Help me utilize my home theater.
December 31, 2006 7:22 PM   Subscribe

How can I wire my home theater correctly?

I've had a home theater for years now and it's never been wired right. So as of this moment it's a big ass radio that takes up a lot of space. I'm using RCA cables and coax. I have the tv, home theater, Directv dvr, vcr and dvd player. Suggestions to help me hook all this stuff together and make it play nice?
posted by CwgrlUp to Technology (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Well, it shouldn't be that complicated. The home theater acts like a switch. All the inputs go into it, and all the outputs go out of it. So hook the DVR, VCR, and DVD's audio/video outputs into the home theater inputs. Then plug the home theater video output into the TV input. The audio output should already be going to the speakers.
posted by smackfu at 7:47 PM on December 31, 2006

It varies somewhat depending on the receiver.

This assumes you want to use your better stereo speakers for the TV instead of the cheap, terrible, awful speakers in the TV itself.

It also assumes, given the DVR, that you're not using the VCR to record things anymore.

It also also assumes that the coax you speak of is from the dish.


Connect the coax to the dvr. The dvr should have red, white, and yellow RCA outputs. Run these to a set of inputs in your receiver. It doesn't really matter which, but it makes your life easier if you have one that says DVR or A/V1 or something like that.

Ditto the dvd, except that most modern receivers will have an input labeled DVD or DVD/6CH.

Ditto the VCR.

Then look at the back of the receiver. There should be something labeled OUT TO TV or VIDEO MONITOR or something like that, and it should be a yellow RCA connector (and a red and white with it). Connect the yellow output to your tv.

Bang, all your stuff will work except you won't be able to record anything on your VCR.

But this is all very suboptimal.

First, it ignores digital audio. But this is one of those things that varies a lot from receiver to receiver. It's almost as simple as hooking a coaxial or optical connector between the DIGITAL OUT on the dvd to the digital in associated with the DVD/6CH input -- it should be clearly labeled as such on the back of the receiver. But then you'll probably have to do some mysterious something to tell your receiver that you want the DVD/6CH input to use the digital audio connection instead of the red and white RCA inputs. Your DVR might also have digital audio out if you want.

Second, composite video -- the yellow connectors -- sucks. S-video is much better, even to the casual eye. In all probability, all of your stuff except the VCR has s-video output as well as composite. What I would do is either:

(1) Shitcan the VCR and connect everything else with s-video instead of composite.
(2) Get a cheap composite-->s-video converter ($20?) and run the VCR's video output through that before sending it to the receiver.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:54 PM on December 31, 2006

That is assuming that the Receiver supports SVideo. The model of the Receiver would help out determining the exact wiring. Also, depending on the Receiver, you may be able to record to the VCR as well.
posted by stew560 at 9:09 PM on December 31, 2006

CEA Connections Guide
posted by Dave Faris at 1:44 AM on January 1, 2007

Best answer: This is what Dave Faris tried to post: CEA Connections Guide
posted by plokent at 2:19 AM on January 1, 2007

You definitely want to use S-Video or composite if the DVR supports it, even if you have an SDTV. S-Video eliminates the ugly dot crawl in menus that make solid lines look like bugs are crawling along them and component significantly improves the color rendition over S-Video, although it's not nearly as big a difference as S-Video over composite.

In my case, since my home theater system doesn't support S-Video, I have the video running directly from the DVR to the television and the audio hooked up through the home theater amplifier.

Re-reading your question, I see that you have a DirecTV DVR, which definitely supports S-Video. You may have to spend a few dollars on a cable, but given that it's likely the most used component of your a/v system, it's worth the few dollars to buy up to S-Video if your tv or your amplifier supports it.

If you've had the home theater system for years, it's very possible it doesn't support S-Video, so I'll presume it doesn't and your TV does. If it's the TiVo version of the DirecTV DVR it will support optical and coaxial digital (SPDIF), if it's the new non-TiVo DirecTV DVR, it will only support optical, in which case you will need an optical audio cable as well as the S-Video cable (which both the TiVo and the new DVR support)

If your DVR and TV support S-Video and your amplifier does not, connect the S-Video cable to the DVR and your TV. Also connect the optical (or coaxial, if you prefer, since you already have a compatible cable) to your amplifier. You can then choose the corresponding inputs on both the TV and the amplifier and have surround sound with the better video on the TV.

If your amplifier actually supports S-Video, you can rely entirely on the amplifier to do all the switching and not bother with switching the TV and the amplifier separately, in which case you can just connect the DVD player and the DVR over S-Video to the amplifier. The VCR will most likely only support the RCA inputs. If all that is true, the aforementioned CEA connections guide will work fine.
posted by wierdo at 4:21 AM on January 1, 2007

If you do need cables, I suggest -- stuff there seems to cost about 75% less than at your Circuit Citys and Best Buys.

Not shilling, just a satsfied customer.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 4:37 AM on January 1, 2007

As you can see from the components above, hooking up an AV system basically comes down to inventorying all the devices that you have AND THEIR VIDEO I/O CAPABILITIES. Composite is the worst, S-Video is better, component is best, and that's without even getting into digital connections like DVI or HDMI. So you just list it all out and then try to fit everything into your receiver (what you're calling the "home theater"). If you have to use a composite (i.e. crappy) input on the receiver, stick the VCR in there, since the video quality out of the VCR will suck anyway.

And label your cables. I was at a New Years party last night where the hosts was (at 10pm, sigh) trying to reconfigure his surround sound system. I started to help but nothing was labeled and of course he had no clue. Spend the extra 5% of time to label the cables after you've figured out how to hook stuff up.
posted by intermod at 2:43 PM on January 1, 2007

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