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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, 26 January 2012
5:06 PM

Phillips HD 3D TV with 1x Scart + 4x HDMI's can anyone suggest how to connect to:-
(A) Toshiba VHS/DVD combined recorder with Audio L&R out + S-video out + Digital audio out (co-ax) AV out + 1x Scart AV1(TV) in/out + 1x Scart AV2(Ext) + component video out (3 jacks) + Socket out to TV + Aerial in & to:-
(B) Sony DZ230 Home entertainment centre with 1x HDMI out + 1x Scart output (to TV) + 1x DMPort (digital media port) + AM terminal + 1x 75 ohm Co-ax jack and to:-
(C) Sky HD+ DIGIBOX with Audio L&R + 1x HDMI + 1x DVD/VCR Scart + 1x Scart (TV) + 1x aerial IN + 1x RF OUT-1 + 1x Co-ax digital audio + 1x Audio (optical) + 2x Dish inputs

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Toni's 20 posts GB flag
5:10 PM

Sorry to add to my last request at 5:06 PM I should have added that I have a powered Phillips 4-way Scart multi-switch device which can be used for inputs to TV etc.

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Toni's 20 posts GB flag
Friday, 27 January 2012

12:05 AM

Toni: I realise that your equipment has numerous connection facilities, but basically two of the devices have HDMI sockets and one with only a scart connection, the VHS / DVD recorder, that being the case then the Sony and Sky HD box use an HDMI each on your TV and with the TV's only scart socket being used for the VHS / DVD recorder.

The Sky HD box does not require a normal aerial to be connected into it "if" you are not using its RF2 modulated output for feeding into an analogue TV in another room.(DRX595 models do not have this)

The other aspect you will have to indicate is what you want the VHS / DVD to be able to record from, as the other connections cannot be decided upon until this is known.

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jb38's 7,179 posts GB flag
6:24 PM

Hi and thanks jb38. With a former Phillips TV having 2x HMDI plus 2x Scart I could play TV sound output thro the Sony sound system (I muted TV sound output) I could record onto VHS/DVD recorder all programmes direct from TV and also those stored on Sky HD+ hard drive (but not in HD format). I would like to be able to do the same if possible, i.e.
(1) Record direct from TV and also from those stored on Sky hard drive...and ... (2) Play all sound output at any time from TV and also from VHS/DVD player (when used) through Sony sound system
(3) Play DVD's on either Sony or VHS/DVD thro TV with sound thro Sony sound system Hope this helps Toni

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Toni's 20 posts GB flag

7:45 PM

Toni: Could you let me know the model number of your new Philips TV to enable me to check the spec of the scart socket plus HDMI socket on it, particularly the No1 HDMI to see if its ARC compatible.

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jb38's 7,179 posts GB flag
Saturday, 28 January 2012
12:20 PM

Hi jb38
Its a 42PFL7606H/12 3D LED, which although not sold at present in UK it probably will be in due course but is available from web sources with a UK 3-pin adapter plug which according to Phillips is OK to use in UK. The Sacart is shiown as input from VHS/DVD or from Satellite receiver and described as Ext 1 RGB/CVBS (not HD but thats OK).

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Toni's 20 posts GB flag
12:27 PM

Additional note for jb38 from Toni
I have just read through an on-line version of Owners Mnanual for TV and it clearly shows the Scart connected to a Home theatre system with no other connections, so I assume it is two-way? Could this be a way via the Phillips multi-Scart auto selector but this might stop other inputs/outputs? Typically diagrams show single connections to one (each) item of additional equipment

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Toni's 20 posts GB flag

9:54 PM

Toni: Well it really depends on whether or not the scart sockets on the two devices that's being coupled together are "both" capable of "in / out" (two-way) operation, as many scart sockets arent and this is why this aspect has to be checked on.

The other point is that you have one scart socket less on your new Philips to that of your previous model, this being why I wanted to know the model number of the TV to check if its No1 HDMI socket was ARC (audio return channel) compatible, as if it was as well as your Sony sound system (still to be checked on) then a single HDMI connection between both devices would eliminate the need for the scart connection, as then the single scart socket on the new TV could be dedicated to your VHS / DVD recorder.

Have a look at the TV's No1 HDMI input on your manual, and if its does state ARC compatible try coupling that socket to your home theatre system's HDMI and check if you can get the audio from the TV on it, as I unfortunately was involved for most of the day on a job whereby I haven't had time to "check the spec" (as they say) on your Sony.

Of course another way of looking at it is, that you could simply couple things up in exactly the same way as was done on the previous TV except that you would have to use the scart switcher common into the single scart socket on your TV, then connect the two devices that previously had a scart socket each on the old TV into two of the switcher inputs, but the HDMI ARC method would be better "if" both devices allow.

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jb38's 7,179 posts GB flag
Sunday, 29 January 2012
10:02 AM

Thanks jb38 I'll check HDMI specifications from on-line manual today and if necessary also see if Scart switcher will allow inputs and outputs as intended. I guessed problem might be due to only 1 Scart on TV but as HDMI takes off I suppose this is the future those of us with older kit might face?

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Toni's 20 posts GB flag

11:11 AM

Toni: Well, I have now managed to check the specifications of the devices used and the possibilities available of connecting them up to enable you to have roughly similar facilities as with your previous Philips TV, however I see a main problem that I feel you have sussed out for yourself insomuch that there doesn't seem to be an easy way to get over the main stumbling block of your new TV only having a single scart socket.

This normally couldn't be classed as a disaster on many set ups, but however is a real problem with what you are wishing to be able to do, as although you are quite correct insomuch that the Sony's manual does show two way operation via a scart lead between the DZ230 and "a" TV this is assuming that the TV has a similar facility, as Sony as well as others adopt the attitude that all connections shown between equipment is relating to devices that they manufacture, and the spec of the scart socket on your Philips TV doesn't actually give that info, so you would have to verify if it can or not by trying a test between the two to check if audio does or not.

The other difficulty is that although the TV has a digital optical output which could have taken care of the audio "if" your home theatre had likewise, but it doesn't! except for a DM port which requires an adaptor with details of this item not being given, as its an add on device.

By the way I had a look at your Sony home theatre spec and see that its HDMI connection "is" indeed only an output, which is a pity as your TV's HDMI socket does have ARC (audio return channel) capability and that would have enabled the TV's audio to transfer to the Sony without the scart lead, thereby freeing up a scart ink.

The only way I see remaining is "if" your Philips scart switcher doesn't have a common scart but can allocate socket links at will, and if so it might open another way of doing things but I will check on this.

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jb38's 7,179 posts GB flag
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