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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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