How to Connect a Stereo System or Speakers to a TV

Expand the audio from your TV by connecting it to external speakers

Audio and video cables plugged in, close-up
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The basic speakers built into televisions are generally too small and inadequate to deliver high quality audio or to fill a room with sound. Fortunately, connecting different speakers, like surround sound or a stereo system, is fairly easy.

You'll likely need a 4–6 foot analog audio cable with stereo RCA or miniplug jacks. If the TV and stereo system support HDMI connections, then be sure to pick up those cables as well. Once all the tools are available, hook up the speakers to the TV using the appropriate audio cables, and then power on the TV and speakers.

A small flashlight might be handy to illuminate the dark corners behind the receiver and television.

How to Wire Together a TV and Speakers

Clean out the space around the TV to make room for the speakers and allow for some wiggle room to get things situated, and then follow these steps in order.

  1. Place the stereo receiver or amplifier as close as possible to the TV, while still being in reach of other devices (i.e., leave room for your cable or satellite set-top box, DVD player, Roku, etc.).

    Ideally, the TV should be no further than 4–6 feet away from the stereo receiver, else a longer connection cable will be needed.

  2. Before connecting any cables make sure all equipment has been turned off.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.


  7. Your TV and speakers should be properly wired together now.

Some surround sound systems use wireless connections to reach other speakers in the room. However, the soundbar that plugs into the TV, which the other speakers communicate with, is all you have to connect directly to the TV to verify that the sound works. Contact the manufacturer of the speakers for specific steps on connecting the wireless speakers to the soundbar.

What to Do If the Speakers Don't Make Sound

If no sound is heard, first check that the Speaker A/B switch is active. If the switch is disabled, no sound is allowed through to the speaker system.

Another area you can check if you don't hear sound after connecting the speakers to the TV is the TV menu. If your TV has this option, you may need to turn off the internal speakers and turn on the audio output of the television.

Your audio system itself might have a pause or mute feature that, if enabled, will stop sound from being relayed through the TV to the speakers. If your TV's volume is down or off and the stereo system's volume is muted, it can appear as though something is broken when really you just have to un-mute one or both devices.

Surround sound speakers that support Bluetooth might connect to a nearby phone during the setup process (this can happen by accident during setup as you're clicking buttons). If you think this might be why the speakers aren't playing any sound from the TV, restart the speaker system and temporarily disable Bluetooth on any nearby devices.

If anything, plugging in the audio cables might be the only step you're positive you did correctly, but even that can not always work the first time around. Some cables can be pressed in just enough to be held in place but not far enough to actually work properly. Re-check all the cables by unplugging them and pressing harder this time to be sure they snap into place. If the volume on the speakers are turned up, properly attaching the audio cables should make a sound.