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The Best Cable Options for Your Home Theater System

Jun 3, 2008
You sure are excited to get the new HDTV and Hi-Definition DVD player that you've been wanting. But, after you come home and unpack your Home Theater system, you have at least 40 or 50 jacks in a heap that you don't know how to get straight. Hooking together your new system can be extremely intimidating unless you know the best set-up for the highest quality.

The HDTVs being sold now have a number of different types of connectors on the back. Here is a short description of the connections that you could find on a new HDTV.

Coaxial cable (Analog RF) connection is the poorest quality connection for your TV. It's barely different from the cable connections available when television was invented. In an Analog only format, this connection will pass both audio and video.

Composite Video solely transports analog video signal. You can recognize this connection by the yellow jack on the rear of your TV. In this connection the Chrominance and Luminance portions of a video signal are combined and a maximum of 480 interlaced lines of resolution can pass.

The S-video connection is a jack with four pins. By separating the Chrominance and Luminance portions of a video signal, S-Video upgrades the quality of your video image. S-video, also an Analog only connection, passes video with a maximum of 480 lines of resolution.

Component Video is the red/green/blue set of RCA jacks on the back of your new HDTV. This video signal is also Analog only and has no audio. Component Video separates the Luminance and 2 colors into its connection, providing true High Definition image quality. Component Video connections can deliver resolution of up to 1080 progressive lines; this capability is also known as 1080p or FullHD in the industry.

The Digital Video Interface (DVI) connection is a video-only connection that is truly digital. This connection, the Hi-Def standard until recently, allows up to 1080 progressive lines of resolution.

High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) is a total digital Audio and Video connection, allowing a single connection between a person's equipment and HDTV. This connection is found on the majority of new HDTV equipment.

If you have an HDTV, here are a few ways to get the most out of it.

Scenario 1 -- You've purchased a new high-definition TV and a Blu-ray DVD player. Ideally you should use a single HDMI cable to connect these two devices together. This cable transmits the highest-quality image and audio that can be passed between the new Blu-ray and your HDTV. Besides the power plugs, this is the only thing needed to connect these two components.

Scenario 2 -- You want to connect a complete surround system with a brand new blu-ray DVD player and a new HDTV. If your Surround A/V Receiver is compatible with HDMI inputs and outputs, the best way to connect these three devices is to use a short HDMI cable from the Blu-ray player to the A/V Receiver and a longer HDMI cable from the output of the A/V Receiver into the new HDTV. This method is useful when your HDTV has only one HDMI jack, and you have multiple devices with HDMI jacks. It also allows the receiver to switch the HDMI connections and use the digital Audio from the Blu-ray console to create outstanding sound on your newly purchased Blu-ray DVD's.

Scenario 3 -- You have an older HDTV, surround sound system, and DVD player to connect. In this case, check your HDTV and DVD video connections to get an idea about how you can make the connections work. Refer to Scenario 2 above if your older HDTV has a DVI or HDMI connection on the back, and your DVD player has either. A simple conversion cable can be used in the event your TV has a DVI connection and your DVD player uses HDMI. In this situation you will also need either a Coaxial digital (normally an orange jack on you're A/V Receiver) or a Toslink Optical (normally a small square looking jack that says "Optical" on you're A/V Receiver) connected to the A/V receiver from your DVD player to pass the digital Audio portion of your signal.

If you follow one of the above scenarios, you will get the best possible connections for your HD equipment.

There are many other ways to configure the connections for your equipment. If the above mentioned scenarios do not comply with the connectivity options of your gear, please refer to the user manuals provided by the manufacturer of your equipment.
About the Author
Vic Metten knows his stuff, especially when it comes to using the right cables. As an installation expert, Vic can accurately identify the cables needed for any project, knowing whether to use an HDMI cable, a DVI cable, or a Component video cable . He also knows which adapters will be required for each system, like using a Dvi cables . That's why he's the best.
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