How do I connect PC/TV/Surround sound so they all play nice together?
July 29, 2013 12:11 PM   Subscribe

A year ago, I bought a new TV with HDMI capability and hooked it up to my PC to work as a monitor (with a straight HDMI cable connection). IT. IS. AWESOME. I just moved into a new place with more room and now want to connect my surround sound system (5 speakers) to this setup as well. This is the receiver I'm considering purchasing and from what I can tell, will do what I need. Extra potentially pertinent info:
  • PC has two HDMI ports (one on the video card)
  • Nintendo Wii connected directly to TV via RCA cables
  • BluRay player connected to TV via HDMI cable
I want my setup to allow me to use the surround sound at all times (when watching broadcast TV, when using the TV as the PC monitor, when using the BluRay player and when using the Wii (this is the least important)). I'm assuming the TV will connect to the receiver (via HDMI) and the PC will also connect to the receiver (via HDMI) and all other hook-ups will remain as-is. Thanks in advance for any advice or tips on how to make this easy! This will be my dream setup so I'm excited to get it right.
posted by Twicketface to Technology (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This sounds like a simple answer: but use the optical out from the TV to the receiver. Am I missing something else?
posted by General Malaise at 12:25 PM on July 29, 2013

Many TVs don't pass sound on from other devices. Meaning everything (Wii, Blu-Ray player, PC) will probably have to be connected directly to the receiver.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:28 PM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

2bucksplus has it. Decent receivers will upconvert the analog signals from the wii to hdmi(get a component cable on amazon! Do 480p, theyre like $10 and it makes a HUGE difference).

You connect everything to the receiver, then connect the hdmi out on it to the TV.

Onkyo is the brand I'd recommend(along with HK) so that one looks fine to be. Google around to verify it converts analog signals to hdmi, and that it has component(not just yellow/red/white composite) inputs. That amazon page is fairly useless for those kind of specs :/
posted by emptythought at 12:39 PM on July 29, 2013

TVs don't normally have a standard HDMI out over a separate cable, but might support Audio Return Channel, back out over the same cable as the HDMI input (if the receiver also supports that, I haven't looked at the manuals).

I've found the best way to hook up the Wii in a similar system, is component cable into the TV's Y,Pb,Pr, Audio, then optical out from the TV back to the receiver. The optical cable will carry up to 5-channel sound, but the Wii only uses stereo anyway.
posted by wilko at 12:47 PM on July 29, 2013

The wii actually does support surround, but maybe not passing through something else like that. It's some old school Dolby DTS type stuff though. Plugged directly in to the receiver you might be able to get some action out of it.
posted by emptythought at 12:52 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a Sony Soundbar (bar + receiver) that I use with (a) PC (b) PS3 (c) from-the-wall tv service (apartment building; whatever's free; no cable box/service) and (d) ipod connection. After a little trial and error, this is what works:

Setup part 1:

Ipod adaptor (component)>REC "TV IN" ---> when we had the Wii hooked up via component cables, it took this spot

REC "OUT TO TV" >HDMI>TV "HDMI 2" (#2 was more convenient)

To watch PS3, the A/V receiver is set to "BD" and the TV is set to "HDMI 2"; for PC and iPod, the receiver setting changes but the TV stays on HDMI 2

Setup part 2:

WALL (coax)>TV "TV"
TV Optical out>REC "SAT IN"

To watch TV, the TV is set to "TV" (whaa??) and the A/V receiver is set to "SAT"

I strongly recommend you get a good remote like the Logitech Harmony 650 (and up) - you program it so that you only have to press "Watch TV" and it turns everything on and puts it on the right setting. You also set it so it knows that you want channel up/down to affect the TV but sound up/down to affect the A/V receiver. So much easier than a million remotes.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:59 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think General Malaise has it. Just run an optical cable from the "Optical/Digital Out" on your TV to the receiver.

Then plug everything into your TV like you normally would.

Once you've got the proper input setting on the Receiver, all audio should magically (not really) run through that optical cable to the receiver.

You may have a setting on your LG TV to say you're using external speakers, so turn that on too.

melissasaurus's recommendations for a Logitech Harmony remote is sound as well.
posted by backwards guitar at 1:40 PM on July 29, 2013

I should add that I have a pre-HDMI Onkyo receiver and a Panasonic Plasma TV, and follow my advice above, and it works perfectly.
posted by backwards guitar at 1:42 PM on July 29, 2013

Be warned. If you plugin everything to the TV then optical to the receiver, everything might be downsampled to Dolby prolific (fancier stereo) instead of true surround.
For best results plugin everything direct to the receiver.
posted by TheAdamist at 2:20 PM on July 29, 2013

If you're doing optical out from the TV, make sure it's set to bitstream out instead of PCM for full surround sound (which will be decoded by the receiver). The TV may not support bitstream passthrough from the other devices though. PCM output from the tv would be stereo only, which could be converted to surround sound via Dolby Pro Logic, in which case check if the TV supports automatic or surround compatible stereo modes for best results.

Having said that I would start by connecting everything directly to the receiver where possible.
posted by TwoWordReview at 4:01 PM on July 29, 2013

Best answer: Wow, lots of folks are getting this terribly wrong. The SPDIF (whether optical or coaxial) is physically incapable of transporting more than 1.5Mbps. This means that you get at best stereo PCM or old-style Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1 surround, but lossy. This sucks for Blu-Rays or anything else that has a lossless surround sound track. Unless you have the worst speakers in the world, you will be able to tell the difference.

Therefore, what you want to do is this: Get a set of component cables for the Wii, which will allow you to have the highest possible quality video. Plug those wires into component inputs and the associated L+R audio input on the Onkyo. The Wii does not do digital audio output, so you're not losing anything.

The Blu-Ray player should absolutely be plugged into your reciever using HDMI. Period. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise. The PC should also be plugged into your receiver using HDMI. You can actually also use a DVI to HDMI cable if you didn't have an HDMI port. Some Nvidia cards can actually detect this and will output audio over your DVI to HDMI cable like some sort of black magic. If your video card is of recent enough vintage and you have the right drivers, your PC will output multichannel PCM and possibly even pass through lossless DTS-HD MA or Dolby TrueHD tracks.

The TV should then be connected using HDMI to the receiver and an optical or coaxial SPDIF cable should be connected from the TV's output to the receiver if the TV does not support audio return. (the TX-NR515 does, so the TV would be the limitation here). Broadcast and cable TV do not support anything better than Dolby Digital at 640Kbps or so, so the SPDIF connection will not degrade anything.

To summarize: Connect the TV's HDMI input to your receiver's HDMI output. If you don't get sound out of the amplifier from regular TV, connect a SPDIF cable from the TV's output to an input on the receiver. Connect your Blu-Ray player and computer's HDMI ports to HDMI inputs on the receiver. Connect the Wii to the one of receiver's component and matching L+R stereo inputs.

I'll third the recommendation for a Harmony remote. They're easy to program and take all the confusion out of it when you let someone else use your system while still giving you all the lossless goodness. If you have a really modern TV, you don't actually need it because all the input changing should happen automagically when you turn on whatever input device you want to use, but as with any relatively new tech, it sometimes doesn't interoperate well. When the tech doesn't just work, the Harmony is there. ;)
posted by wierdo at 5:27 PM on July 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

I should note that you could connect the Wii directly to the TV, as it wouldn't make a difference in audio or video quality (the TX-NR515 isn't high end enough to have a better video scaler than most not-low-end TVs), but I personally prefer to only use one device as a switch.
posted by wierdo at 5:29 PM on July 29, 2013

The Wii does support Dolby Pro Logic II, which is an analog surround sound technology (the Wii uses matrixing to encode surround information on the stereo signal). The Onkyo also supports it (it can decode the information and send it to the appropriate channels). On the receiver, you'll want to set the "listening mode" for the Wii to "Dolby Pro Logic II" (if you have a 5.1 system) or "Dolby Pro Logic II x" (if you have a 7.1 system). See page En-41 of the full manual for the TX-NR515.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:42 PM on July 29, 2013

Best answer: So to sum up:

You'll need one of these TOSLINK (S/PDIF optical) cables, possibly two.

You go:
Blu Ray: HDMI out of Blu-Ray player -> HDMI in "1" on receiver
TV, to get video to the TV: HDMI out on receiver -> HDMI in on TV
TV, to get audio from the TV to your surround system: S/PDIF out on TV -> S/PDIF in on receiver (Digital In "2", TV), with the optical cable.
PC: HDMI out on video card -> HDMI in "4" on receiver. You may have to do an S/PDIF dance (optical or coaxial) depending on your driver's/videocard's willingness to coöperate.
Wii (video): AV Port on Wii -> Component video in on receiver (YPbPr)
Wii (audio): audio outs on Wii -> Game audio in on receiver.

Then you'll have to do some configuring on the receiver and TV, assigning the YPbPr in to the Wii (p. En-51) and sacrificing a chicken (rubber is fine) to the Dolby Pro Logic II gods.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:08 PM on July 29, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks all! Components arrive tomorrow!
posted by Twicketface at 7:08 AM on July 30, 2013

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