Hooking Up Home Theater

What is Home Theater?

Since the mid- to late-1990s, home theater systems have rapidly grown in popularity, as consumers have looked for ways to enjoy movies at home the same way they do in traditional movie theaters. With the advent of the DVD player, having true at-home theater-quality sound production has now become a reality. This technical article will help explain what home theater is and how it can be set up.

So what exactly is home theater? A home theater system enables you to reproduce the sound and video quality of a commercial movie theater in your own living room. Prices for home theater systems can be as low as a few hundred dollars or up into the tens of thousands of dollars. Fortunately, creating a home theater of your own requires only a few components. A basic home theater system consists of a television, a DVD player or stereo VCR, an A/V receiver that supports surround sound, and five speakers.

What do you need for a Home Theatre system?

What devices/components are needed for a home theater system? The most basic components for a home theater system would consist of a video display (TV, rear projector, front projector, etc…), a surround sound A/V receiver (analog), and a stereo Hi-Fi VCR (typical red, white and yellow connections). When creating more elaborate home theater systems, components such as DVD players, Super Audio CD players (SACD), Super VHS players (SVHS), or digital surround sound receivers are some of the more common components to see. When it comes to how many speakers? What kind of speakers? There are many different options. The most basic setup would have five speakers: 2 front speakers (left and right), a center channel, and 2 rear speakers (left and right). Higher end speaker setups would consist of up to 9 speakers: 2 front speakers (left and right), a center channel, 2 mid-rear speakers (left and right), 2 rear speakers (left and right), a center rear channel, and a subwoofer.

How do I hook up a Home Theatre system?

Hooking up a Home Theater system is a lot easier than it sounds. The fundamental rule when connecting the components together is that all the cables are connected, OUT to IN. The sound or the video signal will transfer OUT of a device, a DVD player, CD player, VCR etc., and IN to another, surround sound receiver or a video display. Here are some diagrams on how to connect the components together.

Diagram 1:

simple Home Theatre configuration

Diagram 1 illustrates a simple Home Theatre configuration consisting of a TV, VCR, Cable Box, DVD Player and a Receiver / Amp.

Diagram 2:

complex Home Theatre configuration

Diagram 2 illustrates a more complex Home Theatre configuration consisting of a TV, VCR, Cable Box, DVD Player and a Receiver / Amp.

How do I connect the Speakers in a Home Theatre system?

Connecting the speakers in a Home Theatre system is very easy, much easier than hooking up the components. Speaker wire will consist of one cable with two separate wires: positive and negative. The wires can be striped apart and are labeled either positive or negative. The gauge (AWG) of the wire will determine the quality and performance of the sound output. The thicker the wire is the lower the gauge will be. The following diagrams illustrate ideal placement and how to connect the speakers to the Receiver / Amp.

Diagram 3:

ideal positioning of speakers in a Home Theatre system

Diagram 3 illustrates ideal positioning of speakers in a Home Theatre system.

Diagram 4:

connections between the speakers and the Receiver

Diagram 4 illustrates the connections between the speakers and the Receiver / Amp. The same layout from Diagram 3 is being used as the model. All speakers require a positive and negative connection for them to work as you can see above. Primarily the Subwoofer will connect using an RCA cable, the reason for this, is that a powered Subwoofer will have an amplifier built into the unit. Due to the amplifier being in the Subwoofer the amplification is done there, therefore the signal from the Receiver / Amp would be a line level signal (See glossary for a description).

Glossary of Industry Terms