How to Hook Up Surround Sound to a 32" Vizio LCD TV
By John Lister
Vizio's 32-inch LCD televisions support three options for connecting to surround sound. From best to worst quality, these are: HDMI, optical cable and RCA cable. The sets output signals through any or all of the audio output sockets when a cable is plugged in, so you don't need to actively select an output socket to use. If you use a surround sound receiver, however, you'll need to remember to mute the sound on the TV. These televisions also support a virtual surround sound mode using the built-in speakers.
Vizio's 32-inch television sets have HDMI sockets that support the ARC (Audio Return Channel) system. This means you can connect external devices such as a Blu-ray player or cable box to your surround sound receiver with an HDMI cable and then run a separate HDMI cable from the receiver to your TV. If you watch content from the external device, the receiver will play the sound and relay the picture to the TV. If you watch content from the TV, the cable carries the sound from the TV set to the receiver. Vizio recommends using HDMI for audio unless you don't have the appropriate connections on your receiver.
The ARC system automatically switches the direction of the signal along the HDMI cable in response to your viewing choice. You do not need to change any settings on the TV to use HDMI; just connect the cable or cables to your other devices. You may need to select the HDMI input or enable ARC on your surround sound receiver. Consult the user manual for your receiver for specific instructions on how to do this.
Vizio's 32-inch televisions have a digital output socket for carrying a digital audio signal to a surround sound receiver or speaker system. This signal will include any multi-channel audio encoded in the original source, so if you use this option, you won't usually need to connect your other devices (such as Blu-ray players) to your surround sound receiver. The digital output socket is for an optical (TOSLINK) cable, so you will need to use a receiver with an optical input or use an optical-to-coaxial adaptor if your receiver only has a coaxial output. To access settings for the digital output socket, press the "MENU" button on the TV remote and use the arrow key to select "Audio." From this menu, you can switch the Digital Audio Output setting between "PCM" and "Bitstream." Make sure this is set to Bitstream, which passes on the digital signal with no additional processing, allowing your receiver to correctly turn it into surround sound.
Vizio's 32-inch sets also have a stereo analog output, more commonly called RCA cable. If you use this connection, your receiver will only get a stereo signal, so it can only create simulated surround sound using methods like Dolby Pro Logic. Because the cable is analog, you may notice sound imperfections if you use a damaged or inferior-quality cable. To access settings for the digital output socket, press "MENU" on the TV remote and use the arrow key to select "Audio." You can toggle the Analog Audio Out setting between "Variable" and "Fixed." Use the former if you want to control the volume with your TV remote or the latter to control the volume using your surround sound receiver.
Vizio's 32-inch televisions include the TruSurround HD system created by audio firm DTS. Contrary to what the name suggests, this is not literally multi-channel surround sound; instead, the television will use the feature to take a multi-channel surround sound signal and convert it into a stereo signal that plays through the TV's built-in stereo speakers but simulates surround sound. This simulation may not be precisely how the movie markers or others who created the original audio intended it to sound.
These instructions apply specifically to four 32-inch models of Vizio televisions available in the United States as of October 2013: the E20-A0, E20-A1 E20-A2 and M321I-A2. Connection options and availability for other models and TV brands may vary slightly or significantly.
A professional writer since 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, John Lister ran the press department for the Plain English Campaign until 2005. He then worked as a freelance writer with credits including national newspapers, magazines and online work. He specializes in technology and communications.