How to Wire Panasonic Home Theater Systemsby Fred Decker
Home theater systems from major manufacturers such as Panasonic can provide a surprisingly good simulation of the immersive sound you'd experience in a movie theater. Getting it right is largely a matter of placing your speakers correctly to provide the right balance of sound. You'll also need to hook up your components properly, to ensure the best-possible audio and video quality.
Place the center-channel speaker on a shelf directly above or below your television or in the television stand. Don't position it so it's directly in contact with the TV or the speaker's magnets and vibration can interfere with your television's proper operation.
Position the subwoofer on the floor or a short, stable stand. It should be within two feet of a wall or corner for optimal sound. Bass frequencies are omnidirectional, so you can put your subwoofer in any part of the room that's convenient.
Measure the distance from your preferred seating position, such as the back of your favorite couch or chair, to the television and center speaker. The remaining speakers should all be at approximately the same distance from your seating position.
Arrange the front speakers to either side of your television at a 50- to 60-degree angle from your seating position. Angle them slightly inwards. Place the rear speakers at the same distance behind your seating position and at approximately a 110- to 120-degree angle. If your Panasonic supports Dolby 7.1 sound, add the third set of speakers to the side of your listening position and just slightly behind you.
Cut equal lengths of speaker wire for each speaker and separate the two wires with a hobby knife or box cutter. Strip approximately 3/8 inch of the insulation from each wire and twist the wire to ensure no strands are loose.
Identify the two strands of your speaker wire. They're always differentiated in some way. Some speaker wire has a copper-colored side, or one strand might be labeled with plus signs. Those always go to the red terminal on your speakers. On some speaker wire, one side is marked by printing, a stripe or molded ridges running the length of the wire. Those mark the negative side and always go to the black terminal of your speakers.
Push down the spring terminals at the back of each speaker and insert the positive wire into the red and the negative wire into the black terminal. Run the wire back to your home theater receiver and insert the other end into the set of terminals labeled for that specific speaker, such as "rear left." Repeat, for each remaining speaker.
Plug an HDMI cable into your Panasonic receiver's output and connect it to an input on your television. To play audio from your television through the home theater system, connect an optical cable from the digital audio output on your television to the digital audio input on your home theater receiver.
Connect your Blu-ray player or digital set-top box to the HDMI inputs on your home theater receiver, if present. Some DVD players and set-top boxes lack HDMI outputs but provide component video through a set of red, green and blue RCA connectors. These are the second-best option for video quality. For older DVD players or VCRs, use the round S-video connector or traditional yellow RCA connector. If your Panasonic receiver doesn't support video connections, connect directly to the TV instead and go on to make the audio connections.
Insert a digital audio cable into the output from your Blu-ray player or digital set-top box and run it to the digital audio input on the back of your receiver. If your Panasonic only has one digital input, use it for your highest-quality component and attach the remaining devices to your receiver's conventional red and white RCA audio inputs.
Testing Your System
Plug in your receiver and any additional A/V components to a wall outlet or power bar and turn on your television and receiver. You'll see a first-time setup screen. Choose "Easy Setup."
Scroll through the settings and accept the default surround-sound settings, which preconfigure the sound levels for all your speakers. If you've placed and wired your speakers correctly, this normally provides well-tuned audio that gives satisfactory sound.
Turn your receiver's volume to its lowest setting and place a movie in your Blu-ray player. Turn up the sound until it's clearly audible. If your subwoofer is powered, you might also need to plug it in and turn it on. The bass, dialog, sound effects and background music should all be clearly audible with no one set of speakers dominating.
- Always hook up your system with the power off. While you're plugging in wires and cables, there's the possibility of creating a transient short circuit. After you're fully connected, the risk goes away. If the equipment is powered, you also run the risk of damaging your speakers with a loud "pop" as you connect your components.
- Ensure your volume is turned to minimum before beginning to test the speakers. Accidentally feeding a loud or noisy signal to your speakers can cause permanent damage.
- If your sound isn't perfectly balanced or if your room doesn't permit you to place your speakers optimally, use your remote to enter the settings menu and change the speaker levels manually. The specific menu options will vary, depending on your receiver.
- When testing your speakers, you might find that one pair seems to produce poor sound even after you've raised its levels in the settings menu. If so, check the wiring. You might have reversed the positive and negative wires at one end, which would leave the speakers out of phase.
- The Dolby Labs website has an interactive speaker-placement tool that can help you position your speakers correctly for either a 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound system.
- "Tinning" the ends of your speaker wires with a thin coating of solder will help keep the strands together and minimize the risk of them shorting each other out. Alternatively, you can purchase crimp-on pin tips at your local electronics store.
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