How to Connect TVs to Speakers or Stereos Systems

Audio and video cables plugged in, close-up
Jeffrey Coolidge/Photodisc/Getty Images

The basic speakers built into televisions are generally too small and inadequate to deliver the kind of good sound you deserve. If you've spent all that time selecting a large-screen television and setting up the perfect viewing environment, the audio should properly complement the experience. Over-the-air and cable/satellite broadcasts for movies, sports, and other programs are almost always produced in stereo (sometimes in surround sound) and generally of excellent quality. The practical and convenient way to best enjoy television sound is to pair a TV directly to a stereo or home theater system using analog or digital connections.

You'll likely need a 4-6 ft analog audio cable with stereo RCA or miniplug jacks. If your equipment supports HDMI connections, then be sure to pick up those cables as well (leave the others for backup). And a small flashlight might be handy to illuminate the dark corners behind the receiver and television.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 15 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Place the stereo receiver or amplifier as close as possible to the TV, while still being in reach of other devices (e.g. cable/satellite set-top box, DVD player, turntable, Roku, etc). Ideally, the TV should be no further than 4-6 ft away from the stereo receiver, else a longer connection cable will be needed. Before connecting any cables make sure all equipment has been turned off.
  2. Locate the analog or digital audio output jack on the television. For analog, the output is often labeled AUDIO OUT and could be two RCA jacks or a single 3.5 mm mini-jack. For digital sound, locate the optical digital output or HDMI OUT port.
  3. Locate an unused analog audio input on your stereo receiver or amplifier. Any unused analog input is fine, such as VIDEO 1, VIDEO 2, DVD, AUX, or TAPE. Most likely the input on the stereo or home theater receiver is an RCA jack. For digital connections, locate an unused optical digital or HDMI input port.
  4. Using a cable with the appropriate plugs on each end, connect the audio output from the television to the audio input of the receiver or amplifier. This is a good time to label the ends of cables, especially if your system has a variety of components. It can be something as simple as writing on small strips of paper and taping it around cords like little flags. If you ever need to adjust connections in the future, this will eliminate a lot of guesswork.
  1. Once everything is plugged in, turn on the receiver/amplifier and television. Make sure the volume on the receiver is at a low setting before testing the connection. Select the correct input on the receiver and turn the volume up slowly. If no sound is heard, first check that the Speaker A/B switch is active. You may also need to access the menu on the television in order to turn off the internal speakers and turn on the audio output of the television.

If you also use a cable/satellite box, expect to have another set of cords for that. The audio output from the cable/satellite box will connect to a different audio input on the receiver/amplifier (i.e. if VIDEO 1 was set for the TVs over-the-air audio, then choose VIDEO 2 for cable/satellite). The process is similar if you have audio to input from other sources, like digital media players, DVD players, turntables, mobile devices, and more.