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Easy plug ’n play setup for your entertainment center

Get rid of the tangle of cables behind your TV

Published: January 2014

On some TVs, you can name inputs in the menu, so you don't have to recall numbers.

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—$10 or less at a website such as or Monoprice for a 6-foot length, and a bit more at retailers such as RadioShack, 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. In many setups, a 6-foot length is fine.

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 your Blu-ray player to use a game system. You can also buy an external multiport HDMI switcher (some cost $20 or less). You plug multiple devices into the switcher, which takes up only one HDMI input on the TV.

Basic setup

If all you want to connect is the box from your TV service provider, plug the coaxial 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 the video and audio.

Adding a Blu-ray player and/or stream­ing media player

Using HDMI cables, connect each device to an HDMI input on the TV. Inputs are often numbered, so remember which device is in which input. Some TVs let you assign a device name to each input so that you don't have to ­remember the number. To switch from one device to another, press a button on the ­remote, usually called “Source” or “Input.”

Adding a sound bar

The most common setup is to run audio from the TV to the sound bar via digital (optical or coaxial) or analog (stereo) cables. You can connect the sound bar with an HDMI cable instead if the sound bar has HDMI connections and it and the TV support ARC (audio return channel).

Some sound bars can connect to the TV via a wireless Bluetooth connection. Though that eliminates a ­cable, the audio and video may be out of sync, especially if the TV and sound bar are different brands. Bluetooth might be more useful for streaming audio from a portable device through the sound bar.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the March 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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