right. it was the CEC thing on the vizio television settings that i wasn't doing. its all good now. from vizio:
How to use ARC:
These are the steps that you will need to take to enable ARC (Audio Return Channel)
Make sure your audio receiver is ARC compatible and your TV is ARC compatible.
Ensure that you have an HDMI 1.4 cable that is multi-directional
Use HDMI 1 on your TV and it will need to be plugged into the HDMI OUT of the receiver
Change Digital Audio on your TV to Dolby Digital
Turn off the TV internal speakers
Turn CEC on
Ensure the receiver is in TV control and is in discoverable mode (You may have to reference the manual for your receiver or contact the manufacturer of your receiver)
Search for the device under CEC menu
This will unlock System Audio Control (under CEC), turn to ON and enjoy ARC!
vizio should make an srs button on the remote to simplify this. having to go into tv settings and change the cec and the tv speaker settings each time you want to switch is a bit cumbersome. if you leave the cec on , the tv then stays on any time the avr is on.
so, the avr was actually very simple to set up. my ignorance was the problem. the fm radio on the avr had me fooled too at first. it will not make a sound unless it is tuned to strong station. that is why i initially thought i the issue was with the avr or speakers.
thanks for helping me out.