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AV Receiver Setup: Home Theater Setup Made Easy

By Bojan Jovanovic

Updated: September 08,2022

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One of the best movie-watching experiences you can have at home is with a home cinema. However, this kind of setup requires some hardware, including an AV receiver to power the system.

If you're new to home audio, AV receiver setup could seem like the stuff of nightmares. There are so many cables and jacks that it’s easy to lose track of where everything goes.

This guide will walk you through the steps you need to take to connect everything to your AV receiver and get the most out of your home theater experience. We'll cover everything from connecting your devices to making basic adjustments to get the best sound quality possible. 

What Is an AV Receiver and What Does It Do?

An AV receiver is a central component of any home theater system. It's the brains of the operation, responsible for processing and amplifying audio and video signals from your devices. In other words, it's what allows you to watch movies and listen to music through your home theater setup.

Most audio and video receivers also come with built-in features such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing you to wirelessly stream audio from your favorite devices. 

And if you have a surround sound system, your AV receiver will decode the sound format, so each speaker plays its own unique audio track. It’s not all about the visuals, and while an expensive AMOLED or HDR LCD TV might offer superb visual fidelity, immersive audio is the key to the perfect home theater experience.

So, now that you know what an AV receiver does, let's take a look at how to set one up!

Different Types of Connections on an AV Receiver

There are many ways to connect your devices to an AV receiver, and your AV receiver setup will likely include connectors such as:

  • Analog audio (RCA, XLR)
  • Digital audio (S/PDIF)
  • Composite video
  • Component video
  • S-Video
  • SCART
  • HDMI
  • USB
  • Ethernet

Typically, the back of an AV receiver looks like this:

yamaha av receiver

As we said, there are many inputs and outputs, but that’s the purpose of this device. Connecting everything usually isn’t a problem, as cables are visibly different from each other and the AV receiver manufacturers label every connector.

Whether you’re connecting speakers to the receiver or any of the other devices that make up a home theater system, you can rest assured you won’t have much trouble.

How To Connect Your AV Receiver to a TV

To start setting up your home cinema setup, you need to connect your TV set and the Blu-ray player to the receiver first. This is typically done via an HDMI cable, as it carries both the audio and video signals. If your TV only has composite or component inputs, you'll need to use the appropriate cables for those connections.

Once you've connected your AV receiver to your TV, the next part of the AV setup is to start connecting the other devices. The most common devices include Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, and streaming devices such as Roku or Apple TV.

Connecting Other Devices to Your AV Receiver

Depending on the devices you own, the methods by which you can connect them to the AV receiver will vary. Most commonly, these are HDMI, optical, and analog connections.

HDMI: An HDMI connection transmits both audio and video signals from your devices. This is the preferred connection method for most people, as it provides the best picture and sound quality.

Optical: An optical connection only transmits audio signals. Even though HDMI is a standard now, many devices offer optical audio outputs.

Analog: An analog connection also only transmits audio signals, but it uses separate cables for left and right stereo channels. When setting up an AV receiver, it’s likely that you’ll be using a lot of these cables.

Connecting everything is mostly straightforward. Each cable’s end is painted with a certain color or the connector has a distinctive shape, so you can figure out at a glance which jack goes where. Additionally, inputs on an AV receiver have labels to make the whole setup simpler.

AV Receiver Calibration

With everything connected, it’s time to flip the switch and put your setup to work. Still, this isn’t a plug-and-play piece of hardware, and you’ll need to go through the process of calibrating and adjusting some settings before you can start enjoying movies, games, and music.

Now, most systems come with an auto-calibration tool that you can just run once to have the audio levels set up ideally for your room. Those receivers come with a mic that you have to plug in, and the tool will analyze your room’s acoustics. It’s a completely guided part of the setup and takes just a few minutes to complete.

It’s also important to choose the right speaker configuration if you connect a surround sound system to the receiver. These systems have an unusual number of speakers and varying speaker positioning, so the auto-calibration tool needs to “know” what your exact setup looks like.

Lastly, it’s recommended to do a manual checkup. Take a listen and, if anything sounds odd, adjust the settings accordingly. 

Of course, depending on your listening habits and the type of media you’re planning to play, you may want to adjust the dynamic range, manually change your TV’s refresh rate, and check if the proper inputs and outputs are selected.

Optimizing Your Home Theater Experience

To conclude, here are a few final bullet points before you hit that “Play” button on your brand-new home theater AV setup.

  • AV receivers can run hot, so place them somewhere with adequate ventilation.
  • They’re also heavy objects; keep that in mind when choosing where to set up the receiver.
  • Good cable management and pre-planned wiring go a long way to save you from headaches further down the line.
  • Don’t skimp on cables! Low-cost cables might end up ruining your experience, and they don’t last as long.
  • Remember to recalibrate your receiver if you move the speakers or furniture.

Finally, make sure you have a comfortable place to sit or recline while you're watching your favorite movies and TV shows.

FAQ

How do I set up my AV receiver?

Start by connecting all the necessary cables - from your devices to the receiver, then from the receiver to your TV and the speakers. Then, you’ll need to calibrate the system to get the proper experience out of it, but modern AV receivers commonly feature auto-calibration tools to help you with the process.

How do I make my AV receiver get the best sound?

Proper calibration is the key. Most receivers now come with calibration software that tells you how to position speakers and adjust their volume according to your room’s acoustics. Also, using quality AV receiver cables will help you get the best sound out of your system.

How do I connect my AV receiver to my speakers?

Usually, you’ll just need to plug your speakers directly into the AV receiver. Depending on your speaker setup, you’ll use either RCA or S/PDIF connectors and cables. It’s really impossible to make a mistake here, as all the cables are different and marked with specific colors to help you connect them properly.

How many channels do I need in my AV receiver?

The easiest way to calculate the number of channels in your AV receiver setup is to simply count the speakers you want to use. You need a channel for each speaker, so if you have a 5.1 surround sound setup, that would require a total of 6 channels.

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