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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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Monday, 10 October 2011
Gerald Giorgino
9:01 AM

I'm taking delivery of a Samsung UE40D5520 TV next week and wonder if you could provide a diagram or post instructions to help me with the connections please. The TV has 4 x HDMI & 2 x scart. I already have a BT vision box, a Sony DVD/HDD recorder & a Panasonic DVD/HDD recorder which are currently connected in various ways to a Sony 2 x HDMI & 2 x Scart TV. I want to be able to record from all 3 devices independently/at the same time and playback from any while any are recording. I hope this isn't too complicated because it is for me.

*** Further to this both recorders and the BT box have HDMI & Scart connections.***

Thank you


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Gerald Giorgino's 2 posts GB flag
8:01 PM

Thank you I will take a look at the connections next time I am at mum's, I am sure its connected via a scart plug. My brother has connected back up the old video recorder and it is playing the tapes fine in both the kitchen and lounge so it does seem to be the different vcr causing the problem.
Many thanks for your help and best wishes.

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PJ's 2 posts GB flag
KB Aerials Sheffield

8:23 PM

Gerald Giorgino -

Good luck

its one of those jobs you have to have ll the equipment in front of you and start connecting cables im afraid - theres probably a few permutations


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KB Aerials Sheffield's 274 posts GB flag

9:23 PM

PJ: If the old VCR is connected up again and is playing through to the kitchen TV, then that virtually confirms that its just the RF output channel on the new VCR that needs adjusted to match the channel used on the kitchen TV, the only reason the new VCR is playing in the lounge being because its connected via a scart lead, this cutting out the RF side of the equation.

If the new VCR is one of the last made then its RF output channel will likely be adjusted via a menu, however if its an older type then look at its rear panel and you will see a small hole with 21 < - > 68 around it, all you then do is put the kitchen TV on the "analogue" channel used by the old VCR, and with the aid of a small flat ended screwdriver turn the adjuster "slowly" clock or anti-clockwise until the picture shows (or sound is heard from) the kitchen TV.

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jb38's 7,179 posts GB flag
Friday, 14 October 2011
9:15 PM

Hi I have recently purchased a Next LE16B6000 free view tv and can't get any channels when I go through the set up process , I am from Aberdeen in Scotland so the closest transmitter is the Durris one and there has been no faults with it.
I have the tv in my bedroom connected to my old sky box. I also have SKY Hd in the lounge but not connected.

The channel I managed to get for SKY is ok but the screen does have a lot of blue or pink squares appearing if the background is green ie a football pitch , but when the screen is black and white the picture is much better. Can anyone help with getting my channels crystal clear and also how to get the free view channels.


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Martyn's 1 post GB flag
Martyn's: mapM's Freeview map terrainM's terrain plot wavesM's frequency data M's Freeview Detailed Coverage
Saturday, 15 October 2011

8:03 AM

Martyn: You cant really compare Sky with the problem you are referring to as they are totally different systems, i.e: Satellite vs terrestrial via a normal aerial, the aerial you are using for the TV being the aspect you haven't mentioned anything about, because at only being 13 miles away from the high powered Durris transmitter should the aerial be roof mounted coupled to any type of booster being used, then it could be overloading the TV's tuner and which can block reception of anything.

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jb38's 7,179 posts GB flag
1:36 PM

I have a 42" plasma TV, Freeview box and DVD recorder/player. I have tried the online connection instructions with RF and scart cables but cannot record digital TV programmes.I'm sure the scarts are fully wired as they are quite thick. Am I missing something or is it me that's thick - please help.

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Frank's 1 post GB flag
Sunday, 16 October 2011
7:21 AM

I have a Pioneer PDP503MXE Plasma display and want to purchase and connect a Freeview box to it. There is no SCART input on the Plasam - I am using VGA input from my PC. The Plasma does have S Video input.

What do I need to consider when looking for the right Freeview box?

Thanks for your help


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Roy's 1 post GB flag
11:37 AM

hi i need help on connecting my freeview box 1 scart output,tv 1 scart output,dvd hd recorder 2 scart.i want to be able to record freeviw and analogue tv,also watch other channels while recording.many thanks.

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joyce's 2 posts GB flag
Monday, 24 October 2011
john kennedy
11:42 AM

Hi, I currently have sky box and a DVD player connected seperately.I have just bought a digibox as my Toshiba TV is not digital.Can you please provide the connection sequence.
Many Thanks

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john kennedy's 1 post GB flag
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