A home theater receiver, also called an AV/surround sound receiver, is a key component of a home theater system. It provides an easy and effective way to combine the functions of components like a tuner (for AM/FM), a preamp, and a built-in multi-channel amplifier. Home theater receivers provide many benefits to true fans of outstanding audio and video output.
Do you like listening to radio talk shows?
Are you an avid video games player?
Or do you enjoy watching TV series or online video presentations?
An AV receiver enables your home theater system to give you the richest of experiences
Buying the right AV receiver for your home entertainment system is no easy task. You’ve done well so far. You’ve brought home a great receiver and can’t wait to experience the huge transformation to your entertainment system.
A look at the rear side of the receiver, however, gives you chills as there seems to be endless connections to be made. Don’t fret. We’ve got you. This guide is dedicated to the ins and outs of fully setting up a home theater receiver. Using simple and straightforward language, this guide will help you to understand how to fully set up, configure and operate your newly installed home theater receiver. Looking for a smaller room set up-find it here
What you need to set up your home theater receiver
Having the right items on-hand will make the setup process simpler. The most essential things to have by your side include: the correct cables, a wire cutter/stripper, wire labels, and a detailed manual.
- Ensure you have the right cables and of the right length. Purchase high-quality cables. Remember to cut the wires to the right length, always adding a few extra feet over the required length.
It’s economical to have the shortest possible length of cable connecting your AV receiver with speakers and other components. However, consider that you may at times need to move the receiver to access the rear panel. For instance, you may need to add, re-connect, or disconnect a wire later on. The extra length of cable allows for easy movement of the receiver since the cable connections are not too tight.
- A wire cutter/stripper will make the work of preparing wires for connections easier. Knives are alternatives for wire cutters/strippers. However, a knife is less efficient and can easily cause injury.
- It’s a great idea to use labels on all your cables. Label all cables clearly. You’ll thank yourself for taking ample time to tape or glue cable labels accordingly. With these labels, it is easier to track what is connected to the input or output on the receiver or to each speaker terminal.
- Have detailed manuals of all components to be connected. Many audio equipment including AV receivers don’t come with printed manuals that have enough instructions for all connections. Manufacturers provide a link to a downloadable resource with more details. Having these detailed instructions on your phone or laptop will help a great deal to run the set up smoothly.
You might also need a flashlight to read small-font marks or specifications for each connection section on the receiver’s rear panel.
Deciding where to place the receiver
Before you roll up your sleeves to start the AV receiver setup, carefully select the best position for the receiver. Why does it matter?
Receivers get hot mainly because of the high-power amplifiers they house. Thus, the receiver needs some space to allow for free air flow. Sufficient ventilation ensures that the receiver maintains an acceptable internal operating temperature.
At least 6 inches all around should be good for the receiver. This space also leaves enough room for connection cables. Besides, if your receiver uses a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi antenna, the 6-inch space on the rear side of the receiver allows room for the antennae to extend or rotate.
Steps for setting up a home theater receiver
The process of fully setting up a home theater receiver entails four main steps, namely:
- Audio connections
- Video connections
- Network connections
- Calibration and configuration
- Audio Connections
Speakers: Each of the speakers, including center channel speakers and excluding the subwoofer, will use a single wire (split at both ends) to connect to the binding posts of the receiver. Speaker connections are among the easiest AV receiver connections. The key thing to note is that red goes to red, black to black, front left to front left, center to center, surround left to surround left and so on. With correct labeling, you shouldn’t have any trouble connecting speakers to the receiver.
In fact, the use of connectors makes speaker-to-receiver connections effortless. Start by unscrewing the connectors on the receiver. You’ll see a small hole, where you insert the open speaker wire before screwing the connector back. Connectors allow for solid connections of speaker wires to the binding posts. They ensure that there are no stray wires that can short across the inputs.
Subwoofer: Since the sub has an amplifier, it doesn’t need power from the receiver. The only needed connection is one for transmission of audio signals. Connect the RCA cable from the sub to the dedicated Sub Out ports on the receiver’s Pre Out section.
NOTE: The Pre Out section is where you connect a separate amplifier and additional speakers to your system. That’s why you’ll see additional connections on this section.
Digital audio in: Digital audio - such as sound coming from a TV - is sent to the receiver via the ARC (Audio Return Channel). ARC is a common feature in most modern HDMI systems. However, some TVs are not compatible with this feature. Check the specs of your TV model. If you can’t use ARC with the TV, the only option is using an optical cable – a thin transparent dome on each end that sends audio back and forth. You’ll be plugging this cable into the TV’s audio port.
For an old TV that neither has an HDMI connector nor a DVD or Blu-ray player, use the Digital Audio In section to connect your satellite or set-top box to the receiver.
Analog Audio In: RCA cables come in handy if your DVD or Blu-ray player doesn’t use HDMI. As in the case of speaker connections, you’ll have two connections. Make sure positive (red) and negative (black) go into their appropriate ports.
Ch In: If you have a playback device that delivers surround sound built-in, you will connect it directly into the Ch In section of the receiver’s back panel. The section is usually labeled “7.1 Ch In”, meaning that the receiver supports a setup of seven channels and a sub.
If your Blue-ray player offers the 7.1 Ch In functionality, you have a unique chance to experience fantastic surround sound from your system. Check your manual to ensure that you have the right set of cables for each of the Ch In connections. Once this is ascertained, run each cable from its dedicated output on the player to the 7.1 Ch In section on the receiver.
- Video connections
HDMI is the most critical video connection on home theater receivers. Modern receivers usually have at least four HDMI inputs and one output for connecting your video projector or TV. Connect your HD/4K source devices to the AV receiver via any of the HDMI inputs. Multiple HDMI outputs allow one to connect the receiver to multiple TVs or video projectors. Thus, you can watch video from the same or different sources on more than one projector or TV.
HDMI In: All HDMI inputs are equal, so you don’t have to be too careful with the labeling on each of the ports.
HDMI Out: This is the section where you send video signals from your AV receiver to the TV. You need to connect an HDMI Out to an HDMI port on the TV. If you have selected the right HDMI port using your TV remote, and something is playing on the console or Blu-ray player, you should start seeing a picture.
Video In (for DVD and Blu-ray players that don’t use HDMI): In this case, a DVD and Blu-ray player will connect with the receiver using a video cable. A video cable comes packaged with the player. The connection is simple as you only need to hook up the cable. Note that a video cable (unlike an HDMI) doesn’t transmit audio. You’ll have to separately connect audio using the Audio In ports.
Video Out: Just like with Video In, Video Out is for TVs that lack HDMI. You’ll need to connect a video cable from the Monitor Out to your TV. You’ll need a separate cable for audio transmission.
It’s noteworthy that this guide doesn’t dwell much on the specifics of connecting individual units. A lot is dependent on the unique specifications on audio and video outputs. Therefore, it’s advisable to keep referring to the manual as you use this guide.
- Network connections
Almost all AV receivers now have some level of wireless connectivity. Wireless capabilities include Bluetooth, AirPlay, Wireless Multi-room Audio, and compatibility with Google Assistant or Alexa.
Bluetooth/WiFi Antennas: If your receiver came with any antennas, connect them first. These may include AM/FM, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi antennas.
If the receiver doesn’t have an in-built Wi-Fi, or if you don’t want to use it, you can connect an Ethernet cable to the LAN port on the receiver.
The not-too-common connections
- DC Out: DC Out enables you to trigger another device once you switch on the receiver. For example, you may desire to have a projector screen automatically lower itself when the receiver is turned on. You will need a monaural mini plug cable to connect the two. Ensure that the input and output voltages of the receiver and projector match. The devices’ manuals should have this information.
- RS-232C Connector: If you are a serious custom home theater builder, this is one of the few ports you’ll find very useful. The port doesn’t carry video or audio. An accompanying multi-pin, locking cable connects things like external touchpads and PCs to the receiver using the RS-232C port. In addition, you can use the port to automate your system, say, to turn on and off at particular times.
- IR Flasher In: Do you find using the existing remote for your receiver inconveniencing? The IR Flasher In port allows you to control your receiver using another remote of your choice. You will have to purchase an IR Flasher (or blaster) to enjoy this functionality.
- Remote Control In/Out: For some reason, you might want to place your receiver where it isn’t easily accessible. Then, your remote might not efficiently control the receiver. This port allows you to attach an external remote signal receiver. For example, you can decide to use a CD player as the external receiver.
We are done with rear panel connections. What is there to connect on the front panel?
Note that some AV receivers have a flip up/down door that conceals ports located on the front of the receiver. Let’s look at the most common front panel ports:
- HDMI input – When you need to connect devices temporarily, such as a smartphone or digital camera, the front panel HDMI input comes in handy. You don’t have to access the back of the receiver.
- Mic Jack – most AV receivers include an automatic speaker setup. This setup uses self-generated test tones, and the Mic jack is the interface for connecting a mic to receive these tones. The home theater then analyzes the tones and adjusts speaker levels according to the size of your room as well as its other acoustic properties.
- Headphone jack - This jack is usually of the quarter-inch type, but you can also use an adapter if your headphones use 1/8-inch connectors. Plugging in headphones disables the speakers.
- USB port: Some AV receivers provide a USB port on the front panel. This port allows you to connect an iPod/iPhone or play music stored on a flash drive.
Calibration and configuration
You’ve connected your best selection of speakers including center channel speakers and subs. You can’t wait to experience the sweet surround sound of your home theater system. But there’s something very important you haven’t done yet.
The fact that you have connected your speakers doesn’t mean that the receiver knows the speakers. You will need to run an auto-setup using an included microphone.
To configure your home theater, start the Settings menu. Go to the section that allows you to set your speakers to Small, Large, or None. Set any speakers that can handle frequencies all the way down to 20Hz to Large. Set None for any unused speakers. The Small setting is preferred for all speakers (regardless of their size) that can’t play down to 20Hz. This setting ensures that the speakers work more efficiently. All speakers set to Small do not waste energy trying to play back signals they can’t. The subwoofer, for instance, does what it knows best – playing down low.
You can also use an SLP meter to optimize the sound through distance and levels settings for your speakers. Distance (or Delay) settings let your home theater system understand the signals needed to simulate the space in your room. They ensure that surround speakers that are further away than your main speakers receive the right audio at the correct time so that the resultant audio is cohesive.
You are now done with the home theater receiver set up. If every connection is done right, nothing should stop you from experiencing major improvements in the delivery of your home entertainment system. Please take note of the crucial tips for preparing for the AV receiver set up process. Have all the right lengths of high-quality connection cables, a wire cutter/stripper, and detailed manuals of all audio equipment that need to be connected to the receiver. Also take your time to label your cables. There’s nothing as frustrating as looking for the end of a wire entangled in a bunch of unlabeled wires and connection cables.