Setting up an RCA surround sound system requires that you have the right cables and tools on hand, as well as a bit of patience and planning. What kind of equipment you need varies greatly on the types of inputs your AV receiver and other devices support, as well as the type of speakers you're connecting.
Things You'll Need
Composite AV cable(s)
Composite Audio cable(s)
Component AV cable(s)
Optical audio cable(s)
Spool of speaker wire
Electrical wire cutter with stripper
Satellite speaker towers
Screwdriver or power drill
Drywall screw anchors
Choosing Your Cables
While the other tools listed above are necessities in most cases, which of the cables listed you actually need varies with your surround system and other equipment. If your devices have a lot of HDMI inputs, then HDMI cables are definitely the way to go. Otherwise, look at the ports to see what kind of cables you need.
Setting Up the Receiver
All RCA surround systems come with an AV receiver, which serves as the nerve center for your surround system. How the receiver is integrated depends on which model you've purchased: Some models like the RT2770 have a separate dedicated receiver, while other models like the RTB1013 and RT151 integrate the receiver into a Blu-ray player and sub-woofer, respectively.
Set the receiver on your entertainment center, near your TV and other devices. If you're using a sub-woofer receiver, set it on the floor instead, within reach of your other devices.
Plug the receiver/sub-woofer into the wall outlet, but leave the back accessible for right now.
Connect your TV to the receiver/sub-woofer's video-out port.
- If you're using HDMI, connect the cable to the HDMI-In on your TV and HDMI-Out on the receiver.
- If you're using component video, connect the component connects to the Component-In on your TV and Component-Out on your receiver. Component video cables are color-coded red, green and blue.
- If you're using composite video, connect the yellow video cable to the Video-In or Composite-In port on your TV and the Video-Out or Composite-Out port on your receiver.
Connect any other devices like DVD players, Blu-ray players and came consoles in the same fashion. Consult your owner's documentation for specifics on setting up each device.
Setting Up the Speakers
Speaker set-up varies depending on whether your speakers are wired or wireless. Where you place the speakers also varies somewhat depending on the shape of your room and available wall-space.
Speaker Wire Preparation
Measure the distance between the speaker and the receiver and cut the wire a little bit longer than necessary. This extra length allows a little bit of slack during set up, just in case you need it.
Using the stripper on your wire cutter, remove the sheath from the last 0.5 to 1 millimeter of the wire on each end. How long you need varies depending on the connection terminals for your speakers but generally you won't need longer than 1mm.
Speaker wire has two cables separately protected by the sheath. Each has to connect to the appropriate terminal on both ends to transmit sound properly. Most speaker features a stripe down one side to prevent confusion, as you can color-code the stripe to one of the terminals. For example, the striped side always connecting to the black terminal, the stripe-free side always connecting to the red terminal.
Speaker Arrangement and Connection
Set the center channel speaker below the TV, and line it up so it is centered with the main sitting area or "sweet spot." Get the speaker as close to being on-level with your head as possible for optimal sound.
Arrange your right and left speakers to the right and left of the center channel. How much space you put between them depends on the layout of your room, but ideally try to space them out as much as you can.
Arrange the surround satellite speakers. In some cases, you can mount the speakers directly on your wall using a power drill, some screws and drywall anchors. Otherwise, you need speaker towers to hold the speakers.
Connect each speaker to the receiver/sub-woofer by inserting and securing the wires into the terminals. How the terminal works varies from speaker to speaker: Some use a clip to hold the wire in place, while others screw down to hold the wire.
The receiver has marked terminals for each corresponding speaker:
- CEN or CT for the center channel.
- FL and FR for the front-left and front-right speakers, respectively.
- SL and SR for the surround-left and surround-right speakers respectively.
- SUB for the sub-woofer, if the sub-woofer isn't integrated into the receiver.
- In some cases, the sub-woofer may use a red-and-white composite audio cable or digital audio cable instead, with dedicated ports marked on the receiver.
- For wireless speakers, make sure each speaker has a fresh battery inserted and is switched on, then pair the speakers to the receiver and arrange them throughout the room. Typically there is a pairing button on the receiver and each speaker; consult your owner's documentation for specifics related to your device.
Testing Your Surround Sound
Sit in "the sweet spot" and start up some music or a movie to test the sound. If some of the speakers don't seem to be working, verify you're set to "surround" mode on the AV receiver and that all cable connections are secure.
If you're listening to content mixed for surround, you may have to switch to multi-channel stereo mode for your test: Content mixed for surround may not always have audio coming from all speakers at all times.