How to Hook Up Surround Sound to an HDTV

By Joe Fletcher

A big, vivid HD picture is really only half of the home theater experience. The picture will never be complete without state-of-the-art sound to go with it. In today's home entertainment, that means setting up surround sound. The difficult part about hooking surround sound up to your TV is getting the right equipment; the rest is quite intuitive.

Step 1

Get a home theater receiver. There's no way to make this connection without investing in some new audio equipment. Your television doesn't have the amplification needed to power a set of surround speakers. In order to accomplish this, you'll need a home theater receiver or separate components. A receiver is the easiest and cheapest solution and will work well for surround sound. You can either purchase a prepackaged system with a receiver and all the surround sound equipment or purchase the receiver and speakers separately.

Step 2

Make a digital connection. In order to play true surround sound, you need to make a digital connection from your TV to your home theater receiver. You have three options: digital coaxial cable, optical or HDMI. Your receiver and television may have all of these or just one or two. Check both your receiver and TV to determine the connection you'll need to use.

Step 3

Connect your TV to your home theater receiver. If using HDMI, it would be best to connect the HDMI from your cable or satellite receiver into your home theater HDMI input and then connect another HDMI cable from your home theater receiver's output to your TV. This is because HDMI carries both audio and video. If using a coax or optical connection, you can connect using one cable directly from the TV or cable box's audio output to your surround sound system.

Step 4

Set up your speakers. Set up your surround speakers around the room.

Step 5

Measure the path to each speaker. Measure how much speaker cable you'll need to run from the receiver to the front speakers. For the rears, it helps to run a string along the path that you'll be using to run your speaker cable. Cut all speaker cables to the necessary lengths.

Step 6

Connect your speakers. Use the speaker outputs on your receiver for each individual speaker. Connect the receiver's positive output terminal to the speaker's positive input and negative output to negative input. Connect each speaker in your system.

Step 7

Switch the receiver to the audio input that corresponds to where you connected your television and enjoy surround sound.

Tips & Warnings

  • Not all programming is broadcast in surround sound. You can still use your surround speakers, but programming that is not in a surround format will not have five or more discrete channels. Check with your provider for more information on what is available in surround.
  • For watching movies in surround sound, connect your DVD or Blu Ray player's audio directly to the home theater receiver with a digital connection.
  • Check what surround formats are being used in a given show or media (Dolby, dts) and be sure the receiver is set to a compatible mode.