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How should I wire my home theater setup?
September 17, 2010 7:19 AM   Subscribe

Home theater conundrum. Ok, so, what's the best way to wire this up?

Maybe there is no "best" way. Maybe there's just a couple different ways, each with their own sets of pros and cons - but I figured I throw it out there.

So, before yesterday I had a 42" LCD monitor I bought off of WOOT! acting as my primary TV. It had ONE HDMI input. My audio receiver, though, a nice number from Onkyo, had 4 HDMI inputs.

In this configuration, I wired all my HDMI devices (cable box, XBOX, media center PC, etc) through the Onkyo receiver, and then just had a single HDMI output run into my TV/monitor.

I was pretty happy with this solution. That meant the TV was basically set to a static input, and I just had to change the input on the audio receiver when I wanted to switch to a different device.

Except yesterday I got a new TV. It's glorious, but it has like 9824 HDMI inputs. Not only that, but the remote seems to be some sort of God-Box type thing. It can apparently control all the rest of my devices, so with a little work I could eliminate my four remote setup down to maybe like, you know, one. It can seemingly control both my cable box and my Onkyo receiver.

So I'm thinking about (read: did this about ten minutes ago) re-wiring everything. I took all the HDMI inputs and now I run them into the TV instead. And now out of the back of the TV I just run a single optical audio cable out and down to my receiver.

This seems kind of like six in one/half-dozen-in-the-other territory. The interface on the TV for switching inputs and such is kind of slick, and the TV regards all the signals as 1080p now (when going through the receiver they were all 1080i) but I don't know if there's a conventional logic to how this kind of thing should be done.

Any thoughts, hive mind?
posted by kbanas to Technology (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
One thing that strikes me is that, in keeping the current setup, you avoid having your screen filled with menus every time you want to switch things. The downside to that is you have to look over at the amp to do the switch.

Can your god-box remote control the receiver? If not, that's the other drawback to the status quo. If so, the only decision I'd think about is how do I want to do my switching? Which drawback is worse - onscreen menus or checking the amp?
posted by Hardcore Poser at 7:27 AM on September 17, 2010


you avoid having your screen filled with menus every time you want to switch things

It's really not too bad. It has a nice little overlay menu that pops right up when I hit the 'input' button and gives me a nice little scrollable menu - it's really not too obnoxious. Plus, I can label everything (the remote has a built-in slide-out keyboard) so instead of saying, you know, "VCR/CBL" or something, I can make it say, "Media Center PC".

On the other hand, the amp is right below the TV, so it's not like it's a huge deal to just glance down.
posted by kbanas at 7:30 AM on September 17, 2010


I'm no hometheaterphile, but I'd say it doesn't really matter which you do. In your case, you previously just had to change the audio input and left the video one on the TV. Now, you'll leave the audio input and change the video input.

I personally use your new method in my home theater, (everything cabled to TV, one audio cable running to receiver) but my receiver has no HDMI inputs. I also like my TV's remote better, as well as its switching between inputs. On the downside, it required longer cables to run to the TV. Not a big deal in my case.

Basically, whatever you're more comfortable with, go for it.
posted by Tu13es at 7:30 AM on September 17, 2010


Often the TV doesn't pass through the full digital audio on the HDMI out. It downsamples it to stereo. My Samsung TV does this and it is why I don't have mine hooked up this way. (From the manual: "If you want to hear 5.1 channel audio, connect the DIGITAL AUDIO OUT (OPTICAL) jack on the DVD player or Cable/Satellite Box directly to an Amplifier or Home Theater, not the TV.")

OTOH, one advantage of using the TV for this is that it can remember the aspect ratio settings on a per-input setting. If you have some things that need the "no overscan" setting, like a HTPC, and other that don't, like normal TV, this is very valuable.
posted by smackfu at 7:32 AM on September 17, 2010


I'm in a similar situation having purchased a new TV a little ago while but my stereo receiver doesn't have any HMDI plugs (its a NAD unit from 2000). Since 1080p is better than 1080i I would plug the devices straight into the TV (MAXIMUM 1080p RES FTW!!) and just use your receiver to do sound. Don't know if you have a Blu Ray player (or another device) that actually uses the full 1080p but that would be my thinking..
And if you new remote is such a kickass device then it will make it easy to do this.
posted by boomcha76 at 7:35 AM on September 17, 2010


I think my TV is sending out a full digital audio stream over the optical audio cable to the receiver - in the TV audio setup it's configured as a full PCM digital stream.

That does seem to be one big draw, smackfu - it remembers all the picture settings - not just aspect ratio but modes (game, sports, TV, etc, etc) as well.
posted by kbanas at 7:35 AM on September 17, 2010


This makes sense to me. I had to do the same thing cause my older HT receiver doesn't have any HDMI inputs.

Have fun programming the multi-remote tho! Recently went thru a bunch of gyrations to make a single-remote solution for my aging parents. When you "teach" signals to the multi-remote, suggest you set up/down volume & mute to control the Onkyo in whatever mode it's in.

I'm still using an old Sony multi-remote I picked up off Ebay (let me know if you want the model #) -- it has a big LCD screen which changes based on the component, and can do "macros" like "turn everything on."
posted by omnidrew at 7:42 AM on September 17, 2010


Have fun programming the multi-remote tho!

Honestly, I was expecting this to make me want to kill myself but it was surprisingly simple. The TV asked me what brand the device was, and then automatically set a remote code, and everything worked.

Hooray for technology.
posted by kbanas at 7:49 AM on September 17, 2010


One other downside to this is that if your receiver has an on-screen menu to configure it, you can't see it, since the receiver isn't in the video display path.
posted by smackfu at 7:51 AM on September 17, 2010


One other downside to this is that if your receiver has an on-screen menu to configure it, you can't see it, since the receiver isn't in the video display pat

It does, but I can see it - it has an HDMI output and I just wired it into one of the TV's inputs and called it "audio".
posted by kbanas at 7:52 AM on September 17, 2010


OT, but kbanas, what TV did you get? I'll be buying one soon and I like the sounds of your. (over 9000 hdmi inputs should be plenty for now!)
posted by bDiddy at 8:01 AM on September 17, 2010


Oh, but for advice. As long as the cables running to your TV are managed, and by managed I mean hidden, I don't see how it matters where they're plugged in. And as boomcha76 mentioned above, the fact that the receiver outputs 1080i but the direct lines see 1080p would be a good enough reason for me to do it the way you've done it. And the TV outputting digital audio over the fiber output is awesome too. Nice!

On the other hand, if you want to mount it on the wall instead of on a stand, I don't know what you would do. Is it conventional to leave a hole in the wall at the base and behind the TV? This is what I do not know.
posted by bDiddy at 8:04 AM on September 17, 2010


bDiddy,

It's the Vizio XVT553SV. (this).

Vizio is known for being bottom of the barrel, but the XVT line is one of their first attempts to go high-brow. It's a 55" full-array local-dimming set with 120 control zones ! and all the usual bells and whistles (Netflix streaming, WiFi, Bluetooth) and the price is unbeatable - I got it for $1750.

I felt a little dirty buying a Vizio, but I am officially a happy man.
posted by kbanas at 8:10 AM on September 17, 2010


I'd leave everything connected through the receiver, and run a single hdmi from the receiver to the tv.

AFAIK, which is not far, a toslink cable tops out at either lossy DD5.1 or 2.0 PCM -- it can't do 5.1 or higher PCM, or bitstream the new lossless codecs like TrueHD or DTSMA. So the tv can send *most* audio down to the receiver, but it can't send *all* the audio.

Anyway, say you add or have a bluray player. The new lossless codecs, including uncompressed 5.1 or better pcm, really are noticeably better than lossy DD5.1 or lossy DTS. But either you won't be able to hear them, because you don't have an HDMI running from the bluray to the receiver, or to watch a bluray you'll have to switch inputs on the TV to the receiver input and switch inputs on the receiver to the bluray input.

What Onkyo do you have? Is 1080i a limit for even passthrough on the hdmi, or is that just the highest resolution that the receiver will upscale to?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:43 AM on September 17, 2010


Wow, ROU_Xenophobe, that's unfortunate. I was all on board the "through the TV" strategy. I was hoping that there would be an "HDMI out" or some other kind of digital audio output on the back of the TV. Unfortunately, it's either toslink or stereo.

The receiver I have is an Onkyo TX SR606. And, yeah, even went I set the HDMI mode on the receiver to "Auto" or "Passthrough" the TV still says it's a 1080i signal. I can't manually set 1080p as an output option, either - 1080i is as high as it goes.

My friend said that it didn't matter - the TV would just deinterlace the 1080i signal and it would be 1080p anyway. He also indicated that the video processing on the TV would be way better than any video processing done on the receiver, so I would likely see better video quality through the "pass-through the TV" option.

But I didn't know that about the audio output.

There's always fucking something.
posted by kbanas at 8:53 AM on September 17, 2010


Your receiver will pass through any HDMI signals as they are (even 1080p). It only upscales non HD signals to 1080i (and IME decent AVRs will upscale much better than your TV).

I would go back to your previous setup and use a single HDMI up to the TV.
posted by wongcorgi at 9:11 AM on September 17, 2010


Confirmation of what ROU_Xenophobe was saying. I don't know why the TVs don't provide HDMI out. Isn't it really easy to pass the signal through unmolested? Is the problem HDCP?
posted by smackfu at 9:13 AM on September 17, 2010


The receiver I have is an Onkyo TX SR606.

The 606 is supposed to be able to pass through 1080p. Ours did before the hdmi crapouts got to be too much to bear.

Maybe you have a bad cable?

Or, the 606 seems to be extraordinarily prone to hdmi fuckups because of some bad design and cheap materials. Apparently they got a load of cheap-ass capacitors that suck, and they put them on the hdmi card that sits right on top of other components that get hugely hot, so they break and how. If you're having other weird hdmi problems, like refusing to connect unless the receiver warms up for a while, it's just your receiver fixin' to die. Soon you'll have the choice of just not using hdmi or getting a new receiver.

Alternately, do you have any 1080p signals to send through the receiver?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:35 AM on September 17, 2010


Oh my god.

My first 606 did this, and I returned it after two weeks of wonky HDMI behavior. I've always liked Onkyo, so its sad to hear this is epidemic on the 606. I bought it in part because of the rave reviews. Do you still use yours, ROU?

As for 1080p signal, my XBox 360 is connected via HDMI through my receiver, and is set up for 1080p output. The TV still says 1080i. I'm unclear if I would ever notice a difference?
posted by kbanas at 9:48 AM on September 17, 2010


What about if you send HDMI direct to the TV from each device and send audio direct to the receiver? You'd have to then switch video inputs and audio inputs, but maybe the remote would handle that? I don't know if the Vizio remote handles macros or not. If it doesn't, then this is a bulky solution that I would hate to use so wouldn't recommend. Unless you want to buy a 3rd party remote like a Logitech Harmony, or something similar.

Anyway, that's sort of how my current system is setup.
posted by bDiddy at 10:09 AM on September 17, 2010


What about if you send HDMI direct to the TV from each device and send audio direct to the receiver?

I could totally get behind that, but I don't know how. Like, take my X-Box. It has an HDMI out. Is there a way to split it? Like, break it out into *TWO* HDMI cables - one I can plug into the receiver (for audio) and one I can plug into the TV (for video?)
posted by kbanas at 10:47 AM on September 17, 2010


I don't know for sure. On my XBox I don't have HDMI, just component, but the adapter also has an optical audio link too. So does my Tivo. But my Xbox is old. If you have the XBox elite (I think) it should have come with an audio breakout cable. If you have the brandy-new Xbox, i don't know.
posted by bDiddy at 11:11 AM on September 17, 2010


Do you still use yours, ROU?

Not right now. The HDMI got just too much to endure. We still have it, though, and we'll probably put it in the bedroom and hook up the fios box and a dvd player through component at some point.

Some sources will allow you to send video through hdmi and audio another way, but only hdmi has the bandwidth to handle surround pcm or the newer audio codecs. Or, if there are any, bluray players with line-level outputs for each channel. But the PS3 won't do that and the PS3 is the most mackin'-est bluray player.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:26 AM on September 17, 2010


Some sources will allow you to send video through hdmi and audio another way, but only hdmi has the bandwidth to handle surround pcm or the newer audio codecs. Or, if there are any, bluray players with line-level outputs for each channel. But the PS3 won't do that and the PS3 is the most mackin'-est bluray player.

So, that settles it. I'll run the HDMI into the Onyko and then route it up to the TV.

For now.

Heh.
posted by kbanas at 11:34 AM on September 17, 2010


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