You just purchased a brand-new 5.1 home theater system, but you don’t have the funds to purchase a sophisticated gaming console, DVD player, or BluRay player to go with it?
Don’t worry, we’ve devised a fantastic solution for you! We’ll presume you already have a computer and that you can use it to watch movies, listen to music, and play video games.
And, guess what? It may also be used as a replacement source device with a surround sound system. We prepared this article to assist you and to explain how to connect your new 5.1 home theater system to your PC, as many people are unaware that a PC can be connected to a home theater system.
The First Thing to Consider About Connecting Home Theater to PC
If you wish to connect your 5.1 home theater system to your PC, check the connectors on the back panel of the computer first. You’ll need to use different cables depending on the available connectors. There are three different sorts of connections that can be made:
Analog connection – All PCs offer a standard audio output (3.5mm audio output). If you want surround sound, this one isn’t for you because it can only offer stereo sound.
Some PCs, on the other hand, include a set of analog 3.5mm or RCA audio outputs for connecting surround sound systems. If that’s the case, you can set up your 5.1 home theater system with these connectors. The issue with this type of connection is that it necessitates the use of multiple audio wires.
Digital coaxial connection – Although not all PCs have this feature, when they do, excellent reproduction quality is guaranteed.
More importantly, this type of connection allows for a surround sound experience. The connection between your PC and your home cinema system is straightforward — all you need is one coaxial wire (it usually uses the same RCA connectors as an analog RCA audio cable).
Digital optical connection – For our purposes, it is most likely the ideal connection type. It’s also very simple to set up because only one optical connection is required. 5.1 surround sound is also supported via a digital optical (TOSLINK) connection.
What Is a 5.1 Home Theater System and How Does It Work?
A home theater system (HTS) is a grouping of speakers (at least six) that work together to create the surround sound experience that was first experienced in movie theaters.
It is, in fact, an attempt to relocate a movie theater into a private home or apartment room. The concept has worked well, and we can say that the development of TVs, players, and streaming technologies has been largely subordinated to the goal of meeting surround sound requirements.
Four basic elements are required to achieve a true surround sound experience:
The source (streaming) device can be a DVD player, BluRay player, cable box, gaming console, or other device. A PC or even a laptop can be used as the source device.
TV or monitor – It can be any type of TV with all of the necessary input/output ports for establishing video connections and displaying the image. A projector can be used in place of a television or monitor.
Receiver – This device is required because it receives data from one device and sends it to another in a system. They are used to transmit both audio and video content, which is why they are referred to as AV receivers (audio and video receivers).
They can be connected to various sources and make switching between them much easier. The receiver is not required in a home theater system centered on your PC because your PC will handle all audio/video processing. So, in this case, your PC serves as both a source and a receiver.
Home theater speaker system (also known as surround sound speaker system) – A minimum of six speakers are required to achieve a surround sound experience. This means the system has 5 loudspeakers and at least one subwoofer.
One center channel speaker, two front speakers (left and right), and two surround speakers are required among the five speakers (left and right).
Of course, you can improve the system by adding some rear surround or ceiling speakers, but this is dependent on a variety of factors such as your budget, room size, room acoustics, your receiver’s capabilities, and so on.
How to Connect 5.1 Home Theater System to PC?
The first step is to inspect all of the available connections on the back panel of your PC. You now have several options, depending on the available connections, and we will explain them all.
Option 1: If your home theater speaker system has an optical or coaxial input and your PC has an optical or coaxial audio output, this is the solution.
This is the best option (the cleanest and quickest setup procedure) because it only requires one cable (either optical or coaxial).
Simply connect the output of your PC to the input of your speaker system using this cable. Depending on your PC, you may need to go to sound settings and select the appropriate output and speaker configuration before you can use it.
Regrettably, not all computers have digital audio outputs. In fact, the vast majority of them do not.
Option 2: You only have multichannel analog outputs on the back of your PC, but your 5.1 home theater system has multichannel analog inputs.
This is also a good option because you already have some matching inputs/outputs and don’t need to buy any additional equipment.
However, it necessitates more cables and is far more messy than using a single optical/coaxial cable. The wiring procedure is straightforward: simply connect the appropriate outputs to the appropriate inputs. Inputs and outputs are typically labeled so that you do not have to guess (FL, FR, C, SL, SR, SUB).
Even if your computer/laptop lacks audio outputs that correspond to the inputs on your 5.1 home theater, you still have some options.
Option 1 – use Line OUT, Line IN, and Mic IN ports
Most desktop PCs today have at least three analog audio ports: Line OUT (green), Line IN (blue), and Mic IN (pink/red). Furthermore, most PC-based home theater systems include multichannel analog inputs (even the systems that also have optical inputs).
So, we’re going to use the three audio ports on the back panel of your PC (red, blue, and pink) to connect a PC to a home theater system.
You’ve probably noticed that not all three ports are audio outputs, but what you may not realize is that you can reconfigure those three ports in the Sound Settings to be output ports for your home theater speakers. And we’ll show you how to do it.
To begin, connect all of the necessary RCA cables (or AUX cables, depending on the available ports on your home theater system). The first cable connects the green-colored audio port to the HTS’s front right and front left connectors.
The second cable connects the blue-colored PC jack to the surround right and surround left connectors on the back of your home theater system, while the third cable connects the pink Mic in jack to the HTS’s center and subwoofer connectors.
However, this is not the end of the story. After you’ve finished the wiring, you’ll need to open the audio driver settings on your PC and make some changes.
One of the most important things to do is to configure your home theater (speakers) settings to 6-channel output (or 5.1).
Aside from that, you should double-check the settings for all of the connectors on the back panel. Double-click on the blue line in the connector icon and choose the appropriate function – “back speakers.” For the green connector, choose “front speakers,” and for the pink connector, choose “center/LFE.”
After that, go to your sound settings, select “Speaker,” and then “Configure.” When the new window appears, the “5.1 surround” option should already be selected. Click “Next” to complete the configuration process. Then, go to the Speaker Properties tab, and then to the Enhancement tab.
Check to see if the “Enable Speaker Fill” and “Enable Bass Management” options are turned on.
Option 2 – Buy a new sound card or a DAC
If you don’t have any matching connections and don’t even have those three audio ports we just discussed, you can either buy a new sound card or a DAC with outputs that match your home theater system’s inputs (either multichannel analog or digital optical/coaxial).
Neither of these two options is without complications, and they both necessitate some additional investments. The good news is that surround sound does not have to be expensive.
A good sound card can be purchased for less than $150 or $100. The internal sound card shown in the image below (Creative Sound Blaster Audigy) costs around $60, while the external USB sound card (ASUS Xonar U5) costs less than $130.
Buying an internal or external USB sound card is a relatively affordable solution
When there are no matching ports on your PC and your new home theater system, using a 5.1ch DAC with the right inputs/outputs is also a viable (and probably cheaper) option.
For example, if your PC has digital audio outputs (coaxial/optical) and your home theater system has only multichannel analog inputs, using a DAC shown in the image below (SOUTHSKY 5.1CH DAC) will help you overcome this incompatibility issue.
Buying a 5.1/7.1ch DAC is probably even cheaper than buying a new sound card
This should suffice. You now have several options to choose from, and all you have to do is pick the best one for your needs and budget.
If you have any unanswered questions or require any additional explanations, please leave a comment below and we will do our best to provide you with all of the necessary information.
FAQs About Connecting Home Theater to PC
How do I connect my home theater to my computer?
Connect your PC’s HDMI output to one of the HDMI inputs on your TV or Home Theater Receiver. Because HDMI can pass both video and audio signals, it should also transfer audio if you use it.
Does my PC have 5.1 surround sound?
It’s unlikely that your PC comes with a surround sound card by default, so you’ll need to double-check. Look for your Device Manager on your computer, open it, and look for the arrow next to ‘Sound, video, and game controllers.’ It will be displayed here if you have a sound card.
Does USB support surround sound?
Furthermore, USB Audio devices can provide surround sound (5.1- or 7.1-channel sound) even if your computer does not support it.
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