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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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Wednesday, 25 April 2012
5:42 PM

Thankyou for your information. I really appreciate it.


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Sarah's 1 post GB flag
Sunday, 20 May 2012
2:46 PM

I wonder if you can help me, I have a Samsung DVD-VR320 connected to my tv. On my tv it's all OK, I have all Freeview channels, but I have tried retuning the DVD-VR recorder using the system autosetup, but I get the message 'No channel is momorized. Check Arial or Cable'. I have used the scart and RF cables to connect the TV and DVD recorder with the Aerial Cable in the DVD recorder. All was OK before the Freeview retune in Apr, I used to record from tv to dvd/video but since then I do not have any programs on the DVD/VR recorder and I can not record anything from TV onto DVD or Video. Do I need to change cables, but if so how, as I cannot locate channels on the machine.
Thank you for your assistance.

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nc's 5 posts GB flag
Dave Lindsay

5:38 PM

nc: According to the user manual, you need to press "Input Sel." to select the appropriate Scart input (from the TV).

The tuner is analogue only and so is therefore of no use now, so there is no point in looping the aerial lead through it (except for where you watch the output of the Samsung via the aerial lead rather than Scart lead). Autosetup is therefore a waste of time as it won't find anything.

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Dave Lindsay's 5,724 posts GB flag
6:15 PM

Thank you Dave. So my Samsung DVD/VR 320 combi can be only used as a player now.

Would a new digital box help?

Many thanks.

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nc's 5 posts GB flag
Dave Lindsay

6:29 PM

nc: A digital box will allow you to record, although it requires the digital box to be turned on and set to the desired channel *and* the Samsung to be on.

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Dave Lindsay's 5,724 posts GB flag
Tuesday, 29 May 2012
Paul Davidson
11:39 AM

Hi Briantist

I have a CCTV Digital Video Recorder connected to an LCD T.V (1st T.V) via a VGA cable. I want to output the signal displayed on the 1st T.V to a 2nd T.V that is in another room. I have bought a wireless SCART AV transmitter kit and connected it to the SCART sockets on both T.Vs but the signal is not displaying on the 2nd T.V. The CCTV recorder does not have a SCART socket but it does have a BNC connecter. Just wondering what the best way to do this is?


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Paul Davidson's 1 post GB flag
Saturday, 2 June 2012
3:52 PM

Many thanks Dave. So far I have bought a new Goodmans Digital TV Receiver with the digital tick and Freeview on it. I have connected the digibox to the TV & my Samsung DVD/VR 320 recorder, changed the RF channel on the digibox to 57 to be different from the DVD/VR which is 60 & managed to get only one channel on my DVD/VR recorder (BBC1). So far so good, I can get this only one channel through the DVD/VR recorder and I can also record as well. Please can you tell me what's missing, what shall I do next?
Many thanks.

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nc's 5 posts GB flag
Sunday, 3 June 2012
Dave Lindsay

12:43 PM

nc: You will have to change the channel on the new Goodmans receiver.

I wouldn't take the output from the boxes using RF signals. Only do this where scart is not an option or where you are feeding this to a TV in another room. Scart should give you better quality pictures that via the RF lead and it will also give you stereo sound rather than mono.

Because there are no analogue signals, there is no need to loop the aerial lead through the VCR/DVD. The aerial lead should go into the Goodmans and out to the TV.

If the design allows, then turn off the modulators in the Goodmans and DVD/VCR. The modulators are the parts that produce the RF signals (which you set to 60 and 57). On some devices, where the UHF channel is set, there is an option to set to "Off" or something similar.

I found the manual for the DVD/VCR here http://downloadcenter.sam….pdf

Page 16 shows that it has two Scart sockets. The bottom socket (AV1) needs connecting to the TV and the top socket (AV2) needs connecting to the Goodmans. To view the Goodmans, select press INPUT SEL. until it shows AV2. Because AV2 is all you will ever view, leave it on that input (if it will stay on that input). There is no tuning on the DVD/VCR necessary; the tuning (auto setup) on that box relates to tuning in the old analogue signals which are now no longer broadcast.

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Dave Lindsay's 5,724 posts GB flag
Monday, 4 June 2012
3:58 PM

Thank you very much Dave. All up and running now.I really appreciate it.

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nc's 5 posts GB flag
Bessie Fernandes
8:19 PM

Question: I would like help please I am having problems since switchover.I have a Toshiba HD TV, a Panasonic DVD recorder and a JVC VHS recorder. All have 2 scart sockets. Panasonic is connected via a RF1 to Aerial connector on TV and Panasonic RF2 to JVC RF1 and VHS RF2 to Panasonic out while the VHS scart out is connected to DVD scart in and VHS scart in to TV scart out and TV scart in to DVD scart out. I also have a HDMI fixed to the TV DVI connector and HDMI connector to DVD. Last year I applied to Sky to join them, they installed their equipment except I changed my mind thus they uninstalled but did not remove the dish. If I connect to BBC1 I get all of the channels like BBC2 and 3 etc but not ITV channels like ITV1 ITV2 ITV3 etc and vice versa. When I watch pre recorded dvds the pictures are ok but after some time become pixellated and stop. I do not have a set top box and was wondering if I should get one I could use the unused sky dish as freeview fsfs and hopefully perhaps solve my problem. Will I?

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Bessie Fernandes's 1 post GB flag
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