5.1 surround sound speakers are one of the most popular home theater systems since they efficiently enhance the audio quality. Once the speakers are set up as suggested by the manufacturer, you will experience truly immersive audio, provided all the other necessary caveats are met.
Although 5.1 speakers are popular, they can be confusing to set up and connect to source devices, especially for people who do not know how these speakers work.
Read on as we look at how to connect 5.1 surround speakers to your TV and enjoy some of your favorite shows through better speakers.
- You cannot connect 5.1 speakers directly to your TV; instead, the speakers connect to a central unit like a Surround Sound DVD player, receiver, amplifier, or subwoofer.
- The central unit then connects to the TV via various connection methods.
- The connection methods include HDMI, RCA, Optical, coaxial, and Bluetooth.
- However, not all these connections will give you true 5.1 surround sound.
- Bluetooth and RCA connections can only transmit stereo sound, which is what will come out of your 5.1 sound system. Some receivers might be able to upmix stereo to 5.1, but the result will not be great.
- To get true 5.1 audio out of your system, you must use a digital connection like Optical, coaxial, or HDMI cables.
- On some TVs and 5.1 sound systems, you might have to get them in the correct input source to hear audio from the speakers.
- Not all content from the TV is capable of playing 5.1 surround sound.
- Before connecting the 5.1 speakers to your TV, ensure they are arranged as the home theater system manufacturer suggests for the best sound output.
Setting Up 5.1 Home Theater System
Connecting 5.1 Speakers to Your TV
5.1 speakers are not directly connected to the TV; instead, the speakers connect to the sound system’s main unit then the main unit is connected to the TV. The main unit, in this case, can be a surround sound DVD or Blu-ray player, a receiver, an amplifier, or the system’s subwoofer.
Therefore, assuming you have followed the manufacturer’s instructions on setting up the 5.1 speaker system connecting it to the TV should be easy.
There are various methods to achieve this, but not all of them will play true 5.1 surround sound, as we shall see. Below are the possible ways to connect a 5.1 surround sound system to your TV.
Using an HDMI Cable (Preferred Method)
HDMI connectivity is one of the most convenient ways of connecting external devices to your TV. The connection can transmit large amounts of data and is found on many of the TVs and sound systems available in the market.
Most TVs have an HDMI ARC/eARC port that connects them to HDMI ARC/eARC devices like AV receivers, soundbars, and home theater systems.
The ARC stands for Audio Return Channel, a connection that acts as both an audio input and output. Meaning audio signals can travel from the speaker to the TV and from the TV to the speaker. eARC stands for the Enhanced Audio Return Channel, which is like ARC, only that it supports more audio formats.
HDMI ARC/eARC Explained
When HDMI ARC/eARC is coupled with HDMI CEC, you can use the TV’s remote to control the sound system. You can control basic functions like adjusting the volume and changing input sources.
The TV and Surround Sound system (or AV receiver) need to be equipped with these features for you to use them. You can check the labeling on the HDMI ports on both devices and if there is an HDMI port labeled ARC or eARC, they are compatible.
You can also check the user manual or manufacturer’s website to see if HDMI ARC/eARC is one of the supported standards on the TV and speaker systems (or AV receiver).
If one or both devices do not have HDMI ARC, you will have to use a coaxial or optical cable to output audio to your 5.1 speaker system (to your AV receiver and then to the speakers).
If the TV and the speaker system support HDMI ARC/eARC, you can connect them using the latest HDMI cable standard.
Insert one end of the cable into the TV’s HDMI ARC/eARC port, then the other end into the HDMI ARC/eARC port on the main unit (AV receiver, soundbar, subwoofer) of the 5.1 speaker system.
In most instances, audio will automatically come out of the 5.1 speakers, but if not, use the input button on the speaker system to get it in the HDMI source.
If audio still comes from the TV speakers, check that the sound output settings are set to output audio through the external speakers. The steps to do this vary depending on the TV manufacturer and its operating system, so you must consult the TV’s user guide.
Using Optical Cables
Aside from having HDMI ports, modern TVs and audio systems also come equipped with Optical audio ports. These ports and optical audio cables transmit sound signals over longer distances without any signal interference.
AudioQuest Optical Cable
The optical port will be on the back of your TV, usually labeled Digital Optical Out or TOSLINK. You will need a digital optical cable to set up your 5.1 speakers using this connection type.
Insert one end of the cable into the TV’s optical out port and the other into the optical in port on the main unit of the 5.1 speaker system.
Then power on the TV and speaker system, and the TV will automatically notice the connection and start outputting audio through the
On some TVs, you might have to change the audio output settings from PCM to auto so that the TV can send compatible audio to the speakers.
If the speaker system does not automatically start outputting audio, use the system’s Input button to change to the optical input source.
Home Theater System Setup for Beginners (HDMI and TOSLINK Connections)
Using Digital Coaxial Cables
Digital coaxial cables look like RCA cables, and they are one cable that transmits digital audio signals, unlike analog RCA cables that use two cables to transmit audio signals. The coaxial connector and port are usually color-coded orange or black, but some devices can have them in different colors.
Check whether the TV and surround speaker system have coaxial ports to use this connection type.
If they do, use a male-to-male coaxial digital cable and insert one end into the TV’s coaxial port and then the other end into the main unit of the 5.1 speaker system.
You should hear audio from the speakers, but if not, ensure the TV and speakers are set to output audio through the Coaxial digital source.
However, note that not all content features surround sound.
Using Bluetooth Connectivity
Another way of connecting 5.1 speakers to your TV is through Bluetooth connectivity. You can easily connect the two if the TV and the home theater system support Bluetooth.
To do this, put the main unit of the surround sound system into pairing mode. This can be done in different ways, but it usually involves long pressing a Bluetooth or source button to get into pairing mode.
Then find the Bluetooth option on your TV’s sound or connectivity settings.
Wait for the Bluetooth name of the surround system to appear on the list of available devices and select it to complete the pairing process.
Most systems will play a distinct chime to indicate successful pairing.
Once paired, the TV’s audio will play through the 5.1 speakers, but it will not be true surround sound since Bluetooth does not have enough bandwidth to support surround sound.
Connecting a Soundbar to TV Via Bluetooth
Using RCA Cables
Another alternative is to use RCA audio cables to connect the speakers to your TV. This is an analog connection method, and most modern TVs sound systems no longer support RCA audio connections.
Also, an RCA connection can only transmit stereo sound (two channels). Some advanced AVRs may be able to upmix that stereo sound to 5.1, but the results are not always great. If you want true surround sound, don’t use RCA or Bluetooth.
However, if your TV and the surround system accept RCA connections, you can still play audio through the speakers. The only downside is you will not have surround sound because RCA connections only support stereo channels. So, the speakers will play sound, but it will be stereo channels spread across the speaker system, and this is not an ideal 5.1-channel sound output.
But if you are comfortable with the setup, here are the steps to follow:
- Connect the red and white RCA cables to the corresponding RCA ports on your TV. These represent the left and right audio channels.
- Connect the other ends of the RCA cables to the corresponding ports on the main unit of the 5.1 speakers.
- Then connect the Yellow RCA cable to the TV’s RCA video port.
- Connect the other end of the yellow cable to the TV’s source device, like a set-top box or DVD player. This setup entails diverting audio from going to the TV and taking it to the speaker system.
Alternatively, you can use an AUX to RCA cable to connect the TV to the sound system using the TV’s headphone port.
To do this, insert the AUX end into the TV’s headphone port then the RCA cables go into their respective ports on the sound system’s main unit.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Question: Can a TV send 5.1 surround sound?
- Answer: Yes, a TV can send surround sound provided the TV is equipped to do so and plays content with Surround Sound. You must connect the TV to the surround sound speakers with a digital connection like Optical, HDMI, or digital coaxial to enjoy surround sound.
- Question: Can I connect surround sound speakers directly to the TV?
- Answer: You cannot connect surround sound speakers to the TV. The speakers must connect to a main unit like a receiver or subwoofer. Then you connect the main unit to your TV through various methods like coaxial, optical, or HDMI.
- Question: Can you get 5.1 through optical cable?
- Answer: Yes, optical cables can transmit 5.1 surround sound.
You can easily connect your TV to a 5.1 speaker system and enjoy surround sound provided the TV outputs a compatible sound format. However, note that not all content from your TV has five-channel audio, so sometimes you might be forced to listen to audio with lesser channels.
Carefully go through the necessary user manuals, as TVs and speaker systems have different firmware and are thus operated differently.