How Do I Connect My Home Theater to My TV and Cable Box?

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If you have just bought or are planning to buy a brand-new home theater system and you are wondering what is the best way to connect it to your TV and cable box, you have come to the right place.

In this article, you will find an explanation on how to connect all the elements of a home theater system properly. We will also give you a short introduction to cable boxes, and, of course, discuss three options for connecting your HTS to your TV and cable box.

A Short Introduction to Home Theater Systems

Home theater systems have been present on the market for years, but not everybody knows how they work. A home theater system can be described as a set of different video and audio devices combined into one system to create a cinema-like watching and listening experience for its users. Its main purpose is to offer a better and more realistic experience and immerse users into the content they are watching.

Home theater systems were invented a long time ago but we can say that the invention of new HD, 4K, and OLED TVs popularized them significantly. Those TVs can deliver the picture of amazing quality but people needed one more thing – the sound of the matching quality. This and the significant home theater price reduction have led to such an increase in popularity of these incredible systems.

Basic Elements of a Home Theater System

When it comes to the basic elements of any home theater system, there are three of them:

  • TV: 4K, HDTV, OLED TV, etc.;
  • AV receiver, and
  • Speakers.

We will assume that you already have some of the mentioned TVs and skip to the more complex elements of the home theater system – receivers and speakers.

The first thing we need to say is that there are two basic types of home theater systems: custom-made home theater systems (created individually by every user, consisting of a different number of speakers and an AV receiver) and home theater systems in a box (all-in-one systems that come with all the basic elements (speakers and receivers) pre-packed). However, considering that the quality of HTS in a box can never be compared to the quality of custom-made HTS, we are going to focus on the latter.

As we’ve already said, custom-made HTS can consist of a different number of speakers, but we have to point out that the minimum number of speakers required to create a surround sound experience is 6 – 5 loudspeakers (center, front left, front right, surround left, and surround right) and 1 subwoofer. This basic 5.1 setup can be upgraded by adding rear or ceiling speakers. So, you can start with a basic 5.1 system and then upgrade it to a 7.1, 9.1, 9.2, or a larger system (as long as your AV receiver supports the right number of channels).

5.1 home theater speaker systems

5.1 home theater speaker systems

The other thing you are going to need is an AV receiver that is actually the central part of the entire system. It would be impossible to create the whole experience without this device. It is important because other devices (both – source and receiving devices) are connected to the receiver, which is used to send source data (video and audio) to the receiving devices.

To connect an AV receiver to a source device (in our case, it is your TV) on one end, and speakers on the other end, you are going to need an HDMI cable and some speaker wire.

The best way to connect your receiver to your TV is definitely HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel). If you do not want to listen to audio coming through your TV speakers, HDMI ARC is a must. That way, the audio signal is sent to the receiver and the receiver sends it to your external speaker system. The connection is simple – most receivers and today’s TVs have at least one HDMI ARC port and the connection is extremely reliable.

HDMI ARC is the preferred connection between TV and AVR

HDMI ARC is the preferred connection between TV and AVR

Now, when it comes to connecting the receiver to the home theater system, things get a bit more complicated. 

First, you have to make sure that the wire you are using matches the capabilities of your receiver and HTS. Gauge is very important here.

Second, please, bear in mind that each speaker is connected to the receiver separately via speaker cable that has two wires on each end. You need to connect the terminals (usually black and red) on the backside of your speaker to the terminals (usually black and red) on the back of your receiver.

This means that one wire goes to the red and the other to the black terminal. It is irrelevant which will be negative or positive as long as the same wire is connected to the black or red terminal on both devices. For example, if you have one black and one red wire and you decide to connect the black wire to the black terminal on one end, it is important that you do the same thing on the other end. Also, you have the option to establish this connection using bare wires or to use different kinds of clips and connectors that will provide a more secure and neater connection.

Apart from the three previously mentioned HTS elements, it is common to have the fourth element which serves as a source – BluRay or DVD player, CD player, gaming console, etc. In our case, the fourth element will be the cable box.

Key elements of a home theater system

Key elements of a home theater system

What Is a Cable Box?

A cable box is a device that all cable TV subscribers must have. It is a small electronic device that converts digital to an analog TV signal and copy-protects it.

It is a must, and we all get it, but we have to stress out that one of the greatest cable box disadvantages is the fact that it puts on additional costs to your cable TV package, especially if you have more than one TV in your house. In such a case, you will have to rent a separate box for each TV if you want to watch cable channels in every part of your home. Plus, you cannot record movies or TV shows directly, but you have to spend more money on some other digital recorder. 

However, the way you connect your cable box to your TV is more important for our article. Different boxes and different TVs support different connection types and, subsequently, have different ports. The connection type you should find on every modern cable box and TV is HDMI port, so this is the type of connection we’ll be using to connect a home theater to a TV and cable box.

Connecting Home Theater Systems to TVs and Cable Boxes

Finally, we’ve come to the most important part. We have decided to present to you the three most common and easiest ways of establishing the desired connection. In two of the following three cases, we are going to use HDMI cables because we assume that most of you have relatively modern equipment that supports HDMI connection. Plus, this type of connection is the cleanest and the most efficient. Apart from this, we will offer a third option that can help in case you have older equipment but it also comes with a few limitations.

Let’s see what we have prepared for you.

Option №1: Connecting a Home Theater System to TV and Cable Box Using a Receiver as the Hub

To establish this kind of connection, you are going to need two HDMI cables.

Step 1 – take the first HDMI cable, insert one end into your TV’s HDMI ARC IN port, and the other end into your receiver’s HDMI ARC OUT port.

Step 2 – take the other HDMI cable and connect one end to the HDMI OUT port on the back of your cable box and the other end to one of the remaining HDMI IN ports on the back of your receiver.

Step 3 – take your receiver’s remote and select the correct input – HDMI port used to establish the connection with the cable box.

Step 4 – turn on your TV, select the right HDMI input, and enjoy your movie.

Using your AVR as a hub

Using your AVR as a hub

Option №2: Connecting a Home Theater System to TV and Cable Box Using the TV as the Hub

The other option is very similar to the first one. We use the same cables, but the connection itself is established in a slightly different way.

Step 1 – take the first HDMI cable and use it to connect the TV to your receiver (TV’s ARC IN to AVR’s ARC OUT)

Step 2 – take the other HDMI cable and use it to connect the TV to your cable box by inserting one end into the HDMI OUT port on the cable box and the other end into the HDMI IN port on the TV.

Step 3 – select the correct input on your TV and adjust HDMI settings on your AVR so that audio comes through the audio return channel from your TV to your AVR (turn on HDMI control).

Step 4 – Enjoy!

Using your TV as a hub

Using your TV as a hub

Option №3: Combining HDMI and digital optical connection

If you have older devices that do not support HDMI ARC (older TV or older AVR), we advise you to try combining regular HDMI with digital optical cables to establish the connection between your HTS, TV, and cable box.

Step 1 – take one HDMI cable and connect HDMI OUT port on the cable box to the HDMI IN port on the TV.

Step 2 – take a digital optical cable (aka TOSLINK cable) and use it to connect your TV to your receiver.

Step 3 – select the correct HDMI input on your TV using your TV remote, select the right audio output in your TV’s audio settings, and select the right input on your AVR.

Step 4 – turn on the TV, play your favorite movie and enjoy.

HDMI connection between TV and cable box

HDMI connection between TV and cable box, and optical connection between TV and AVR

Note: Make sure that all the other cables are properly connected. All your devices must be connected to the source of power (wall socket), and you must use a coaxial cable to connect the cable IN port on the back of the cable box to the cable outlet in your wall.

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