How to connect your home theater to your Internet set-top box

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How do you properly connect your Internet set-top box to your TV and home theater? How can you be sure to get the best picture and sound quality with an Internet set-top box and an AV receiver, a stereo amplifier or a sound bar? Which cables should you use? Which audio output parameters should you choose on the set-top box?

Here are a few tips.

Which cable should you choose to connect your home theater and the Internet box?

If all your devices have HDMI connectors, then this is the best connection to use. Not only does it allow both image AND sound to be transported with a single cable, but it is also offers the best quality for both image and sound.

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An HDMI connection is the best way to connect a set-top box to a home theater (here the NorStone Arran HDMI cable).

Two scenarios may arise depending on the HDMI connectors present on the amplifier or the sound bar.

Amplifier or sound bar with HDMI input(s) AND output

The Yamaha YAS-108 soundbar has a DTS and Dolby Digital compatible UHD 4K HDMI input and output.

In this case, the HDMI output of the TV box is connected to one of the HDMI inputs of the amplifier or sound bar. Then the HDMI output of the amplifier or sound bar should be connected to one of the HDMI inputs of the TV.

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The Marantz NR1200 stereo amplifier has 5 inputs and an HDMI ARC output, like many AV receivers. Be careful though: it does not support Dolby or DTS audio formats.

Amplifier or sound bar with HDMI ARC jack only

Does your soundbar or amp not have a true HDMI input, but only an HDMI jack with Audio Return Channel (HDMI ARC) support?

In this case, you must connect the HDMI output of the set-top box directly to one of the TV’s HDMI inputs, making sure to leave the ARC-compatible HDMI socket(s) of the TV free. The latter must be connected to the HDMI ARC socket of the amplifier or soundbar.

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The HDMI ARC connector of the NAD M10 stereo amplifier allows it to easily retrieve the TV’s sound (in stereo PCM).

Note on the audio settings of the set-top box’s HDMI output

The sound bar or amplifier may not support certain sound formats, including Dolby and DTS multichannel formats. For example, this is the case of stereo amplifiers with HDMI inputs/outputs or an HDMI ARC connector such as the Marantz NR1200, the Lyngdorf TDAI-1120 and the NAD M10.

In this case, it is necessary to modify the settings of the box’s audio output (or that of the TV if you’re connecting the TV to the amp or soundbar via HDMI ARC) and to select the PCM format, a “universal” format that can be read by the amplifier or the sound bar. This also applies to optical audio connections.

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The audio output setting menu of this LG OLED 4K TV lets you select the PCM format for the optical audio output and the HDMI ARC audio return channel.

What connection should you use to connect your set-top box if none of the devices are HDMI-compatible?

Is your amp or sound bar lacking an HDMI input or HDMI ARC connector? Or does your television have no HDMI ARC connector?

They are most likely equipped with digital audio connectors (optical or coaxial) that retrieve the sound from the set-top box or television and send it to the sound bar or amplifier.

You must then connect the set-top box’s HDMI output directly to the television for the image. You have two possibilities for the sound:

Digital output (set-top box) to digital input (amplifier or sound bar)

This is the simplest solution if you have no other source than the set-top box. This output must be selected in the audio settings menu of the set-top box. You will also need to set the audio output format to PCM if your soundbar or amplifier does not support Dolby and DTS audio formats.

The Orange TV4 Box is equipped with a coaxial digital audio output to be used if the amplifier or sound bar does not have an HDMI connection.

Digital output (TV) to digital input (amplifier or sound bar)

This solution allows you to retrieve the sound from the TV, regardless of the source: set-top box, Blu-ray player, network media player. Multi-channel sound is however limited to the compressed Dolby Digital and DTS formats. Optical connections are not suitable for high resolution and 3D formats such as Dolby True HD and Dolby Atmos, or even DTS HD Master Audio and DTS: X.

If you use this option, you must go into the TV’s audio settings menu to select the digital output. You may need to set the audio output format to PCM.

The Samsung HW-T450 sound bar has a Dolby Digital compatible optical digital audio input.
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Compatible with Dolby Digital, DTS and DSD, the NorStone Arran Optic digital audio cable is made of high quality acrylic PMMA fiber which guarantees excellent signal transfer.

How to connect your set-top box if you’re using a vintage amplifier or an old stereo hi-fi amplifier

If all the digital audio connectors on your soundbar or amplifier are used, or if they simply do not have any, you will have to switch to a stereo analog audio connection, while keeping the HDMI connection for the image. This is often the case with older generation amps and receivers or vintage amps that can only power two speakers in stereo.

Once again, several connections are possible, depending on whether the set-top box or the television has an analog audio output or not.

Analog output (TV or set-top box) to analog input (amplifier or sound bar)

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The NorStone Arran RCA connecting cable allows the set-top box to be easily connected to an older generation stereo amplifier.

Older set-top boxes usually have an analog audio output, most often in stereo RCA format. Some old televisions do too, either in RCA format or in mini-jack format (3.5mm headphone jack). All you have to do is choose the right cable to connect them to the RCA or mini-jack input of an amplifier or sound bar.

My set-top box does not have a stereo RCA/Cinch output and my amplifier only uses this type of analog input, what should I do?

Using a digital to analog audio converter allows you to connect the optical or coaxial digital audio output of the set-top box or television to the analog audio input of the stereo amplifier or sound bar.

The digital audio output of the set-top box or TV is connected to the digital input of the converter which converts the digital signal into an analog signal. You then simply have to connect the analog audio output of the converter to the analog input of the amplifier or the sound bar to diffuse the sound.

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The FiiO Taishan D03K converts digital audio signals (optical and coaxial input) to analog signals (RCA and mini-jack output).

There are many efficient, compact and affordable D/A converters, such as the FiiO Taishan D03K, the SVD Pro EIAJ RCA and the Real Cable Nano-Dac.

Note. Once again, you have to set the audio output of the set-top box or TV to PCM for this to work.

The Real Cable iPlug J35M2M mini-jack to RCA cable allows you to easily connect a digital/analog audio converter to an older generation amplifier.

HDMI video & Bluetooth audio connection

Most 4K UHD TVs on the market come with a Bluetooth transmitter and can wirelessly stream the sound of your program to a sound bar or an amplifier equipped with a Bluetooth audio receiver.

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The Bluetooth connection of the Samsung HW-S41T sound bar can be used to connect it wirelessly to a television.

This is not ideal when it comes to sound transmission quality, but it is very practical as it removes a cable from the equation. You only keep the HDMI connection cable between the TV Box and the TV.

Be careful though: Bluetooth transmission can cause image/sound lag. Some televisions let you fix this via the audio settings menu (Lip Sync or audio lag function).

Note that the TV’s Bluetooth transmitter function also makes it possible to enjoy wireless sound with Bluetooth headphones or on wireless hi-fi Bluetooth speakers.

HDMI connection with the set-top box: be careful with HDCP compatibility!

Most providers’ 4K TV set-top boxes are equipped with HDMI 2.0 outputs with HDCP2.2 copy protection. If your TV has HDMI 1.3 or 1.4 connectors, it is very likely that HDMI connections will cause a problem (black screen, sound but no picture).

Likewise, if you have an older generation set-top box with HDMI 1.3 or 1.4 outputs and a recent TV with only HDMI 2.0 or higher inputs, the signal may not pass.

The main boxes on the market and their connectors (non-exhaustive list)

Freebox

Delta Player Devialet: 4K HDR10 compatible, HDMI 2.0 output, optical digital audio output.
Delta Player Pop: 4K HDR10 compatible, HDMI 2.0 output, optical digital audio output.
Freebox Mini 4K: 4K compatible, HDMI 2.0 output, optical digital audio output, Android TV.
Freebox Revolution: 1080p HD compatible, HDMI 1.3 output, optical digital audio output.

Orange

Livebox Play TV decoder: HD 1080p compatible, HDMI 1.3 output, coaxial digital audio output, RCA stereo analog audio output.
Orange TV4 decoder (Sagem WHD93): 4K compatible, HDMI 2.0 output, coaxial digital audio output, analog audio-video output (composite/stereo mini-jack).
Orange UHD TV decoder (Sagem WHD94): 4K HDR10 compatible, HDMI 2.0 output, coaxial digital audio output.

SFR

Mini TV set-top box: HD 1080p compatible, HDMI 1.4 output, coaxial digital audio output.
Zive 4K THD Box: 4K compatible, HDMI 2.0 output, HDMI 2.0 input, optical and coaxial digital audio output, stereo RCA analog audio output.
Box 7: 4K compatible, HDMI 2.0 output, optical digital audio output.
Box 8: 4K HDR, Dolby Vision & Dolby Atmos compatible, HDMI 2.0 output.

Bouygues Telecom

4K Bbox: 4K HDR compatible, HDMI 2.0 output, optical digital audio output, Android TV.

VOD streaming with a set-top box: should you choose an Ethernet or a WiFi connection?

How can you get the most out of your new smart 4K UHD TV and your network media player? How can you enjoy Replay TV and streaming services like Netflix, Disney+ and Prime Video? How to be sure to watch your movies and series stored on a NAS and shared on the local network with the best picture and sound quality?

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Should you choose the Ethernet connection to optimize streaming?

To do this, you need to connect your 4K UHD TV and network media player to the local network and the Internet using the best possible connection. Should you choose a WiFi connection, or is an Ethernet connection using a network cable better? How to proceed in one case or the other? What are the advantages and disadvantages of these two solutions?

A recap of frequently asked questions

How do you connect a home theater to a set-top box?

As a reminder, if all your devices have HDMI connectors, this is the best connection to use. It allows you to display the image and transmit the sound with a single cable, and it also provides the best image/audio quality.


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