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How to Use Multichannel Analog Audio Connections in Home Theater

There’s still room for analog audio connectivity in the digital age

In home theater, the emphasis is on digital connectivity, including HDMI, digital optical, digital coaxial, and USB. However, it has a long tradition of analog audio connections from the days of high fidelity and stereo.

Some components that still provide analog audio only or digital and analog audio connectivity include:

  • CD player
  • audio cassettes
  • VCRs
  • Older DVD and Blu-ray players

As a result, many home theater receivers still offer some analog audio connection options – usually stereo analog inputs and outputs, a subwoofer and Zone 2 preamp outputs. Multi-channel analog inputs and outputs are sometimes provided.

What are multi-channel analog connections?

Multi-channel analog connections consist of a separate audio connection for each audio channel.

There are left and right channel analog audio connections for stereo, as well as separate analog audio connections for center, left and right surround, and in some cases left and right surround back channels.

All these connections use RCA connectors and cables.

yamaha

Multi-channel preamp outputs: Home theater receivers

The most common multi-channel analog connections found on mid-range and high-end home theater receivers and AV preamps/processors are preamp outputs.

These outputs connect a home theater receiver or AV preamp/processor to external amplifiers. This provides access to all the audio features of a home theater receiver. If the built-in amplifiers are not powerful enough for an installation, the preamp outputs provide connection to more powerful external power amplifiers for one or more available channels.

When using multi-channel analog preamp outputs, they disable the home theater receiver’s internal amplifiers assigned to the corresponding channels. This means you cannot combine the power output of an internal amplifier with an external amplifier for the same channel.

Some home theater receivers allow you to reassign the internal amplifiers to other channels that are not skipped. You can use a combination of internal and external amplifiers to increase the number of channels a home theater receiver can control.

Read your home theater receiver’s manual for details on whether it offers the option to reassign the internal amplifier.

Multi-channel preamp outputs: AV processors

Multi-channel analog preamp outputs are optional on home theater receivers but mandatory on AV preamp processors. This is because AV preamp processors do not have the built-in amplifiers needed to power the speakers. The preamplifier’s analog outputs provide connection to external power amplifiers to receive audio signals to the speakers. Amplifiers in turn power the speakers.

You can also find multi-channel preamp outputs on older DVD and Blu-ray players, though these currently only include a few high-end models.

Multi-channel analog preamp outputs: DVD and Blu-ray Disc players

Prior to the introduction of HDMI, some high-end DVD players and some Blu-ray Disc players offered a multi-channel analog preamp output option. Some still do.

These links support two features:

  • The player can internally decode Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound audio formats. The signal is then transmitted to an older home theater receiver that does not have built-in Dolby Digital/DTS decoding and does not have optical/coaxial or HDMI digital inputs. It can also provide a range of multi-channel analog audio inputs. When using this option, the home theater receiver directly or PCM on the front panel dolly or sexually transmitted disease. You continue to enjoy the benefits of these formats as they are decoded before reaching the recipient.
  • It can support SACD and DVD-Audio. Introduced in 1999/2000, these audio formats affect the audio connection, although the home theater receiver has built-in Dolby/DTS decoding and provides optical/coaxial and HDMI digital inputs.

Due to bandwidth requirements, SACD and DVD-Audio formats cannot use coaxial or digital optical digital audio connections. This meant that before HDMI the only way to transfer these audio signals to a home theater receiver was the option for multi-channel analog audio connection.

To use the multi-channel analog preamp outputs on a DVD or Blu-ray Disc player with them, you need a matching set of inputs on a home theater receiver or AV preamp/processor.

Multi-channel analog inputs

Before the advent of HDMI, multi-channel analog audio input connections were common in home theater receivers and AV preamps/processors, but are now rare.

You have the flexibility to use a home theater receiver or AV processor that offers this option, as well as a DVD, Blu-ray Disc player, or any other source component that offers it as an output connection option.

Multi-channel analog inputs are discrete connections. If you connect a two-channel stereo analog source, such as a CD player, you only need to use the front left and right channel inputs. For full 5.1 or 7.1 channel surround sound, you must use all inputs and connect the corresponding dedicated channel outputs of the source component to the properly assigned channel inputs.

If you connect the front left/right analog preamp outputs of the source device to the left/right analog surround inputs, the sound will come out of the surround speakers instead of the main left/right speakers. If the source component has a subwoofer preamp output, the receiver must be connected to the subwoofer preamp input so that the receiver can be routed to the subwoofer output. You can also skip this option and connect the subwoofer output of the source device directly to the subwoofer.

Know your audio connection options

There are several home theater connection options. New options such as HDMI were introduced while old options were phased out. Others, such as the analog video inputs shared on newer TVs, have been merged. People have a mix of old and new components that need to be installed, and multi-channel analog audio connections are an option that may sometimes be available.


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How to Use Multichannel Analog Audio Connections in Home Theater

There is still room for analog audio connectivity in the digital age

The emphasis in home theater is on digital connectivity, including HDMI, digital optical, digital coaxial, and USB. However, there is a long tradition of analog audio connections from the days of high fidelity and stereo.

Some components that still provide analog audio-only or digital and analog audio connectivity include:

CD players
Audio-tape decks
VCRs
Older DVD and Blu-ray Disc players

As a result, many home theater receivers still provide some analog audio connection options—usually analog stereo inputs and outputs, a subwoofer, and Zone 2 preamp outputs. Multichannel analog inputs and outputs are sometimes provided.

What Are Multichannel Analog Connections?

Multichannel analog connections consist of a separate audio connection for each channel of audio.

Just as there are left-channel and right-channel analog audio connections for stereo, separate analog audio connections for the center, left and right surround, and, in some cases, left and right surround back channels are possible.

All these connections use RCA jacks and cables.

Yamaha
Multichannel Preamp Outputs: Home Theater Receivers

The most common multichannel analog connections found on mid- and high-end home theater receivers and AV preamp/processors are preamp outputs.

These outputs connect a home theater receiver or AV preamp/processor to external amplifiers. This allows access to all the audio features of a home theater receiver. If onboard amplifiers aren’t powerful enough for a setup, the preamp outputs allow connection to more powerful external power amplifiers for one or more available channels.

When multichannel analog preamp outputs are used, they disable the home theater receiver’s internal amplifiers that are designated for the corresponding channels. This means you cannot combine the power output of an internal amplifier with an external amplifier for the same channel.

Some home theater receivers allow reassignment of internal amplifiers to other channels that aren’t being bypassed. You may be able to use a mix of internal and external amplifiers to expand the number of channels that a home theater receiver can control.

Read the instruction manual for your home theater receiver for details on whether it offers the internal amplifier reassignment option.
Multichannel Preamp Outputs: AV Processors

Multichannel analog preamp outputs are optional on home theater receivers but required on AV preamp processors. That’s because AV preamp processors don’t have the built-in amplifiers required to power speakers. To get audio signals to speakers, analog preamp outputs enable connection to external power amplifiers. The amplifiers, in turn, power the speakers.

You can also find multichannel preamp outputs on older DVD and Blu-ray Disc players, but these days that includes only a few high-end models.
Multichannel Analog Preamp Outputs: DVD and Blu-ray Disc Players

Before the introduction of HDMI, some high-end DVD players and a few Blu-ray Disc players offered a multichannel analog preamp output option. Some still do.

These connections support two capabilities:

The player can decode Dolby Digital and DTS surround-sound audio formats internally. The signal then passes to an older home theater receiver that lacks built-in Dolby Digital/DTS decoding capability and has no digital optical/coaxial or HDMI inputs. It may also provide a set of multichannel analog audio inputs. When this option is used, the home theater receiver displays either Direct or PCM on the front panel instead of Dolby or DTS. You still get the benefits of those formats because they were decoded before they reached the receiver.
It can support SACD and DVD-Audio. These audio formats, introduced in 1999/2000, affect audio connectivity, even if the home theater receiver has built-in Dolby/DTS decoding and provides digital optical/coaxial and HDMI inputs.

Due to bandwidth requirements, the SACD and DVD-Audio formats can’t use digital optical or digital coaxial audio connections. This meant that, before HDMI, the only way to transfer those audio signals to a home theater receiver was via the multichannel analog audio connection option.

To use the multichannel analog preamp outputs on a DVD or Blu-ray Disc player that has them, you need a corresponding set of inputs on a home theater receiver or AV preamp/processor.
Multichannel Analog Inputs

Before HDMI arrived, multichannel analog audio input connections were common on home theater receivers and AV preamp/processors, but they are now rare.

With a home theater receiver or AV processor that offers this option, you have the flexibility to use a DVD, Blu-ray Disc player, or another source component that offers this as an output connection option.

Multichannel analog inputs are discrete connections. If you connect a two-channel stereo analog source such as a CD player, you need to use only the front left and right channel inputs. For full 5.1 or 7.1 channel surround sound, you need to use all the inputs and connect the corresponding designated channel outputs from the source component to the correctly designated channel inputs.

If you connect the analog front left/right preamp outputs of the source device to the surround left/right analog inputs, the sound comes out of the surround speakers instead of the main left/right speakers. If the source component has a subwoofer preamp output, it must be connected to a receiver’s subwoofer preamp input so it can be routed to the receiver’s subwoofer output. You could also bypass that option and connect the subwoofer output from the source device directly to the subwoofer.

Know Your Audio Connection Options

There are several home theater connection options. New options like HDMI have been introduced while old options are being phased out. Others have been consolidated, such as shared analog video inputs on newer TVs. People have a mix of old and new components that need to be connected, and multichannel analog audio connections are an option that may sometimes be available.

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