How To Hook Up RCA Surround Sound To An HDMI TV

Norvan Martin
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So you have a surround sound system that uses RCA (the Red and White plugs) but your TV uses HDMI. How do you make this connection? In this article, we show you how to hook up RCA surround sound to HDMI TV.

To hook up your TV with HDMI to your surround sound system with RCA, you have a few options. You can connect your source device (DirectTV, DVD, Roku) to your TV via HDMI and then connect the TV to the surround sound system via RCA or you can use an HDMI to RCA converter or an audio extractor. 

Let’s get into more details.

Before we get into the details about how to set up these connections, we must recommend that if your aim is to get true and full surround sound (that is if you think surround sound is worth it) and your receiver only used RCA, you will need a new receiver.

Yes, we know receivers are expensive, but hear us out.

Your best bet to get true surround sound is to get a cheap receiver if you’re on a budget. Just ensure it has at least 3 HDMI inputs and 1 HDMI output.

In this case, all you would need to do is connect a single HDMI cable from each of your sources to the receiver and one from the receiver to the TV, and hook up your speakers. This saves you a to of hassle and is much easier.

All in all, there are ways to connect a surround sound with a receiver for example to a TV without HDMI, but if you are going the RCA route, you will only get stereo sound.

Before you can set up an RCA surround sound system, you will need to assemble the right cables and tools first. The tools required will depend on the kind of inputs your receiver and other devices support.

Step 1: Setting Up The Receiver

All RCA surround systems come with AV receivers as their nerve centers for the surround system. Follow the procedure below to set it up.

Place the receiver close to the television set. You are connecting the two devices, and usually, the connection cable is not long.

Step 2: Connect The RCA Cable

Insert the RCA video cable into the “Video Out” port on the RCA surround sound system. If the receiver has a built-in Blu-ray player, connect the HDMI cable to the HDMI port instead. Insert the opposite end of the cable into the appropriate port on the television (RCA cable into the “Video In” port and HDMI cable into the “HDMI” port)

Step 3: Position The Speakers

Position the speakers around the area where you are most likely going to be sitting. The speakers are marked where they need to go (such as “rear left” or “front right”).

Place the rear speakers behind your seat or next to it if it is against the wall. Place the front speakers at the front, along with the TV. There is a long, middle speaker; position this either directly below or above the TV. Set the subwoofer speaker on the ground next to the TV.

Step 4: Connect The Speakers

Run the wires coming out of the speakers into the appropriate connection ports on the back of the RCA home theater receiver.

The ports are marked to match the speakers (“front left,” “back right”). Plug the wires running out of the speakers into the ports that are marked the same as the speakers.

Step 5: Turn On The Power

Turn on the power for the connected television set and the RCA receiver. Press the “input” button on the TV; select either “Video” or “HDMI,” depending on where the receiver is connected.

How Do I Get My TV To Play Through My Surround Sound?

RCA surround sound system connections are an alternative to wiring surround sound components when there is no access to HDMI or optical options. This way you can power a 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound through the basic connection of analog stereos. Let’s look at how to connect the RCA surround system.

1. Connect RCA Directly From The TV

The first and easiest option is to connect your TV directly to the surround sound system. However, please note that this will not deliver true surround sound as the RCA cable is carrying stereo audio. 

Here is the process:

  1. Connect HDMI from BluRay, DirecTV or Roku, or whatever to the TV
  2. Use RCA to connect from the TV’s audio-out Left and Right to an input on the “surround sound.”

2. Use A Audio Extractor or De-Embedder

An audio extractor or de-embedder will extract audio from your HDMI and output to stereo RCA. You need to look for one that has HDMI input and stereo Left and Right RCA outputs. Be careful because some only have Toslink output.  

A good example is the 4K HDMI Audio Extractor Splitter.

3. AV-to-HDMI Converters

AV to HDMI converters are similar to audio extractors. Before you can connect RCA Surround Sound to a TV that features HDMI connectivity only, you will need to convert the AV signal. With an AV-to-HDMI converter (also called an HDMI-to-component audio converter), the process of converting both audio and video signal is much easier.

An AV-to-HDMI converter is a form of portable hardware box with both AV-input and HDMI-output capabilities. When the AV or RCA cables are fed into the box input, the inbuilt hardware converts the AV signal into an HDMI-compatible signal that can be output by the HDMI out.

Please note however that using these converters won’t give your true surround sound. A simple and cheap one is the RCA to HDMI Converter Dingsun AV to HDMI Adapter.

4. Use A Decoder

Surround sound systems have multiple channels. For example, a 5.1 system will have front left, front right, center, surround left, surround right, and subwoofer. This means that your RCA connection will need to produce all these channels. This can be done somewhat using an audio extractor. 

The decoder will decode or break down HDMI audio to 6 mono channels so that you can make your own 5.1 setup at home.

An example of a good decoder is the HDMI LPCM 7.1 to Analog Surround Sound Audio Decoder- 4K Version. This device converts HDMI LPCM 7.1 or 5.1 into multi-channel analog surround sound which is exactly what you need.


Why Does My Receiver Only Have RCA Inputs?

Some older receivers known as stereo receivers only support RCA. This means they only support stereo sound or Left and right changes. So how then can these receivers be surround sound receivers? We explain below. 

What Does A RCA Cable Do With Multichannel Audio?

When connecting to an HDMI TV and dealing with analog multichannel output, it is not necessary to look out for special cables. You just need an analog RCA cable to make RCA-to-RCA connections.

An RCA surround sound connection helps in transmitting multichannel analog signals such as a surround soundtrack on DVD. This is because digital audio signals are not supported by the RCA surround sound connection.

Can Stereo Receivers That Use RCA Support Surround Sound?

Is surround sound worth it? Sure it is, but not the fake setup you can get from RCA. Stereo receivers are not true surround sound receivers. You cannot get true surround sound from RCA. 

RCA does not carry all digital channels for surround sound, it only carries left and right changes. You will never get true 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound audio without a digital audio connection – coaxial, optical, or HDMI are the three main options.

This means that if there are no digital input connections on this receiver, then the receiver is probably not even capable of decoding 5.1 or any other surround sound.

You can however use a decoder that will attempt to convert HDMI from your TV to surround sound. We explore that in the section on audio decoders. 

Dolby Pro Logic

Some receivers can fake the surround sound. What these receivers will do is sample out the low frequencies and send that to the back speakers while sending the lowest frequencies subwoofer. 

Many of these receivers use an old technology known as Dolby Pro Logic or Dolby matrix surround. What this does is what we just described, it extracts “surround sound” from a stereo signal. Or to put it better, it takes stereo sound and tries to construct a surround sound signal. Of course, true surround sound is much better than Dolby. 

There is some other similar technology as well. These include SACD, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD Master. We will talk about these in the next section.

When Can You Use RCA Surround Sound Connections?

In a number of scenarios, if you have the intention to send multichannel audio to a receiver, you will need to use some form of digital connection such as an HDMI connector or optical digital audio.

However, if your amp or receiver does not have digital audio connections, you can still deliver surround sound to your rooms through the analog multi-channel jacks on your player.

In some situations, you may need to use analog multichannel outputs to be able to hear some kind of multichannel audio such as SACD, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD Master.

How do I set up my RCA Surround Sound System?

All RCA surround systems come with an AV receiver, which serves as the pillar center for your surround system. How the receiver is integrated depends on which model you’ve purchased.

Step 1

Set the receiver in your entertainment center, near your TV and other devices. If you’re using a sub-woofer receiver, set it on the floor instead, within reach of your other devices.

Step 2

Plug the receiver/sub-woofer into the wall outlet, leaving the back accessible

Step 3

Connect your TV to the receiver/sub-woofer’s video-out port by using what you have available, which could be HDMI, component video, or composite video. 

Step 4

Connect any other devices like DVD players, Blu-ray players, and game consoles in the same fashion. Consult your owner’s documentation for specifics on setting up each device in case you are not sure.

How To Test Your RCA Surround Sound System?

Launch some music or a movie to test the sound. If some of the speakers don’t seem to be working, reaffirm that you’re set to “surround” mode on the AV receiver and that all cable connections are secure. 

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Norvan Martin is the founder of He is a professional Electronics Engineer and is passionate about home theater systems and AV electronics. BoomSpeaker was created as an online hub to share his knowledge and experiences as it relates to home theaters and home audio electronics. My email: [email protected]  Connect on Pinterest and Linkedin