Okay, you just got a new HDTV, so now what? How do you set it up? There is more to it than just finding a good spot for the TV and plugging it in. It can become pretty daunting when you have all the equipment, wires and manuals spread out on the floor. Whether you are just setting up a new LCD or Plasma screen TV, or a Home Theater system, we can help you get it done.
There are several things to consider for your new set up. For instance, if you are connecting more than just an antenna to the TV, should you use an AV Receiver to centralize control? Another reason to go with an AV Receiver is to get the sound experience that matches the great new picture. We also can help you with things like how to connect everything together and even how to run wires through walls to avoid messy wiring.
The Best Sound Comes From an AV System
First off – sound. Your HDTV may have great speakers, but if you want the best Home Theater experience, you may never use them again. You’ll have a great picture on your enormous new HDTV screen, but to match that with great sound you will need surround sound speakers and AV receiver. Ideally, purchase a receiver that has video inputs and outputs as well as the usual sound connections. That way you can connect everything to your nerve center (we mean the AV receiver) and have only one wire running to the TV. This is much, much better than connecting your DVD player and your satellite or cable box and your VCR to your TV, each with their own set of cables.
You will want at least a 5.1 system. That consists of a left and right front speaker, a center speaker, left and right rear surround speakers (the 5) and a bass module speaker (the .1). Selecting more speakers may yield and even better experience, but not as big a difference as a 5.1 gives you over using just the built in TV speakers.
Where to Put the TV & Mounting a Flat Panel on the Wall
First, where should it go? Choose a position in the room that places the screen a minimum average of five feet away from the viewers. This would be appropriate for a 42″ TV. The larger the screen, the farther back you should be from the screen. Ten to twelve feet is about as far away as you would want, unless you have a monster size screen or are using a projection TV.
If you want to mount a flat panel TV on the wall, that is a great way to free up some space. Lets consider some details first though. Don’t place the TV too high up on the wall. People tend to hang the TV like it is a painting. That is not a good height for viewing. It forces you to crane your neck and places you at an angle that reduces the picture view quality. Mount the screen so that the middle of the screen is roughly at eye height when seated. A little higher is fine, but don’t turn it into a wall hanging.
Next, choose a wall mount unit. Some allow you to fasten the screen to the wall, but allow only minimal adjustment, such as up and down tilt. Other units allow much greater flexibility, including mounting on an arm that allows the screen to be pulled away from the wall and turned to face various viewing locations.
Follow the instructions that come with the mounting unit. In general, to support the weight of the TV, it will require mounting to studs in the wall. If the studs are not in the right position for precise positioning on the wall, you can open the wall and add bracing.
Another consideration is what to do with the wires. At the very least, you will have a power cord and a HDMI cable. You can just let them hang done, paint them to match the wall color, install a chaseway to hide them or run them through the wall. Running them through the wall is the most elegant option and pretty easy too.
How To Run the Wiring Through the Wall
If you want to run the wiring through the wall and the wires will go straight down and back out to connect to your other home theater equipment, the project is very simple. Purchase two low voltage mounting plates. Use the plate as a template to trace the inside edge of the mounting plate onto the wall. Position the mounting plate in a position that will be accessible and hidden behind the television. Do the same thing again, but directly below the first hole. Place the bottom hole at the same height as the electrical outlets in the room or at a convenient height for your purposes.
With the outlines on the wall, use a razor knife to cut through the first layer of the drywall. This will help prevent tearing the paper layer. Next, carefully push a drywall saw through the wall board and saw along the lines to complete the opening. Follow the instructions that come with your low-voltage mounting plate and install it in place. You will need a decorative cover plate. It will require a hole large enough to allow the cables and their plugs to fit through. Run the cables through the cover plate and into the upper hole. As you feed the cable into the hole, fish the cables from the lower hole.
Where Do All the Wires Go?
Wiring can get pretty confusing, so it helps to keep the basics in mind. All you are trying to do is get the picture from the source, to the TV. For the sound, all you are doing is routing the audio from the source, to the TV or the AV receiver.
Connecting the video means connecting the source – an antenna, satellite set-top box, cable box, converter box or DVD player – to the TV. This connection may go straight from the source to the TV or it can go through your AV receiver. You can connect it with HDMI, DVI, component, S-video or composite cables (ranked from best to worst). Always use the best connection type you have available to ensure the best picture quality.
An important point about getting a high-definition picture, you must use the proper cables or you won’t get a high-definition picture. HDMI, DVI and component cables are the only cables that deliver an HD signal.
Another note, HDMI cables carry both the audio and video signals. All other cable connections require a separate connection for sound and picture.
The source (cable box, DVD player etc.) will have both audio and video output connections, choose the best and connect those to the inputs on the AV receiver, or if you aren’t using a receiver, directly to the TV. If you do have an AV receiver, then will then need to also connect the highest quality output from the receiver to the TV. You only need to make one connection because the AV receiver will switch between the various source components and output through the single connection.
Like video, you will connect audio using the best available connection. Unlike video, there is no need to make audio connections to the TV, unless you are not using an AV receiver. However, even though it isn’t necessary, I usually connect the audio to the TV, usually for troubleshooting or unique situations where I want TV sound for some reason.
What If My Home Theater System Doesn’t Work?
When setting up a new system, and you don’t get audio, video or either, the problem is often in the settings on the TV or AV receiver. You can double check your wiring connections, but the problem is probably in the configuration of the components. The instructions that come with the equipment will explain using the set-up menus to make various settings. Unfortunately, each manufacturer does it their own way. Their way, often isn’t intuitive and sometimes it is downright lame.
If I can’t figure it out from the instructions, the system I use is to be methodical. I make one single change and then I test it. If it doesn’t work, I change it back and change the next setting and I test it. The mistake most people make during this trial and error approach is that they either change more than one thing at a time or they get impatient and skip testing some of the possibilities, often because they don’t think those settings could possibly matter. Trust me, as a professional, I have been there. I just keep plugging away, one change at a time and eventually I get it working. Sometimes, it helps to eliminate some of the equipment and work with just two core pieces, like the TV and the DVD player. Once I get two pieces working, I then add the receiver back into the picture. I know the two pieces work and so now I fiddle with the receiver’s settings.
If all else fails, start by checking the manufacturers’ website. If you are having problem, odds are other people have too and the answer might be posted right there in the FAQ’s or product set-up page. Next up try e-mail or telephoning the help desk. I usually try e-mail first, but some companies have good phone support and so it may be worth starting with the phone if it will get you an answer more quickly.
Good Luck – Your Patience Will be Rewarded