Step By Step: How to Set Up an A/V Receiver

A receiver is your home theater's brain as well as its brawn. It doesn't just power your speakers; it's also the switching center for your gear and decodes the various surround sound formats. After connecting your speakers and components, here are the steps to take to ensure your receiver produces all the sound you paid for.

Step 1: RUN VIDEO CABLE TO TV Many receivers can send their setup menu to your TV, but you need to connect a cable from the receiver's Monitor Output to your set. (If your model doesn't send menus via HDMI or component video, you'll need to make a composite- or S-video connection.)

Step 2: ACCESS SETUP MENU People often take a cavalier, "See you in hell, owner's manual!" approach to setting up their gear, but a quick look through the manual will tell you which button on the receiver or its remote grants you access to the setup menu. Once in, you'll see a list of options that'll make your receiver shine.

Many recent receivers offer Auto Setup and include a calibration microphone. If yours does, take advantage of it. Set the mike at your primary seating position and run the setup, which sets speaker size, channel level, and delay. At this point, you could skip to Step 7, but I recommend completing all the steps, double-checking the settings your receiver calculated.

Step 3: SET SPEAKER SIZE The setup menu will let you set the speaker size to Large, Small, or None (the last if, for instance, you don't use a center speaker). This refers not to the physical size of your speakers but to how much bass they can handle. Speakers set to Large will be sent the full-range channel information, while those set to Small will bass frequencies from their channels routed to the subwoofer. (THX recommends setting all speakers to Small.)

Step 4: SET CROSSOVER POINTS You can choose the best crossover point for any speakers you set as Small. Many receivers default to the THX-standard 80 Hz, but if your speakers perform better at a different cutoff, select that. Some receivers use the same crossover for all speakers selected Small, while others allow you to set the crossover for each individually.