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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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Tuesday, 26 February 2013
Dave Lindsay

12:47 PM

Lynn Leland: Perhaps there is another input that can be used on the TV.

What is the make and model number of the TV? And also the DVD and Goodmans?

A scart switch box will work, assuming that you get one with an appropriate in/out combination, although it will mean having to manually switch it on the box.

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Dave Lindsay's 5,724 posts GB flag
Dave Lindsay

2:41 PM

Lynn Leland: Yes, that should allow you connect the receiver and the DVD, although they will have to press the button on the side to switch sources.

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Dave Lindsay's 5,724 posts GB flag
Wednesday, 27 February 2013
1:21 PM

this is such helpful site---but I have a problem, my new tv has only 1 scart socket, and I have a dvd recorder and sky box to connect, I do have a scart adapter [switched] but I cannot seem to get all 3 working together--can you help. Or is it just as simple as scart from tv to sky box, then another scart from sky box to dvd player. I want to play dvds, and also copy from my sky box to dvd.

If I connect this way, does it matter which of the scart sockets I use on the sky box and dvd player ?

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Marian's 1 post EU flag

4:17 PM

Marrian: The normal way of connecting these items together would be that the common lead (or socket) on the scart switch box would be connected into the TV.

You then connect a scart lead between the one of the inputs on the scart switch box and the AV1 output on the DVD recorder.

Then connect another scart lead from the other input on the scart switch box to the socket marked TV on the Sky box.

Finally use another scart lead between the Sky boxes VCR scart socket and the DVD recorders AV2 input socket.

In operation if you just wish the view the Sky box then you simply press the button on the scart switch box to connect it into the TV, but if you want to record from the Sky box onto the DVD recorder then first of all select the channel you want to record from on the Sky box, then press the button on the switch box to connect the recorder into the TV.

You then go into the recorders "input select" menu and select AV2 as the input otherwise it will try to record from its internal tuner, however as soon as you select AV2 input the Sky picture should be seen "via the DVD recorder", you can then make an instant record or alternatively set the timer on the DVD to record whatever from the Sky box , but remember not to change the change the channel on the Sky box unless you have set the Sky box to automatically change channel via the "autoview" facility on the programme reminder.

If you have any problems then it would help if you provided the model number of the DVD as well as the TV.

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jb38's 7,179 posts GB flag
Friday, 1 March 2013
11:24 AM

I am in the process of buying a new TV. I have several appliances connected to my existing system. Sky, DVD Recorder & VHS recorder, Which work through my TV scart leads. I've noticed that most modern TV's now only have one scart socket and I'm worried that I wont be able to reconnect everything when I buy the new TV. Can you offer any advice please?

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Jim's 1 post GB flag
Monday, 4 March 2013
6:40 PM

Help wanted.have been trying to connect a virgin box to a dvd player and a moniter.We can get a picture and no sound or sound and no picture.Also what setting sould the moniter be on

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jill's 1 post GB flag

11:00 PM

jill: It would be of assistance to anyone giving advice on your query if you mentioned exactly the type of monitor you are referring to, that being the brand and model of, this likewise applying to the type of Virgin box you have.

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jb38's 7,179 posts GB flag

11:25 PM

Jim: Many modern TV's only have one scart socket because they are usually fitted with one or more HDMI inputs, however if your Sky box is of the standard variety and your DVD does not have an upscaling feature then neither will have HDMI sockets, albeit of course that TV will if its an HD or "HD ready" type.

That said, exactly what you will require to purchase (leads / scart selector box wise) depends on what you intend to record from onto the VHS recorder as well as the DVD, further advice dependant on answer.

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jb38's 7,179 posts GB flag
Saturday, 16 March 2013
9:45 PM

hi, what do i need to do to get my dvd player working with my bt vision box? Im totally lost lol can you help me please!!!i just put my dvd in the player and get no picture on my t,v.

many thanks

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jules's 1 post GB flag
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