Surround Sound Problems

I’ll try to keep this simple, but there are piles of problems and not knowing a lick about surround sound systems and receivers, I can’t figure out which are actually problems let alone how to fix them. Let me also say I can provide pictures of whatever might be useful to see, such as the subwoofer or receiver.

I have a room that is about 15’ by 10’ covered by my surround sound system currently. According to the bottom of the subwoofer, it is a Bose Acoustimass 10 from 1996. It looks identical to the Bose Acoustimass 10A ( ), ie. red stripe and subwoofer look. These already have some of their cables in-wall and are wall-mounted; others are set on a shelves on the other side of the room.

I just upgraded my theater system into a high-def system, all HDMI-compatible when possible. HDMI-TV (Panasonic TH-42PZ80U) hooked into a receiver (Yamaha RX-V463BL), which is HDMI-cabled to an Insignia Blu-Ray player and an Xbox 360 Elite. Component cabled into the Wii (perhaps to upgrade to S-Video?). Soon I will hook up an HD cable box too, and possibly some of my older video game systems through RCA inputs. But nothing gets surround sound. All sound comes from the TV’s speakers.

The non-stereo system was installed by Geek Squad, who were puzzled at the ancient speakers and were unable to get them to function properly. They actually said it wouldn’t work, then that it did while doing the speaker test and that I would get surround sound, but it isn’t happening.

Normally the speakers connect to the subwoofer, and the subwoofer connects those cables to the receiver, along with a subwoofer-itself cable. My subwoofer is so old that it has no subwoofer-itself cable, nor any hole where such a cable might have been. Just the 5 speakers in, and 5 speakers out ribbon cables. So while the speakers are wired into the surround sound properly, the subwoofer has no direct link. Perhaps this is part of the problem?

The receiver will mostly-successfully run a speaker test. All but the subwoofer (clearly) and the front left speaker will buzz during the test. Perhaps the front left is broken in some way? But if the receiver can run a speaker test, then most of the speakers should be working, right? I know the speakers in general used to work with the 10 year old TEAC receiver I had, although never used for surround sound, simply volume enhancement for the PS2 DVD playing, which was very quiet. So if any speakers were not working then, I would not have noticed.

The Blu-Ray has an audio coaxial cable that is supposed to go from it to the receiver. This AFAIK is a yellow-tipped cable. I have several of them, but some fit too loosely and fall out (the type that the Geek Squad installers placed in). Others fit fine, but no change is found to happen despite rebooting both systems. Yet they are HDMI-cabled, and I thought HDMI handled both audio and visual? Why do I need both cables? Is the cable actually more specialized and this is part of the problem? The cable included was far, far too short to reach, and I am not sure if it is safe to put the Blu-Ray directly on top of the receiver due to heat to make the original cable reach.

The Xbox 360 Elite is also HDMI-cabled to the receiver, and has a dongle in the back with red and white wire holes, and I was told I need some sort of audio cord to go from there to somewhere in the back of the receiver or I would only get TV speaker audio, but again, HDMI? Is this a special cable too? Do I plug it into the component portion or what? There are many red and white holes.

Maybe the fault lies with the receiver, and it is not telling things to use surround sound? I notice that no matter what setting it is on, it highlights only the front left and front right speaker pictures. Regardless the audio doesn’t come from those anyway. I tried doing what the instruction manual was telling me, but its troubleshooting for lack of surround sound was just that they weren’t cabled properly.

Are the speakers simply too old to handle HD audio? With the cables to the rear set being very, very long and already in the wall, is it possible to get new speakers that work with the old cabling? Or would the cabling be too old too? Would just getting a new subwoofer and front left speaker work, or would it be incompatible with the old cables to the speakers? Would a modern Bose Acoustimass 10 series work with the old cables?

I could always skip the wall-mounts, and set new, perhaps wireless speakers on a windowsill and a table which are directly below the current ones; is there notable audio problems when speakers are around head-level? (Wireless v. batteries is not a huge issue, they are all very reachable even when wall-mounted, as long as I would not have to replace them say, weekly, with average usage.)

Maybe I should just call some speaker specialists to check out the house? But then there goes some workmen fees on top of having to fix the problems as well.

I am not remotely an audiophile, and just want simple surround sound capable of HD audio, that is compatible with a comfortable amount of bass. A wireless system that isn’t terrible (and would not be messed up by other wireless things down here: mouse, modem, Xbox 360, Wii), or a wired system that can use the existing wires as it probably would be incredibly difficult to re-wire the room’s walls (?) may end up the best choices, I guess.

So, any idea on what path(s) to choose? Knowledge on whether those cables are truly necessary and if so if they are special or probably the generic RCA-types I have hanging around would be useful, as well as probably recommendations on new 5.1 speakers that aren’t more than $1000 (I sure hope you can get mediocre ones that fit my needs for that, anyway).

You may have to ditch the Bose system in order to use the Yamaha system, especially if there’s no way to connect the Acoustimass system to the Yamaha. Fortunately, a good set of surround speakers can easily be had for under $1,000.

Re-wiring may not be necessary, depending on the type of wire. If needed, it might not be as difficult as you think. You may be able to simply tape the new wire to the old wire and pull it through. Depends on if the original wire is secured or simply run through holes in the framing.

With the components you have, I think the best configuration is as follows:

Insignia DVD -> HDMI cable -> Yamaha Receiver
HD Cable Box -> HDMI cable -> Yamaha Receiver
XBox - HDMI/component cable -> Yamaha Receiver
Wii -> Component Cable -> Yamaha Receiver

Insignia DVD -> HDMI cable -> Yamaha Receiver
HD Cable Box -> HDMI cable -> Yamaha Receiver
XBox - Optical Digital Audio cable -> Yamaha Receiver
Wii -> Optical/Coaxial Digital Audio cable -> Yamaha Receiver

Then all you need is an HDMI cable going to your television, and speaker wires going out.

Oh, and get yourself a Logitech Remote control. Best investment ever!

Thanks, that setup sounds quite easy to fix up. (Except the receiver only has two HDMI-in, so I would put the cable box directly into the TV or use a splitter, whichever works best.) Also I have no idea why I didn’t think of the “tie new cord to old cord, pull through wall” trick.

The speakers ARE wired into the receiver, though, just not the subwoofer; which is the weird thing with them responding to the speakertest, just not actually making surround sound noise. Still, with 12-year-old speakers it’s no wonder the one cube seems utterly dead, and I’m afraid the rest may capitulate to time as well. Getting a new set may not be so bad.

What would I be looking for in new speakers? Or…where? Amazon has some great price markdowns right now, but they don’t let me search for some features like speaker wire length, and who knows what else I don’t know about (like mid-range tone capability). Newegg has some neat looking ones, but they seem more computer-oriented so maybe they wouldn’t work so well with a whole room?

My setup only uses the two HDMI ins. The Xbox comes with an HDMI to component cable, so you can plug the HDMI end into the Xbox, and the component end into the receiver. Bob’s yer uncle.

This is where you should invest in some online research and also go talk to someone at a true audio video store (not Best Buy or any big box store). Depending on what you’re doing with your system (movies vs. music vs. video games), there may be many solutions that fit your space and budget. For learning the basics, I suggest going to Nice bite sized chunks of info there to get you started.

What kind of sorcerer are you Dante?!

I dropped my HDMI-HDMI 360-receiver cable for the HDMI-component one and suddenly I’m getting surround sound (and I do not have that optical digital audio cable either)!

Front-Left is still dead as a doorknob and of course the subwoofer isn’t ‘seen,’ but what the heck. Sounds a little weird as the surround setup is 90 degrees off due to the old room setup I haven’t fixed yet though, heh.

The Blu-ray player still uses TV audio, but it’s using an HDMI-HDMI cable like the 360 was…maybe it wants an HDMI-component? All I did was remove the yellow-tip cable from the Blu-ray and the receiver, swap those two cables for the Xbox.

That’s weird. As far as I know, component inputs don’t process sound.

Are you sure you connected the component cables to the proper inputs, or is your Xbox connected in any other way to your receiver?

I am just going by what the back of the receiver is saying:

Component Video-
-DTV/CBL (RGB wires) -> Xbox
-DVD (RGB wires) -> nothing plugged in
-Monitor out (RGB wires) -> TV

-DTV/CBL (Y wire) -> nothing plugged in on behest of Xbox installation site
-DVR in (Y wire) -> Wii
-DVD (Y wire) -> nothing plugged in
-Monitor out (Y wire) -> TV

-DTV/CBL (WR wires) -> Xbox (gets surround sound)
-DVD (WR wires) -> nothing plugged in
-DVR in (WR wires) -> Wii (gets surround sound)

-Out -> TV
-DVD -> Blu-ray (does not get surround sound, uses TV sound)
-DTV/CBL -> what I used to have the Xbox HDMI cable in (did not get surround sound, used TV sound)

There are tons more Audio plugs, but with no corresponding video plugs, none with anything in them though.

Fiddling around, actually, seems with this setup, my Xbox isn’t capable of more than 480p, and I definitely want it to be high-def. Every time I choose the setup options to use 1080p, it defaults back to 480p. With the HDMI-and-no-surround-sound option I could get 1080p…

Ah, I see. Well, you’re not getting surround sound by using the red & white RCA connectors. The best you can get is two channel stereo sound. Although your receiver might be emulating surround sound. Not sure without reading the manual, and Yamaha doesn’t have them online.

You could use component cable on the HD cable box and HDMI for the Xbox, but you’d need to run optical or coaxial digital audio to the receiver. HDMI carries both audio and video, but component does not.

BTW, get rid of that yellow video wire as soon as you can. It’s turrible.

…from the HD cable box.

Sorry, forgot to add that.

That’s the problem – ANYTHING plugged in with HDMI, the sound comes only from the TV. Nothing from speakers. ANYTHING plugged in with HDMI-component, or pure-component, gets the speakers going. Cable box (just got that one going tonight) with HDMI, TV-only.

Maybe my receiver is broken and can’t convert it? Or there’s a problem with my receiver-to-TV HDMI cable in which it ‘steals’ all the audio away?

I have no optical/coax digital audio cables that I know of to test anything out with, although I could go try to get some tomorrow night.

You probably have to “tell” the receiver where to find the audio. Again, not sure without the manual.

I’d suggest unhooking everything except the DVD to the receiver via HDMI, and then to the TV via HDMI, as you previously had it. Scroll through some of the options on the receiver and see if you are able to get sound.

Just some random thoughts on the subwoofer and left speaker:

The box of the AM-10 system isn’t really a subwoofer at all in terms of a 5.1 surround system. It’s actually called (and rightfully so) a bass module. Because the satellites are so small the bass module handles the lower frequencies for ALL of these speaker channels (left, center, right, rear left, rear right).
An actual subwoofer being used in surround sound applications is typically self powered (built-in amplifier and gets plugged into the wall), has no connection to any of the other speakers, and has a dedicated cord running to the receivers sub-out. It becomes the “.1” of a 5.1 channel surround system.

If you want to trouble shoot the left speaker problem it’s fairly simple.

  1. Run the test signal to verify the left channel is still out. If it’s still out disconnect the wires attached to it and swap the speaker with one on the right.
    Run the test again. If the left channel works now and the right channel doesn’t you know the speaker is shot. If the left channel still doesn’t work but the right channel is fine then your speakers are fine.
  2. Assuming your speakers are fine. Attach each speaker directly to the receivers left and right outputs. Don’t run the wire through the bass module. Run the test again. (Don’t turn the volume too high since the satellite speakers aren’t made for a full range of frequencies, only the higher frequencies the bass module lets pass through). If the left channel is still out then the problem is with your receiver. If both channels work then your receiver is fine.
  3. Assuming your speakers are fine and your receiver is fine.
    Disconnect and reconnect the speakers to the bass module. Run the test again. If the left channel is still out then there is a problem with the crossover in the bass module. Get Bose to fix it.

Lots and lots and lots of reading (the receiver manual is humongous) and wire-fiddling = progress!

All speakers work I know now (I re-wired the unfunctioning one into the receiver: part of the wire was sticking out of the cap!), and I can tell it’s the ‘fake surround’ too. The center speaker shoots out a TON of noise, the left and right very, very, very tiny amounts but if I hold it up against my ear I can hear mostly bass noise coming out. Yay! Even the base module, I can feel it vibrating.

Also, the receiver apparently does list at one point that even with HDMI, to make the speakers have HD audio surround, you have to add a coax or digital audio cable: hence the pure-HDMI ones having only TV sound makes sense now, while the component-hooked ones almost work. So I shall get some coax/digital audio cables this weekend and see what occurs.

Then I suppose true surround will occur, and with volume; if not, oh boy…but at least progress!

HDMI splitters exist, right? I have 3 HDMI-in things I want to use surround sound with (HD cable, Blu-ray, Xbox), but the receiver has only 2 HDMI-in slots. I’m guessing plugging one into the TV’s HDMI-in would not lead to surround sound anyway, since the TV and receiver are connected only by an HDMI-out

But hey, significant progress! No rewiring! No buying little cubes to glue to the wall! :smiley: The Dope is so great to help me figure out how to test stuff.

Maybe I am missing something, but how can you have audio coming out of your TV speakers? In a setup like this, the only cables connected to your TV should be the RGB component cables from the receiver (Labeled “Monitor Out” on your model). Your TV shouldn’t be getting any audio signal from any device. Each device connects to your receiver inputs. The receiver outputs video to your TV, and audio to your speakers.

Don’t bother with a HDMI splitter, if they even exist: Your XBOX has the HDMI to Component Cable, so use that (RGB video cables to DVR 3 and the RW audio cables to DVR IN). Use the HDMI cables to connect your Cable Box (CBL/DTV IN 2) and BluRay (DVD IN 1) along with the the coax (DVD 1) and optical (CBL/DTV 2) audio cables. Connect your Wii and other devices to the other available inputs.

Note: I’m using “Rear Panel View” from this page as a guide, so I hope that matches the back of your receiver. Not the best receiver for more then 2 HD devices, IMO.

That’s a different receiver apparently; it’s vaguely similar from the back, though. Mine has everything arranged differently, and different speaker-in holes.

My TV is connected to the receiver via an HDMI cable and four cables (they are taped with RGBW). I’m guessing that’s why the sound comes out of there? The HDMI is in the “HDMI out” plug, the four cables are in something-else-out that I can’t see at the moment.

The Xbox is NOT giving me any greater than 480p display with the HDMI-component cable; with the HDMI cable I get the TV audio, but 1080p/1080i display. Ie. if I ask it to use 1080p, it blacks out for a moment, and re-selects 480p, even if I swap menu panels and come back to ensure it has updated. I’d be happy to use the HDMI-component cable, but I really want to see my games in high quality…unless something is just being odd, here. Would using an HDMI-component cable from the cable box do the same thing, keep it at 480p? That’s why I’d use a splitter, I want to see 1080p whenever possible or else it is a bit of a waste. (I could also skip the splitter and just plug different things into the back of the receiver, it’s not too difficult.)

You can get a 1080 picture with either HDMI or Component cables (the RGB ones). HDMI is just a convenience with the 3 component signals wrapped up into one package along with up to 8 channels of audio. You can use a single HDMI cable to transmit the HD video and digital audio (up to 1080p and 7.1 audio) OR you can use the component video cables (Red, Blue and Green connectors, 1080i on most TVs, 1080p on newer ones) plus a coax (usually orange) or an optical (square black connector) audio cable.

I don’t know why your setup is requiring the HDMI cable plus an optical/coax cable for surround sound, or why your XBox is giving you so many troubles (I don’t own one, so I can’t help with that). But your TV only needs to be connected with the Red, Green, and Blue component cables, or the HDMI cable. If you use the HDMI cable, you should turn off your TV’s speakers or keep the volume at 0.

Since the HDMI-Component cable doesn’t give you a 1080 picture, ditch it. Maybe a splitter would be your best bet, since your receiver only has 2 HD+surround inputs, but you want to connect 3 HD devices.

Yes, there are HDMI selector switches.

I use an optical audio selector for my setup, since I have only one optical audio in on my receiver, and all my components use it.

FYI, my Harmony remote controls the selector too. I’m totally pimping those remotes. I love them.

This is not correct. HDMI carries digital video signals, not analog like Component signals. cite, cite, cite.

Now that I don’t have to buy new speakers I likely will get one of those Harmony remotes; I have 4 remotes right now I have to use to control everything. Any recommendations on a specific one? There are a ton.

The receiver specifically states that to get surround sound, you have to use an optical/coaxial digital audio cable along with your HDMI cable. So I got one of each.

I unplugged the component cables from the TV-to-receiver, leaving only the single HDMI cable. The cable box is connected to the receiver via an HDMI and a coaxial. The Blu-ray is connected to the receiver via an HDMI and an optical. Still, sound only comes through the TV. Curiously, when inspecting the Blu-ray player menu, it can only ‘see’ two speakers, the left and right. (Presumably the TV’s speakers.) I tried unplugging all but one device, and fiddling around a lot, but I can’t seem to make anything work. I did ensure that whatever the HDMI cable was labeled, it went into the same labeled digital audio port (ie. DTV/CBL, or DVD).

No idea what to do next, though. More fiddling with the receiver? I was reading the manual again, and couldn’t find anything that was helpful. I hope it’s not something like the Blu-ray and cable box cannot both output with digital audio AND HDMI cables at the same time.