Skip Navigation

Home theater receiver setup guide

How to hook it up and tweak it like a pro

A

re you the proud owner of a brand new home theater receiver and surround sound speaker system? Want to save money by doing your own installation? Here are some tips to get you going.

Getting ready

For a basic installation, you won’t need a lot of tools.

A wire cutter/stripper is essential. A flashlight may come in handy. And you may need a laptop or tablet to read the instructions or watch the how-to videos you'll find below.

Many receivers don’t come with printed manuals, just links to online documents. But most receivers do come with a short quick-start guide that covers the essential steps to get you up and running.

Before you roll up your sleeves to get started, read the quick-start guide and the tips below. Then make a plan and a shopping list. Your project will go a lot smoother if you have all the parts you need on hand before you begin.

reading the receiver quick-start guide

Your receiver's quick start guide will help you get up and running in a hurry.

Label your cables and speaker wires

Do you have Crutchfield CableLabels™ or an alternative label-making plan? Labels make it easy to keep track of what goes where. Some day you may want to move or replace your receiver. That’s the day you’ll thank yourself for labeling the cables now.

HDMI cable with label attached

Take the time to label your cables. In the long run, you'll save time and aggravation.

Where will the receiver go?

Pick a spot that’s well ventilated. Make sure you’ll have easy access to the connections on the back of the receiver.

placing a receiver in a cabinet

Make sure you leave some breathing room above your receiver.

Do you want your receiver to be heard, but not seen? Read our home theater receiver placement article. You’ll learn about installer-friendly entertainment furniture that hides your gear behind closed doors. You’ll also find some ideas about how to conceal your gear in a closet or utility room. 

Where will the speakers go?

Do you know where all your speakers will go? If not, see our article on speaker placement for home theater.

hand arranging dollhouse-sized speakers

Map out your speaker locations. Then take some measurements to determine how much speaker wire you need.

How much speaker wire will you need?

Once you know where your speakers and your receiver are going, you can figure out how much speaker wire you’ll need. Use your tape measure to get a rough idea. Or use a long piece of string to simulate each wire run, then measure the strings. See some tips in the video below.

Want to hide the rear speaker wires?

What’s the best way to run wires to the rear speakers? You have three main options, two of which are no sweat for DIY installers.

  • Buy flat wire for under-the-carpet runs.
  • Use raceways (also known as cable tunnels) to hide wires without cutting into your walls.
  • Conceal wires behind your walls or baseboards. To get a feel for what’s involved, read our guide to in-wall wiring.
running flat speaker wire behind baseboard

Use flat speaker wire when you want to conceal it behind your baseboard or under your carpeting.

Speaker connections

Prepping the speaker wires can be a tedious job, but take your time and do it right. You need secure connections that will stay put for years.

Why you need speaker wire connectors

Connecting bare speaker wires to a receiver is a real pain. You’ll be making at least 10 connections in a crowded pack of input jacks. A single stray wire strand could cause a short circuit that shuts down your receiver.

Do yourself a favor and get a bunch of banana connectors (four per speaker wire). A 20-pack will dress both ends of each speaker wire in a 5.1 speaker system. 

attaching a banana connector to speaker wire

Putting banana plugs on your speaker wire is well worth the effort.

How to put the connectors on your speaker wires

  1. Split the wire down the center
  2. Trim insulation from the wire ends
  3. Attach the connectors, as shown in the video below.

Make sure you match the colors on the connectors (usually black and red) to the colors or markings on each side of your speaker wire. It’s important to be consistent so you maintain the proper polarity. For more tips, watch the video below.

How to connect your speaker wires to the receiver

Make your speaker connections before you plug in your receiver’s AC power cord. If you need to re-do any of the connections, first turn off and unplug the receiver.

Connecting speakers to the back of a receiver

Trust me, connecting bare wire ends to a crowded set of speaker terminals is a real pain. Banana plugs will make your life much easier.

As you plug the speakers in, match the colors on the connectors to the colors on the speaker input terminals.

Power connections

Protect your investment. Don’t plug your gear directly into AC power outlets or cheap power strips. A high-quality power protection device will keep your gear from being fried in the event of an electrical surge.

back of power conditioner with cords attached

A good power protection unit is a must. Make sure you get one with enough outlets to accomodate all of your components.

A good power protection unit will give you all the outlets you need, and it will filter noise out of your AC power supply. You’ll get surge protection and better performance from your gear.

TV and component connections

Do you have all the AV cables you’ll need? Are you sure they’re the right length?

Don’t have easy access to the back of your cabinet? You’ll need to attach the cables before you slide the components into the cabinet. That means you’ll need longer cables to give yourself a few extra feet of slack. 

Frequently used cables you may need

  • HDMI, for your cable or satellite box and for AV components like Blu-ray players and game consoles. To make sure you have the right kind of HDMI cables for 4K components, read our article on HDCP 2.2 copy protection
  • RCA for analog audio connections
  • Optical or coaxial cables for digital audio connections

Learn all about other connections you may encounter by reading our home AV connections glossary. If you’re not sure what you need, ask your Crutchfield advisor.

Connect your TV first

Many of today’s receivers have onscreen guides that walk you through the setup process. That’s why Step 1 is to connect the TV. Use HDMI output 1 or “Main” on the receiver and HDMI input 1 on the TV.

Are you using your TV's built-in video streaming apps or an antenna for over-the-air TV? Use the HDMI connections marked ARC (Audio Return Channel).

If you have an older TV or receiver that lacks ARC, connect an optical digital audio cable between your TV and receiver. Of course you’ll still need the HDMI connection for the video signal.

Yamaha AV receiver setup app screen shots

Yamaha's AV Setup Guide app helps you plan and complete your component connections.

To connect your components, follow the onscreen guide

Don’t want to read the manual? Good news – you might not have to. Many of the latest receivers offer a helpful onscreen setup guide or app. You just connect the receiver to your TV and follow the prompts that appear on the TV screen or your mobile device. Watch the video below to learn more about component connections.

How to connect your powered subwoofer

This is pretty simple. Run a subwoofer cable from the subwoofer output on the receiver to the subwoofer’s LFE input. If you prefer a wireless connection, you can get a wireless connection kit.

Check out our subwoofer setup guide for tips on how to dial in the perfect bass for your taste.

Setup and finishing touches

After everything’s connected, it’s time to fine-tune your system and set it up to work the way you want. This is where it helps to read the manual.

The full manual may run well over 100 pages, but it’s worth reading at some point. At least skim through it once. You may be surprised to find some features and settings that enhance your enjoyment or spark some ideas for system expansion. 

Speaker calibration

Most receivers come with auto-calibration to fine-tune the sound. Here’s how it works:

The receiver sends test tones to a microphone placed at your seating location. Then the receiver automatically adjusts the volume and timing of the sound coming from each speaker. You get perfectly balanced and time-aligned surround sound. See how it works in the video below.

Network setup

Follow the network setup instructions specific to your receiver model. In most cases, it’s no more difficult than connecting your phone or laptop computer. If your receiver and Wi-Fi router support WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup), all you have to do is push a couple of buttons.

Remote control and ease of use

Now that you’ve gotten your system all hooked up, it’s time to think about how you want to control it. Remote controls with dozens of buttons can be difficult. But now there are ways to make things much more user-friendly.

If your receiver offers a remote control app for your mobile device, check it out. Most people find the app easier to use than the handheld remote, especially in a dark room.

The app is a must if you use your receiver for multi-room audio and video. It lets you switch sources and control your streaming services from any room in the house.

Many receivers come with scene buttons – presets for a specific activity, like watching TV or listening to the radio. With one button press, you select the source and all the settings you need for the activity. Scene buttons make things super easy for the babysitter or anybody else who’s unfamiliar with your gear.

using scenes buttons on remote control

Receivers come with a few scenes pre-programmed, but you can easily edit them or create your own new ones.

The new frontier in remote control is voice command technology from Amazon and Google.  Who needs a handheld remote (or even a remote control app) when you can just tell Alexa what you want your receiver to do?

A universal remote takes the scene button concept to the next level. You can sequence commands to multiple components, including your TV, under a single button press or voice command.

A universal remote can also tie your smart lights, security cameras, and other home automation gadgets together with your home AV system. See our universal remote buying guide for more information.

Can you listen to the TV speakers when the receiver is turned off?

At times, you or your guests may just want to watch TV and not bother with the surround sound. You can do that if your receiver has a feature called HDMI standby pass-through. The signal from the cable box (or another source) goes through to the TV when the receiver is turned off.

If your receiver doesn’t have HDMI pass-through, you can get an HDMI splitter and run a second cable to another HDMI input on your TV. The downside is that you’ll have to switch the input selection on your TV each time you want go from surround sound to TV speakers or vice versa.

What is amp assignment?

Receivers with seven or more channels can be used in many different ways. You’ll use five channels for a basic surround sound system. How can you deploy the additional channels?

  • To drive more surround speakers, including Dolby Atmos height speakers.
  • To power stereo speakers in other audio zones
  • To send four channels of power bi-amp-capable speakers

You’ll have to select the amp channel assignments that suit your needs. The manual will show you all of your options. For more information, read our articles about surround sound formats, multi-room audio setups, and bi-amping.

Try the DSP settings

Many receivers include digital signal processing effects. The idea is to simulate the acoustic properties of the different movie environments and live music venues. Some are fun and engaging. Others may sound strange to your ears.

For music listening, audiophiles tend to favor the “pure direct” 2-chanel mode that bypasses all signal processing. Other people like to be bathed in sound from all directions, even when listening to a straightforward stereo recording.

As long as you have these options at your fingertips, you might as well give them a try. If you find a setting you like, it’s easy to embed it in one of your scene button settings.

Compressed music enhancement

Lower quality digital music sources such as internet radio and streaming services can sound dull and lifeless. Many receivers have a special setting that makes these programs sound better. Again, this is a setting that can go into a scene button.

Dialog lift

Having trouble hearing what actors are saying when you watch a movie or TV show? See if your receiver has a special setting that allows you to boost or “lift” the level of the sounds in the human vocal range.

How to tame the wire mess behind the receiver

To keep the cables and wires behind your receiver from getting tangled up, use cable wraps or wire ties. Read our cable management article for tips on how to approach this challenge.

We're here for you

Still have questions? Every 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.

Last updated 12/4/2018
  • Mike G. from New York

    Posted on 7/31/2018

    Will this work on my Cinema Smart TV?

    Deia Z. from Crutchfield on 8/1/2018
    Hi Mike. This basic guide should cover most setup scenarios with newer TVs and home theater receivers. Without knowing more about your TV, it's hard to say if these are the exact steps you would take to hook up a receiver. Feel free to get back in touch if you still need help.
  • Deia Z. from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/22/2018

    Hi Ozan. Since the PM6006 doesn't have HDMI inputs, your plan to connect your components to your TV via HDMI and then connect your TV to the PM6006 via optical cable sounds like a great solution. You would not experience audio interference from the TV with this setup; the signals would be transferred directly from the components, through the TV, to your amp. I hope that helps!

  • Ozan from Myrtle beach

    Posted on 1/21/2018

    Hi I just bought an lg oled E7 which has an optical out. My receiver is marantz pm6006 and my plan is to connect my PC my apple tv and PS4 to my tv through HDMI ports and from tv to amp via toslink cable. Sound quality-wise, is it a good idea to hook every digital source to my TV through Hdmi ports and connect it to my amp via optical or should i connect these sources directly to my amp for a better stereo experience. Do TVs have any bad interference effect on sound quality while transforming hdmi signals to optical output? Or they just directly transfer digital signals without any downgrading effect? Many many thank for the response

  • Deia Z. from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/28/2017

    Hi David. Congratulations on your new receiver. You don't necessarily have to use the ARC HDMI input on your TV to connect your receiver, but doing so gives you a one-cable connection for video and audio so the optical digital cable isn't necessary. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance in your setup.

  • David from Huntsville

    Posted on 11/25/2017

    Just got my Crutchfield notification email that my new Denon home theater receiver has shipped, replacing my old (non-HDMI) Harman Kardon receiver. One question, which of the 4 HDMI inputs should I connect my receiver to? There's one called ARC on the back of my hdtv. But I already have an optical digital cable for audio back to my receiver from my tv. So, does it matter if I use the ARC HDMI port?

  • greg passaretti from qns

    Posted on 7/22/2017

    so many companies do the simple setup but not the tech terms of how u should set it up like dts/neo 6/all channel pro logic and so many more other wise we just have amplified stereo tv

  • Josh B. from Bountiful, UT

    Posted on 2/23/2017

    I'm looking to buy a receiver that accepts a component input, because my new TV only accepts HDMI and older AV comnectors. Will a newer receiver that accepts a compenent input be able to transmit that video signal via HDMI to my TV? Thanks in advance!

  • Ashanti Williams from Chicago

    Posted on 12/26/2016

    I have a vizio tv and a cable unit that I am trying to hook my receiver up to. I hooked up all components but I gets no sound coming from my receiver. What am I doing wrong. Please help.

  • Rick M from SSF

    Posted on 9/23/2016

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

  • Lee from Summerhill

    Posted on 8/10/2016

    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

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/25/2016

    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.

  • Roger from Santa Rosa Beach

    Posted on 4/21/2016

    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 1/14/2016

    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.

  • john from jasper,ga

    Posted on 1/13/2016

    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 1/4/2016

    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.

  • Mike from Sheffield

    Posted on 12/29/2015

    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.

  • Mike from Sheffield

    Posted on 12/29/2015

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

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 12/3/2015

    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.

  • Don Wallace from Roswell, GA

    Posted on 12/2/2015

    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 7/30/2015

    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.

  • sean from cedar rapids

    Posted on 7/29/2015

    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 7/9/2015

    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.

  • Tom Wason from Raleigh, NC

    Posted on 7/8/2015

    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 6/15/2015

    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.

  • Craig from Newtown, PA

    Posted on 6/14/2015

    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 6/11/2015

    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.

  • Rich Stover from Sarasota, FL

    Posted on 6/11/2015

    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 5/20/2015

    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.

  • Scott from Maine

    Posted on 5/19/2015

    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 5/8/2015

    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.

  • Rey from NY

    Posted on 5/7/2015

    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 5/5/2015

    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.

  • spiro from Europe

    Posted on 5/5/2015

    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 5/4/2015

    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.

  • Hunter from Tampa,Fl

    Posted on 5/2/2015

    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 4/27/2015

    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.

  • hung nguyen from waco tx 76712

    Posted on 4/26/2015

    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?

Great Gear Giveaway

THE

GREAT GEAR GIVEAWAY

Ask an expert advisor

No pressure, no commission — just lots of good advice from our highly trained staff.

Find what fits your vehicle

 
 
 
 

Can't find your exact vehicle?