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An Introduction to Audio/Video Wiring

Learn How To Connect Any Device To A Television


Setting up a television used to be easy. A person only had to plug it in, turn it on, adjust the antenna, and find a station to watch. Now, televisions require a little more effort to get going. Many come with over eight different input/output types. Throw in a DVD player, VCR, video game console and external receiver, the thought of setting up a television and all of its components can be confusing if not frustrating. However, by understanding how video and audio signals travel, connecting any device to a television isn’t as difficult as it may seem.

The best way to explain A/V (audio/video) wiring is to break it down into several smaller categories. By following the information below, you will be able to successfully hook up any home electronics system no matter how many devices are involved.

Signal Path

On a highway, you wouldn’t drive southbound on the northbound lanes for fear of causing an accident. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to mistakenly connect a DVD player to a video game console and try to watch a DVD. No permanent damage would happen, but you wouldn’t see or hear what you wanted because your wires got crossed. Therefore, determining the path of a signal is the most important function of A/V wiring.

You can figure out the signal path by setting the beginning point of the signal and tracing it through the ending point. When drawing a signal path diagram, it is good to know the components you want connected to your television. The beginning point is also referred to as the source, which is the origin of the A/V signal. The ending point is known as the destination, which is the desired location for the A/V signal to be viewed and/or heard. The number of points on a signal path will vary depending on the number of components involved in a home electronics system.

For example, the signal path for a system consisting of a VCR connected to a television that can record the analog cable would be the cable from the wall to the VCR to the television.

Out to In

All consumer electronics devices have at least one form of input and/or output. When connecting one device to a second device, remember this rule – the cable connected to the ‘out’ jack on the source device will always connect into the ‘in’ jack on the destination. Out means the signal is leaving the device; in means the signal is coming into the device. The exception to this rule is the first connection from a cable coming from the wall or satellite, which is not labeled ‘out’, but is always inserted into the ‘in’ jack on a device.

For example, watching a VHS tape on a television is made possible because the devices feature a connection between the VCR’s ‘video out’ jack and the televisions ‘video in’ jack.

Connection Types and Cables

Understanding the types of connections and cables available on your television is important. Picture quality does fluctuate between the cable types. Knowing what kind of and how many connections you have can also help decide whether or not you need a RF modulator or video switcher to get everything connected to your television.

RF Modulators and Video Switchers

Most non-digital televisions don’t have the necessary connections to allow you to install multiple devices. This is where a RF modulator or video switcher comes in handy. A RF modulator’s primary function is to allow for connection of non-RF devices to a television featuring a RF-only input by reconfiguring the non-RF signals into RF. A video switcher is similar to a RF modulator in that is allows for connection of multiple devices, but it doesn’t reconfigure the signals.

Adding a RF modulator or video switcher to your home electronics system is not any different than a DVD player or VCR. Just trace the path, and figure out where the RF modulator or video switcher needs to be in order to receive the signals you want.

For example, connecting a DVD player with composite outputs to a television with a RF-only input would require a RF modulator. In this instance, the signal path would be the DVD player into the RF modulator and the RF modulator into the television.

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