How To Connect A TV To A Home Receiver Without HDMI – Guide & Diagrams

Want great TV or cable box sound from your audio system, but your receiver doesn’t have an HDMI port? Great news – there are other ways to do it.

In this article you’ll find a ton of great info:

  • How to connect a TV to a receiver without HDMI
  • Clear & helpful diagrams to show you how
  • What does & does not work with surround sound
  • Info to help you get the best results
  • ..and more!

Connection and cable options to know first

examples of TV audio cables

The cables you’ll need to have will depend on your receiver’s available inputs and the converter (if any) you need to use. There’s no standard set of audio output jacks for TVs, so it can be just one or a combination of several.

It’s important to have at least one type of non-HDMI input on your receiver such as a coaxial digital input, optical digital input, or auxiliary (“AUX”) inputs. (I’ll cover these in more detail as we go)

HDMI cable end close up annotated with notes

In addition to HDMI, your TV might have:

  • RCA jacks: also called analog signal outputs because the audio is non-digital and can be amplified directly by a receiver. Using an RCA audio cable is cheap and easy. Some TVs have a 3.5mm (1/8 inch) headphone jack style connector. You can use a 3.5mm to RCA adapter cable for those.
  • Optical digital output: Also called a TOSLINK jack, this is a digital audio output that must be converted back to an analog signal at some point. You can plug in an optical cable to connect to receivers with this type of input. Signals are carried using pulses of light instead of electrical bits.
  • Coaxial digital output: this uses one RCA-style jack that connects to an RCA cable to carry the digital audio signal using electrical bits. Note that you cannot connect it to a receiver’s analog RCA AUX inputs.

The connectors listed above apply to both a standard or a smart TV – it always depends on the particular model.

HDMI and HDMI ARC explained

HDMI vs HDMI ARC comparison diagram

The High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) standard has been on the consumer electronics market for around 15 years now. It’s evolved a bit, becoming more flexible and yes – unfortunately – a bit complicated to understand sometimes.

Here’s a simple explanation:

  • The original (older) HDMI standard carried video but not audio to external devices. This means if your TV or cable box does not have an HDMI ARC port (only an original HDMI one) you’ll need to connect sound using one of the other outputs provided.
  • The ARC (Audio Return Channel) standard was created to allow you to carry sound and video in one cable. Introduced in HDMI 1.4 version, it’s been around a while. HDMI ARC can carry up to 5.1 surround sound.
  • HDMI eARC is essentially an upgrade of the ARC standard and can carry up to 7.1 surround sound or high-quality digital audio for music, along with a few other minor advantages.

The good news is that since HDMI ARC has been around since 2009 it’s most likely what kind of output your TV or other devices have. It also means you’ll have a great option for a receiver/home theater system without an HDMI input jack as you’ll see.

As you see later, an HDMI audio extractor (adapter) will make getting sound possible – and it’s affordable, too.

Digital vs analog audio jacks explained

Digital audio optical and coaxial output examples

Digital outputs work by transmitting audio represented in digital format made up of bits of information. Newer AV receivers with these types of inputs can decode the digital signal back to sound and amplify it to drive speakers.

An older receiver or a standard home stereo amplifier cannot and you’ll likely need a digital to analog (RCA) converter box to do the job, as they provide an RCA compatible output pair.

Analog jacks are a non-digital output that can be amplified to drive speakers by any compatible receiver or amp with auxiliary, DVD, or CD inputs. You can also use self-powered speakers with analog outputs.

How to connect a TV to a receiver without HDMI

The type of connection you’ll need will depend on your particular TV. Older receivers often have auxiliary (AUX) RCA input jacks with one or more labels:

  • AUX in
  • DVD in
  • CD in

Input jacks like these were used years ago playing audio from a separate audio source through the receiver and will work fine for TV sound with the right connection. (You can also connect sound from an external media player or Blu Ray player for example if you like.)

They’re the same thing as both accept a low-level signal (line level) signal to be amplified by the receiver in the right mode and sent to the speakers.

DIAGRAM – TV to receiver connection options

how to connect a TV to receiver without HDMI diagram

As I mentioned earlier, there are two main types of TV sound connections you’ll use:

  1. Analog (non-digital) via RCA jack outputs or a 3.5mm (1/8″) headphone style output jack
  2. Digital signal outputs: an optical output or coaxial (RCA style) output

1. Using an HDMI converter (HDMI to RCA adapter, HDMI to digital adapter)

Illustrated example of an HDMI audio extractor

An HDMI audio extractor is a device that removes the digital sound source from an HDMI output or other device and provides digital or analog outputs. Plug in the HDMI connection then you can connect to nearly any non-HDMI receiver or amplifier with compatible inputs via an optical audio cable or RCA connectors.

A good audio extractor is about only $25-$50 and can even support 5.1 support sound for home theater systems that can have the feature. Note that the HDMI cable is often separate, but those cost just a few dollars.

NOTE: Although connecting an RCA cable is easy, for best results (or to take advantage of surround sound) you’ll want to use the optical or coaxial digital jack connection.

2. Connecting to a TV’s digital output jacks

If your TV, cable box, or other sound source doesn’t have ARC a second option is to connect to the digital outputs, if provided. There are two reasons to use a digital connection if your receiver supports it instead of analog:

  • Better audio quality
  • If your TV or other media device supports surround sound, this will allow you to use it (unlike a 2-channel audio connection)

Either an optical or coaxial digital connection will be fine, although a TOSLINK optical cable will avoid electrical interference or ground loops since it will isolate the electrical ground connections. A digital optical cable costs just a few dollars online so it’s affordable, too!

One thing to know is that fiber optic cables can be damaged if bent too much so you’ll need to be careful to avoid kinking them or crushing them in tight spaces. Doing so can damage the internal material, causing them to fail to carry the signal properly.

3. Connecting a TV to a receiver using analog jacks

A third option, this is normally very easy although you may need to turn on audio outputs in the menu on some TVs to get sound.

Simply connect whichever available outputs you have to the auxiliary, DVD, CD etc. inputs on your receiver. This is a great budget option because you can use a cheap RCA cable as it will work fine for good sound.

Tip: some TVs have a headphone size jack in which case you can use a 1/8″ (3.5mm) plug to RCA jack adapter. You can then connect any RCA cable pair between the TV and the AV receiver.

Notes on TVs with digital out jacks (how to get RCA jacks from them)

Digital to analog audio converter box example labeled

Digital to analog converters accept a digital signal that can’t be used with powered speakers or an amplifier and convert the digital signal to a stereo output. RCA and/or 3.5mm (1/8″ headphone) jacks are provided.

This is a bit trickier because you’ll have to convert the digital audio signal, not just connect it. You’ll need to pick up a digital to RCA converter. These cost about $18-$25 and usually include a small AC-DC power supply.

Some do or do not include the cables needed to connect to your television (many do include it) so you’ll simply use whichever option you have: the optical (TOSLINK, fiber optic) jack or the coaxial digital jack.

Note: When using your AV receiver to play the TV sound through your receiver’s speakers, be sure to disable or turn off the volume to the internal TV speakers if it has the option. Otherwise, the TV speakers will conflict with your better speakers, resulting in poor & distracting sound. Use only the stereo speakers when possible.

Can I listen to my TV in surround sound on a receiver without HDMI?

can I get surround sound from a receiver no HDMI

The short answer is maybe – it depends on two things:

  • Your TV must provide a passthrough type (5.1 capable) digital output. Not all TVs do this, sadly.
  • The receiver must have a digital input and surround sound 5.1 support.

Unfortunately many televisions usually “downmix” (convert) the 5.1 audio stream to a 2 channel output. In some cases there’s an option in the TV settings to enable a full 5.1 passthrough connection, sometimes called “LPCM.”

However, there’s no guarantee and frustratingly, TV manufacturers don’t always do a good job of making this clear. Generally you can be pretty confident about surround support over HDMI these days but it’s a bit of a gray area.

In some cases you might want to pick up a streaming media device such as an Amazon Firestick or others which do include surround sound output. Any receiver with Dolby Digital or DTS and a digital input can work with those.

Dolby Pro Logic I/II option

One worst-case scenario can help sometimes. If your TV doesn’t offer 5.1 support, you can use the Dolby Pro Logic feature that nearly all receivers with Dolby Digital decoding provide as a backwards compatible feature.

Dolby Pro Logic I/II was one of the first surround formats and only requires a 2-channel signal source. It can also simulate surround sound from any 2-channel movie or music, meaning you can take advantage of your surround sound system speakers. It’s an option worth trying out.

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Your comments are welcome!

  1. Great info and diagrams..Some questions: on the audio extractor shown, there is an HDMI out position from, in my case, the cable box to the extractor, with my RCA connections then going to the AUX position on my amp. What happens to the feed from the main cable wire to the cable box if the converted audio signal is occupying the HDMI line that formerly ran from the cable box (out) to the tv (HDMI eARC imput)? I’ m thinking two possible solutions:
    1) I run cable wire from the cable box out position to the cable wire in position on the tv.
    2) I utilize the HDMI pass through (out) from the extractor to the tv’s HDMI eARC imput, connecting them with an HDMI cord.
    What say, ye?
    Thanks..Al H.

    Reply
    • Hi Al. Just to make sure we’re on the same page, when you say “cable wire” I assume you mean the coaxial cable wire, correct? So I’ll answer based on that and if there’s a misunderstanding you can let me know.

      1) If I’m understanding you correctly, this shouldn’t be needed.
      2) Yes, you should be able to do this as the HDMI signal is capable of continuing to carry the video and audio signal to the TV, with the extractor sort of acting like a “tap” if you will for getting the RCA outputs.

      The issue that comes up sometimes is that it depends on the particular devices you’re using and how the manufacturer implements how they behave. There’s no guarantee that #2 *will* work, even though I know it is technically designed to be able to do so. For example, one reader was doing something similar with a soundbar/HDMI extractor and he reported it wouldn’t do the pass-through as expected, sadly.

      Generally speaking, this kind of stuff can be a “gray” area and sometimes you just have to try it and find out. I’ve done it with no issues though.

      Reply
  2. Hello Marty … here is our story. We have an older home theater set up … a Yamaha A/V receiver and Yamaha 720 projector tv. We are trying to connect an Amazon Firestick to the system. Neither the receiver nor the tv have hdmi ports. So we connected the firestick to a video composition video converter and connected that to the receiver. We did boost the Wi-Fi but we are not getting any sound or picture. Any thoughts?
    Thanks much,
    Ken B.

    Reply
    • Hello Ken. I think you’ll either have to use a TV with an HDMI port or a different media device that has composite video out. I’m not sure what type of video converter you used but I don’t think those will support a media device like a Firestick.

      (I could be wrong, as it’s a bit of an odd case…maybe someone has asked this on a video forum somewhere).

      Reply
  3. I’m streaming on a RCA flatscreen and I would like to run the audio thru my Bose wave stereo. I ran RCA jacks from the tvs audio out, L&R to the waves audio Aux one in, L&R. The audio still comes from the tv. Any advice?

    Reply
    • Hi you may need to check and see if there’s an audio out setting to be changed in the TV settings. In some cases that’s necessary. (Or to turn off the internal speakers, as that’s sometimes the case as well)

      Best regards.

      Reply
  4. Hi Marty. I have an old yamaha natural sound model 5640 av receiver purchased with speakers included. I need a new tv however all the new tvs have hdmi connections but my av receiver does not. My av is a 5.1 system and I also want to add a dvd player, What do I need to do to make this all work, and how do I connect them.

    Reply
    • Hello Tim. It depends on the specific outputs of your TV. You can use either the analog (RCA) or digital inputs on your receiver and an adapter based on what you TV has.

      I cover all of that in the article along with diagrams & details on it so you’ll find what you need to know there. Best regards.

      Reply
  5. I have a new Samsung TV and a Onyko AV receiver that does not have HDMI but does have optical. I bought an extractor and I still cannot get 5.1 surround. My old Samsung (6 years old) worked fine without HDMI. All I had to do was connect optical. Am very annoyed that this new Samsung will not work with receiver.

    Reply
    • Hello Carol does the extractor have RCA output jacks you can connect to AUX input RCAs on the Onkyo? You could try that in order to test it.

      Hmm, that’s an odd problem but HDMI stuff sometimes is a real pain. What model Samsung TV do you have?

      Reply
  6. Marty, thanks for your insight. I would like a recommendation. I have a nice, but old AVR, a Yamaha RX-V992. I would like to use it with a new 4K TV to set up a surround sound system if possible.

    It has PCM Digital In, (AC-3 Digital In) with two coaxial ports labeled DVD/LD and TV/DBS and one Optical port labeled DVD/LD.

    What audio extractor would you recommend and what limitations would I have with this setup? Does it make a difference on which brand of TV I purchase?

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hello Steve. Personally I would avoid generic & unbranded audio extractors. The ones from Monoprice I’ve used have worked really well (I’ve had 2 so far) for something very similar to what you’re doing & 5.1 surround sound, Dolby Pro Logic II, and stereo all via an optical TOSLINK connection. I was really happy with them.

      The last one I used without issues (and had even more features) was the Monoprice Blackbird 4K Series 7.1 audio extractor. The previous model here works well and is about $11 cheaper, but I think the newer model is all-around a better buy.

      Regarding your other questions:
      1. The limitations are that coaxial or optical digital receiver connections cannot carry above 5.1 (ie., you can’t use it to get 7.1 surround sound). Other than that, not much really. :)

      2. The brand of the TV per se doesn’t matter but I would avoid the low-end brands unless you’re fairly confident one will work well.

      You have to be careful and ensure the TV will pass a 5.1 surround signal via its outputs. It *probably* will, and this is sadly a gray area (poor info) for a lot of TVs. TVs in many cases unfortunately downmix a 5.1 signal to stereo which won’t work for you. The brand names usually are pretty dependable in this regards.

      Also it’s important that the TV cooperates with the HDMI protocol as expected and doesn’t refuse to stream a signal to the extractor.

      Hope that helps! :)

      PS: If you enjoy streaming music via smartphone, you might also want to use a Bluetooth receiver with digital output to run into your receiver as well. I used a Bose home unit for this reason and the sound quality was pretty darn good! Also easy to do and affordable, too.

      Reply
      • Thank Marty. Do you have any recommendations for a Bluetooth receiver. I know you mentioned Bose but I’m not sure what model and I’m wondering if there are others you might recommend? Thanks again.

        Reply
        • Hello there Steve. The one I recommend is this one here which I can’t find a specific model number for other than MFR #727012-1300.

          It’s about $60. There are probably some other good brands but mainly you should avoid generic ones. I’ve found out they generate annoying noise on their outputs between audio tracks or streams and the sound quality wasn’t as good, either.

          Reply

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