You’ve finished setting up your new home theater and big screen TV. You turn everything on and… nothing happens. Most consumers, including us “professionals,” have moments like this. However, this doesn’t mean it’s time to pull out your cell phone and call tech support or a repairman just yet.
Before you pick up the phone, there are a few practical things you can do, and knowledge you can arm yourself with, that can get your system working, or determine what the real problem is that needs fixing.
nothing lights up
Check all power connections. If you’ve plugged everything into a surge protector, make sure the surge protector itself is turned on and plugged into the wall. Believe it or not, this is one of the most common reasons home theater systems and/or TVs won’t turn on the first time.
Note: Remember that surge protectors are designed to stop fluctuations in electricity that could be caused by electrical shocks or sudden disconnections and reconnections. Your surge protector should be changed every few years to make sure it continues to work properly. When choosing a new one, be sure to select a surge protector and not a power strip.
no tv reception
Make sure your antenna, cable, or satellite box is properly connected to your TV. If you have a standard cable or satellite box, make sure it’s connected to your TV’s antenna/cable connection and that your TV is tuned to channel 3 or 4 (depending on the area).
If you have an HD cable or satellite box and an HDTV, make sure you have the box connected to your TV via HDMI, DVI, or component video connections.
Also, if you have your cable or satellite HD video and audio outputs routed through a home theater receiver to your TV, make sure your home theater receiver is turned on and set to the proper input so that the signal from HD cable or satellite is routed to the TV.
Image quality is poor
If the image is grainy or snowy, it may be the result of an incomplete cable connection or a faulty cable. Try a different cable and see if the result is the same. If you’re on cable, your cable company usually provides a free service to check your main cable line for any defects. If you use an antenna, change the position of the antenna to get better reception, or try a better antenna.
Another factor could be viewing analog signals on an HDTV.
Improper or no color
First, check if the color is bad on all input sources. If so, make sure your TV’s color setting is what you prefer. If you don’t like fiddling with individual color and picture adjustment controls, most TVs offer a number of presets that can be titled, such as Vivid, Cinema, Living Room, Day, Night, etc… that can meet your specific needs. Also, once you have selected one of the preset options, you can also slightly adjust each of them to improve color, brightness, contrast, etc… even more.
However, if everything looks fine except, say, your DVD player, and it’s connected to your TV via component video connections (which is made up of three wires: red, green, and blue), make sure correctly match the component connections (red, green, and blue) on your TV. This is a common mistake, as it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the green and blue connectors if the lighting in the connection area is dim.
HDMI connection not working
You have a DVD player, Blu-ray Disc player, or other HDMI-enabled component connected to an HDMI-equipped TV, but when you turn it on, you don’t get a picture on the screen. This sometimes happens because the source and the TV are not communicating. A successful HDMI connection requires that the source component and the TV can recognize each other. This is called “HDMI handshake”.
If the handshake does not work, the HDCP (High-Bandwith Copy-Protection) encryption that is built into the HDMI signal is not being recognized correctly by one or more of the connected components. Sometimes when two or more HDMI components are connected in a daisy chain (such as a media streamer or Blu-ray Disc player through an HDMI-enabled home theater receiver (or HDMI switcher) and then to the TV , this may cause a break in the HDCP encryption signal.
Usually the solution is to calculate a sequential power-up procedure for your facility; In other words, does the sequence work best when you turn on the TV first, then the receiver or switcher, then the source device, or vice versa, or something in between?
If this solution does not work consistently, please check for any firmware updates announced that address HDMI handshake issues with your components.
Surround sound doesn’t seem right
First thing to check: Does the DVD, TV show, or other programming source have surround sound? Next, check all the speaker connections and make sure they are correct according to channel and polarity.
The next thing to check is how you have your Blu-ray Disc/DVD player, cable, or satellite box connected to your home theater receiver. To access Dolby Digital/DTS surround sound, you need a 5.1-channel HDMI, digital optical, digital coaxial, or analog connection from the source component to the home theater receiver. Only these connections are capable of transferring a Dolby Digital or DTS encoded soundtrack.
It’s also important to note that Dolby TrueHD/Atmos and DTS-HD Master Audio/DTS:X surround sound formats, which are available on many Blu-ray Disc movies, can only be transferred over an HDMI connection.
If you have RCA analog stereo cables connected from a DVD player or other source component connected to a home theater receiver, the only way to access surround sound is with the Dolby Prologic II, IIx, or DTS Neo:6 settings, if enabled. available.
These processing schemes extract surround sound from any two-channel audio source, including CDs, Cassette Tape, and Vinyl Records. When using this method with Blu-ray Discs/DVDs, it’s not the same as an actual Dolby Digital/DTS signal you’d get from 5.1-channel digital or analog audio connections, but it’s more immersive than a two-channel output.
Another thing to remember is that even with true surround sound material, surround sound is not present at all times. During periods of mostly dialogue, most of the sound comes from the center speaker only, while ambient sounds come from the rest of the speakers. As the action on the screen becomes more complicated, like explosions, crowds, etc… or when the music soundtrack becomes part of the movie, you’ll notice more sound coming from the side and/or rear speakers.
Also, most home theater receivers offer automatic speaker setup programs to balance the sound coming from the speakers. Some of the systems include MCACC (Pioneer), YPAO (Yamaha), Audyssey (Used by various brands), AccuEQ Room Calibration (Onkyo)), Digital Cinema Auto Calibration (Sony), Anthem Room Correction (Anthem AV).
Although there are some variations in how these systems work, they all use a special microphone that is placed at the listening position and also plugs into the receiver. The receiver generates test tones which are sent to each speaker and which, in turn, are returned to the receiver through the microphone. The receiver analyzes the test tones and can adjust the speaker channel distance, size and level in relation to the listening position.
In addition to the automatic speaker setup systems mentioned above, you can always choose to use the receiver’s manual speaker setup menu. Some reference articles that can help manually set the correct speaker balance: How do I position my speakers and subwoofer for my home theater? and fixing low center channel dialogue. If something still doesn’t sound right, you might even have a faulty speaker that could be causing the problem.
A DVD does not play, skips or freezes frequently
There may be several reasons for this. One reason is that some DVD players, especially those made before the year 2000, have difficulty playing recordable DVDs. If you’re having trouble playing a homemade DVD, check the disc the recording was recorded on, and if it’s a format other than DVD-R, that could be the culprit, and recordable DVD formats such as DVD +R+RW, DVD-RW, or double-layer (DL) recordable DVDs, have varying degrees of compatibility with DVD players.
However, if you’re also having trouble playing DVD-Rs, it could even be the brand of blank DVD-R used to make the DVD. There is no guarantee that a specific home DVD will play on all DVD players, but DVD-Rs should play on most DVD players.
Another reason a DVD may not play is that it may be in the wrong region or created on the wrong video system.
Another factor that contributes to skipping or freezing of DVDs is the playback of rented DVDs. When you rent a DVD, you don’t know how it’s been handled and it could be cracked or full of greasy fingerprints that can cause some DVD or Blu-ray players to misread the DVD.
Lastly, the DVD player may be faulty. If you suspect this, try using a DVD player lens cleaner first, and also try cleaning any DVDs that have “problems.” If this does not improve DVD playback, consider exchanging the DVD player for another, if it is still under exchange or warranty. However, take the “problem” DVD to your dealer and see how they play on other DVD players in the store first to rule out any problems with the actual DVDs.
The DVD recorder does not allow you to record one channel and watch another at the same time
If you have a DVD recorder or DVD/VCR combo recorder, just like with a VCR, as long as you’re not using a cable TV or satellite box, you may have to watch a program on your TV, while recording from another to another, as long as your recorder has a compatible built-in digital tuner.
However, the reason you can’t do this when using a cable or satellite box is that most cable and satellite boxes can only download one channel at a time through a single cable feed. . In other words, the cable and satellite box determines which channel is sent down the rest of the path to your VCR, DVD recorder, or television.
If your DVD recorder doesn’t have a built-in tuner, there is only one input option, via the AV connection (yellow, red, white), which can only receive one video signal at a time – so if your external tuner cable or satellite box is tuned to a specific channel, that is the only channel that can be fed to the DVD recorder through AV connections.
Turntable volume is too low or distorted
With the renewed interest in vinyl records, many are not only dusting off their old records, but trying to reconnect their old turntables to their new home theater systems.
One problem to contend with is that many of the newer home theater receivers don’t have dedicated phono turntable inputs. As a result, many consumers are trying to connect their turntables to the receiver’s AUX input or some other unused input.
This does not work because the output voltage and impedance of the turntable cartridge is different than the audio outputs of CD players, VCRs, DVD players, etc… as well as the turntable’s requirement for a ground connection to the receiver.
If your home theater receiver doesn’t have a dedicated turntable input, then you need to buy an external turntable or a turntable that has a built-in turntable, and many new turntables not only offer built-in turntable preamps, but also USB ports that allow connection to a PC or laptop to convert analog vinyl records to CDs or for storage on hard drives or flash drives. However, if you need a phono preamp, check out some listings on Amazon.com.
It’s also a good idea to change the cartridge or stylus if the turntable has been in storage for a while. If the cartridge or touch pen is worn out, it could cause the music to sound distorted. Another option, of course, is to buy a new turntable that may already have a built-in phono preamp – check out the deals on Amazon.com.
Radio reception is poor
This is usually a matter of connecting better antennas to the FM and AM antenna connections on your home theater receiver. For FM, you can use the same type of rabbit ears or outdoor antenna that is used for analog or digital/HDTV reception. The reason for this is that FM radio frequencies are actually between the old analog TV channels 6 and 7 if you reside in North America. Wisconsin Public R