Setting up a surroundbar home theater system
Want to set up a home theater surround sound system? It is much more difficult to set up a surround sound system today than it was a few years ago. There is HDMI, assignable inputs, new surround sound formats… and even when you have a system that seems to work and make sound, chances are it is not performing as well as it should. Receiver and Blu-ray player manuals are hard to understand and are often written without the other components in mind. Whatever to do?This home theater surround system setup guide makes it so simple ANYONE can do it. Each step is explained clearly from connecting the speakers to using the receiver’s and Blu-ray player’s on-screen menus. Follow it step-by-step and great results will be yours!Equipment used for this tutorial:
- Onkyo TX-SR806 receiver
- Sony BDP-S550 Blu-ray player
- Definitive Technology SSA-50
- Definitive Technology ProSub 1000
Comments about the equipment and why I chose it are at the end of this setup guide.Connection cables and wires
- 3 HDMI cables
- Subwoofer cable
- 50 feet of speaker wire, 16 gauge
Don’t forget… do NOT buy expensive HDMI cables! For more information see my page Buy HDMI and A/V Cables for under $5.00.Tools you will need
- Wire strippers
A word about receiver automatic setup features
Most surround sound receivers have an automatic calibration feature that uses a microphone to automatically set speaker levels and distance and with some systems, adjust the sound to match your room acoustics. In most cases these systems do not work very well and you get better results doing the adjustments by hand. (Pioneer’s MCACC is a notable exception.) Automatic calibration is completely incompatible with surroundbars because of the speaker configuration so it will not be discussed at all here.
PART ONE: Connecting the Surroundbar to the Receiver
The Mythos SSA-50 has speaker connections for five channels.
1. Cut the wire into five 10-foot lengths.Comments: A 10-foot length may seem like a bit more than necessary because the surround bar will be close to the TV and receiver, it is best to have extra to accommodate winding it through the cabinet to the speaker, as well as making it easy to connect when the receiver is out of the cabinet. Better too much length than not enough!
Using a wire stripper to remove insulation
2. Strip the insulation off of both ends of the wire. Twist the bare wire so it is smooth and firm.Comments: You can do this by cutting the plastic insulation with scissors, but an inexpensive wire stripper will make the task much easier.
Connected surround right terminal
3. Connect the bare wire to a speaker terminal, making sure polarity is correct.Comments: The wire is marked with either a ridge, a stripe, or writing to show polarity. I use the marked end with the positive (red) terminal. Make sure you have a good connection and no bare is sticking out the other side of the terminal as this can cause a short.
4. Take the other end of the wire and attach a piece of tape. Mark it with the channel connect. This is right surround, so it is marked RS.
…with 5 labeled wires.
5. Repeat the process for the other five channels. With wiring complete, we will now set up the surroundbar stand.
Mythos SSA-50 bracket
6. Attach the bracket to the back of the surroundbar, passing the wires through the space provided.
Adjustable foot for Mythos SSA-50 (included)
7. Attach the leveling feet.
Comments: If the surroundbar will be wall mounted, the feet will not be used.
Definitive Technology Mythos SSA-50 with grille removed
8. Place the surroundbar in front of the TV and pass the wires through the cabinet to where the receiver will be placed. The surroundbar is now ready to be connected to the receiver.
Back of Onkyo TX-SR806 receiver- speaker terminals are on the bottom
Connecting the first speaker channel
9. Connect the speaker wires to the corresponding terminal on the receiver. The labels will make it easy to match each wire to the appropriate terminal.
Comments: Again, be careful you do not have bare wire sticking out, as this can cause a short.
All 5 speaker channels connected from receiver to surroundbar
Nice job! Now that the surroundbar is connected to the receiver, we will now connect the subwoofer, Blu-ray player and cable box.
Part Two: Connecting the Subwoofer, Cable Box, and Blu-ray player
Connecting the subwoofer cable to the receiver
1. Locate the subwoofer output on the receiver. Connect the subwoofer cable and pass it through the equipment cabinet to where you have placed the subwoofer.
Connecting the subwoofer cable to the subwoofer
2. Connect the subwoofer cable to the LFE IN connection on the subwoofer.
Comments: LFE stands for “Low Frequency Effects” and is the .1 in 5.1. 5.1= 5 full channels and an LFE channel.
Cable box HDMI connection
3. Using an HDMI cable, connect the cable box to the corresponding HDMI input on the receiver. Note the “Assignable” label in the illustration above; it will be important later.
Comments: If it is a satellite box, it is the same thing as a cable box. “Cable box” is used here as it is the most common connection in the USA and Canada.
4. Using an HDMI cable, connect the Blu-ray player to the corresponding HDMI input on the receiver.
Comments: Blu-ray players also play DVDs and CDs so it should be the only disc player you need.
The receiver’s HDMI output goes to the television
5. Connect an HDMI cable to the HDMI OUT connection on the receiver.
TV HDMI input
6. Connect the HDMI OUT from the receiver to the HDMI IN on the TV.
You’re done connecting the speakers and components- congratulations!
Why was everything connected this way? Why only one input on the TV, for two devices?
Whenever you select an input on the receiver not only will it play the sound from the connected component, the proper video signal will automatically be routed to the TV. It’s much simpler than constantly switching TV inputs and receiver inputs. Just select your source on the receiver remote and enjoy.
Antenna connections on TX-SR806
7. If you plan on listening to AM and FM radio, connect the included antennas to the antenna connections.
Comments: Notice how the 75 ohm FM antenna connection looks just like a similar connection on a TV? An ordinary set of TV rabbit ears makes an AWESOME antenna for FM… try it and see!
PART TWO: Configuring the Receiver
The remote’s setup button will call up the setup menus
1. Turn on the TV and select the HDMI 1 input. Turn on the receiver and press the SETUP button on the remote control.
Main setup menu
2. The main setup menu will appear. This is where the system will be configured for your equipment and room.
3. Select Input Assign, then HDMI Input.
Comments: This is where you will tell your receiver what component is connected to which input.
Menu as it first appears
Menu with first three inputs configure correctly. I’m about to turn off the game input.
Set Digital Audio Inputs to match HDMI inputs .
4. Configure the inputs to match the components as you connected them. Turn the others off. In this case, the Blu-ray player is connected to Input 1 and the cable box to Input 3. Press Return on the remote, select Digital Audio Input and set them to match the HDMI inputs as shown above.
Press Return on the remote to go back to the Main Menu
5. Press return to go back to the Main Menu.
6. Select Speaker Setup from the Main Menu, then go to Speaker Settings.
Comments: This is where we will configure the receiver to work with the Mythos SSA surroundbar. If you have a conventional 5.1 channel system, the following steps still apply.
7. In Speaker Settings, select normal and 6 ohms. Press return to go back to the Speaker Setup Menu.
Comments: The Onkyo TX-SR806 is one of the few modestly-priced receivers that will work with 4-ohm speakers. The available settings are 4 ohms and 6 ohms. The 4-ohm setting is used only with 4-ohm speakers. If you are using 6-ohm speakers like Ohm Walsh speakers or 8-ohm speakers like the Mythos SSA-50, select 6 ohms.
Speaker Configuration Menu as it first appears
Speaker Configuration Menu after proper setup
8. Select Speaker Configuration from the Speaker Setup Menu. Since you have a subwoofer, set Subwoofer to Yes. The Mythos SSA-50 specifies crossover frequencies of 120Hz for all channels, so set Front, Center, and Surround to 120Hz and LPF of LFE to 120 Hz. Surround Back should be set to none, which will gray out Surround Bck Ch setting since it will not be used. Double Bass is set to Off.
Comments: If you have a conventional system with five separate speakers and subwoofer, look at your speaker’s manual to determine the proper crossover frequencies for your speakers.
Speaker Distance Menu
9. Press Return on the remote, the select the Speaker Distance Menu. In this case the sub and surroundbar were 15 feet from the listener, so all are set to 15 feet.
Comments: Surroundbars perform best when the listener is closer than this, but the system still sounded great once it was all set up. If you have five separate speakers, set the distance from each speaker to your seating area acccordingly. Unlike a surroundbar setup, distances will likely be different for each speaker.
Selection 4: Level Calibration
Set Surround Channels to +7dB as a starting point, as recommended in the manual.
10. Set the subwoofer’s volume control to 50%. Press Return on the remote, the select the Level Calibration Menu. Test tones will play. Set the surround channels to + 7 dB to start, as recommended by Definitive Technology. All the others will remain the same. When you set the subwoofer, make adjustments by ear so it sounds about the same as the center channel’s volume.
Comments: If you are using a system with five separate speakers, adjust them by ear so they all have about the same volume. If you like more noticeable surround effects, turn the surround channels up a tad louder than the others. When I publish a seperate setup guide for a 5.1 channel system with five separate speakers and a subwoofer I will show you how to use an inexpensive sound pressure meter to set levels with scientific precision.
Select Source Setup…
..then Name Edit to rename the inputs, if desired.
11. Press Return twice to remain to the Main Menu, then select Source Setup, then Name Edit. Here you can rename your inputs if desired. In the illustration above I am changing DVD to Blu-ray. It will now show as Blu-ray on the receiver’s display when it is selected.
Comments: This is especially useful if you have two different video games in use, as you can name one input PS3 and the other XBox 360, rather than remembering which one is connected to Input 1 and which to Input 2.
HDMI Hardware Setup
12. Return to the Main Menu and select Hardware Setup. Set Monitor Out to HDMI and Output Resolution to Through.
Comments: Setting the Output Resolution to Through means the receiver will not apply any additional, unwanted processing to the video signals sent through the receiver.
13. Press Return until the menus are all gone. Your receiver is now configured!
PART 3: Setting up the Blu-ray player
Sony BDP-S550 Setup Menu
1. Select the Blu-ray player on your receiver, turn on the Blu-ray player and press Setup on the remote. The Setup Menu will appear.
2. Go to Video Settings. The HDTV is a 1080p model that will accept a 24 fps (frames per second) input, so set Output Resolution to 1080p and 1080/24p to Auto. Leave all other settings unchanged.
Comments: If your TV is 720p pr 1080i, set the output resolution accordingly. The 1080p/24 setting will provide smoother motion with Blu-ray discs encoded at 1080p/24 (that would be most all of them.)
3. Go to Audio Settings and set Audio (HDMI) to Auto, 48/96kHz PCM to 96 kHz/24 bit and BD Audio Setting to Mix.
Comments: The BDP-S550 decodes high-def audio internally (see my page Blu-ray Audio Explained) so selecting mix decodes the audio internally and mixes menu and picture-in-picture sounds. If you want the receiver to decode the high-def audio, set the Audio Setting to Direct. Some feel this sounds better than internal decoding, but you lose the menu sounds and picture-in-picture audio. Few players decode high-def audio internally, so you will probably be using the Direct setting. This is also called “HD Audio” and Bitstream” on some players.
4. Press return on the Blu-ray player remote to exit setup. The player is now set to work with your HDTV and receiver.
Ready to go!
You’re all done! Can you believe it? Time to watch some movies!
- Just select whatever you want to watch on the remote and the proper video signal will be sent to the TV and sound will come from the sound system.
- Be sure to remember to select the high-def audio track when watching Blu-ray discs. It isn’t the default track in most cases. Again, see my page Blu-ray Audio Explained.
Final speaker level settings
- You may need to do some fine tuning. In this system the +7 for the surround channels was a bit much and made it sound a bit hollow. Turning them down to +5.5dB and bumping the center channel up to + 1 dB evened things out and yielded a wonderful-sounding system.
About the equipment:
Definitive Technology Mythos SSA-42 and SSA-50
Surroundbar: The critically-acclaimed Definitive Technology Mythos SSA-40 and SSA-50 are the finest single-piece surround speakers you can buy. They use the design techniques from Definitive’s phenomenal Mythos ST SuperTowers and come in extruded aluminum cabinets… this product positively reeks of quality, in both quality of construction and fine sound. The SSA-42 is sized to work with 42-inch TVs, the SSA-50 with 50-inch and larger and can be used wall-mounted or with the included leveling feet. Mythos SSA speakers are a perfect solution for systems where running separate surround speakers is not an option, and they sound great with both movies and music. Both are used with conventional surround sound receivers for the best in performance and flexibility. A subwoofer is required for the best sound as they only go down to 120 Hz. Both are available in black and brushed aluminum finishes.
Definitive Technology ProSub 1000- note volume control on side
Subwoofer: The Definitive Technology ProSub 1000 is a perfect match for Definitive Mythos SSA surroundbars and despite its size, can produce deep, solid bass even in very large rooms. The ProSub 800 would be a good choice in a smaller room.
Receiver: The Onkyo TX-SR806 was chosen for its fine sound quality, high-def audio decoding, and robust amplifier section that can even drive 4-ohm speakers. The Mythos SSA-50 does not demand a large amount of power, but this room was quite large so I decided on the TX-SR806 because I wanted to be confident there would always be enough power, even at very loud listening levels. Available in both black and silver.
Blu-ray Player: Sony’s BDP-S550 was chosen for its internal decoding, and to match the Sony HDTV.
Budget version of this system:A Polk SurroundBar and subwoofer, teamed with an Onkyo TX-SR606 and a Samsung BDP-1500 Blu-ray player (set to bitstream audio) will provide a similar experience. It won’t have the same high-end sound quality as the Definitive Technology Mythos SSA speakers but will sound quite good for a total system cost a little over $1000. If you can afford it, go for the gusto and get the Mythos SSA! The Onkyo TX-SR606 will have enough power for the SSA speakers in anything but very large, open rooms.
Thanks for reading!
Any questions or ideas for more setup guides? Send Don an email.