Article 15: Cords, Cables, and Connections

Hey everyone, Aaron here, back again the Modern Nerd. This week’s focus will be on the various connections you can make between your devices, for audio and for video. We’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of all of them and how you can get most for your money.

 

RCA Connections – A Thing of the Past

RCA connections are for audio and video. The cables have one yellow video portion, one red audio for the right speaker, and one white for the left speaker. These cables are still utilized on televisions and stereo systems, but are become rarer because of the limitations. They can’t transmit an HD signal, and the audio is limited to stereo sound. The standard was quite common in the CRT television era, but is being phased out.

S-Video – One Step Up

S-Video cables are the first introduction to progressive scan video. S-Video signals are usually 480i, and are separated into 2 channels, the video signal and the brightness of that signal. This allows for a better quality reproduction than a standard RCA cable. The standard is on older televisions, some computer graphics cards, and some new televisions in legacy support. It suffers from the same problems as the RCA connection, as it cannot transmit a video signal higher than standard DVD quality. The cable does not transmit audio, so connecting a device with this standard is incomplete without supplemental RCA audio cables.

True HD – Component Video and Optical Audio

 

Splitting a video signal into 2 parts allowed for better pictures, but splitting it into 3 parts allows for high definition in all its glory. Allowing resolutions of up to 1080p, component video cables split the signal into its brightness and 2 different color signals. The cables are red, green, and blue. The physical connection is the same as the RCA connection, but usually RGB cables are of higher quality, gold plated connections to reduce the signal noise and provide a better picture. 1080p is the highest current resolution for HD TV’s, so while you can’t transmit audio this way, component video cables are a great way to get a better picture without an HDMI connection.

To get a better audio signal, you can upgrade from the RCA stereo cables to an optical connection. Optical audio cables are a huge step up from RCA, allowing for digital audio reproduction at bitrates of up to 125 Mb/s. In plain English, you can get surround sound by using a digital cable and a compatible system.

HDMI – Fast, Beautiful, Idiot-Proof

HDMI is my personal favorite of all of the ways to connect a computer monitor or a television to the wonderful peripherals in your entertainment center. HDMI is a digital connection. One cable does it all. Audio and video in high quality HD can be transmitted, and when connected to a computer or other component with some processing power, the components are recognized and the resolution is optimized automatically. HDMI is a newer standard, but most new televisions use this as the primary connection standard with component video and RCA support for legacy (older) devices.

There are other standards for transmitting computer video, DVI being the most common, but DVI to HDMI adapters are inexpensive and allow for high quality televisions in the smaller sizes to double as computer monitors.

 

HDMI cables are what you should try to go with if possible, as the cables can be very inexpensive, or very expensive depending on the quality you go for. I would recommend not worrying about getting the highest quality HDMI cable, as you can rarely notice a difference between the two. If you have a high-end system though, and want to make sure of the best qualities, gold plated HDMI cables can make good into better. HDMI cables range from <$5.00 to $100.00.

Remember that even if you have HD components, they need to be connected properly to pass signals. Until that time when all signal transmissions can be made wirelessly, you’ll need to put a little bit of thought into the connections. Hopefully this will give you a little background into what to look for when you plug in. I would like to thank Wikipedia for the use of the cable connector images to help clarify, and as always, thanks for reading.

Aaron Krick
Blog Contributor at The Computer Fixer
aaron.krick@gmail.com

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