TV Leads, Cables & Connections - All You Need To Know
If you are purchasing a new TV, new piece of AV equipment or have just looked behind your existing TV and are wondering what cables that you need for everything to work as it should. Read this blog for all the info that you require. There are loads of different types of TV leads and cables, each serving different purposes so let’s get started discussing what these do.
I have tried my best to arrange this in the most logical order but you may still have to scroll through to get the information you require. In this blog I discuss all different types of video, audio and other types of TV connections. There is still some debate on what whether digital or analogue audio gives the best sound, but I don’t think that there is a person alive that would suggest that analogue video offers a better picture than a digital signal. Apart from the black colour as many old analogue TV’s do give a better black. So,where you have the choice I would say pick a digital connection over an analogue one, certainly if you want to get all the benefits of HD, 4K etc then you will need to be using a digital connection.
Please don’t be put off by the amount of different TV leads mentioned here as I have done my best to name and describe all the leads that you’re likely to ever need to connect to your TV, with a short description of what they do.
Audio & Video Cables For TV’s
All of these leads below can provide both video and sound down the cable. I have listed them in order of preference starting with the best. The connection you opt for depends on the compatibility between your equipment.
HDMI cables are the most common TV lead of them all. HDMI,which stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface provides high definition digital video & audio connections between your AV equipment like Bluray disc players and Sky boxes all over a single cable. As HDMI is a digital connection is offers a much better picture quality than older type SCART, component & RCA composite connections.
The good thing about HDMI cables in that the technology can be expanded over time as has been the case. The current latest standard for HDMI is HDMI 2.0 which supports 4K video and Ultra HD but this will be sure to change at a later date to be able to provide higher quality video resolutions like 8K.
HDMI cables can also be used to connect to surround sound systems and soundbar. HDMI can feed a 7.1 speaker system and with ‘HDMI ARC’compatible a single cable can be installed between your TV and sound system/soundbar.
SCART leads used to be the lead of choice here in Europe but these have been superseded by the HDMI cable but there may some instances where you still require them, like for connections to DVD players and old VCR’s. SCART which stands for Syndicat des Constructeurs d’Appareils Radiorecepteurset Televiseurs, apart from obviously being French and otherwise known as the“Euro connector” in the USA is perhaps the most versatile AV cable of them all.
Before HD video and audio became a reality a single SCART cable could replace multiple other cables, inc RCA cable, component video/audio cables. S-Video cables and supported PAL, S-Video & RGB video as well as stereo sound.
SCART cables are easily recognisable with the big bulky connectors which are prone to falling loose and can be difficult to fit behind wall mounted TV’s and to route through walls. A fully wired SCART cable has 20 pins, each serving different purposes. One unique feature to the SCART lead was the source switching on pin 8 which meant that as soon as you turned on your AV equipment it would automatically override what ever was on the TV making them popular for people who want the TV to be as simple as possible.
Component Cable – Phono Cables
The next best cable or cables to connect your AV equipment to your TV would be via the component connection. This is actually 5 cables and already wired inside a SCART lead with provide separate analogue connections for the Red, Green and Blue colours and stereo sound which is a second red and white connections. By separating the red, green and blue colour streams gives a better picture quality than if these are delivered altogether. If you have a yellow connector instead of the red, green and blue this is a composite/ RCA connection which I will come to shortly.
RCA Cable – Phono Cables
The final type of connection we come to is the RCA cable. The RCA/ phono/ composite video is and is an analogue connection with the yellow for video, red and white phono connectors for stereo sound. Phono cables were not really that popular in Europe due to the popularity of the SCART connection,but they have recently seen a recent surge in popularity for equipment that does not have a HDMI connection. This is because nearly all new TV’s no longer have SCART connections on them. I’m sure that this is to do with the fact that they are very difficult to fit behind wall mounted TV’s and to route through walls so RCA and components leads would be more suited to this task.
Audio Only Cables
All of the following are audio only cables which can be used to connect your TV or AV equipment to sound systems like AV receivers, surround sounds, amplifiers and soundbars which are becoming very common.
Optical Cable – Toslink Cable
The most common audio connection today is the optical audio cable, which is often referred to as Toslink cable. If you’re not using HDMI to connect your audio equipment you should use an optical audio cable. The optical audio connection is a fibre optic cable which sends it’s signal down light. It is capable of 5.1 surround sound making it perfect also for most surround sound systems.
Coaxial Audio Cable
A coaxial audio cable is kind of a cross between an optical audio cable and a phono cable used for analogue mono or stereo sound. It is a digital connection which has an RCA connection on the end. The cable itself is usually thicker than most RCA cables to accommodate an extra protective cable screen to protect interference on the digital signals. A digital audio cable can support 5/7.1 surround sound.
Phono audio cables are the two red and white leads that can be used to connect analogue audio systems. The red and white phono cables can be used for stereo sound, which is two separate wound channels so left and right speakers for example.
An auxiliary cable fits into the headphone jack on your TV. It can be used to connect to sound systems and soundbars, but it is limited as it only offers and single sound channel. Another downside of using the auxiliary connection is that some TV’s will automatically mute the TV sound when the lead is inserted. This usually causes problems when people want to install wireless headphones and keep the TV volume working at the same time.
Video Only TV Cables
The following connections are video only connections that require separate audio cables to be installed if you want to be able to hear your TV.
The DVI cable is a digital video connection that is capable of high definition (HD) video. DVI stands for Digital Video Interface is compatible with HDMI connections on your TV with the correct adapter and vice versa. Most TV’s don’t have DVI connections anymore but some of the early ones do which makes them perfect for an extra HDMI input if you need it.
S-Video is another connection which never really took off in terms of popularity but there may be a chance that you might need it. S-Video is an analogue connection and works by separating the brightness (luminance) and colour (Chrominance) and combining them to give a bit of a bitter picture quality than composite video which sends all the signals in a single stream. The problem being that RGB gave a better picture than this so if you wanted to improve the picture you would be better off by installing a component video or SCART lead which both support this.
Other Leads For TV’s
The following section is other types of leads that you may require for TV connections that do not necessarily fall into the above categories.
RF Leads – TV/ Sat Cable
If you wish to watch a live TV service through your TV like Freeview or Freesat you will need a coaxial cable connecting into your TV. If you have a TV aerial socket plate or satellite socket a coaxial flylead will be required to connect between this and your TV. Pretty much all new digital TV’s have a connection for a TV aerial which requires a lead with a coaxial IEC plug connection, some of the latest larger TV’s are also equipped with Freesat tuners so you will need a lead with F connections to be able to connect this.
TV aerial and satellite leads can be purchased online or high quality ones can be prepared using a piece of good quality coax cable,some hand tools and a few plugs.
It’s also common to use RF leads with a male connection one end and female on the other for looping connections between equipment, like between a Freeview+/ BT Vision box, VCR and the TV tuner.
Most new TV’s have multiple USB ports to connect USB leads into. These can be used for a variety of purposes like viewing family photos or videos/ music on the TV. They can also be used for software/ firmware upgrades where the TV is not “Smart” or not connected to the internet. Portable hard disk drives can even be connected to many TVs for PVR functions like recording and live pause facilities.
Pretty much all new SMART TV’s or TV’s that can stream content from the internet, like for iPlayer or Netflix will require a connection to the internet for this to work. Although more and more new TV’s are now WIFI compatible it is still far better where possible to connect your TV with an Ethernet cable. This will maximise the speed and reliability of the connection which will make download speeds far faster and reduce buffering.
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Until next time,
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