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Digital cable and HD converter cable TV STB hookup connections
How do I hookup my TV to digital cable?



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Getting started with digital cable

Your local cable TV provider such as Time-Warner Cable, Cox, Comcast, Charter etc. will get you started with a subscription to digital cable TV programming and will also get you a digital cable TV converter set top box, route a coax cable into your home and may even provide basic setup, but you need to go beyond the basics when, for example, you want to hookup an A/V receiver for Dolby Digital surround sound or hookup an all digital DVI or HDMI cable to your HDTV.

Digital cable set-top-boxes extract and process digital and analog audio and video from a single coaxial cable. 

Standard analog "Cable TV" Set-Top-Box

Standard cable boxes offer a coaxial RF output to a TV that has to be tuned to channel 3. These analog cable boxes can provide mono audio or separate RCA jacks for two-channel stereo output and composite video or even S-video outputs. These audio/video output jacks connect directly to your home theater receiver or TV for video and audio.

Hookup diagram:  Cable TV 
This diagram shows a simple coaxial cable hookup from cable box to VCR to TV. Analog video and mono audio are carried over a single RF coax cable. The VCR is tuned to channel 3 and the TV is tuned to channel 3. Channels are selected on the cable TV box. The VCR can record the selected channel and the TV is used to view the program. When not recording, the VCR can "pass thru" the cable TV program signals to the TV for viewing. Any VCR or TV which has a "cable ready" tuner does not need a cable box for unscrambled analog channels.

Jack: IN / OUT 

RF coax cable



By using RCA (phono) audio/video connections you can get stereo audio and composite video which is better than RF. Your VCR and TV must have stereo capability and RCA A/V jacks for this configuration. 

The TV has to be set on the VIDEO INPUT for the line from the VCR and the VCR has to be set to the LINE INPUT for the cable box. To watch one channel on the TV while recording another channel on the VCR, you could add a signal splitter which provides one output to the cable box and the other output directly to the TV RF input. You need a TV with a cable ready tuner which most modern TV sets have and then you just tune in channels with the TV remote. This is how analog cable was viewed after TV sets had analog cable ready tuners (no cable box required) but before digital cable appeared.

High Definition TV - HDTV

HDTV hookup using HDMI cable.

HDTV hookup using component video cable and audio cables.

The HDMI connection keeps everything all digital while the component video and audio connections are analog.

What type of connections will I see on cable boxes today?

1) Coaxial RF

Connections on the digital cable box include the input coaxial RF jacks like you?ll find on a standard analog cable box. Typically, you can still send the coaxial RF output from the cable box to your VCR for recording programs, though the newest models come with built-in Digital Video Recorders (DVRs). The rest of the connectors provide audio and video directly to your home theater receiver or TV. 

An RF coaxial cable carries audio, video, and other data through one cable that has a single center conductor and an outer shield. Broadcasters transmit the complete Audio/Video signal as a radio-frequency signal, hence the RF. On the end is an F-connector that screws onto the RF input on your TV, cable box, VCR or DVR. Because RF combines the Audio/Video signals and sends everything over one cable, it has the poorest quality of all the connection options but is still viewable.

2) RCA audio/video connections

RCA jacks provide a stereo signal to your Home Theater receiver for analog channels. 


Remember, even though you may have a "digital" cable TV set top box, it will likely not output digital audio for the analog channels. Because of this you will want to connect a pair of analog RCA cables from your cable box to your receiver even if you already made a digital SPDIF connection. 

3) Digital Audio Outputs  


The SPDIF Sony Philips Digital Interface (digital) output comes in two types: optical (sometimes called Toslink) and Coaxial. Either will work fine and there is no real difference between the two when connecting your digital cable TV box to your home theater receiver for surround sound.

Using the digital audio output will provide your home theater receiver with full 5.1 Dolby Digital audio when available. Most programming will be broadcast through digital cable TV in two channel audio formats (stereo or encoded as Dolby Pro Logic), but HDTV channels, premium movie channels and even some cable networks will broadcast certain movies or prime time content in Dolby Digital 5.1, 6 channels (6 loudspeakers).

For digital audio such as Dolby Digital 5.1, you need a decoder like the ones in an Audio/Video receiver for surround sound. You can use either the optical output or the coaxial digital audio output on the back of the digital cable converter box to connect to the digital audio input jack of the A/V receiver. See Cable TV hookup connections


Video Output Options  

An assortment of video output options include 

4) composite
(a single yellow RCA connection), 
5) S-video
(a single 4-pin connection) and 
6) component (3 RCA connections colored red, green, and blue). 

Component video provides the best possible analog video signal and is the only analog format capable of transmitting HDTV resolutions. 

Connect the cable TV box's component video outputs to your home theater receiver if it can accept component inputs (match up the colors and consult your receiver's manual for any required settings). Connect them directly to your HDTV if your receiver does not support component video connections. 

7) DVI - DVI is a video only connection and is capable of carrying High Definition. With DVI, you get involved with digital content protection and also your cable company may not have the DVI ports activated on your converter box. Make sure your equipment is compatible.

8) HDMI - HDMI is the replacement for DVI and is capable of carrying High Definition video and up to 8 channel audio. HDMI also has digital content protection capability.

Hookup Diagrams

The most common cable hookup is a set of three cables with RCA-type connectors (also called phono plugs) that are colored red, white, and yellow. They plug into corresponding red, white and yellow RCA connections on your TV, VCR, cable box or other gear. The red and white cables carry stereo audio, while the yellow cable?the composite video cable?carries video.

Composite video: Since it separates the video from the audio, a composite video signal looks slightly better than an RF one, but it still carries the video signal's chrominance (color) and luminance (black-and-white) information together into one cable and makes your TV separate them. Not capable of carrying HDTV. 

Composite video and 2-channel audio
S-video:  a four-pin connection, the S-video cable provides improved picture quality by separating the video signal's chrominance (C, color) and luminance (Y, black-and-white) information into two parts that travel over one wire. This connection is sometimes labeled Y/C instead of S-video. Not capable of carrying HDTV.
Component video:  

Component video splits the video signal even further into three parts, carrying each part on its own cable. To explain exactly what parts of the signal are carried on each cable gets a bit technical; just know that the end result is a picture that can look much better than that of S-video or composite video. Your TV's component video inputs will consist of three RCA connections that are both colored and labeled: green (Y), blue (Pb or Cb), and red (Pr or Cr). Component video is often the highest-quality analog connection, and you should use it if your TV has a component video input. Component video is the only analog video-cable connection that can handle HDTV or progressive-scan DVD signals. S-video and composite video don?t carry progressive scan. 
  • Y is the luminance (brightness) signal.
  • Pb and Pr each carry part of the picture?s chrominance (color) information. Your TV uses these two chrominance signals to create the red, green and blue colors that can be mixed together to create any color on your display. (Sometimes, Pb is labeled B-Y and Pr is labeled R-Y.)

Component video connections use three normal analog cables. If you?re routing all of your video cables through a home theater receiver, check your receiver?s specs before routing component video connections through it. The receiver?s component video bandwidth specification should be

  • At least 10 MHz for progressive-scan DVD players
  • At least 30 MHz for HDTV connections

Component video may be the only connection that allows a true HDTV signal in your system if some, but not all, of your HDTV components use the HDCP copy-protection system.

FireWire/IEEE 1394

This digital connection comes in two forms: 6-pin and 4-pin (also known as iLink). FireWire can carry both video and audio signals, plus control information, in a compressed form that allows you to record the signal. TV manufacturers like Mitsubishi use FireWire to chain multiple devices together so that they can communicate with each other using fewer connections. 

FireWire is also commonly used in the home entertainment realm to view and transfer digital video/audio from a camcorder and as an audio-only connection to transfer digital audio?including high-resolution audio?between devices. FireWire is the only two-way connection for HDTV - the same cable can send HDTV video (and audio) to and from devices. This two-way connection is great for HDTV recording systems. One cable fully connects an HDTV with a D-VHS VCR. FireWire isn?t part of the HDCP copy-protection system. Instead, FireWire uses its own copy-protection scheme called ?5C-DTCP? (or 5-company digital television content protection), which provides similar protection of content that the big TV companies don?t want you to record for yourself. The 5C system basically acts just like HDCP, letting only authorized (5C-equipped) equipment make recordings of ?flagged? material.
DVI - Digital Video

Many of today?s cable TV and satellite set top boxes feature the relatively new DVI or HDMI outputs.  For video, connect DVI or HDMI as you would component connections - they?re both meant to carry digital HDTV signals. 

HDMI is a fully digital, multi-channel audio and High Definition video carrier.  When it?s fully implemented, the HDMI output on your cable TV/satellite box will go into your home theater receiver and out again into your TV.  

DVI stands for digital visual interface. There are three types of DVI connections: DVI-D carries digital video, DVI-A carries the DVI signal to an analog display (like a CRT computer monitor), and DVI-I carries both analog and digital on the same connector. 

DVI-D is the one most commonly found on current digital TVs, and it lets you send a pure, uncompressed digital video signal from a source to your TV. It's a video-only connection that's a popular choice for sending HDTV signals from an HD source (like a cable box) to your HDTV, although longer cable runs (over 20 feet) can degrade the signal. DVI is also on DVD players so you can send a pure digital source from the player to a digital TV. 


The High Definition Multimedia Interface can carry both high-definition video and high-resolution, multi-channel digital audio over one cable. Like FireWire, it can also carry control information. With the purchase of a simple adapter, you can connect a DVI-equipped source to an HDMI-equipped TV or vice versa, as long as the DVI connection has HDCP copy protection. HDMI can also travel over longer cable runs than DVI with less signal degradation.

DVI HDMI adapter cable

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see also: 

Audio Video Connections

Cable Connections Diagrams

Video Connections Diagrams

Cable TV, Satellite TV, OTA Tuners Receivers

Home Theater Receivers


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