How To Wire Your Home Entertainment Center

Photo of studio speakers

As the quality and definition of home videos increase, and as flat-screen television sets become cheaper, the idea of having an entertainment center at one's own home is becoming more and more feasible to the homeowner. You don't have to go to the theatre anymore to enjoy widescreen viewing with digital surround audio. You can have it at the comfort of your own home.

So then you go out and buy your 60-inch widescreen LCD and home theatre system. The first thing you ask yourself is how to wire it properly.

Cable types - In the olden days, you just connected your VCR, TV and component using regular composite RCA cables that came in red, white and yellow. The red and white are for audio, and the yellow is for video. The outlets at either end are usually marked the same color, so there's not much confusion. Modern home theatre systems, though,  might come with different cabling systems:

  • HDMI
  • DVI
  • RGB / Component

The component cable is the simplest among these three, but can provide noticeable improvements over composite. But definitely DVI and HDMI cabling would give you a world of difference, with higher-resolution videos (if supported by your DVD player) and higher fidelity sound.

Cable paths - First you should determine the end-points of your system, so you know which goes where. You usually have several components in your home entertainment center, such as:

  • Television set - The TV is most probably the end-point of all connections, so make sure you plug cables in to the "IN" ports.
  • DVD player - The DVD will be source of video and audio, and so you should route the video cables from the "OUT" port of the DVD player to the "IN" port of the TV. This will most likely be the RGB cable. But if you have a high definition DVD or Blu-Ray player, then you would most likely want to use HDMI.
  • Home theatre or component - The component will be the end-point of audio connections. So if your DVD player is routed to the TV through RGB cable, you should route the red and white RCA audio cables from the "OUT" port of the DVD player into the "IN" ports of the component system. And if your home theatre system has a DVD player of its own, you should connect the video "OUT" port to the "IN" port of the TV.
  • Cable or satellite box - This is usually only a source, so simply connect the RCA or HDMI "OUT" port of the cable box into the corresponding "IN" port of the TV.

Audio sources - Now the problem with using HDMI cables is that it carries both video and audio. And sometimes, you might wish to route the video to the TV, but the audio to the component system. For instance, you have HDMI output from your cable or satellite box. You can simply just connect the HDMI cable to the TV, and a separate RCA audio jack to the component. Or if there is no separate RCA audio port, then you can connect the TV's own audio "OUT" to the component's audio "IN" via RCA.

Multiple sources - Most modern television sets have at least two video and audio RCA input ports, plus the digital ports like HDMI, DVI and even RGB. It's up to you to make sure all your devices are plugged in, and don't conflict. For instance, your cable box may already be plugged in to the single HDMI port. You can use RGB instead for the DVD player.

Once you have all your cables plugged in, it's time to test each device whether it's able to properly output video and audio to where you want these displayed or heard.


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