Audio/video cable guide

Setting up a home theater? Our look at audio/video cables will help you identify every important connection available.

HDMI, RCA, S-Video--sorting through the alphabet soup of audio/video cables can be difficult. Read on for everything you ever needed to know about plugging in your audio/video equipment for your home theater or for on-the-go jammin'.

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface)

193829-hdmi_original

Use it for: Connecting Blu-ray players, TVs, AV receivers, PCs, game consoles, and other high-def video hardware

If you have a choice, select it instead of: Component video cables, analog audio cables

It's similar in performance and use to: DVI

It adapts to: DVI, Mini-DVI, Micro-DVI

Add more ports by: Connecting to a receiver

In addition to carrying pristine HD video at 1080p and beyond, HDMI can supply surround-sound audio, including Dolby Digital and DTS. This digital cable is your go-to cable for most home theater connections, including TVs, receivers, and game consoles. It supports HDCP encryption, so copy-protected movies should play without problems. This type of connection is available in several versions; HDMI 1.3 is typical, while 1.4 is rolling out now. The new version is capable of additional bandwidth for enabling high-resolution 3D video, and is part of the Blu-ray 3D specification.

RCA (aka Composite Video or Phono Plug)

193829-pureav_rca-audio_606_original

Use it for: Basic, analog audio and video; occasionally for digital audio

If you have a choice, select it instead of: Coaxial cable

It adapts to: Mini-jack ends (commonly found on camcorders and MP3 players)

Add more ports by: Connecting a splitter, repeater, or receiver

Introduced by RCA, this connector is ubiquitous among home audio and video components. Basic setups might use a white plug for mono audio--the left channel--and a yellow plug for video (not shown here). A red plug usually signifies right-channel audio, but the connector can carry other signals too. It's occasionally used for digital audio, in which one cable carries a full surround-sound signal. It's also the same kind of cable as for component video (see below).

Component Video (aka Y-Pb-Pr or RGB)

193829-belkin_vid2comprca_606_original

Use it for: HDTV video (especially older TVs), game systems

If you have a choice, select it instead of: Composite RCA video, S-Video

It's similar in performance and use to: VGA cables (especially the RGB version)

It adapts to: VGA, if your devices use the RGB version

Add more ports by: Connecting a splitter, repeater, or receiver

Component-video signals transmit over three RCA cables, typically coded red, green, and blue. Component video works at up to 1080i, making it a good option for analog HDTV connections. The cables typically run Y/Pb/Pr, which separates brightness, blue, and red to individual cables. Some systems use other signals, often RGB (red, green, blue); certain devices support both kinds of signals, but if you get a green-tinted image, you're probably set up for the wrong color space.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags home theatre

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

PC World Staff

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?