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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, 23 August 2012
5:32 PM

I have a new Samsung tv with HDMI cable, no scart, and an old Sky+ box with scart, no HDMI slot. They have been connected via a short cable (that came with the TV) that's HDMI at one end and scart at the other but a the connection is erratic and looking for a new cable I can't find one, but keep seeing details of converters. Is this what I have to get?

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Vivien's 1 post GB flag
Friday, 24 August 2012
11:02 PM

If,try connecting the rf2 to your ariel input on the DVD in the 2nd room ( inputting the tv link first in the ariel input on the DVD)that should work.
Obviously rf2 output is switched on cos you've already tried it.

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Dave.'s 1 post GB flag
Saturday, 25 August 2012
4:43 PM

We have a 42 inch Fujitsu monitor can we use the playstation on this and sky multi room would be grateful for some help

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Paula's 1 post GB flag
Sunday, 2 September 2012
neville welch
12:28 PM

i have a combined VHS and DVD PLAYER which i want to connect to my large flat screen tv but the player does not have an HDMI connector.There are several HDMI CONNECTORS on the tv.Can you please help .i have just noticed there is an optical connector on back of player but is this the same as HDMI?Thank you.

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neville welch's 1 post GB flag
Thursday, 27 September 2012
2:10 PM

I have just got a new LED tv it has only 1 scart socket I have SKY+ box and DVD recorder,which both have scart plugs for the tv.What can I do use them normaly.The tv is a LG42LS5600

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Brian's 2 posts GB flag
10:08 PM

Hi, I have Panasonic tv and dvd bought together in 2005. Models (tv)TX32LXD52 and (dvd)DMR-ES10EB/EBL. Since switchover (yesterday, 26 Sep 2012) I have tried numerous times to get the tv and dvd to work together again. Trouble is the channels do not seem to match. The manuals are difficult to understand there is so much jargon in them, and so many options. I took both devices back to 'shipping' and almost won. At the mo tye tv is ok. The tv also will change channels using both remotes. But I cannot record. Any clues?

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lawrie's 1 post GB flag
Saturday, 29 September 2012
Neil Bell

11:43 AM

Brian If your SKY+ box and DVD recorders don't have HDMI outputs then you will need to use a SCART splitter which will let you connect both devices to one SCART input. They don't have switches so one device will have precedence and when that device is switched off the other will work. If they do have HDMI outputs then get some HDMI leads.

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Neil Bell's 106 posts GB flag
Roger Milne
6:01 PM

Hi Briantist, I have a flat with a built-in tv splitter allowing a tv signal to 3 rooms plus the lounge where the main tv equipment is located. I can receive Freeview in a bedroom but would like to view DVD recorded programmes and if possible Sky too. I have a Sony Bravia KDL 40S2010, a SONY DVD recorder HXD970 and a Panasonic Sky box. The feed to to the flat comes off the Sky box. Can you advise please on how I can amend the connections to achieve this and what do I have to do to the TV set in the bedroom? Thanks in advance!

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Roger Milne's 1 post GB flag
Thursday, 11 October 2012
9:35 AM

My 'normal' ariel does not pick up digital TV, so I use the ariel from a satelite dish left by previous owners of my house (I don't have Sky or anything, just use Freeview).

There is no connector at the TV end of the satelite wire, just copper wires and casing. What kind of adaptor do I need to connect to my TV? (the ones sold to me by electrical shops do not 'fix' properly onto the wire!). We currently have no signal and trying to get one is driving me mad!

Many thanks

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Serretta's 1 post GB flag

12:55 PM

Serretta: You must reside in a strong signal area or what you are doing would not work, and indeed most likely wouldn't if you connected the coax up properly using an "F" plug on the end of the coax, and with this being screwed into an adaptor plugged into the TV's aerial socket, the adaptor called "female F to coax male".

The reason I say that this would not work (unless very close to transmitter) is because you are only able to receive a workable signal because the braiding is not earthed, but once it is then that will kill the signal.

In other words, you are not doing any more than connecting a piece of wire into the aerial socket, and this can be any wire of a few feet long like a short length of lighting flex.

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jb38's 7,179 posts GB flag
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