Home Theater Connection and Configuration
Connecting wires to your receiver
Positives (+) always plug into positives (+), the negatives (-) always plug into negatives (-). Likewise, reds always plug into reds and blacks always plug into blacks (or whatever color wheel a manufacturer is using). Remedial as these reminders might be, if your wires are not plugged in properly, they will be out of phase. This results in funky sound localization that makes you feel like your ears suddenly stopped working. Make sure your speaker wires are clearly marked as to which wire is which.
When it comes to making the connections, strip and tightly twist each speaker wire separately. Make sure there are no flyaway strands that can touch anything other than the terminal the wire is intended for.
Wire and cable is something some retailers advise you to skimp on. Don’t. There is a direct relationship between the quality of the home theater experience and the quality of the cables, particularly for long cable runs. Keep value at the top of your priority list. There are few other retail items that will lead you down the road to diminishing returns faster than wire and cable. Find high gauge, heavily shielded cables with solid connectors that don’t cost a fortune. If in doubt, ask your Aperion guru, or read our article on wire and cable.
Analog and Digital: There are two ways to get audio from your DVD player or Sat/Cable box to your receiver. You’re probably familiar with analog audio cables-they are typically red and white in color and you see them all over your TV, VCR, DVR, Satellite and/or Cable box. However, this connection is NOT going to give you the best surround sound. It is imperative that you make a digital connection from your digital sources to your receiver. We’ll use a DVD player as an example, but this can apply to your Satellite box, cable box and DVR/TIVO too.
There are usually two different types of digital outputs on the back of a DVD player. Likewise, there are two different digital input types on your receiver. You may use either one, Optical or Coaxial. Optical cables (also known as ‘toslink’ cables) are a long skinny cord with an unusual connector on each end. When plugged in properly to the source, you should see a red light coming out of the other end. Coaxial digital cables are typically a thicker cable with RCA connectors on either end. Whichever one you use, a single cable does it all! You’ll get all 6 channels of information from your player to you receiver with this simple cable. For detailed hook-up help, contact an Aperion Guru.
Dialing in Your System
Dialing in your system refers to setting up your receiver to address each speaker with the proper volume and delay. Most surround sound receivers require you to tell them how far each speaker is from where you sit. This allows the receiver to program the proper signal delay to create sound effects like a bullet ricochet.
The receiver will then allow you to set each speaker’s baseline volume. Once set, this tells the receiver how much volume to send to each speaker in order to create a balanced sound stage. When done properly, the end result is amazing. Once complete, these settings usually don’t change. If you have an SPL Meter, you can take our course on using an SPL meter to calibrate your system. Refer to your receiver’s manual to guide you through the process.
In Case You Didn’t Know: If, at times, you notice the surround speakers playing much lower than the front speakers, don’t be alarmed. They are likely doing their job of supplying subtle atmospherics and ambience.
Stereo, Party of Two
What if you’re listening to a CD or watching TV in stereo without surround sound? This is tricky. Experts quarrel on what you should do.
Some diehard audiophiles insist you shouldn’t tinker with the original sound format. For example, if the material was recorded in stereo, by gosh it should be heard in stereo. They point out that some Dolby Digital receivers revert to the processed and synthesized Dolby ProLogic II or some other DSP mode (multi-channel) when the original source is a stereo signal. However, most receivers allow you to choose whether you listen to the music in stereo or surround with the push of a button.
Others, who are equally as knowledgeable, think two-channel stereo is a directionally and spatially deprived medium. Therefore, leaving your receiver in surround mode is usually a good idea, even with stereo sources.
The final say? You. Listen to your system both ways and trust those two things hanging on the side of your head. They’re right, no matter what anyone else says!