How to connect RCA surround sound to HDMI TV?
November 28, 2012 9:53 AM   Subscribe

How to best connect a surround sound with RCA plugs to everything HDMI, or in reverse? Full explanation inside.

Okay, we have the following items hooked up to an RCA switch, then just switch to the one we wish. I am a visual learner and so this is the present diagram on how we hook things up.

Diagram is here.

For my birthday, I am getting a HDTV. Everything is HDMI friendly except for the surround sound. There is no HDMI input (nor output for that matter). The TV has 3 HDMI connections which works, except for the sound.

So all of this is to ask, how can I make the sound work with this TV? Obviously there is something I need to get, but I'm not sure what it would be called. This perhaps? The TV doesn't have the best sound, but we want to use our speakers in some way though, hopefully.

If I manage to get something, will it still have surround sound, or will it turn mono? You have to talk to me like I'm a two-year-old because I've no idea about any of this stuff.
posted by magnoliasouth to Technology (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Okay, well, what inputs DOES the surround sound system have? JUST rca? No optical? Does the TV have any outputs(your diagram has the surround sound pumping input into the tv, which I assume is just a mistake)?
posted by MangyCarface at 9:57 AM on November 28, 2012

Response by poster: I thought the HDMI went both ways. LOL! Figures, I know nothing.

It says "5.1 Digital Audio Output". Hopefully that's what you need to know.
posted by magnoliasouth at 10:01 AM on November 28, 2012

Response by poster: Oh and the surround, you're right that doesn't make any sense. Obviously a mistake. It's backwards. It should be TV to surround. I fixed it.
posted by magnoliasouth at 10:04 AM on November 28, 2012

It says "5.1 Digital Audio Output". Hopefully that's what you need to know.

No, that's not enough. What do the actual connectors on your receiver look like?
posted by griphus at 10:05 AM on November 28, 2012

Response by poster: The surround is RCA only, but there are only RCA. 7 white, 7 red and 4 yellow. There are no other in/outs except the wire clip thing for the speakers themselves.

When you say "receiver" I'm assuming that you're asking about the sound?
posted by magnoliasouth at 10:10 AM on November 28, 2012

First of all, it would help if we had the model number of the surround sound system(is it an all-in-one package? Standalone receiver?) and what kind of speaker setup you have, i.e. stereo or 5.1. When you say RCA, do you mean red/white or a single wire? We also don't know if the Roku, DirecTV, and/or DVD player are HDMI-capable, which changes the whole equation.

Also, most surround setups automatically switch inputs and outputs, making an RCA switch unnecessary. In my 5.1 setup, every A/V source goes into the receiver. That way, whenever I switch inputs in the receiver, it automatically switches everything to that source to be output to the TV and speakers.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:19 AM on November 28, 2012

I also wonder what the "surround sound" is. Manufacturer and model number please!

The short answer is that you probably want to run

(1) HDMI from directv to tv
(2) HDMI from dvd to tv -- if it doesn't have one, you can get bluray players for $80-100. Or spring for a PS3. On a decent hdtv, a well-mastered bluray makes dvd look like dog barf.
(3) HDMI from roku to tv
(4) RCA from the tv's audio-out L+R to an input on the "surround sound."

Then you'd use the tv's input selector to switch between sources, and throw away your RCA switch.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:28 AM on November 28, 2012

BTW: if the surround works where you plug in audio l/r into the surround and it dumps out surround, that means it's old dolby matrix surround which is sort of, vaguely, like surround but not really. Actual discrete 5.1/7.1 surround is vastly better.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:30 AM on November 28, 2012

This may be easier if you can upload a photo of the back of your TV and the back of the receiver.
posted by griphus at 10:30 AM on November 28, 2012

Can you hook DirectTV, DVD, Roku into HDTV via HDMI and then the TV (according to your diagram, and also most HDTV's that I've encountered) has a RCA sound output which can go into your receiver?

Mine is hooked up like this, except the sound output from the TV isn't RCA its optical. Also I think I thought RCA could only be stereo, does your receiver support 5.1?
posted by czytm at 10:31 AM on November 28, 2012

If you can't plug in a HDMI cable into your stereo receiver (you do have a stereo receiver, right?) does your TV and stereo receiver support digital coaxial or optical (TOS-link) for sound?

If your receiver only supports RCA connections (the Red and White plugs) then you should start shopping for a new receiver. RCA connections are only ever going to give you Stereo sound, you will never get true 5.1 surround sound audio without a digital audio connection - coaxial, optical or HDMI are the three main options.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 10:34 AM on November 28, 2012

By "receiver" everyone means the box you're referring to as "surround sound".
posted by czytm at 10:36 AM on November 28, 2012

Response by poster: Sorry, I thought I mentioned that all others are HDMI. All are HDMI, so I'm really only wanting to know about the surround sound.

It's an RCA (which makes that even more confusing) Surround Sound System model number: RV9900A

The manual (if it matters) is located here. The only problem is on pg 5. I don't see a coax connection.

The diagram is for my present setup without the TV. :( That's my old fashioned obsolete one, unfortunately.

The back of the receiver is on pg 5 at link above, except the coax part. I need a few minutes for the back of the NEW TV.
posted by magnoliasouth at 10:39 AM on November 28, 2012

Response by poster: Okay, well I can't get the picture right now. I'm at work and I was hoping my son could email me one, but he's out.

I'll have to come back to this tonight. I appreciate all the help and will go over this tonight when I get home. Many thanks!
posted by magnoliasouth at 10:46 AM on November 28, 2012

I found an image of the back of your receiver here. There are no digital input connections on this receiver so far as I can tell, so it's doubtful this receiver is even capable of decoding 5.1 surround sound.

In looking at the manual, it looks like it's from 1996, which means it pre-dates the arrival of home DVD players by a couple years, which is what really drove digital surround sound receiver adoption. Time to buy a new one.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 10:46 AM on November 28, 2012

Yeah, wow, this system is sixteen years old, which explains a lot. If the TV only does HDMI output, you'll need to get an HDMI -> component audio converter, which does the reverse of what you linked to. But that won't get you actual 5.1 sound, I don't think
posted by griphus at 10:47 AM on November 28, 2012

Okay, looking closer at the diagram, there's no way your receiver does 5.1
posted by griphus at 10:48 AM on November 28, 2012

If the manual's correct, that's not a surround sound system, it's purely stereo 2-channel. And not to put too fine a point on it, but you have a system from before DVDs came out, which is not entirely useless in a home theater setup, but...
posted by zombieflanders at 10:48 AM on November 28, 2012

As you describe it, the surround will still work as-is, even with the HDMI substitutions in the rest of the system - HDMI carries digital sound. The RCA you have to run from the TV to the surround sound does not carry all of the digital channels, though, so your receiver will have to fake the surround sound portion - it'll sample out the lower frequencies and play them from the back speakers, and the even lower ones from the sub. It'll still be stereo, though. So basically you're "okay" with this setup and not buying anything extra.

edit: okay yeah it's not 5.1 but you personally will probably not be able to tell the difference
posted by MangyCarface at 10:48 AM on November 28, 2012

Wait, hang on, do you actually have a physical 5.1 (two front speakers, two back speakers, subwoofer) setup?
posted by griphus at 10:51 AM on November 28, 2012

To be brutally honest, I'd just get a cheap new receiver that has at least 3 HDMI inputs and 1 HDMI output--which should be most if not all of them--and save yourself the hassle. That way, all you have to do is connect a single HDMI wire from each of your sources to the receiver, one from the receiver to the HDTV, and hook up your speakers. Sooooo much easier.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:52 AM on November 28, 2012

Here is a diagram of what I was talking about if it makes it more clear. It assumes your hdtv has RCA audio outputs.
posted by czytm at 12:10 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

czytm has it. Nothing complicated to this at all.

Now, you're not going to get full surround, because your receiver was never capable of reproducing full surround. You'll (probably) get what you're used to, but if you enjoy surround now it is virtually certain that you would enjoy it a baskrillion times more with a modern receiver; basically anything that has several hdmi's in and one or two out will do ya.

It'll still be stereo, though.

Not quite... NERDERY AHOY!

It has old Dolby Pro Logic. What this does is extract a sort of surround from a stereo signal. It looks at the left and right channel for material that is exactly the same in both channels. It sends that duplicated material either to the center channel or the surround channel depending (IIRC) on whether that material is in-phase or out-of-phase with the material that differs between left and right.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:15 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well, I was kinda working on a whole "explain it like I'm 5" thing, but on preview czytm & ROU Xenophobe are spot on.
posted by soundguy99 at 12:20 PM on November 28, 2012

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