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Home theater receiver setup guide

Tips on how to hook it up and tweak it like a pro

Deia began her Crutchfield career in 2010, as a sales advisor in the Spanish/International department. Crutchfield's hands-on sales training quickly converted her interest in photography into a full-fledged hobby. After five years in sales advising customers on choosing the best A/V and camera gear for their needs, she is happy to share her knowledge and enthusiasm for top-notch gear as an A/V writer.

More from Deia Z.

Setting up a Denon receiver

Are you the proud owner of a brand new home theater receiver? You're in for an awesome surround sound experience once you get it connected. We'll walk you through the setup process so you'll know what to expect.


The amount of time it takes to set up a receiver can vary greatly, but setting aside two hours should give you plenty of time to get everything hooked up in most cases.

Things you'll need to set up your receiver

What you'll need


Take stock of all the components you'll be connecting to your receiver (Blu-ray players, cable/satellite boxes, gaming consoles, etc). Make sure you have enough cables to connect each piece. For the best audio and video performance, use the highest quality audio and video connections each component will allow (HDMI in most cases).

Cable labels make it easy to keep track of what goes where if you ever have to move your setup, or if something comes unplugged.

Before you begin, it's a good idea to plan where all your speakers will go. See our article on speaker placement for home theater to learn about optimal configurations.

Ready to get started? Read on for a basic step-by-step breakdown of how to get your system up and running as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Place the receiver in front of your cabinet to make connections.
Step 1: Receiver placement

Pick a spot for your receiver where cables connecting other components can reach it easily. Keep in mind that the receiver needs room to breathe or it can overheat, so be sure to allow enough space for heat to escape. See our home theater receiver placement tips for more information on this important topic. 

While you’re setting everything up, it helps to have the receiver out in the open — either sitting on a cabinet or rack pulled out from the wall, or on the floor in front of your cabinet. This allows you to run cables through the back and easily connect them to the receiver.

Pro tip

Protect your investment by not plugging anything directly into outlets or inferior surge protectors. A quality power protection device will keep your gear from being fried in the event of an electrical surge.
Connect your TV with an HDMI cable.
HDMI from the receiver to the TV
Step 2: Connect your TV

Connect your TV to the receiver using an HDMI cable. Use HDMI input 1 on the TV and HDMI output 1 or “Main” on the receiver. This will allow you to view any onscreen setup guides the receiver might have built in. 

If you use an antenna for over-the-air TV, or you use your TV's built-in apps for streaming, see if your receiver and TV both support Audio Return Channel (ARC). This feature allows audio to travel from the TV back to the receiver over the HDMI connection, so you can hear it through your speakers. If you have an older TV or receiver, you'll need to connect an optical digital cable between your TV and receiver to hear audio from your TV's tuner or apps.

Pro tip

If you have a 4K TV and your receiver is capable of passing a 4K signal, take care to make the connection between them using HDMI connections that support 4K and HDCP 2.2. These connections may or may not be clearly labeled on the back panels of the TV and receiver, so if you need help figuring it out, feel free to ask us. See our article on HDCP 2.2 copy protection and 4K TV to find out more. 
Let the onscreen setup guide walk you through everything.
Step 3: Follow the onscreen guide

Most receivers don’t include printed manuals in the box anymore. Instead, most of them offer a helpful onscreen setup guide. For example, Denon and Marantz receivers have an On-Screen Setup Assistant built right in. You just connect the receiver to your TV and follow the instructions that appear on the screen. Yamaha offers a convenient AV Setup Guide app for tablets on the same Wi-Fi network as your receiver. These kinds of guides walk you through the entire process from start to finish.

Use string to measure speaker wire runs.
Step 4: Speaker setup

Set your speakers up around the room. Use string to measure the distance from each speaker to the receiver, and cut your speaker wire accordingly. Consider using speaker connectors like banana plugs for a more secure connection.

Use banana plugs for secure speaker connections.
Step 5: Connect your speakers

Before you start making speaker connections, be sure to unplug the receiver. Take a look at your speaker wire and note the differences in coloring on both halves. Split the wire down the center at the end, using wire cutters to trim off the insulation from the tip. Keep the ends of the wire separate. The speakers and the receiver should have speaker terminals labeled right and left. Match the colors on the terminals (usually black and red) to the colors on each side of your speaker wire. It’s important to be consistent here to maintain the proper polarity, so if you insert black wire into a black socket, be sure to do this with each subsequent connection.

Next, connect your subwoofer using a mono RCA subwoofer cable from the subwoofer output on the receiver to the subwoofer’s LFE input. Check out our subwoofer setup guide for other types of connections, along with tips on how to dial in the perfect bass for your taste.

Use HDMI cables to connect your A/V components.
Step 6: Connect your A/V components

Whenever possible, we recommend using HDMI cables to connect your components to your receiver. HDMI connections transmit the highest-resolution audio and video signals, often without additional cables. Make sure to connect any 4K components you have to an HDMI input on the receiver that supports HDCP 2.2. Once everything is connected, test each source to be sure you're getting both audio and video.

Pro tip

Don’t want to hear surround sound every time you watch TV? HDMI standby pass-through (a feature found in many receiver models) lets the receiver send signals to your TV from connected sources, like a cable box, when the receiver is powered off.
Place your speaker calibration setup microphone close to where your ears will be.
Step 7: Calibrate your speakers

Most receivers come with auto-calibration systems you can use to fine-tune the sound to account for the size of your speakers and the room they’re in. Plug the included setup microphone into the dedicated jack on the front of the receiver, and place the microphone where you’ll sit most of the time. Follow the instructions to optimize your system. You may be able to do this from multiple seating positions, depending on the receiver model. See our speaker calibration video for more information.

Pro tip

Don’t place the setup microphone directly on the couch or chair where you'll be sitting, or the soundstage will end up too low. Put the microphone as close as possible to where your ears will be. If the receiver includes a tripod or cardboard stand for the setup microphone, use that. Otherwise, a camera tripod or a makeshift stand works just fine.
Network setup screen shot
Step 8: Network setup

If you haven’t already been prompted to do this by your receiver’s setup guide, now’s the time to connect your receiver to your home network so you can take advantage of online streaming services. Just follow the instructions specific to your receiver model and you should be connected in no time.

Pro tip

Enabling “network standby” on your receiver lets you power it on with a remote app on your phone or tablet (if one is available with your receiver). The default setting for this is normally “off”, so you’ll need to go into your receiver’s settings to turn it on.
You have a lot of options for controlling your home theater.
Step 9: Take control

Now that you’ve gotten your system all hooked up, have you thought about how you’ll control everything? If you have a lot of components, a universal remote might be useful. See our universal remote buying guide for more information.

If your receiver offers a good control app for mobile devices, you’ll probably want to check it out. You’ll be able to switch sources and control all your streaming services with one convenient interface. These work from any room in the house, which is extra convenient when your receiver allows multi-room audio and video.

We're here for you

Still have questions? Each Crutchfield purchase includes free lifetime tech support. One of our technicians would be happy to guide you over any hurdles you might encounter during your installation so you won't have to spend hours buried in your owner's manual.

Last updated August 25, 2016
  • hung nguyen from waco tx 76712

    Posted on 4/26/2015 12:00:21 PM

    Hi, my name is Hung. I'm looking for a home theater receiver. I've got Bose 701 floor speakers, a center, two Bose 301 speakers for the rear, and one subwoofer. My room is small. How big a receiver do I need?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/27/2015 9:18:30 AM

    Thanks for your question, Hung. Generally speaking, smaller rooms require less power to fill with sound than large ones, so a smaller receiver should work just fine. There are lots of good choices. For help deciding, please call one of our advisors at 1-888-955-6000.

  • Hunter from Tampa,Fl

    Posted on 5/2/2015 4:00:54 PM

    Have whole house in-wall/ceiling wired speakers that end at one location. I have a fairly new Pioneer AV Receiver Model SC-61. Do I need some sort of pre-amp or something to connect all the speaker wires to. There are probably 12 rooms of speaker wire feeding back to the central location.

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/4/2015 1:14:35 PM

    Hunter, home theater receivers are generally not a good choice for driving such a large and varied group of in-wall/in-ceiling speakers. Whole-house systems such as yours have different power and control requirements, and usually need specialized equipment to operate safely and effectively. Before tackling such a project, I would suggest contacting our Audio/Video Design Group at 1-800-555-9407 for more advice.

  • spiro from Europe

    Posted on 5/5/2015 6:39:05 AM

    Hi! I have a AV Receiver and recently I've found myself with a stereo power amplifier. I want to ask if i can use the receiver as a preamplifier. The power amp is having only two RCA inputs. I mean what output of the receiver i should use in order to connect correctly with the power amp? The receiver is having one "signed" pre out RCA output for the sub-woofer and two other couples of RCA audio outputs but i don't know if the signal from those outputs is suitable as an input to the power amp. My goal is to listen to CD's via the receiver and the power amp. I don't want to test by myself because i am afraid that i will burn something. Thank you in advance. Spiro

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/5/2015 11:28:14 AM

    Spiro, although it is possible in many cases to add a power amp to a receiver, without more specific information, I am hesitant to make a suggestion. I would recommend contacting the manufacturer of your receiver to get the best advice.

  • Rey from NY

    Posted on 5/7/2015 10:02:08 PM

    Just finished connecting my Blue Ray DVD player to my AV receiver (both new) using HDMI. Also connected my Sony Bravia TV (bought in 2008) to the AV receiver using HDMI cable. Also have surround sound speakers connected to the receiver. Why is there no sound coming out of the speakers when I turn on the TV? What did I miss?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/8/2015 10:18:36 AM

    Good question, Rey. Without more info, I'm just going to make a big guess here. Since I believe your TV predates the ARC (Audio Return Channel) capabilities of newer HDMI versions, you'll need to connect an optical digital cable from the TV to your receiver in order to get sound from it into your receiver.

    If you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details.

  • Scott from Maine

    Posted on 5/19/2015 8:07:54 PM

    How do I hook up the HDMI cable from my TV / Direct TV to my amplifier? My HDMI cable goes from my TV to the Direct TV box.

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/20/2015 10:00:40 AM

    Scott and Ankur, If you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details.

    Rick, I would recommend giving our advisors a call at the number on top of this page for suggestions.

  • Rich Stover from Sarasota, FL

    Posted on 6/11/2015 10:24:25 AM

    I have a new Sony xbr-65x900b 4k television connected to a Denon home theater receiver. I ran a HDMI connector from the Sony blu-ray player to the receiver and another HDMI connector from the receiver to the tv. When I attempt to play a disc, I am only getting the sound and no picture. Am I missing a connection? Please help.

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/11/2015 2:50:51 PM

    Rich, since you have made the necessary connections for picture and sound, this would appear to be more of a settings issue. I'd go through the TV, receiver, and player menus one by one to make sure the settings are all correct.

    If you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details.

  • Craig from Newtown, PA

    Posted on 6/14/2015 3:17:56 PM

    I wanted to find out how to connect the receiver and all my devices like DVD player, PS4 and such so that I do not have to turn on the receiver all the time while I am watching TV, I want to selectively use the receiver when I want to use all the speakers and not turn it while watching regular TV. Thanks for your time.

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/15/2015 4:39:21 PM

    Craig, you don't say whether or not you already have the receiver, but many newer models offer HDMI pass-through. This allows the audio/video signals from your source components (game console, DVD player, cable box, etc.) to pass through the receiver to your TV without powering the receiver up. For watching regular TV using the TV's built-in tuner and speakers, it usually just requires that you to go into the TV's audio menu and turn the internal speakers on.

    For help finding the right receiver, please call, email, or chat with one of our advisors.

  • Tom Wason from Raleigh, NC

    Posted on 7/8/2015 5:39:07 PM

    A learner's question on video w/audio. If my cable box has an HDMI that I connect to the AV receiver that subsequently send it to the TV, does the AV receiver tap off the audio portion or does it have to come back from the TV via ARC or optical fiber?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/9/2015 9:44:52 AM

    Tom, the vast majority of new receivers simply strip the audio signal off of the HDMI cable coming from the cable box, then process and amplify it to send out to your speakers. For enjoying content originating from your cable box, there is no need for ARC or a fiber optic connection from your TV to your receiver to get sound. However, if you were to use your TV's built-in over-the-air tuner, then ARC via HDMI, or an optical digital cable would be used to transmit audio from your TV to your receiver. Hope that helps.

  • sean from cedar rapids

    Posted on 7/29/2015 10:40:53 AM

    if i have all my components going into my reciever as HDMI connections, how do i then route those to the TV if my reciever only has 1 hdmi output?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/30/2015 4:00:12 PM

    Sean, I think you may have answered your own question. If you have connected all of your sources into your receiver via HDMI, then all you need is that one HDMI output to connect to your TV. Your receiver is a big switcher. Whenever you select an audio/video input source on your receiver such as your Blu-ray player or cable box, for example, the receiver strips the audio signal from that source's incoming HDMI cable, processes and amplifies it, and sends the sound out to your speakers. At the same time, the video signal (or picture) from that source is sent from your receiver's HDMI output to your TV. It works the same way no matter which audio/video source you select.

    It's a pretty cool way to hook things up because it means you don't need a separate video connection going from each source to your TV, like in the bad old days. It also means you can just leave your TV set to that one HDMI input so you don't have to switch inputs every time you want to watch a different source.

  • Don Wallace from Roswell, GA

    Posted on 12/2/2015 10:15:29 PM

    My surround sound system is set up with all components into receiver being HDMI, video out to TV is HDMI. My goal is to use wireless headphones along with my surround sound at the same time. I thought I could use the digital audio out from the tv to connect the headphones with an adapter, but it appears the receiver does not output audio to the tv via the HDMI connector. The sound does pass through to the TV if the receiver is off. Any suggestions?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 12/3/2015 10:45:34 AM

    Hi Don, There's usually a menu setting on most receivers that allows you to send audio out to the TV via HDMI (for folks who want to use their TV's built-in speakers). The default setting is usually "off", so you may have to dig around in the receiver's audio/volume menu (or even break out the owner's manual!) to find it.

  • Mike from Sheffield

    Posted on 12/29/2015 6:32:17 PM

    Bi-amping your speakers isn't always a good idea. I understand that mine perform better when linked.

  • Mike from Sheffield

    Posted on 12/29/2015 6:38:17 PM

    ARC is hit and miss with my Samsung TV and Onkyo amp. It appears to depend on whether the TV notices the receiver. Waiting for everything to be on and then turning the receiver off and on works, but doesn't sit well with either my URC or other family members.

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/4/2016 8:48:22 AM

    Mike, You raise a good point. Every system is unique, and what works well for some may not for others, bi-amping included. My recommendation is to experiment until you find the best possible sounding combination of connections and settings for your particular setup.

    On paper ARC (Audio Return Channel), and CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) over HDMI in general, are great ideas. But the stars really have to align for these functions to work as desired. Most people I know just run a separate audio cable, and turn the CEC function off to avoid unexpected (and unwanted) behavior.

  • john from jasper,ga

    Posted on 1/13/2016 2:57:12 PM

    have a sony sthdr550 receiver,only getting sound from front speakers.rear speakers connected to surrond connection on receiver.why no sound.

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/14/2016 10:33:44 AM

    John, Make sure you have selected "5.1" in the receiver's "Speaker Pattern" menu found inside the "Speaker Settings" menu. Also, make sure you have selected a sound field setting for movies or music. Hope that helps. If you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can always give our techs a shout for troubleshooting assistance.

  • Roger from Santa Rosa Beach

    Posted on 4/21/2016 10:47:31 PM

    If all you want out of your A/V receiver is stereo into two very high quality speakers, which speakers outs do you use; Surround or Front? Thank you

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/25/2016 11:50:42 AM

    Roger, Under most circumstances you should use the receiver's main front Left and Right speaker output jacks. However, if your receiver and speakers are capable of bi-amplification (see the bi-amp section above in the article), then you would use both your receiver's front and (re-assigned) surround channel outputs.

  • Lee from Summerhill

    Posted on 8/10/2016 3:07:17 PM

    I am trying to hook up two televisions to one surround sound receiver. The problem is that I only want the surround sound to work on room one TV. In room two, I want the TV to use its speakers. When i turn the T on in room two, the surround sound recognizes it and turns on. When i turn the TV on in room one the surround sound does not turn on. I need it to work the other wa

  • Rick M from SSF

    Posted on 9/23/2016 1:40:18 PM

    Thanks Deia! Great article. Maybe next time do a video :) I'll be redoing my setup next month to consolidate.

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