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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, 11 April 2013

11:59 PM

Lisa Vanderstreaten: Thanks for the update, the service manual for same indicating that your DVD-VCR does NOT have a Freeview tuner and so please ignore that said in my last posting.

The situation is now as I had first mentioned (5.09PM posting) insomuch that to make sure when you intend to record a programme via the TV that AV1 is selected on the recorder using the "input sel" button on the remote control (second down under 9) as that will make sure that the recording is made from the TV and not the recorders internal tuner, this now being completely redundant as analogue no longer exists.

Needless to say you do not require an aerial to be connected into the recorder, only the TV.

You do though require a fully connected (thick type) of scart cable to be used between the TV's AV1 and the recorders AV1 so that the signal can pass from the TV to the recorder, should it allow it! (once again model number would confirm)

That said though, I am inclined to agree with MikeB insomuch that you would be far better purchasing a Freeview PVR of the brand(s) suggested by MikeB, although my preference is towards Humax for PVR's, Panasonic for TV's.

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jb38's 7,179 posts GB flag
Friday, 12 April 2013
Lisa Vanderstreaten
7:59 AM

Jb38 hi its a Bush DV3 not sure which is the model number, either DTV 20070917 or IDLCD26TV16HD. If I put the scart lead in the av1 socket theres no freeview picture so do I have to retune it again? Or just forget about taping things at all?

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Lisa Vanderstreaten's 6 posts GB flag
Neil Bell

6:52 PM

Lisa I think your TV is switching to the input from the DVD recorder automatically when you plug the SCART cable in. You need to switch the TV back to "TV" whilst leaving the DVD recorder switched on then follow JB38's advice.

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Neil Bell's 106 posts CZ flag
Saturday, 13 April 2013
Lisa Vanderstreaten
8:52 PM

Jb38, Neil Bell, Ill try that, thanks again for all your help.

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Lisa Vanderstreaten's 6 posts GB flag

9:37 PM

Lisa Vanderstreaten: The Freeview picture vanishing when you insert the scart into the TV's AV1 is normal "if" the recorder is switched on whilst you do it, as you recover the Freeview picture by pressing the DTV or maybe "D" button on the TV's remote control.

Although its whilst it has cut out the TV's picture that you select AVI on the recorder "input select" button referred to, because should you be using a fully connected scart cable and your TV is able to output its video signal via its AV1 scart socket, then you should be able to see the Freeview picture via the recorder by having done that, i.e: as the signal would loop through it.

Havent as yet managed to check the manual though, as your TV might NOT have that

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jb38's 7,179 posts GB flag
Monday, 15 April 2013
12:44 PM

help!.i want to record from vhs onto dvd with scart leads please could u tell me how i do the connections.many thanks.joyce

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joyce's 2 posts GB flag

4:54 PM

joyce: You simply connect the two devices together using a scart lead from the VHS machines AV1 to the DVD recorders AV2 input ensuring that AV2 is selected as the input using the DVD recorders "input select" (or "source") button on the remote control, although if neither is seen on the control it will likely be accessed via the DVD's recording menu, it having been of somewhat assistance if you had provided the model number of the DVD recorder in question.

All said being on the assumption that your DVD recorders AV1 socket is connected into the TV's AV1.

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jb38's 7,179 posts GB flag
Wednesday, 17 April 2013
10:19 AM

I have just bought a new 46 inch Toshiba LED 3D TV with an F-Connector in the back. The TV has a built in satellite receiver.

The problem I have is my old Sky+ HD satellite has 2 f connector cables coming out of it and in my TV I only have 1 F connector.

Do I just need to plug one of the cables in (If so which one). Or do I need a new cable running from the satellite? Or an adapter of some sort?


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Ray123's 2 posts GB flag

1:15 PM

Ray123: Either cable will do as they are identical. You only need to run a new (third) cable from the dish LNB to your tv if you wish to continue using the Sky+ box, as the Sky box requires two feeds (and a current Sky subscription) to maintain full functionality.

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KMJ,Derby's 1,811 posts GB flag
2:44 PM

Oh, okay.

So (Just out of curiousity) why does the Sky box have 2 going in if you only need on?

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Ray123's 2 posts GB flag
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