What Cables do You Need to Hook up a TV, VCR and DVD?


Many different cables connect VCR and DVD player devices to a TV. It will depend on how you want to arrange your home theater connections to decide which cables are best for your needs. The basic types of cables for VCR and DVD connection to a TV are coaxial, component, composite, S-Video and HDMI.

Coaxial Video Cables

  • These video cables carry analog and digital video and audio streams and are typically used for connecting cable television service. The quality of these connections are very poor when compared to other connections. Many older TV models only include coaxial video input. All VCRs connect through both coaxial and component video, while DVD players do not have coaxial video output. You can connect a VCR to a TV with a coaxial cable and then connect the DVD player's composite video output to the "Line-In" jacks on your VCR or TV to connect both devices to the TV.

Composite Video

  • Composite video connections use three color-coded RCA cables to transfer video and audio. Video cables are coded with yellow, while audio left and right channels are coded as white and red. The video quality of composite video is slightly better than coaxial video output, but still not very high quality. VCRs and DVD players can be connected to a TV with composite video input. It is recommended to connect the DVD player directly to the TV and not pass through the VCR's "Line In" channel for the highest quality when using composite video output.

Component Video Output

  • Video output through component video cables offers very high quality. Video is transmitted through three RCA cables that separate the video image into three primary color channels: red, blue and green. By separating the colors into three different cables, the TV can display colors more accurately and the color depth will appear much more vibrant than with previous options. Unfortunately, VCRs were invented before component video output, so only DVD players, Blu-ray players and other digital devices can be connected to a TV using these cables.


  • S-Video cables offer about the same quality as component video cables. However, the cables are much more expensive. Most DVD players offer S-Video output, though most VCRs will not have this option. The only VCRs that are likely to have S-Video output are those that are compatible with Super VHS (S-VHS) tapes.


  • HDMI cables provide a high quality digital video and audio connection from a DVD player or digital descrambling/cable box to an HDTV. However, standard definition TVs will not have HDMI inputs, and VCRs and early DVD players do not output video through HDMI. However, some VCR/DVD player combination players currently available on the market (as of May 2011) output both VHS tapes and DVDs through HDMI.


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