How to Connect TV to a Surround Sound System

By David Weedmark

Learn how to connect your surround sound system to your TV with wires or wirelessly, as well as some potential problems to keep an eye out for.

Things You'll Need

  • Home theater receiver
  • Surround speakers
  • Digital audio cable

There's usually more than one way to connect a surround sound system to a modern TV. The option you use depends on the available technologies in each of the two components. In a surround sound system, the receiver is the central hub. All of your speakers and subwoofers, as well as the TV, connect to the receiver.

Connecting the speakers to the receiver is usually a straight-forward process -- either wired or wirelessly, using the manufacturer's instructions. However, when it comes to connecting the receiver to the TV, you usually have a number of options to consider.

Connecting the Receiver to the TV with a Wired Connection

HDMI

HDMI can pass audio from your TV to your surround sound receiver, provided both components have HDMI jacks. Review your TV's user manual to see if it uses an Audio Return Channel, or ARC, over HDMI. ARC is limited to Dolby Digital sound and doesn't support high resolution formats on some Blu-ray players like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD.

Warning

Some TVs are limited to two channels -- the left and right speakers -- using ARC over HDMI, and don't support surround sound.

If you're confident your TV supports full surround sound over HDMI, connect an HDMI cable to the TV's HDMI Out jack and the surround sound receiver's HDMI In jack.

Optical Cable

Most surround sound receivers support optical, or digital, cable. Like HDMI, this option gives you the most reliable sound. With an optical cable, you can connect your TV directly to the receiver, or through an intermediate device like a cable or satellite box. Connect the optical cable to the Digital Audio In jack on the receiver and to the Digital Audio Out jack on the TV or other device. If you are using an intermediate device, connect one of the TV's audio out jacks to that device using whichever audio options are available and recommended by the device's manufacturer.

RCA Cables

Before using RCA cables to connect your surround sound receiver to a TV or an intermediate device, examine the backs of both components. Most surround sound systems have two Aux In jacks, which are color-coded to match the two Aux Out jacks on the back of the TV. Make sure that you match the colors on the RCA connectors to the input and output colors so that left and right sounds in the speaker system correspond to what you're viewing on the screen.

Speaker Wires

Speaker wires are a connection option on some surround sound systems. Instead of connecting the surround sound system directly to the TV, you will need to connect it to an audio receiver -- like a stereo receiver -- that has enough speaker jacks for the surround sound system. Connect each speaker wire to the stereo receiver and then connect the other ends to the sound system receiver.

You usually have several options when connecting a surround sound system to the TV. When looking at cable connections, HDMI and Optical cable are almost always the best options because they both use digital signals to send the audio to the speaker system with almost no loss of quality. RCA is an analog system, which won't always give you the best quality, particularly if you have long cables.

Connecting the Receiver to the TV Wirelessly

Wi-Fi

Surround sound systems that include built-in Wi-Fi allow you to connect directly to your smart TV using your home Wi-Fi router. Depending on the components, your TV may be able to automatically detect the new audio system as soon as they are both turned on to allow you to connect to it. Other models require a manual setup, which you can do by following the manufacturer's instruction.

Bluetooth

If your surround sound system and your TV are both Bluetooth compatible, you can use this wireless technology to connect them. Once you enable Bluetooth on the TV and the surround sound system, the TV should detect the speaker system and prompt you to connect. You may be required to enter a numeric code with the TV remote to complete the connection, which is a process known as pairing. Bluetooth has a minimum operating distance of 30 feet.