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Home Theater Wiring

How to hook up that new Home Theater Receiver


Here is a simple checklist of how to install that new Home Theater receiver.

Attitude

You may need to run to the local Radio Shack/Best Buy for supplies. Dont be afraid to make 2 or more trips - it happens to the best of us.

Give yourself an hour or two of un-interupted time in the morning. This is not a 15-minute process.

Connect-Test, Connect-Test, Connect-Test - The Pro's hook up 1 device and make sure it works before hooking up the next. You should too.

RACK LAYOUT

Put the receiver on the LOWEST shelf in your rack. Make sure to leave 4-8 inches above for venting (read the manual for exact numbers).

Put components you touch (DVD, VCR, Game systems) on the highest shelves. Put them in descending-order of use.

Put CATV, DSS receivers (box's you never touch) on shelves above the receiver.

CABLE LAYOUT

You want to hook up wires in this order:

Power Cords

Look at the back of your rack. See where the power cords come out on the Left or Right side? Pick a side and position a surge-protection power-strip on this side.

Labels - Make 2 white labels with "A", 2 with "B", etc. On each power cord, put one label on the power cord as it emerges from the box. Put the matching label on the plug-end. Wrap with a layer or two of scotch tape to protect the ink.

Loosly tie the power cords to one side with velcro-strips or quick-release cable holders. Do NOT use zip-ties or wire bread-wrapper ties. Your local hardware store will have lots of options for this.

Hint: the power cord from the top-device can act like a "pole" to hang the other cords from.

Speaker Wires - Concepts

An old speaker web site recommended:

16 ga - for 1-10 foot runs
14 ga - for 11-20 foot runs
12 ga - for 20+ foot runs

Most of us buy a spool of 12 ga wire and use it everywhere. The Sound King brand from www.partsexpress.com is economical, but well respected.

Speaker wire often has 1 wire with lettering or a stripe. The intent is to connect the RED jack on the back of the receiver to the RED/Positive connection on a speaker. We typically let the wire with the stripe mean Positive/Red. The other wire is Negative/Black.

Binding Posts & Spring Clips

Important: Neatness counts when connecting speaker wire. You don't want ANY strands of copper sticking out exposed. This can cause a short months down the road and damage equipment.

Receivers often have red/black binding posts sticking out. You can un-screw the cap to expose a side-hole. Insert wire and tighten. Spring clips have a button that exposes a hole. Insert wire and release to clamp the wire.

Banana plugs are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED if you have binding posts on your receiver and speakers. You can get dual-banana plugs from Radio Shack (278-308) or single-banana plugs (278-306). Note: buy 1 set of the dual-bananas and bring them home to see if they fit. The spacing of the binding posts is not standardized.

If you have spring clips you can use "Pin Connectors" like the Radio Shack (278-309). Hint: Wrap the body with scotch tape to insulate them from touching if your spring-clips are close together.

Length - Cut your speaker wires to length plus 1-2 feet for slack. If you don't have exact speaker positions set, add 3-8 feet and plan to cut the wires back later. Make loose "S" curves with the excess. Don't coil the wires.

Label - Make 4 labels for each wire. Keep it simple like "FL, FC, FR, RL, RC, RR" (F/R - Front/Rear, L/C/R - Left/Center/Right). Put 1 label 4-6 inches from the end, the next 2-3 feet from the end. Repeat on the other end.

Speaker Wires

Make sure the power is off on the receiver.

Connect only the Left and Right speakers. Connect behind the receiver and behind the speaker.

Important: make sure there are no loose strands of copper sticking out to cause a short.

Turn the receiver on. Check the manual/remote for a "Test Tone" feature. This will send static sound to each speaker in turn for a few seconds. Make sure the Left speaker makes sound when the display says something like "Left Front".

If you don't have a test-tone feature, go to AM and let the speakers produce static. Use the balance knob to make the sound go to the left or right speaker.

Important: Turn the receiver power off!

Connect up the Center and rear speakers.

Turn the receiver power on.

If you have a test-tone feature, use it to make sure the speakers are hooked up correctly. If not, just be careful to pay attention to the labels.

Interconnects - Concepts

(If you already have your video cables figured out, skip this section. If you are struggling with all the different cable types and the "Video thru the Receiver" issue - read this section.)

Here is a rule: Budget no-more than 10% of the electronics price for cables

All good interconnects are Coaxial. If you cut one and look at the end, it will look just like your CATV coax. If the included cables with your DVD/VCR/etc look like 2-wire "Walkman Headphone" wires, put them away.

Video vs. Audio cables

Video cables are 'special'. They are made with something called 75 ohm coax. These work fine as audio cables, but audio cables can be made with any of the more common types of coax: 50, 75, 110, 300. You can sometimes get away with using audio cables for video, but it's a gamble. (No, it wont damage anything to try).

There are 4 types of video cables/connections:
 



Note: You MUST use component cables for Progressive or HD Video signals unless you have a DVI-equipped source. There are very few of these as of this writing.

Video Through the Receiver

You can run video through the receiver with no apparent signal loss. This makes the system easy to use because 1 remote changes things. But there IS an issue: Most receivers will NOT convert one video type to another. (You can check out the "Receivers" forum for models that do the video conversion.)

You should try to get all your sources to produce the same type of video signal. I suggest you standardize on SVideo. Radio Shack sells a cheap $20 "Composite to SVideo" converter for the old VCR or Game system.

Now you simply run SVideo from all your sources to the receiver, then 1 long SVideo cable from the receiver to the TV.

HD Video

If you have HD sources, send them directly to the TV with component cables. Not through the receiver. If you don't have enough inputs on your TV, this thread on Inexpensive HD Video Switching describes several video switch box's and the pros/cons of them.

Interconnects - Monitor Out

If you run video through the receiver, start by running a video cable from the receiver to the TV. On the back of the receiver is usually some video outputs called "Monitor Out". Run a video cable to your TV.

Receivers have a On-Screen-Display (OSD). But it usually only works on 1 of the monitor outputs at a time. A slide-switch sometimes controls this. Other receivers use a menu from the front panel to control this. Read your user manual and make the OSD work on your video connection (Composite, SVideo, Component)

Test: Turn on the TV, switch to the video feed from the receiver and turn on the receiver. Use the receiver remote to turn the volume up/down. You should see some type of display on the television. Toggle between AM/FM/CD on the remote and note how the television pops up some information for a few seconds.

Important: Turn the receiver off after this.

Interconnects - Analog first

Hook up from simple devices to complex. Test each device to make sure it works before starting the next.

Simple devices are: CATV box, SAT receiver, CD and VCR. (things with L/R audio jacks - analog)

Complex Devices are: DVD player, HDTV CATV box or HD SAT receiver (things with digital-audio connections)

Hook up the VCR first. The back of the receiver actually has 4 audio jacks. Connect the VCR output to the "IN" jacks on the receiver. Connect the video output to the VCR-Video "IN" on the receiver.

Test: Put in a tape Press "Fast Forward" for a minute or two, then press "Play". Turn on the receiver and turn the volume down. Press the "VCR" button on the receiver remote. The TV should now show you the audio & video from the VCR (yes, turn up the volume until you can hear it). Press "AM" to switch away, then "VCR" to switch back. Repeat until the amusement wears off.

Turn off the receiver (but leave the VCR and television running).

Hook up the next analog device (CD, Game, CATV box). Repeat the above steps for each. Check that you can switch to each of the previous components as well as the new one.

Interconnects - Digital Next

Now it is time to hook up that DVD player.

Here are some common issues:



Connect the DVD video. This is either through the receiver, or direct-connected to the TV.

Turn on the DVD player, turn on the TV and perhaps the receiver. Adjust things so you see the DVD player logo.

Use the DVD Player remote to find the setup menu. Somewhere in the menus are settings to tell the player to produce DIGITAL, and what type. Select DD/DolbyDigital/5.1 etc. (check your manual to find the menu item & descriptions).

Grab the receiver manual. Find the section on connecting a DVD player or "Configuring Digital Sources". Using the receiver remote or front-panel, find the options for digital. Many receivers have selections like: PCM, Dolby or "Auto Detect". You want to select "Auto" if your receiver offers it. Exit the menu system.

Turn off the Receiver.

Connect up the digital connection from the DVD player to the "DVD" digital input on the receiver. Insert a DVD into the DVD player and let it boot up.

Turn on the receiver and adjust the volume to a modest level, and select "DVD" with the remote. You should be hearing some sounds now.

Note: Many DVD menu's have sounds. But they are almost always 2-channel. My Yamaha receivers always say "Pro Logic" on the face until the actual movie starts.

Use the DVD remote to go into the "Audio Setup" part of the DVD. The default sound track is almost always "Dolby 2.0" or "Pro Logic". Select the "5.1" audio track. Return to the main menu.

While watching the face of your receiver, hit "Play" or select "Play Movie" on the DVD menu. Most receivers will change the display to say "Dolby" or "5.1" or simply "Digital" when the title screen of the movie starts to play.

You roughly repeat the above steps for your CATV box, Sat receiver, game system, etc.

Here are some common issues:

CATV Box - In many systems, only the 'Digital' channels above 100 will produce sound from the digital connection. You have to hook up L/R analog cables into some input on your receiver to get sound for the lower channels. Yes, this means you have to select "Aux" for channels 2-99, then pick "Sat/DBS" for the digital audio for channels above 100. It is a pain. My advice - switch to a sat service where all the channels come with digital sound.

Why put the receiver on the bottom shelf?

It's not a hard & fast rule. But here are the reasons for putting the receiver on the lowest shelf:
 

Copyright 2002 Home Theater Forum. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.

Thanks to Hometheaterforum.com for the above article.

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