Audio and Video Cables – Explained

Electronic devices have evolved so much in these last 50 years, so have the cables that go for connections. Sometimes dealing with older versions of cables can be confusing because nowadays we have only one cable for audio-video transfer where earlier it was three. But if you have devices from the past or if you wish to collect vintage electronic devices, you must learn about these audio video cables in order to connect them correctly. Having knowledge about older cables gives us ideas on the improvement and advancements in the newer cables. Let us discuss what are audio and video cables and their types.

What is an Audio-Video Cable?

The quality of the signal depends on three factors: conductor, shielding, and connector. Conductor is the material used as a medium for signal to pass. Different conductors have different properties like twisting, resistance, etc. The length being excessively long and diameter not adequate are some common conductor issues. Conductor can also be called an antenna, as it can also pick up other signals. So proper shielding on a cable is required to reduce electronic noise. The connector on the cable makes two connections: one with the device and other with the conductor. So if any problem in connection can degrade the quality of the signal.

Let us talk about different types of Digital and Audio cables.

Analog Audio Cables

The RCA cables or phone jacks have been in the market for a long period. They are still used in some of the audio connections. The cables have different connections for the left and right stereo. This is why the cables are color coded red and white. Afterwards when video became part of electronic items, RCA cables were used to connect video as well. Then the third cable for the video was colored yellow. It was extremely popular when VHS was in trend.

Digital Audio Cables

The digital audio cables are usually combined with digital video signals to avoid extra cabling. Coaxial digital audio cable is the most common type of digital audio connection. They have RCA connectors on each end on a coax cable. Both the audio channels are transmitted through one cable only. These cables use fiber optics to transmit signals as pulses of light. They are immune to interference and do not degrade easily. They are somewhat fragile so they have bending limitations.

Analog Video Cables

There are different types of analog video signals. The cables kept upgrading to improve the speed and quality of the transfer.

1. RCA: As discussed above, they are the most used audio video cables.

2. Coaxial: Coaxial cables entered our homes with cable TV and were attached to the cable box. They carry audio and video between TV’s, VCRs and DVD recorders. Cable TV still has a coax cable bringing transmission to our television.

3. S-video: They are round 4-pin connectors that transmit chrominance and luminance of video signals separately. S video cables were the standard way to transmit high quality signals. S video cables provide an accurate video reproduction in both the color and details when compared to RCA or coaxial cable.

4. Component Video: They are found on DVD players and transmit high quality signals. They divide the video signal into three components and are transmitted separately. It is capable of sending high-definition signals and capable of progressive scan.

Digital Video Connections

Electronic components are becoming digital and so it becomes necessary to have a digital cable to transfer to a digital device. The two main types of digital video signals are DVI cables and HDMI cables. They carry high definition video and audio signals. DVI can carry only video signals whereas HDMI cable carries both. HDMI is gaining popularity and replacing old video cables.

Computer Connections

Apple’s transmission cable known as FireWire provides the fastest two-way digital connection. They are used to connect computers to peripherals like hard drives, camcorders, etc. These cables are also used by the aviation and automotive industry. FireWire has a 6-pin connection.

Universal Serial Bus

USB cables are the most common ways computers connect with the printers, mouse, cameras, etc. They brought the concept of plug and play interface between a computer and its peripherals. They can quickly recognize the device and starter functioning without any restart. Laptops are getting slimmer and so the demand of the ports to become slimmer arises. For that mini and micro USB were launched. They are small in size and are used for mobile phones as well. Laptops have multiple USB ports as we can use multiple USB at the same time.


Digital transmission will go on, but having basic understanding about the past and present cables will make it easier to understand the upcoming innovations. But one thing is for sure that new cables are getting more flexible and are standardized so that we can use them to connect other devices as well. The quality of the cable is certainly improving with every new launch. The cables that you buy must also be made from good quality conductors or else you would not receive the high-quality output. Other factors like length of the cable also matter as chances of interference and damage increases if the cable is extremely long.

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