How to Connect Apple TV to a Stereo

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Next, take the other end of the cable and attach it to the RCA input on your stereo. This is usually labelled “line in”. Do not connect this to a “phono” jack. Turn on your TV and turn down the volume all the way. Next, turn on your Apple TV. Finally, turn on your stereo, turn down the volume, and set the input selector to “aux”. Play a video or some music on your Apple TV and slowly turn up the volume on the stereo. You should hear Apple TV’s audio output from your stereo.

It is important to note that if you have an older stereo, connecting to a phono jack will produce very loud and distorted audio. This is because record players tend to have a lower audio output, so they need a pre-amp. Older audio receivers had these pre-amps built-in to the “phono” input.

If you’re not hearing sound out of your Apple TV, you may need to change some settings on your television. Most modern flat screen TVs will just work. Their audio line-out connector will always transmit audio, even if the volume on the TV is turned down. If this isn’t the case, you’ll need to look at the audio settings on your television’s settings menu. The line-out level could possibly be controlled by volume or mute settings, however, this is unlikely. It is possible that the audio output needs to be enabled in the television’s settings menu.

Too Much Bass?

I love my Apple TV, but I notice that iTunes Music and Radio often has too much bass and not enough midrange. It seems to be optimized for playback through TV speakers. This makes sense, but if you connect your Apple TV to a stereo, you should make some EQ adjustments to compensate. I typically decrease the bass and treble slightly, which is known as subtractive equalization. This is the most transparent way to increase audibility. By lowering the bass and treble slightly, mid-range frequencies become more prominent. It makes it easier to hear the music and produces less “boom” on the bass. You could turn up the midrange, but this usually doesn’t sound as good as subtractive EQ.

If you like a lot of bass, by all means, leave it as is. However, iTunes music seems to be adding more bass than you would hear on the equivalent CD track. I have compared the same song on CD and iTunes with this setup. With a flat EQ, the CD sounds more clear. I highly recommend attenuating the bass and treble slightly. iTunes Music and Radio will sound much better.

Sound Check

Sound Check is an Apple Ecosystem feature which normalizes the volume of music playback. This ensures that all of your songs play back at the same volume. This is great if you have a playlist assembled from different artists and albums. You can just let the music play, instead of fiddling with the volume. I recommend turning Sound Check on. You can do this by navigating to Settings > Audio & Video. With Sound Check enabled, you can enjoy music with less fiddling and fewer loud surprises.

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4 comments

  1. Hi, I have an older Samsung Blue-Ray smart player that DOES have an optical port. This has been my main entertainment system for a number of years now and the surround sound is great. I just bought the Apple TV 4 and of course am running into the problem of getting surround sound through the Samsung. My TV does have RCA connections, so does the Samsung. If I try to connect the Samsung to the TV using the RCA cables, will I still be able to get the surround sound? I’ve also read about purchasing a splitter type of device that does have optical ports to then connect from HDMI and split it to the optical that can then be connected to my Samsung player. I am just trying to figure out what is going to work the best without having to scrap my current player.

    1. If you connect it to your TV via RCA cables, you will only get stereo sound. Your TV may have some mode to create its own surround sound effect from a stereo signal. This won’t be as good as the 5+ channel sound of true surround sound.

      You should be able to get surround sound to your TV by connecting the Samsung Blu-Ray player to the TV via HDMI. From there, you can connect the optical out on your TV to a home theater system. Use your TV as the hub, and connect your stereo to your TV via the optical connection. Your Apple TV 4 will also provide a surround sound signal via HDMI. This is why they removed the optical audio port in the fourth generation Apple TV. It was superfluous.

  2. Biggest problem is that the sound that comes out of your TV or projector is terrible!! It would be better to go straight from Apple TV device into the stereo, but there are no stereo out ports. Can you separate the HDMI audio strands out and have those lead to RCA plugs?

    1. The second generation Apple TV units used to have optical audio outputs. Apple eventually nixed those.

      There are HDMI to RCA cables, but they basically convert the whole audio and video signal into three RCA outputs. Thus, you’d have to use RCA video, which would look bad.

      My very old Sony Bravia HDTV has very transparent audio passthrough. None of the tone controls color the sound and the volume control has no effect. It’s a pretty transparent line out that goes into my stereo, but of course, it will color the sound to some extent.

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