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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, 4 June 2012

9:25 PM

Bessie Fernandes: If you still have the dish installed complete with LNB and wiring from it into your house, then if you purchase a Freesat box (not Freeview) then the coax feed from the dish would connect straight into that, if though it was a Sky+ contract that you decided to back out of then you will have two feeds from the dish, that would then enable you to purchase a Freesat two channel PVR, as two channel satellite recording equipment always requires individual feeds for each of the tuners.

I am though slightly puzzled by your statement regarding your receiving choice being limited to either BBC or ITV but not both at the same time, at least that's what I take it you are meaning, so if you come back with your location (pref: post code or one from nearby) then your signal levels can be assessed as well as from whatever transmitter that covers your area.

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jb38's 7,179 posts GB flag
Sunday, 10 June 2012
3:02 PM

Is it possible to connect a freeview recorder box and sky box to same tv and record on each box at same time. Thanks glyn

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Glyn's 1 post GB flag
Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Mark Fletcher

11:06 PM
Lytham St. Annes

No is the answer !

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Mark Fletcher's 673 posts GB flag
Mark's: mapM's Freeview map terrainM's terrain plot wavesM's frequency data M's Freeview Detailed Coverage
Wednesday, 27 June 2012
5:47 PM

Hi All.
Scratching my head with this.
I was given an old Pioneer 5.1 surround sound system with DVD player, no HDMI.

I connected it according to the instructions with my Series 3 Samsung TV. The scart from the home cinema to a scart socket on the TV and phono from TV output L&R to input on the home cinema.
The only sound I can get is from the freeview station not whats on the TV channel supplied by the Sky HD+ Box.

If I swap the phono to the Skybox to Home cinema connection I get the same, only sound is from the freeview channel.

I'm doing something obvious wrong, I know but I can't work it out.

Any help would be very much welcome

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Brabazon's 1 post GB flag
6:58 PM

i have new sky+ hd . plugged phillips wireless tv link vl1100 into sky + hd scart at back of box. I am able to get fabulous tv in other rooms BUT I can not seem to change the channels etc.. I could change channels etc with my regular sky box. is there anything I can do. thank you

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jinx's 1 post GB flag
Wednesday, 25 July 2012
5:32 PM

I have a sky plus box connected to first tv. I have a dvd player/recorder connected to second tv in another room. I want to connect tv link. I have checked rf2 output and tv link works fine - changes channels etc. The tv aerial in the second room goes into dvd recorder and lead goes from recorder into second tv aerial socket. Which socket should the tv link go into?

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If's 1 post GB flag
Monday, 6 August 2012
dean waters
3:16 PM

Hi can you please help? We have a Fujitsu 42" plasma monitor (modelNo. PDS4229E). we have a small grundig set top box, with 2 scart connections but the plasma doesn't have scart. It has a video imput, and an S'video input. It also has RS-232C (9 pin) and a RGB input/mD-sub (15 pin) connections is there any way to connect this up so we can watch TV?

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dean waters's 1 post GB flag
Saturday, 11 August 2012
ra. Ostwald
12:50 PM

I have a Technisat HDFS freeview HD set top box. Ever since the start of the Olympics I have been unable to receive channel 50 (BBC 1 HD) I get the sound but no picture. The Technisat technical help line has given me two different resolutions. 1) delete channel 50 and reinstal - (not possible)
2) Lots of customers have complained about this - don't know what the solution is. Has anyone else experienced this problem either with a Technisat HDFS or any other device? Any ideas how to fix it? Any help would be much appreciated. Mark

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ra. Ostwald's 1 post GB flag

3:11 PM

ra. Ostwald: Are you sure about the model number of the device in question? as on my Technisat HDFS manual its listed as a Freesat device, BBC1HD being on EPG 108.

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jb38's 7,179 posts GB flag
Monday, 20 August 2012
3:53 PM

Feel I may have made a mess of my connections

I set my DVD to record whichit does but it does no end the process and record light still on As I say maybe my errors!

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pete's 1 post GB flag
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