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How to hook up AV Receiver, speakers, and Desktop

Last response: in Home Audio
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September 30, 2013 12:43:12 PM

Hi there. I just recently joined not too long ago to the Tomshardware community to ask a question that's been bothering me for awhile.

Simply put, I'm trying to figure out how to hook up these three pieces all together, to play the sound from a desktop. The receiver, the speakers to the receiver and then finally to the desktop

I come from the land of PC grade 2.0s and 2.1 configurations, but based on my growing taste in quality audio, they seem to be lacking. Alot of the 2.1 set ups I've come across seem to dump some of the midrange frequencies into the sub, leaving the left and rights sounding quite lacking, and tinny perhaps. I believe it's because of a Crossover doing this? Something more along the lines of laptop speakers paired with a subwoofer that doesn't play bass drum strikes and bass guitar tones together well, and ends up sounding like rumbling (Depends on the genre I listen to and recording quality)

I'm what you could say a growing audiophile of sorts. I primarily listen to Heavy Metal and many of it's most popular genres, Black Metal, Death Metal, Thrash Metal, and Power Metal. I also listen to Classic Rock and Hard Rock as well, maybe with just a very slight touch of Blues in the mix. Because of the nature of Heavy Metal, it's very fast paced and there are alot of sounds going on, and without the right speakers, it makes it tough to make distinctions between instruments and their sounds, and things could end up sounding like a jumbled mess on the wrong pair of speakers.

I recently searched high and low throughout the internet to simply plug a cord or however many is required, from the back of the desktops audio jacks (weather they be from a built in sound card or a dedicated), and to the AV receiver. Then the speakers, weather 2.0 or 2.1 set up into the AV Receiver as well, and in the proper spots.

My thought would be that someone please provide a detailed, yet not too complex description of how this is set up, and what cables are involved. I know a bit about some set ups, for example that banana plugs on thick gauge wiring is good for speakers provided with enough slack on the wires, and that the wiring should be oxygen free to help minimize any kind of distortion.

I also understand about speaker placement can change sound quality and should be tinkered with if possible, and the size of the room, and what other objects reside in the room as well.

I'm not looking to connect HDMI cables or SPDIF cables from the PC to the receiver (alot of threads I checked up on here were merely addressing inconveniences others were having about their connections), since I'm oldschool and believe graphics cards should only be left alone to handle the graphics, and my sound card should handle my sound. And that all-in-one PCs are convenient, but still prefer a stand alone monitor, computer and other peripherals.

If anyone could please explain this to me it would be of an incredible help. I currently do not own a receiver or higher grade speakers to connect to it and to the desktop, but having this information would be of very high value to me. Better to know what you're doing right off the bat so you don't mess anything up.

Pictures to help aid in the description would be of great benefit as well. Also recommending some good quality brands that sell quality receivers and good sounding speakers that pack some bass (but not too much) and firm midrange frequencies that are pretty flat and clear (none of this has to be perfect), and clear highs with fairly well room filling sound in a 2.0 package at least, would be amazing from you guys. 2.0's sound best to start with, since some good left/rights can pack plenty of bass to go around, as a subwoofer might not be needed.

Once again, would be an amazing help from you guys to educate this young poor sap with the know-how.
September 30, 2013 1:14:15 PM

If you are looking to play your PC Desktop Audio through you AV Receiver, your best option would be the Optical Way. The ingredients needed for this would be a Motherboard with a Optical Audio Outpout (i own a Asus Z87 Pro which has this), a Optical Audio cable (don't pay more than $20 for this), a Audio Receiver with a Optical Audio input port (i also own a Denon AVR-3801, oustanding piece of hardware), ensure that the Receiver has some decent wattage (something around $200 or less, you can find the model i own for under $100 with remote) and some Decent speakers along with a nice Subwoofer. This out to pack enough punch for your music needs .

Best luck shopping for your parts
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September 30, 2013 1:14:45 PM

I use a Yamaha receiver and Polk Audio speakers with a 1200W Velodyne subwoofer to play my music from my desktop, but in order to get the audio to the receiver you need to use a good quality connection. Depending on your audio card, either a Toslink (optical SPDIF) or HDMI will give you the best sound quality, better than an RCA or 3.5mm jack.

I've used a Toslink optical connection for years and never had any issues, although HDMI is a bit better quality AFAIK.

It's actually harder to find a good reasonably priced receiver that is only 2.1 rather than 5.1, you can get a very nice 5.1 Yamaha and just use front speakers and a subwoofer for excellent head banging results.
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September 30, 2013 1:25:26 PM

Can you refer to me pictures, or a motherboard that comes with this Optical audio output, maybe detail where it's located on the back? I've never once had to work with something like that before, and with what little experience I have with computers is with older machines that tended to have very basic audio inputs/outpits.

Also, can you recommend to me any specific AV Receivers preferably under $150 USD, and any left/right speakers of good quality as well, preferably under $175? Or at least any specific products that you've used before that you enjoyed using.
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September 30, 2013 1:29:17 PM

Many motherboards have the connector, but it looks like the pink funny shaped port on THIS PICTURE and the cables look like THIS and come in many lengths.
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September 30, 2013 1:34:51 PM

It looks like on that specific piece there it comes on a graphics card. It's nice to have both audio and video together in one cable. These would be on motherboards as well as you say? I should try looking up Asus motherboards that come with that, unless you have any cheaper specific models in mind. I am also looking to build a custom built desktop at some time in the future whenever that may be, but the only relevance I'd want to include in this with that would be what the Desktop needed in order to get the sound from there and into the receiver.
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Best solution

September 30, 2013 1:40:45 PM

Most good motherboards with on-board sound also have Toslink optical connection, all of my ASUS have the Toslink connection. That was just an easy picture to find that shows what a Toslink optical SPDIF connection looks like.

You can probably find a fairly good Pioneer, Sony, or Onkyo receiver in your price range. Denon or Yamaha would be closer to $250. Polk Audio speakers are good and reasonably priced.

I use THIS cable and it is under $10 for a 10 foot cable.
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September 30, 2013 1:46:29 PM

Alright sounds real nice. Thanks for all of that so far. I'll check to see what's available from Pioneer, Sony and Onkyo. Before I check though, the left/rights I was looking at were the Polk Audio Tsi100s. What's your opinion on these if you've ever at least managed to sample them?

Also, depending on the receiver I have, if it depends at all, where exactly would I plug these into on the back of them? I apologize if I seem like a caveman when it comes to this.
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September 30, 2013 1:52:16 PM

I have a set of them and they have very nice sound. They connect to the back of the receiver using 18 gauge wire that can directly attach as a pair of wires to the speaker and either that way or using a "banana" 4 mm jack on the other end. You can buy the wire and jacks at any hardware store.
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September 30, 2013 1:58:12 PM

Yeah the wires and jacks aren't all that hard to obtain, I looked at a few myself the other day. I've checked the back of AV Receivers some on pictures (I can't necessarily just leave the home to go and browse to check things), to see where exactly the left and rights would go though. I really hate to ask this question, as it's probably one of the most simple to figure out here but, where would the cables for the speakers go exactly on the receiver? I noticed that for some, there's many places to hook these up into but I can't readily see where exactly they'd go.
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September 30, 2013 2:04:24 PM

There are a variety of speaker ports on the back of the receiver and you would use the front left and right ones.

Click on THIS link and then select the picture of the back of this (my) receiver and you will see the 5 way jack just like the speaker has -- I use banana jacks but you can just use wire without the jack on this type connector.
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September 30, 2013 2:11:13 PM

Alright thank you so much for that info. I can see where they go now. I can also see where the subwoofer goes as well, and it should operate the sub through the Subwoofer Pre Out, should I ever desire to add a good subwoofer into the mix, yeah? But also if there's any subwoofer you could recommend for cheap that'd be great too. I was checking out the Polk Audio TSW10 10" sub. If it supports the connection to the Subwoofer Pre Out, what cable is required for that?

I'll go try to check out some receivers to see if they offer these same connections but for cheaper. $300 is quite a ways out of my range for a receiver if I can ever get my hands on this equipment.
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September 30, 2013 2:16:16 PM

Watch for sales -- I got my Yamaha for $179 from Newegg.

The subwoofer uses just a wire connection with standard RCA audio jacks on each end.
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September 30, 2013 2:18:47 PM

Hmm, where would those RCA jacks go into the back of the receiver then? Of course one of the RCA outputs but I can't see which one on the unit you've shown me you own
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September 30, 2013 2:32:45 PM

A subwoofer only needs to use a single RCA cable since they are a monaural sound source, you cannot localize sounds at that low of a frequency. It is the subwoofer pre out port.
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September 30, 2013 2:44:52 PM

You would attach to the L RCA input jack using one cable of THIS type in whatever length you need, they usually come in 3 or 6 feet -- 6 feet gives you a little more flexibility in positioning stuff.
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September 30, 2013 3:13:38 PM

The link isn't working right.
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September 30, 2013 3:14:43 PM

You would separate the three RCA cables and toss two in a drawer since you only need one, unless you can find a place to buy just one -- they usually come as two or three. The type that are attached together peel apart very easily.
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September 30, 2013 3:17:56 PM

Ohh I see now. Yeah most RCA cables I come across like that I can just peel apart. Based on the back of the TSW10 subwoofer, I just plug that one RCA into either of the RCA line ins on the sub then into the Sub Pre Out? Or into one of the other RCA jacks on the receiver?
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September 30, 2013 3:24:47 PM

The Sub Pre Out to the L input on the subwoofer.
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September 30, 2013 3:31:59 PM

Alright ty so much for all the help. Only last debate I'd still take up with you guys would be what receiver I could get for cheap. I posted the one I was looking at earlier but at around 200 dollars I dunno. I was hoping for 150-175 max but I can't seem to find good quality receivers for that cheap or less. I could try searching places like Ebay and Craigslist but I'm not too trustworthy of those places.
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