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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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Thursday, 1 September 2011

8:26 AM

Kim: Another option is to get a Sky+HD box, perhaps a second hand one.

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Briantist's 38,908 posts GB flag
Cyril Taylor
9:35 AM

Hello Brian
How are you?
Over a year since I was last on here.
I now have a new Samsung UE 46 D 6100 TV but can't get it connected to my Yakumo Record Master HDD Recorder/Player.
I had my previous Samsung LE 32 A656A1FXXC TV and the Yakumo working OK. Can you please suggest a solution? (a diagram would be the greatest of help)
Take Care and thank you in anticipation.

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Cyril Taylor's 1 post ES flag
Saturday, 3 September 2011
9:30 AM

I am trying to record programmes from my sky plus box to my sony dvd recorder. I have tried to record to disc and HD on the recorder. Have even tried live recording with no luck.
My sky box tv scart is on connected to tv with two scart inputs on the left and the right one which is marked smart link is connected to the dvd recorder.

the dvd recorder when switched on goes to AV2 and the screen is blank with the recorder info eg play resume etc. As mentioned before i have tried the live tv recording as well.

Thank you for you help.


i would be so glad of help to sort this out.

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Vin's 1 post GB flag
mark connor
7:25 PM

I have bought a new t v which has one scart socket but my old t v has two which are being used by my dvd player and my sky hd box, my sky also has a hdmi cable, does the hdmi cable replace the scart or do I have to use them both.


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mark connor's 1 post GB flag
kB Aerials Sheffield

8:24 PM

Mark ditch the scart cable from your skyHD box and use a hdmi

You wasnt getting High def through a scart lead any how!
(the channel would have been displayed ok but not in HD )


KB Aerials 07946481125 sheffield

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kB Aerials Sheffield's 274 posts GB flag
kB Aerials Sheffield

8:27 PM


Disconnect the scart from the dvd to the tv

Then connect it from the dvd tp the VCR socket on the sky box

Im assuming it is not a HD box which only has one scart on newer boxes

what ever scart on the dvd you have connected it needs to be displayed on the front of the dvd recorder

so if you have connected it to av1 of the dvd - select av1 when recording

any playback should go straight through the sky box and be displayed on the tv so you can leave it configured permanently this way

KB Aerials 07946481125 sheffield

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kB Aerials Sheffield's 274 posts GB flag
Sunday, 4 September 2011
dr shawkot
10:55 AM

How can I connect satellite stiff wire with my LCD Technika 40" ?I do'nt find any socket on the rear of my TV?I was able to connect the RF wire with the wall socket.

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dr shawkot's 1 post GB flag
KB Aerials Sheffield

12:24 PM

dr shawkot

Has your tv got a satellite tuner built in - if it hasnt and the chances are slim then you can't

if you have no aerial but do have a sky dish then either get an aerial installed or go out and buy a freesat box - argos do a cheapie for about £30

Bush BFSAT02SD Freesat SD Digital Box - Black.

Keith KB aerials Sheffield 07946481125 (S201EG)

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KB Aerials Sheffield's 274 posts GB flag
Monday, 5 September 2011
Colin Gravett
12:30 PM

Hi, I have a sky+ box from which I want to feed a second tv from the rf2 outlet.The box is connected to the original tv by a lead provided by sky engineer. When I attempt to use the services menu to power the rf2 outlet,I do not get the usual services menu.Do i need to connect box to original tv with a scart lead instead of current connection lead? Thank you

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Colin Gravett's 1 post GB flag
KB Aerials Sheffield

4:44 PM

RF 2 is hidden in a Installers menu
Press services
Number 4 for system setup

0 1 select

then number 4 - for rf out lets - enable the power and save

Keith KB aerials Sheffield 07946481125

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KB Aerials Sheffield's 274 posts GB flag
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