How to Connect Surround Sound to a TV

By Todd Bowerman

Surround sound enables you to have a movie theater experience from your own couch. While modern HD televisions give you incredible picture quality and are available in sizes from small to massive, the built-in speakers on these televisions are generally not enough to give you the robust, loud, and bassy sound you expect from a full cinematic presentation. Connecting surround sound speakers to your TV lets you improve the audio for games, movies, and television shows.

Things You'll Need

  • A/V cable (1 or 2)
  • HDMI cable

TV With Audio Out

Step 1

Turn off your television and your surround sound system to prevent any accidental loud noise.

Step 2

Connect an A/V or HDMI cable to your television’s “Audio Out” port. Place the red plug in the red port and the white plug in the white port.

Step 3

Run the A/V or HDMI cable to your surround sound system’s receiver box. Plug the cable into the “Audio In” port, matching the white plug to the white port and the red plug to the red port.

Step 4

Power on your television and surround sound system. Flip through your surround sound system’s input modes until you find your television’s audio.

TV Without Audio Out

Step 1

Turn off your television and your surround sound system.

Step 2

Connect an A/V or HDMI cable to the “Out” port on your DVD, Blu-ray player, or cable box, whichever you wish to connect to the surround sound. Most surround sound receivers have several input slots.

Step 3

Run the other end of the cable to the surround sound receiver. Connect the A/V or HDMI cable to the appropriate “In” port on the receiver.

Step 4

Locate the video “Out” port on the receiver. Run an A/V or HDMI cable from this port to the appropriate “In” port on the television. Once connected, you’ll control inputs on the surround sound receiver, switching between sources as needed.

Optimal Surround Sound Setup

Step 1

Place the left and right speakers on either side of the television. Both speakers should be equidistant from your viewing location and pointed at an angle toward the space in which you'd like the sound to converge. Three feet of gap between the TV and each speaker is generally a good match; place speakers at ear level for better results.

Step 2

Place the center speaker directly in front of or above the television, facing the point of sound convergence. It can go either below or above the TV, whichever is closest to ear level.

Step 3

Place the subwoofer wherever you want. Bass from a subwoofer is omnidirectional, so its location doesn't matter as long as you avoid placing it in a corner. If placed in a corner, the sub will generate a booming, echoing effect that clouds your sound.

Step 4

Place the left and right surround sound speakers behind your viewing space, aimed at the point of sound conversion. Surround sound speakers should be placed just above ear level.

Tips & Warnings

  • HDMI connections allow for the highest quality transfer of audio and video. If you have these ports on your devices, you should use HDMI cables in lieu of A/V cables for maximum performance.
  • HDMI cables are often sold for exorbitant prices at home entertainment stores. There is little to no performance difference between a $100 HDMI cable and a $15 HDMI cable, so save your money for equipment or accessories.