BBH Central IconBBH Central Home Page
  CENTRAL home  |   BBHL home About/Contact Us  |   Subscribe  |   Index by Topic  
You are here: Central > Broadband Home Labs > Our Broadband Condo > Interconnect Cabling
Created 3/2/2006

Our Broadband Condo: Interconnect Cabling

Interconnect cabling is used to connect the video and associated audio outputs from one consumer electronics device to the video and audio inputs on another device. Interconnects used to be very simple -- a choice between a single RF cable, or three cables with RCA jacks—one for video and two for stereo audio. The new world of digital and high-defintion television has made it far more complex and confusing.

Video Interconnect Cabling

There are currently five ways of connecting video between consumer electronics devices:

  • Radio Frequency (RF) (sometimes called "broadband video") is the oldest form of analog interconnect, modulating the video (and the associated audio) onto a selected TV channel (typically channel 3 or 4 in North America) over the same coaxial cable that carries the cable channels. RF is most commonly used to connect VCRs to TV sets.
  • Composite Video (sometimes called "baseband video"), an improved analog video interconnect, uses cables with the familiar yellow "RCA jack".
  • S-Video, a better analog video interconnect, with a circular DIN connector, separates the luminence (brightness) and chrominance (color) signals to provide an improved TV picture.
  • Component Video, the best analog video interconnect, uses three cables to carry the three primary color signals.
  • HDMI is now the standard digital video interconnect for consumer electronics devices; DVI was used for a short time before HDMI was introduced.

Only the latter two can carry high-definition, and only HDMI is digital.

Audio Interconnect Cabling

There are also currently five ways of connecting audio between consumer electronics devices:

  • Radio Frequency (RF) carries analog audio along with the video.
  • Stereo Audio carries the right and left analog audio channels through the long-familar dual RCA jacks.
  • Coaxial Digital Audio uses a coaxial cable with RCA jacks to carry digital audio.
  • Optical Digital Audio uses a fiber optic cable to carry digital audio.
  • HDMI carries digital audio along with uncompressed digital video.

Any modern consumer electronics device supports a variety of these video and audio formats. Some devices support all and even additional interconnects such as VGA video.

For consumers, this is very confusing. Some consumer electronics stores have big signs trying to explain the interconnects in ways consumers can understand (audio and video cables are labeled "Good" "Better" "Best" and "Deluxe" in one store we visited).