You don’t have to live with a tangle of wires behind your TV set, even if you want to connect several gadgets. All it takes is a few cheap HDMI cables, which cost $7 or so online for a 6-foot length and a bit more at retailers such as Target and Walmart. Buy the shortest cable that will reach from the devices to the TV, with at least a foot or so of extra play.
Most new TVs 40 inches and larger have three or four HDMI inputs. Choose a set with enough for the number of devices you want to connect so that you don’t have to unplug one to use another. You don’t need as many inputs on the TV if you’ll be using an A/V receiver to switch between devices.
Basic setup. If all you want to connect is the box from your TV service provider, plug the cable coming in from the service into the back of the box. Then connect the box to the TV with one HDMI cable that will carry both the video and audio.
Adding a Blu-ray player. You do essentially the same thing. If the inputs are numbered, note the number so that you can switch to that source to play a disc. Some TVs let you assign a name, such as “Blu-ray.”
Adding a streaming media box. If your TV doesn’t have Internet capability, you can add it via a streaming-media player, such as an Apple TV or a Roku box. Follow the same steps, connecting the box to another HDMI input on your TV. (Google TV connects between your cable box and TV.)
Adding a sound bar. The most common setup is to run audio from your cable box, Blu-ray player, or TV to the sound bar via digital (optical or coaxial) or analog (stereo) cables. You can use an HDMI cable with some sound bars that have multiple inputs and the ability to switch between components. In this scenario the audio of the program you’re watching on the TV will be steered to the sound bar. Some TVs support ARC (audio return channel) via the HDMI cable, enabling the TV to send the TV’s audio back to the sound bar on that cable instead of via the digital audio output. Even simpler: a wireless Bluetooth connection between the sound bar and the TV. Look for TVs with that feature this year.