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Connecting it all up

Why are there so many sorts of connecting cables? Find out with this quick guide.

Why are there so many sorts of connecting cables?  Find out wit
published on UK Free TV

Why are there so many sorts of connecting cables? Find out with this quick guide.

The connectors on each cable are called plugs (and are also called male) and they will usually fit only into one sort of socket (or female connector).

Most cables you will come across are male to male. Occasionally you will find leads with a socket on one end and a plug on the other, and these are called "extension cables".


The SCART cable is used to connect a set-top box to a television set, or to a video recorder. This can only be a short cable. The SCART cable carries all of these types of signal:

  • analogue stereo sound
  • a single RGB television picture
  • a single composite video picture
  • a single S-Video video picture
  • widescreen picture signal

As stereo sound, RGB picture and widescreen signal is the best possible combination for digital television viewing, it is vital to use a SCART lead between any set-top box and the main television.

The composite video picture with stereo sound is the best combination for a VHS video recorder. If your set-top box has two SCART sockets, it is likely that the one marked TV will carry RGB picture information and the other will not.

If your television has more than one SCART input, you may need to choose a special one (marked RGB) if you want to use RGB from the SCART cable.

On most set-top boxes it is possible to turn the RGB output on and off. This can be used to test the RGB input function on the television ? the picture quality appears blurred when it is disabled.

If have a DVD player, rather than a VHS recorder, you can attach this to the set-top boxes second SCART connector. The signal from the set-top box will normally be overridden by the DVD player when it is on, usually in high-quality RGB.

Some very cheap SCART cables do not have all the pins connected. They may not provide RGB and widescreen picture signals. SCART cables are normally no more than three metres in length.

UHF lead

The UHF lead is a lead that you would traditionally associate with television signals. They can carry:

  • up to 45 (but normally only five) analogue television channels
  • a single picture from a set-top box
  • around 50 analogue cable TV channels
  • mono sound
  • NICAM stereo sound
  • Teletext services (for example, Ceefax)

You can't avoid these cables if you are going to use Freeview, as these cables are the only ones that you can use to distribute Freeview signals around the house.

Where you have an integrated digital television (an idTV) you just need to get the signal from the aerial to the television with one of these cables.

If you are using a Freeview set-top box, you will need to get the signal from the aerial to the set-top box using this aerial lead, but for best results connect the TV to the box with a SCART cable.

You can also use a UHF lead to connect a set-top box to a television somewhere in the house. Your set-top box will require a RF (radio frequency) modulator. Note that "RF passthough" is another way of saying there is no modulator. You will be able to "tune" the second television into the picture showing on the set-top box.

Some boxes (all Sky boxes) have the ability to connect a remote control receiver to the second TV end of the interconnecting cable, so you can change channels.

The set-top boxes, whilst providing a reasonable quality picture to the second TV, will always provide only mono sound via a UHF lead.

The step-change in picture quality obtained by switching to RGB on a SCART is far greater than any obtained though spending any more on a gold-plated SCART cable.

Satellite or cable TV cable

These cables are usually very stiff, and have a very basic screw connector on the end. Usually they will provide an unbroken link to the satellite dish. At the dish end they plug into the device on the end of the arm, the LNB.

Don't try to disconnect these cables when the set-top box is on. Usually there is a small voltage that will cause dangerous sparks.

If the cable connects to a satellite dish, there is not much you can do with the cable. Each receiver in the set-top box needs it's own wire to the LNB. With a personal video recorder (such as Sky+), or a multi-room installations there are two cables to the four-output LNB on the dish. If you want more rooms, each will require it's own cable.

If the cable is providing cable TV, then it is possible to use inexpensive "Y connectors" to link the incoming signal to various set-top boxes, cable modems, or - via an adaptor - directly to the back of a TV.

Composite video cable

This is the most simple and basic video connection you can get. It carries:

  • a single picture from a set-top box

The picture will be in colour, and of comparable quality to a analogue broadcast station. However, there is no sound. For that reason this cable is often found joined to a stereo audio cable.

These signals are quite robust and can be carried for many metres. Often modern television sets have a single yellow photo input on their front input panel.

You also use an identical cable to carry digital stereo (SPDIF) sound.

Stereo audio cable

These cables carry the left and right channels of sound on two joined cables. They are usually required when a SCART cable is not being used, as the SCART cable already carries stereo sound.

If you are connecting your set-top box to an external stereo system, a separate stereo audio is used.

There is no real practicable limit to the length of these cables, but excessive length will degrade the quality of the signal.

S-video cable

The S-video standard is not well supported by most UK digital TV boxes, and very few have a S-video socket. If you need one for a particular analogue camcorder, use it, but avoid S-video with digital television. If you are using what appears to be a monochrome picture from a SCART lead, it will certainly by an incomplete S-Video signal and you should change to the RGB input.

VGA cable

This is the cable you will use to connect a computer to a old style monitor, and some modern LCD screen too. Most modern LCD TVs will have a VGA input too.

If you want to connect a set-top box to a LCD monitor, you can buy a conversion box from around 60. However this will not result in a better picture than using an existing SCART socket if there is one.

The only way to get higher than normal television resolution is to use a VGA in conjunction with a personal computer or modern games console.

DVI cable

If you want to get the very best out of a television or monitor use a digital video interconnect (DVI) cable.

This will be the only way for most televisions and monitors to receive high-definition pictures from a computer, and some set-top boxes.

If you can use either a VGA cable or a DVI cable, choose the DVI option.

HDMI cable

If you want to get the very best out of a television use a HDMI cable.

This will be the only way for most televisions to receive high-definition pictures from set-top boxes.

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Sunday, 2 January 2011
4:38 PM

worked out how to switch between the inputs. Don't know if there's more to the setup that i can't get to without first tuning the telly, but it's fine, i can do what i bought it to do i guess.
Cheers for the help anyway.

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Dan's 3 posts GB flag
Dan's: mapD's Freeview map terrainD's terrain plot wavesD's frequency data D's Freeview Detailed Coverage
9:09 PM

02/01/2011.I have a sony bravia kdl32v4000 TV, and a philips DVDR70 recorder videoplus,and a philips VCR VR6557/05 VIDEO PLUS recorder.can you show/tell me how to connect it up,so ican play the video with the tapes i have,and also use dvdr and play my disc,without buying a combo and taping on to dvd.suspect some equipment above is analogue and the TV incorporates freeview.I need idiot proof direction as I am no techi, or put me in touch with someone who could help me in my which combo would you recommend to play.thanks;

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Brian's 1 post GB flag
10:31 PM

can i connect my sky tv in my bedroom to a tv down stairs with my sky box in my bedroom
if so how please advise

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chris's 1 post GB flag
Monday, 3 January 2011
charles provine
5:02 PM

I have a sony tv and a freesat box. I have just bought a dvd recorder with built in freeview. Will this work, and how do I connect them. I have twin cables coming from satellite dish.

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charles provine's 1 post GB flag
charles's: mapC's Freeview map terrainC's terrain plot wavesC's frequency data C's Freeview Detailed Coverage
Tuesday, 4 January 2011
Dave Byrnes
3:25 PM

I have a panasonic hd ready tv,ihave just bought a LG freeview recorder with HDD,i have set it up so to my virgin media box i can get a perfect picture of the cable channels but the sound is just blips.I can get the freeview channels on the recorder and the sound is perfect.Is it because it as freeview built in that it is not compatible with the virgin box or am i doing something wrong.Any help would be really appreciated thanks.Dave B.

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Dave Byrnes's 2 posts GB flag
Sunday, 9 January 2011
I Brown
12:07 PM

I am new to satellite TV and am just at the stage of connecting cable to LNB. I have a quad LNB and my question is, if I connect to one or two connectors, do I have to cover the unused ones in any way or are they OK left open to the elements? There was nothing supplied with the LNB to do this. My satellite kit included tape to waterproof the used connections but there's nothing in the instructions about what (if anything) to do with the unused ones.

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I Brown's 3 posts GB flag

1:34 PM

Dan- I believe the RF mod is disabled when the box is outputting a digital signal(via HDMI). Also, it will only output either via HDMI or scart.

A possible solution would be to purchase a scart to RF modulater box(from Maplins EG) and connect the scart into the vcr socket of the Virgin box. You could then tune in the Virgin box to the TV and because the TV detects an analogue signal, you would not need to go through the initial setup. If you are using the vcr scart socket for the DVD recorder, this may not be possible.

There is no guarantee this would work, but it is a possible solution.

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LutonFan's 382 posts GB flag

1:48 PM

Brian- Simply connect a scart lead from the output socket of the DVD recorder(normally AV1/EXT1 and the other end into AV1 of the TV.

Use another scart lead using the same proceedure as above for the video, but the other of the scart into AV2 of the TV.

If you want to archive tapes onto DVD, use a third scart lead, plug one end into AV2 of the recorder and the other end into AV2 of the video. Select AV2 on the DVD recorder to record from tape to DVD.

This is generic advice, you would really need to consult your instruction manuals.

Hope this helps.

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LutonFan's 382 posts GB flag

1:53 PM

chris- yes, either use an RF lead(male to female) connected to the RF2 output of the Sky-box(other end into second TV) and tune the TV into the Sky-box output.

Or you could use a video sender, which I believe could be plugged into the vcr socket of the Sky-box. Maplins do a wide range of these, see:

Mini 5.8GHz Video Sender Free Delivery : Wireless Video Senders : Maplin

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LutonFan's 382 posts GB flag

2:00 PM

charles provine- Connect the Freesat and Freeview box to the TV using either scart or HDMI, dependant on what outputs your boxes have.

Also, you would need an aerial in order for the DVD recorder to pick up the Freeview channels. The dish leads are for satellite only.

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LutonFan's 382 posts GB flag
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