General Home Theater Set-up
This is system set-up 101. Take this

Even the finest surround sound system won't sound its best unless it is set up properly. And while the subject of speaker placement could-and often does-fill an entire book, a few basic tips will help you obtain the best performance from your home theater system.

Common Mistakes
The three most common setup mistakes involve reversing channels, connecting speaker wires out of phase, and misunderstanding the subwoofer connection

Channel Identification

On the back of your receiver or amplifier, you'll find a clearly labeled pair of terminals for each of the five theater channels, plus a subwoofer or LFE output. When you're sitting in your listening position, facing the three front (left, center, and right) speakers and the television, the left front and left rear speakers are on your left, and the right front and right rear speakers are on your right. You can assure proper hookup by using your receiver or processor's built-in test tone. As the tone moves from one channel to the next, your receiver or processor will display which speaker is reproducing sound at that moment. Rewire if one or more test tones come out of the wrong speaker.


One of each pair of speaker terminals on the receiver's output panel is black, the other is red. These correspond to the "positive" (+) and "negative" (-) phases, or halves, of the audio signal. The connectors on the back of each speaker will be similarly color-coded. Speaker wire pairs have some way of identifying the two conductors: they will be color coded, marked with "+" and "-," or one wire will have a rib or stripe. Be careful not to reverse the positive and negative wires, as incorrect phase will adversely affect sound quality by canceling bass and producing vague, unfocused images.

Subwoofer Hook-Up

This is another common stumbling block when setting up home theater systems. The subwoofer output jack of a processor or receiver may not be the best place to hook up your subwoofer. Why?

  • Many receivers or processors only direct bass to that output jack when in a surround mode and not in the stereo mode. That means you'll lose the benefit of the subwoofer when playing a stereo source. Your receiver or processor may not do this, check the manual or experiment.
  • Many receiver and processor subwoofer output jacks are low-pass filtered. That means that there is an internal filter that removes midrange and high frequencies from that output jack. But all powered subwoofers also have a built-in low pass filter. The two filters can interact with each other and degrade the sound. Some receivers and processors allow you to turn off the filter. A very few have subwoofer outputs that are not filtered at all. Check the instruction book and specs to learn what type you have.

If your electronics allow an unfiltered signal to go the subwoofer output jack and if the subwoofer plays in all modes, go ahead and use the subwoofer output jack. Otherwise, there are better ways to hook up your subwoofer.

Almost all powered subwoofers allow you to connect them with speaker wire. In many cases that is the best hook up method.

If your receiver or processor has preamp output jacks, use those to feed the subwoofer using RCA cables as shown below.

When using either of these hook up methods with a Dolby Digital system, select subwoofer "off" in the bass management or "speaker set up" function of your receiver or processor (Processor Configuration and Bass Management). This will direct all of the bass, including the Low Frequency Effects channel, to the left and right speaker outputs and avoid any problems that may arise from using a subwoofer output jack.

If you have a satellite/subwoofer system with palm sized satellites, or if you have tower speakers with built-in powered subwoofers, we strongly recommend either of these methods instead of the subwoofer output jack method.

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