A basic home audio system will require an audio source (TV, turntable, laptop, etc.) and two speakers. A more comprehensive approach will include other equipment like a receiver, preamp, multiple audio sources, and surround sound speakers.
I’m Donovan, a musician at heart who has worked extensively as a recording artist and producer. I’ve set up many home studios and home audio systems over the years and know through first-hand experience how to put it all together.
This post will show you how to set up a home audio system. I’ll walk you through a basic home setup and explain to you all the components of a higher-end system for the ultimate listening experience. My goal is to help you better enjoy audio at home.
Let’s get to it.
- Key Takeaways
- How to Set up a Home Audio System: Different Approaches
- Final Thoughts
- A very basic home audio system simply requires an audio source and a speaker, but most people like to go at least a bit beyond that.
- A more comprehensive system would include multiple audio sources, a receiver, a preamp, and at least several speakers.
- Using a receiver as part of your system lets you connect and easily switch between multiple audio sources.
- Using a preamp in your audio setup will help you get better audio quality and is recommended if you are an audiophile or using a turntable.
- Speaker placement is another key consideration to achieving an ideal home audio system setup.
How to Set up a Home Audio System: Different Approaches
Setting up a home audio system is pretty straightforward, and it’s easy to figure out even if you have never done it before. With some basic equipment and the right cables, you can get everything set up in under an hour, no problem.
There are multiple approaches to setting up a home audio system, and some of these use more equipment than others. The more stuff you have in your setup, the more complicated it will be to operate and alter.
But even really high-end systems follow the same basic setup in that you get your equipment and hook it all together. Regardless of your budget, you can still get a good system set up and operational.
We’ll look at a few different approaches to setting up a home audio system here. I’ll explain a basic system, a higher-end system, and some other commonly used options to give you an idea of what’s possible and what your preferences might be.
Home Stereo System Components
Before looking at how to set up a home audio system, it’s essential to understand all of the components that will make it work. I’ll break these down here to help you know what you need to get started and what you might want to make your system really shine.
Some of the components listed here are required, and others are optional. This means that there is a level of customization involved based on things like how many audio sources or speakers you want to use.
You obviously need an audio source as part of your home audio system. This can be just about anything that puts out a signal – a TV, turntable, laptop, smartphone, cassette player, CD player, or anything else you play music from.
Most home audio systems will have several audio sources, but you technically only need one to begin with. Think of this as the brains of your system, and it’s the starting point for the audio chain.
Speakers are the other must-have in your home audio setup. You won’t hear anything without speakers, and they play a significant role in the audio quality you get from the system. There are a lot of choices in which type and brand of speakers you choose.
I recommend using at least two speakers so you can get a stereo field set up. Some more modern or wireless systems only use a single speaker or soundbar, but you won’t get as good of a stereo audio experience with a single speaker.
A surround sound system would include multiple speakers and is often listed as 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. This means there are 5 or 7 speakers in the setup with a subwoofer. If you play movies on your sound system, surround sound is nice to have.
A receiver is not technically a must-have piece of equipment, but nearly all home audio systems should use one. The receiver acts as a hub, allowing you to connect and control multiple audio sources.
Many receivers also have a built-in preamp that allows you to power a turntable or get better-quality audio. This is a nice feature, but the main purpose of the receiver is to connect all of your gear and allow you to switch through everything easily.
To get a receiver that works with all of your equipment, you must ensure you have inputs for everything. For example, let’s say you have a TV, turntable, and digital AUX line (laptop, smartphone) you want to set up.
This would require you to have a receiver with a phono input, a TV input, and another input for the AUX. Most receivers have at least this many inputs, but you should always double-check that it has enough before you purchase.
Amps and preamps are optional items in your setup, but they can go a long way toward improving audio quality. If you are using a turntable, you need a preamp to power the unit and boost its signal.
Some receivers and turntables have built-in preamps. These will work to boost a signal and get things operational. But using a dedicated preamp is the best way to achieve optimal sound quality.
Cords and Cables
Cords and cables aren’t necessarily audio equipment, but they are still essential to your setup. Without all the proper cords and cables, you won’t be able to connect all of your equipment and get it running correctly.
Each piece of equipment you use will have a power cord. Then you also need to connect that equipment to the receiver using the proper connections. And you’ll need to connect your speakers if you are using wired options.
Common types of cables and cords you’ll use for the setup include RCA, HDMI, 3.5mm, optical audio, and USB. The exact type of cables you need will depend on your setup, but be sure you have everything on hand, or you’ll run to the electronics store often.
Basic Sound System Setup
Alright, now that we’ve looked at the possible components of a home audio system, let’s break things down by different types of setups.
The most basic sound system setup would just require an audio source and speakers. I’ll give you two common examples of a very basic setup.
A basic home stereo setup would include a turntable with a built-in preamp and two speakers. Since the turntable has a preamp, you just need to connect it to some speakers and power everything on.
Another version of this basic setup would be a TV connected to speakers for a home theater system. For this, you’d just run the proper cables from the back of your TV to your speakers.
Most people who want to get a home audio system set up will go beyond these basic setups because they want to include multiple audio sources. You need to get a receiver to function as the hub and control for every audio source to do this.
A basic setup using a receiver might include a TV, turntable, AUX line (for a digital audio source), and two speakers.
The first step to setting things up would be placing all of your equipment in the listening room. So get your TV, turntable, speakers, and receiver positioned where you want them before plugging anything in or running wires.
Next, ensure every piece of equipment is within reach of a power outlet if needed. Then connect each audio source to the receiver. The TV will likely connect with an HDMI cable, while the turntable will use RCA cables.
Connect the speakers to the audio outputs on the receiver. Depending on the type of receiver and speakers you use, you’ll need to get the proper speaker cables. These could be standard speaker wires or something different.
And if you want to run more than two speakers, you just need to connect additional units to the receiver.
Once everything is connected and plugged in, you can control which audio source is going through the system with the receiver.
High-End Sound System Setup
A high-end sound system setup includes everything a basic setup does but will likely require additional equipment and speakers. The quality of the equipment you choose also matters, and you’ll need to spend more money upfront on high-quality stuff.
Additional equipment that you’ll want for a high-end setup includes a preamp, high-quality speakers, and a subwoofer. But you’ll still use as many audio sources as you want and a good receiver.
The preamp will connect to your turntable or other audio sources where you really want excellent audio quality. Then you connect the output of the preamp to the proper input source on your receiver.
If you want multiple audio sources connected to your preamp, you’ll need a preamp with multiple inputs or multiple preamps. It will be more affordable to use a preamp with multiple sources.
Speaker placement will be more important with a higher-end setup because you’ll have more than just two on the left and right sides of your listening room. Place the others at strategic spots to give you the best listening experience.
You will need to invest in high-end equipment to achieve high-end audio quality. And that means that every piece of equipment you use in your setup needs to be of better-than-average quality.
Home Stereo System with Wireless Speakers
Wireless speakers are becoming more and more popular for home stereo systems. These are pretty easy to use and set up but know they won’t give you as good audio quality as wired connections.
The average listener probably won’t notice the difference between wireless and wired speakers. But if you are a musician, producer, or general audiophile, you’ll notice that the wireless connections just aren’t as rich and vibrant.
This is especially true if you are looking for that amazing analog sound with your turntable and records. I really don’t recommend using wireless speakers with a turntable because of the loss of audio quality you’ll experience.
Still, wireless speakers can be a convenient way to set up your home stereo system. You don’t need to run wires all over, so the look of a wireless setup can also appeal to some people.
To connect wireless speakers to your home stereo system, you just need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions that come with the product. You might need to use a Bluetooth adapter that plugs into your receiver or a separate piece of equipment to connect.
Home Stereo System with Subwoofer
Using a subwoofer with your home stereo system is a great way to boost the low end and better enjoy your favorite music and entertainment. I’m a big fan of bass, so I always have a subwoofer in my setup.
If you are using a wired subwoofer, you just need to connect it to an audio output on your receiver. Ensure that the receiver you are using has a line out for the subwoofer, and most of them do.
The placement of your subwoofer is important, and you’ll typically want it located somewhere on the floor to either side of the main listening room. If your TV is at the center of your setup, place it on the ground on either side of the TV.
You don’t want a sub placed too close to a wall or directly on the floor without legs. This is because it can cause the sound to reflect and get wompy-sounding, which isn’t ideal. Most subwoofers are designed to sit off the floor and have legs built in for this reason.
If you have a home theater system or want to use surround sound in your setup, using a subwoofer is a must. Once you watch a movie with a sub on, you’ll never go back. It’s like bringing the theater to the comfort of your living room.
Here are a few short answers to some of the most commonly asked questions related to how to set up a home audio system.
What is the best way to set up a home sound system?
One of the best ways to set up a good home sound system is to place your audio source and speakers close to one wall of a room and your listening location at least five feet back from there. This is a simple setup that will deliver quality results.
How do I set up my home surround sound system?
To set up a home surround sound system, you should place the front left and right speakers on either side of your TV. Then place the center speaker in front with the subwoofer on the floor on either side. The rear speakers can go behind your listening position.
How do I set up a wireless home audio system?
Wireless home audio systems are pretty easy to set up. You’ll place your speakers just like you would with a normal setup, with two on either side and the rest around the room. Then you can pair the speakers with the audio source or receiver.
What is the most important part of a home audio system?
Speakers are probably the most important part of a home audio system because you won’t hear any sound without them. Speakers also play a big role in the quality of audio you hear. But the audio source and other components of the system are important as well.
Are soundbars as good as surround sound?
Soundbars and surround sound are two different systems. While soundbars can be a decent option for a small stereo or home theater, you won’t hear surround sound unless you use multiple surround sound speakers.
Do sound systems increase home value?
If you install a built-in sound system in your home, it might increase its value slightly. But most sound systems are stand-alone and removable, meaning that they don’t affect your home’s value more than the furniture inside.
Setting up a home audio system doesn’t require specialized skills and is pretty easy for just about anyone to do. Keep in mind that using a receiver will allow you to connect multiple audio sources and switch between them easily.
If you’ve never set up a home audio system before, keep it simple at first. You can also upgrade or add more equipment down the road, but you don’t want to start with too much gear, or it can be a challenge to get set up.
What do you use in your home audio system setup? When was the last time you changed it up? Let me know in the comments below.