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I was looking at our FAQ (actually Doug's!), and noted that we don't have any info on cabling. What is the best way to get a signal from a VCR or DVD player to a receiver or TV? S-video, composite video, RCA, RG6? I omit HD because that's not really a fair comparison, and it has its own special input. I know it would help me to rank these various methods, and I suspect it might be good to add the answer to this question to the FAQ.

Anyone have the answer?

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What is the best way to get a signal from a VCR or DVD player to a receiver or TV? S-video, composite video, RCA, RG6? I omit HD because that's not really a fair comparison, and it has its own special input.

For a VCR, unless you have an S-VHS unit, your only video connection options are coax cable (carries both video and audio) or composite video (video only, yellow connector jack). Go with composite video, which even at its low video quality is still scads better than a coax signal. Get a good-quality cable for this so that you have as little signal degradation over the cable as you can.

If you do happen to have an S-VHS VCR, then absolutely use an S-Video cable, which is higher quality than composite video. As I've never had one of these, I can't say for sure if you'll also need a composite cable connection to handle any standard VHS tapes you play in it.

For both regular and S-VHS VCR units, you'll also want a pair of left/right (white and red connector tips) audio cables to carry the sound.

For older DVD players, you should have at least a composite video and S-Video connection available. Newer / better quality models will also have a set of component video jacks (colored dark red, blue, and green and labeled Yr, Yb, and Yp). If you have component video jacks, use them as they give the best possible video signal. Otherwise use S-Video.

For audio connections, you'll usually have both standard left/right audio connectors and one or more of the following extra connectors: Coaxial digial audio, TOSLink (fiber optic) digital audio, and/or discrete 5.1-channel connectors (6 RCA jacks that send each channel individually over the wires to your receiver or amp). Here, you'll want to connect both a left/right audio cable set and one of the other options. I've heard coaxial digital audio is better than fiber optic / TOSLink, but I leave that to you to decide. I'd suggest leaving the discrete outputs alone unless you've got a dedicated amp or high-end A/V receiver.

The latest DVD players also have an HDMI output, which will carry both audio and video on one cable in a pure digital signal. You could hook up the HDMI from the DVD to your HDTV, provided your TV also has a coaxial or TOSLink digital audio output jack that you can run to your A/V receiver. That will give your HDTV the best possible picture quality (though some reviews I've read say the difference from component video is hard to see, and it's really only a benefit with HD-DVD / Blu-Ray material). If you've got a high-end, recent A/V receiver with HDMI in and out, then you can route the signal through there instead.

Sorry for the flood of info, but you did ask for it! ;-) Hopefully it's not too confusing.

- Joe -
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Strongly recommend this post by Joe be added to the FAQ


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I'm going to follow up my previous reply with one more, covering the cabling from A/V receiver to TV.

Basic A/V receivers will typically have a pair of Monitor video output ports -- one for composite video and one for S-Video. So when you've connected all the video outs from your DVD player, VCR, Sattelite / Cable box, standalone TiVo unit, PlayStation 2, etc. to the receiver, you'll run a single cable of each type (composite and S-Video) from the receiver's monitor out to an input on your TV. This assumes you're using a mix of video connections from your components. If you're able to connect everything using only S-Video, then you just need an S-Video connection from receiver to TV.

As noted in my earlier reply, some TVs let you connect multiple video connector types to a single input, and the TV is smart enough to figure out which one is active. If you can do this, it's the best solution because your TV can stay on one input.

Older high-end receivers, and many of the never mid-line models, also have Component Video inputs and a corresponding Component Monitor out. If you're using component cables for your DVD player, HD cable / sattelite box, XBox 360, etc., and you have one of these better receivers, then run the component cables from the components to the receiver and use the receiver's monitor out to connect to the TV. If you don't have a receiver with component inputs (or it has component inputs but no component monitor output) then you'll need to connect each component source's video output directly to the TV, while connecting the audio output to the receiver. It makes it a little more complex to get everything set up to watch a DVD or whatever, but it's worth it for the better picture.

The absolute latest A/V receivers are finally being equipped with HDMI inputs and outputs, although the low-end models and a fair number of mid-line ones haven't gotten this improvement yet. Use 'em if you've got 'em, especially since some HD-capable DVD players will only output a 1080p signal over an HDMI connection; component video output on these players will only go out at 1080i or even (on some really stingy models) standard-def 480p.

Now we come to video up-conversion. You've heard of up-converting DVD players and other devices that will take a low-def or mid-range HD signal and upconvert it to 720p or 1080i / 1080p? This is not the same thing.

Some A/V receivers can take a composite video signal input and up-convert it to output over S-Video. Better receivers (and this includes a good number of current, mid-line models) go a step further and allow to send all video out over component cables, even if the source material was composite video). The advantage of the latter receivers is you get to consolidate your video output to a single set of cables connected to your TV, ensuring just one input is used on the TV. It typically also improves the video quality on your TV, since the receiver will do some cleanup of the video signal during the up-conversion process. If you haven't bought a receiver yet, look for one with this feature and take advantage of it.


- Joe -
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Thanks for the great info! I agree, your two posts should be added to the FAQ.

I am actually sniffing around getting a new receiver soon. I had been looking at the Yamaha RX-V679, though I note that it no longer appears on the Yamaha website. It was a two-zone 7.1 channel receiver. I only wanted the 7.1 so that I could take one for the second zone, and still have 6.1 remaining. It claimed "HDTV compatible 3 component video inputs", but I hadn't looked into that much since I don't have (and am not planning on) HDTV**. I probably should, though, for future upgrading.

I can see I need to make a pilgrimage to my favorite audio store to see what's up now.


**Right now very little is done in HD, and what little is done I don't care about (e.g. sports, and the blonde bimbo in the HD commercial whom I have no interest in checking out, but I'd like to smack her for being so arrogant and annoying).
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