How to Connect Apple TV to a Stereo

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How to Connect Apple TV to a Stereo

Apple TV can be easily connected to external audio systems. This article covers how to connect Apple TV to a stereo, with or without an optical connection.

Apple TV is a small, inexpensive device that streams media to a television set. Beyond supporting the Apple ecosystem, this flexible device serves up content from many different providers with its built-in channels. It also offers the ability to beam content from iOS, Mac OS X, Windows, Windows Phone, Linux and Android devices using hundreds of AirPlay enabled apps, in addition to screen mirroring.

Apple TV is one of the few television set-top boxes that offers an optical audio output. This makes it easy to connect directly to home theater systems for amazing Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.

Connect Apple TV to Stereo With Optical

If you have a home theater audio system or flat screen TV, you may have noticed an optical audio connector. This port uses a Toslink cable to transmit audio with light. The pulses of light transmit digital audio, providing better sound quality.

Before you connect your Apple TV to a stereo with an optical connection, you must purchase a Toslink cable. There are many choices and these cables are inexpensive. Make sure that your cable is long enough to connect your Apple TV to your home theater system.

Making the connection is simple enough. First, make sure that all of your equipment is turned off. Next, plug one end of the Toslink cable into your Apple TV and the other end into your home theater system. Power up your TV, then your Apple TV and finally your home theater audio system. Start with your home theater audio system on low volume and gradually increase the volume until you reach the desired level. This will prevent damage to speakers, as well as your ears.

You can go to Settings > Audio & Video on Apple TV to confirm that Dolby Digital sound is enabled. I recommend setting it to “auto”. That’s it. You can now enjoy movies and tv shows in stunning Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound!

Connect Apple TV to Stereo Without Optical

If you have an older stereo, it probably doesn’t support Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. It also won’t have an optical audio connector. That’s not a problem. You can still enjoy better sound quality from your Apple TV.

The HDMI connection from Apple TV to your television supports audio and video. In this configuration, you need to connect your television’s audio output to your stereo.

First, turn off your Apple TV (Settings > Sleep Now), television and stereo. If you look at the back or side of your television, you will probably see red and white RCA connectors. These are grouped in a stereo pair — red is right and white is left. Find the pair labelled “audio out” or “line out” and connect a standard RCA cable. Make sure the red and white plugs on the cable mate with the corresponding jacks on your television. Sometimes RCA cables have red and black ends. Red is always for the right stereo channel. Make sure that you plug the red cable into the red connector, and the white or black cable into the white connector. (continue…)

RCA Cable

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  1. Hi,

    I have a projector and want to have an Apple Tv with it, but I can not connect physically the hi-fi with the Apple TV. I have a Logitech Bluetooth adapter, working fine with all PC and mac at home. Will it work with Apple TV, too?

    1. Yes. It should work. I have a Harmon Kardon bluetooth adapter, and I’ve been able to successfully connect my Apple TV with my stereo using this setup. It sounds pretty good too!

  2. I was happily playing my music from my Mac or iPhone via Apple TV via optical to my Pioneer amp. It was fine and then suddenly just wouldn’t play. I reset everything as per your article, messed around with the amp controls, checked all cabling etc. The TV signal plays fine through the other optical port, and switching them made no difference. Listening to music on my Mac isn’t the same thing as the HiFi at all. Help if you can please.

    1. I suggest changing the wiring configuration. It sounds like your TV is hooked up to your stereo via optical. Your Apple TV is connected to your TV with HDMI. All you have to do is switch your amp to the TV input, and your Apple TV’s audio should pass through. This should be transparent audio, not colored by the TV’s audio settings or amp. This is how mine is set up.

      Apple TV —hdmi—> TV —optical—> stereo

  3. I have a Sennheiser 175 wireless headset. I am connecting my Apple TV to the Sennheiser using an optical cable. When playing music through Apple TV the audio received through the headset is fine. When playing a movie through Apple TV there is no audio at all. What am I not doing?

    1. I think the problem is with surround sound. When you listen to music, Apple TV is putting out 2-channel stereo. Movies are defaulted to using surround sound. The base station for your headphones should display a signal with the status light if it detects an incompatible audio signal. If you see a slowly pulsing light on your Sennheiser base station, it indicates an incompatible audio source. Go to Settings > Audio & Video > Dolby Digital Out and adjust the surround sound settings until it works. The other less likely possibility is the bit rate of the audio. Go to Settings > Audio & Video > Digital Out and adjust the setting to 16-bit instead of auto.

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