HDTV Cables and Components
You have this brand new HDTV television set but now what? The first question to be asked is what type of HDTV programming will you be receiving? Will you be using a built-in or external HDTV tuner or will you be using a set-top box provided by your cable or satellite company? If you are only going to be using a built in HDTV tuner to pick up local HDTV broadcasts, then you would not need any other devices or cables -- everything should work perfectly right "out of the box." However, if you are going to be using an external tuner or set-top box, you will not only need the box, but also the proper cables to view HDTV programming without downgrading or degrading the quality of the image in any way.
To send an HDTV signal and image from your external HDTV tuner or set-top box provided by your satellite or cable company, you will need specific types of cables. These high quality cables usually or not provided with the box. Today, there are typically three types of cables that are used with HDTV and they are as follows:
Component Video Cables
Component video became popular with EDTV devices such as DVD players. These cables transfer the video information using multiple luminance RGB (Red, Green and Blue) signals (Y-Y/B-Y/R or Y-Pb-Pr) resulting in the highest quality video signal with very low distortion. This currently is the best cables to use from your Progressive Scan DVD player or set-top box, if it does not have a DVI or HDMI connector.
DVI or Digital Video Interface
You might be familiar with a DVI cable that may be connected to an LCD monitor from your computer. This is a pure uncompressed digital cable, which means there is no conversion from digital to analog or anything in between. Along with HDMI, this is the best cabling to use for displaying HDTV programming. However, DVI cables only carry the digital video signal and do not carry any audio signals.
HDMI or High-Definition Multimedia Interface
The HDMI cable is currently the best interface to use for HDTV including audio. Like DVI, this cable transfers the video signal in it's original uncompressed digital format with no analog conversion, which will give you the best HDTV image. This cable also includes digital audio which makes it the only cable to carry both digital video and audio on the same cable.
If you are going to use a Home Theater audio system, you will also want to use a form of digital audio connector and cable. Depending on your output device, these audio cables will either be Coaxial, which is a standard RCA cable or fiber optic, which uses light to transfer the digital audio signal. It has been very debated on which is better. My advice is use what available inputs you have. Most digital audio decoders/receivers will have one or two connections for each.
There are also other cables you can use on your HDTV set. If you have older devices such as VCRs or video game consoles, they may only output in one of the following cable formats:
RF or radio frequency is the first method of transferring radio signals to your television set. This includes receiving over the air analog signals via a television antenna, cable television via a cable box or from your VCR. The most popular format of transferring radio frequency signals is with the use of Coaxial cable. Your local cable company will use Coaxial cable to transfer their channel lineup including HDTV to your cable box. Your older VCR or device may only include RF Coaxial input and output.
This is the first method introduced to transfer the full analog video signal without using radio waves that can cause interference and snow. Most of today's VCRs and DVD Players include at least this method of transferring video. The cable consists of a composite of three source signals called Y, U and V (together referred
to as YUV. Y represents the brightness or luminance of the picture and includes synchronizing pulses, so that by itself it could be displayed as a monochrome picture. U and V carry the color information. The quality of the image produced from this method is good for VHS or low resolution analog signals but not for HDTV. These cables also include analog stereo audio connectors. These audio signals are not digital and only consist of the the stereo left and right speaker audio. These cables usually consist of a yellow RCA jack for the video and a red and white cable for left and right audio.
S-Video is similar to composite video except that instead of including the YUV signal on one RCA jack, they are split into separate connectors or pins within the cable. This allows a more clear picture. You will find that all DVD players and cable and satellite set-top boxes will offer output using S-Video. Most S-Video cables come bundled with normal RCA left and right audio cables as well.
Common components to use with your HDTV set
There are several components on the market you can use with your HDTV set. Just like any television set, you can hook up a VCR, DVD Player, cable box, satellite box, video game console or any other video output device. I will now briefly explain the most popular devices and what cables or accessories you may require or should purchase:
The VCR is the most common and widely used device for playing and recording VHS video signals. These devices have been out for over 25 years and are still widely used. VCRs will still be used for many years to come or at least until DVDs completely replace VHS tapes, similar to how CDs replaced the cassette tape. To output the video signal from your VCR, you only need a RF Coaxial cable but I highly recommend at least a composite video cable that includes stereo left and right audio. Some more advanced VCRs offer SVHS or Super VHS format. These higher quality and higher resolution VCRs require an S-Video cable.
Most DVD players
output at least both composite and S-Video format. If your DVD player is not Progressive Scan, then it probably does not include component video, which would be the best quality. If component video is not an option, then you will want to use S-Video to get the next best output. Only downgrade to composite video if you do not have an available S-Video connector or input on your HDTV. DVD players will include normal RCA jacks for stereo left and right audio. Your DVD player may also include digital coaxial or fiber optic audio connections. Please see our Home Theater page for more information.
Cable or Satellite Set-Top Box
For years these devices only offered either RF Coaxial or composite video. Today, most will offer component video or even DVI and HDMI. If you have an available connector you should consider using at least component video cables. However, for the most clear picture and pure digital output, you will want to use DVI or HDMI. Set-top boxes will include normal RCA jacks for stereo left and right audio. These devices may also include digital audio outputs including either coaxial audio or fiber optics connections.
Video Game Consoles and other Devices
Older video game systems and consoles will include some form of RF, composite or S-Video connector and RCA jacks for audio. However, the video game consoles on the market today may provide component or even HDMI connections. Use the best that they offer. Some games and consoles now offer full HDTV resolutions which will require you to use component or HDMI output.
More HDTV Cable and Component Resources
Amazon.com - Offers one of the largest selections HDTV Cables and Components at the lowest prices. You will also find Home Theater Audio Systems, DVD and VCR Players and Recorders, DVD Movies and everything else you could ever need for your HDTV experience.