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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, 1 March 2011
Elizabeth FB
11:37 PM

Hi, I have been the victim of two burgalries recently. So I am trying to set up a CTV using an old Goodmans portable TV and a Pacific 619, 6 head nicam stero recorder.

There are no instructions for either. There is one scart on the TV and two on the Video. One of these is black and the other green. There is also an input and output ariel type connection. My ariel claimed to be a joint AV and was supposed to access freeview. It has two arial points as well.

I can pick up the picture from the CTV camera, but I can't work out how to record it. This CTV is only supposed to activate the recorder when there is movement.

Can someone tell me how to wire this all together please. These b's who have burgaled me, took away photos of and some gifts from
my son, who died suddenly just before Christmas, including the one he had left for me to open on Christmas Day.

I am sure they'll be back and I'd love to see them caught.

Thanks for any help any of you can give

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Elizabeth FB's 2 posts GB flag
Wednesday, 2 March 2011

7:49 AM

Elizabeth FB: It is a bit hard to say with the information you have provided. You would normally expect to put the recording device into an "external record" mode, but without any documentation it is quite hard to even guess how this might be done.

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Briantist's 38,899 posts GB flag
Thursday, 3 March 2011
Elizabeth FB
10:30 AM
Market Rasen

I this have done this. I tried to play a Video, but without success. I must have wired it incorrectly. I am wired from the fron to the TV to the front of the video. Yellow - white - red.
There are scarts at the back of the video. One saying euro AV2 and the other AV1. There are 2 ariel points at the back if the video.

One Ant out and the other Ant in. I have plugged the TV ariel directly into the back of the TV

Can you help ?

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Elizabeth FB's 2 posts GB flag
Elizabeth's: mapE's Freeview map terrainE's terrain plot wavesE's frequency data E's Freeview Detailed Coverage

1:45 PM

Elizabeth FB: Is there a SCART socket on the TV?

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Briantist's 38,899 posts GB flag
Saturday, 5 March 2011
Jackie M
11:59 AM

I am hoping you can help me connect my TV etc together with scart leads?
I have a sharps HD TV, Freeview HD recorder, a DVD player and a video recorder and I am wondering how I should connect them together in the correct order by scart cable. The TV only have 1 scart socket.

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Jackie M's 1 post GB flag

4:08 PM

Jackie M: You would use an HDMI cable from the Freeview HD recorder to the TV.

Does the DVD player have HDMI output? If so use HDMI there.

That leaves your single SCART for the VCR.

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Briantist's 38,899 posts GB flag
10:46 PM

I Have a Sony Tv with 3 scart a dvd Recorder with 2 Scart and I use to have a Sky + box with 2 scart connections and everything working great. I changet to a Sky+HD box with 1 Scart so now I can't get my DVD recorder to rec the sky box how do I connect it all Up?

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Declan's 1 post IE flag
Sunday, 6 March 2011
Robert Harradine
11:40 AM

I have a LG DRT389H dvd recorder, I can't record one channel while watching another
I have a vergin media HD+ top box and a bush telly.
Top box connected to telly via a HDMI lead and dvd connected with scart.
Only records the channel i am watching.

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Robert Harradine's 1 post GB flag

12:35 PM

Robert Harradine: Yes, that's right, the DRT389H has only a DVB-T tuner, so you can only record directly from Freeview or from your V+ box.

Use the V+ box to record the shows you want to watch later, and then use it transfer the programmes to the DVD later.

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Briantist's 38,899 posts GB flag

6:46 PM

Declan: You use HDMI to connect an Sky+HD box to your HDTV. You then use a single SCART to connect the Sky+HD box (SCART socket marked DVD/VCR) to the DVD Recorder.

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Briantist's 38,899 posts GB flag
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