You got the gear, but how do you hook it up?


Well, this section is not propaganda for any particular type of cable or connection. I just want to let you know what's out there and some basic - and uncontestable - quality differences. Firstly, you may be limited by the rest of your gear. If you are building an HT rig around a 32-inch TV you bought four years ago and don't plan to replace within the next few years, then component video cables won't mean hudda to you. Likewise, if you have a new WEGA, then you will want to 86 those cheesy RCAs posthaste.

But cables do matter. And yes, you can hear and see the difference. Sometimes. Cable shopping is a perfect example of the law of diminishing returns. You get smaller improvements as you go higher up the chain.


Composite is the most basic A/V link. They are also known as RCA cables. In the audio world, they are usually red and white. There are two because each carries one of the two tracks of the stereo signal. When you add video, you obviously need a third cable. This third composite cable is typically yellow.

These cables are useful because they are pretty much universal. All audio gear uses these cables and most video products use it as well.

They are analogue cables. This means that it is fine to use them for almost all of your gear. You will have to use them if you use a tape deck, tuner, or turntable, and they are fine for CD players as well.

Though they are basic, they are available in many levels of quality. The hair-gauge lengths that come stock should be discarded. Buy some decent runs, especially if your components are far from one another.

Typical use in an HT rig would be to connect audio components to each other or video products to (most likely older) TVs.


As the name states, S-video is a video only cable. It is one step up from composite and a very worthwhile investment. How is it different? Well, S-video cable routes the color and brightness signals on separate lines within the same cable. This separation makes for a better image, and one that you will actually notice.

You will find S-video outputs on just about everything these days: DVD players, VCRs, videogames, digital cameras, etc. S-video inputs are found on even entry level TVs and are standard on mid to high-end sets.

Typical uses would be from video source X (DVD, videogame, etc.) to TV or A/V receiver or from A/V receiver to TV.


Like S-video cable, component cables carry video only signals. However, instead of S-video's two lines within the cable, a component signal is broken down into three parts. The result is - at least technically - the best possible image from the source.

More and more DVD player are being outfitted with component outputs. (PS2 has component out!) However, most TVs don't have inputs for it yet. If you do have a TV with component inputs and a good DVD player, and you want to run everything through your receiver, then make sure to look for a receiver with component switching. Most do not have this feature. Mine does not, so I send the audio through the receiver, but the video straight into the TV.

I know that composite and component cables look very similar. Don't be fooled, they are not the same!

Typical use would be from DVD to TV or from DVD to A/V receiver and then to TV.

Digital Optical

Digital optical is the only really weird looking connection. In fact, if you are just entering the world of A/V after spending a lot of time in the analogue world, then you may not even recognize these cables. Digital optical cables can carry multi-channel, digital audio signals from component to component.

The one cable that (some say) is superior to digital optical is digital coaxial cable looks like composite cable. However, there is only one line of digital coaxial needed, unlike the similar looking composite or component.

Typical use would be from DVD to A/V receiver, though most digital audio devices support this format.

Speaker Cable

A few basics about speaker cable... Bigger is generally better. Try to keep runs as short as possible. Make sure the contact point has sufficient contact. And make sure that you can return cable if you are shelling out a lot for it. I bought my runs at a local retailer that makes custom cables. Even though they cut the lengths to my specs, they still had a 100% guarantee. If I didn't notice the improvement, they would take them back and fully refund my money. Look for something like this so that you don't get screwed out of a few hundred dollars.

And those are the connections.

Home Cinema Interconnect Tips

For those just starting their Home Cinema:
  • For TV to VCR hookup, use one video and two audio interconnects, all with PHONO connectors, for the best picture and sound. Do NOT use the coaxial interconnect that uses the screw-on or slip-on "F" connector that came with your VCR
  • To reduce him and buzz that can leak into all the audio components in a system, use shielded, twisted interconnect construction interconnects, not coaxial, to connect the audio outputs from your various components to your receiver.
  • Replace small gauge speaker wire (like zip cord) with the best quality, highest technology speaker interconnect you can afford. It will make a substantial and audible difference in your system, especially as you upgrade audio components.
  • Put a combination surge suppressor/power conditioner like Philex's XXXX between your AC outlet and your components. The XXXX filters out a tremendous amount of the sound and picture-robbing electronic noise that routinely comes through AC outlets. It also protects delicate electronic components from damage by power surges.
For more advanced Home Cinemaphiles:
  • Choose colour-coded Home Cinema-specific speaker interconnects to simplify the hook-up of all your speakers.
  • Use lengths of video interconnect six feet or shorter for maximum picture quality. If you need more distance between video components and your receiver, make sure you're using high quality double shielded interconnect like the Philex interconnects.
  • Choose interconnects with 24k gold-plated connectors for maximum signal transfer, corrosion resistance and reliability.