receiver according to the manufacturer's directions. Check your owner's manual for setup information specific to your system.
  • Before you connect you surround sound system to your TV, familiarize yourself with the connections available on both. This visual guide depicts the various different connector types and their related ports.
  • The ports listed in these instructions feature some of the more common labels you'll come across. However, your TV or receiver may use different labels to indicate each port. Consult your owner's documentation, particularly the back panel diagrams, for details on exactly how your devices are labeled.

HDMI

HDMI is usually the best choice, especially if you intend to enjoy surround sound with other media devices like Blu-ray and DVD players, gaming consoles and streaming boxes. HDMI carries both audio and video in a single cable and delivers full surround sound.

Step 1

Connect one end of the HDMI cable to the HDMI-Out port on your surround receiver.

Step 2

Connect the other end of the HDMI cable to one of the HDMI-In ports on your TV.

Step 3

Switch your TV to the appropriate channel using the Input or Source button on your remote or TV.

Digital Coaxial

Digital coaxial is one of two digital alternatives to HDMI. Digital coaxial is an audio-only format that uses an RCA connector similar to those found on composite audio cables. The connector is usually colored orange, with color-coded ports on your TV and/or receiver indicating where to connect it. Digital coaxial transmits audio in 5.1 surround sound and is a good choice if your other media devices are connected to your TV instead of your receiver.

Step 1

Connect one end of the digital coaxial cable to the Digital Audio, Digital-Out or Digital Coaxial port on your TV.

Step 2

Connect the other end to the Digital Audio, Digital-In or Digital Coaxial port on your receiver.

Optical Audio

Optical audio is another digital audio-only option, which uses fiber optic cables with special connectors called Toslink. As with digital coaxial cables, optical audio cables deliver 5.1 surround sound and work best when other media devices are connected to your TV. Unlike digital coaxial cables, optical audio connectors and ports usually aren't color-coded.

Step 1

Connect one end of the optical audio cable to the Digital Audio, Digital-Out or Optical port on your TV.

Step 2

Connect the other end of the cable to the Digital Audio, Digital-In or Optical port on your receiver.

Composite Audio

Composite is the only analog option available, and it is usually the least ideal choice. Composite audio uses two connectors on each end of the cable, one red and one white, and features color-coded ports on your TV and receiver. Composite only delivers stereo sound, meaning that unless your surround system has a multichannel stereo mode, sound only comes from the front left and front right speakers. However, composite audio is generally supported by almost all TV and surround systems, making it an option if your devices don't have any other connection types that match.

Step 1

Connect the red and white connectors on one end of the cable to the color-coded Audio-Out or L and R ports on your TV.

Step 2

Connect the red and white connectors on the other end of the cable to a set of color-coded Audio-In or L and R ports on your receiver.