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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.

Help with Television sets?
Why are all TVs on sale not digital?1
Do I still have to pay for a TV licence?2
I had perfect channel 5 reception - until I got a digital TV box!3
I Have a Pocket Tv For taking out so I can keep up with news and sport. Will thi4
The pictures from my digital box are all green!5
In this section
Loft aerials1
Do I need to buy a booster?2
How to receive Freeview on your PC3
Indoor aerials4
Whole house digital TV5
Now and Next6

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

10:01 PM

john bartlett: If you have a model no. for your TV/PVR, that would be very helpful, since I know nothing about the Bush brand, and havn't seen (the back of) a 2013 Toshiba at all. I suggest the best thing to do for a start is to read the manual of your equipment. You can ignor the VGA, thats for a PC to connect to a monitor, and I'm not sure its even still there, since HDMI is now standard.

The best thing to do is check if your Bush PVR has an HDMI - if it does, just use the HDMI! If it does not, then your using something else.

However, I'd be very surprised if your TV did not have a scart/rgb input as well, and a quick look at Toshiba's website shows the L6 series certainly has that.

Basically, a lot of TV's now have some sort of arrangement that allow you to use an adapter or the RGB/left & right phono's instead of a 'proper' scart (although most, such as Samsung, have both a scart and RGB). In fact the RGB adapter might even be in the box! If there isn't one, google RGB (it means RED BLUE GREEN - and is the colour of the things on the back, and supported video only) Scart adapter - they are not expensive, and you can buy the leads at the same time, and dont forget the audio.

However, the best thing is to check the manual, and the back of the equipment, and find the best connection, which will mormally be HDMI. I ask all my customers what they already have at home, to make sure everything fits, since modern TV's only have 1 scart. If your PVR does not have HDMI, it might be time to think about an upgrade anyway, since its probably a little long in the tooth.

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB flag
Saturday, 31 August 2013
john bartlett
5:03 PM

john bartlett: Thanks for your response. My BUSH 320GT only has a scart and RF in and out ports. My Toshiba TV 32PB200T has 1 x USB 1 x VGA RGB/pc and 2 x HDMI ports. So scart out of bush and VGA into TV won't work ?

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john bartlett's 3 posts TH flag

5:41 PM

john bartlett: According to what I can see on the manual for that model of Toshiba (non UK issue?) it has a composite video input on the extreme right hand side of the connection panel , video being the top RCA (phono) connector and with the audio left and right phono's running downwards underneath.

Should yours be like this? then you will have to purchase a scart to RCA adapter of the type that has an in/out selector switch (selecting out) some types only being that (an adaptor) whereas other types have the scart adaptor with leads coming from it terminated in phono connectors (yellow always being video) and you would use this type of lead to connect the Bush into your TV.

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jb38's 7,179 posts GB flag
john bartlett
7:18 PM

john bartlett: Again thanks very much for spending time on my "problem" it is appreciated. So I need a cable with a scart at one end and and rca adaptor that ends with 2 (or maybe 4 ?) leads coming out which I have to plug into the yellow (red and/or blue) plugs ??

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john bartlett's 3 posts TH flag

11:04 PM

john bartlett: According to the manual, you have both composite and component connections, but to make your life easy, use the composite (yellow, red and white) connections, as JB38 suggested.

Something like this:

and the cables: World of Data - 1.2m RCA/Phono Cable - Premium: Electronics

You can often buy them as a kit, or get an 'all in one' - Hama 3 Phono to SCART Switchable cable, 1.5m: Electronics

They are not very expensive, even in the high-street. However, I would advise anyone buying a recorder to check what the outputs are. The Bush recorder really should have an HDMI output in this day and age, even though its got standard tuners (HD tuners certainly would). I assume its price point meant that they thought they could leave it out.

However, having an HDMI and scart (now rare on PVR's) makes life a lot easier for everyone, and avoids the sort of hassle which means your going to have to buy extra kit to connect everything up.

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB flag
Sunday, 1 September 2013

12:21 AM

john bartlett : MikeB's link is exactly what I was referring to, the other version rather than having the RCA/ phono sockets mounted on the actual scart adaptor has leads coming from it which are terminated in three separate RCA/ phono plugs.

I was going to say that these are easily obtainable at the amazingly low price of £1.00 from the aptly named Poundland shops in the UK, but as it would appear that you "might" not be located on UK mainland I refrained from doing so.

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jb38's 7,179 posts GB flag
Friday, 6 September 2013
Jack hamilton
10:17 AM

Connect my Hunax hd box and sky freeview box to my
Panasonic recorder

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Jack hamilton's 1 post GB flag
Friday, 18 October 2013
susan rushton
1:39 PM

i have old tv i have connected old scart plug to this and the sky box but still no signal do i need an indoor ariel
also the tv/dvd is a hikona tc 1400 and i havnt amanual to tune it in

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susan rushton's 1 post GB flag
jamie stevens

2:18 PM

susan rushton:

An indoor aerial will not run a sky box.

Indoor aerials only run Freeview, but not very well.

To run a sky box you need a cable from the sky dish.

If you are looking to run a Freeview box you will need to connect a cable to an outdoor aerial.

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jamie stevens's 207 posts GB flag
jamie's: mapJ's Freeview map terrainJ's terrain plot wavesJ's frequency data J's Freeview Detailed Coverage
Thursday, 31 October 2013
Ron Chase
4:16 PM

I want to connect the SCART output of a BT digital Freeview Box directly to the VGA input of an LCD Monitor.
Since the Box is in itself a digital tuner which provides video & audio signals to the TV via it's SCART output connector, I am assuming that I will be able to drive the LCD Monitor directly from this video signal via the Monitor's VGA input, and separate out the audio to connect to the audio input socket on the Monitor.
Is all of the above correct, or do I need to amplify/condition the video signal in order to drive the monitor with it ?

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Ron Chase's 1 post GB flag
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