A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. No matter how excellent the quality of your HDTV, 18" DBS receiver, or DVD/DVD-AUDIO player, it'll never see the light (or sound) of day if
The interconnect (if there's a jack for it) which yields the highest quality is not employed.
The cable isn't sufficient at isolating the signal from other signals, or limiting signal loss through "leakage."
So here are a few basic tips you may or may not already be aware of, that will increase the probability you'll extract the highest quality your audio/video gear is capable of providing.
1. REPLACE ORIGINAL CABLES:
Those "free" ones which come with most components may have a quality "look", (especially since manufacturers of generic interconnects started placing "gold" plugs on them), but beauty & quality is not just skin deep.
And you'll notice how shallow it really is as soon as the sound becomes "fatiguing", or you get a "short" in one, or you begin experiencing degraded aural & visual quality, along with an increase in interference.
Use discretion though; it you have a $3500 HDTV-ready television, a $3.99 package of A/V cables from VIDEO-R-US should raise a flag.
Conversely, a $100 TV from Bill & Ted's Wild Appliances and $90/meter Monster S-VIDEO II cables might be a tad much.
And you don't have to replace all the cables in your system at one time
(which could be rather expensive!); do it as budget constraints permit.
2. USE THE INTERCONNECT TYPE YIELDING THE HIGHEST QUALITY:
If your components provide the output & input jack(s), use them, unless it prevents you from utilizing some particular function unique to your viewing/listening habits & hookup.
That means COMPONENT VIDEO (if available) or S-VIDEO for video, and RCA for audio. When S-Video isn't available, that means RCA for COMPOSITE VIDEO.
3. KEEP SIGNALS IN ONE FORMAT AFTER INITIAL CONVERSION:
With COMPOSITE VIDEO, all color & b/w signals (3 signals total) are mixed into one signal. A "comb filter" in your video equipment must then "un-separate" them all to process the picture.
With S-VIDEO, a separate color & b/w signals (2 signals total) are provided on the one cable. When your video equipment receives an S-VIDEO signal, all it has to separate is the color. A "comb filter" is not used when using S-VIDEO.
With COMPONENT VIDEO, 2 separate color-difference signals, & a b/w signal (3 signals total) are provided on 3 separate cables. When your video equipment receives a COMPONENT VIDEO signal, all it has to do is derive the color from the color difference signals.
With RF, all color, b/w and THEN audio, PLUS a "carrier" frequency are mixed together in one signal. A whole lot of separation has to take place with RF! But it is ideal for multiplexed long distance signal transfer.
So based on the format of the signal received, each "video processing" piece of equipment you have must first unconvert then convert, unconvert then convert. Something gets lost in the shuffle; it's called SIGNAL QUALITY.
So unless you have No Choice, only use RF cables/signals for relaying broadcast signals from outside to wherever your cable boxes, satellite receivers, TVs, or VCRs are located.
If COMPOSITE VIDEO and/or S-VIDEO and or COMPONENT VIDEO signals are output by these devices, keep them in these formats throughout the rest of your equipment chain....if possible.
4. ROTATE RCA INTERCONNECTS AS YOU INSERT & REMOVE:
This will help remove oxidation on the jacks & provide better signal transfer.
With S-VIDEO, DO NOT TWIST: line up "notches" on plug with jack, and push straight. Otherwise you may damage the "pin assembly." And if you paid for some nice ones, you'll scream very loudly.
5. WHAT GOES IN, COMES OUT:
By knowing "what" functionality you desire from your hookup (e.g., "I want to be able to watch DVDs without tuning to channel 3 or 4"), & utilizing the previous tips on keeping the signal in one format, you can USUALLY figure out how to hook up your equipment based on the input/output jacks available to you.
All you have to remember is Outs go to INs & vice versa.
6. WATCH WHERE YOU ROUTE POWER CORDS:
Sometimes, lower-quality interconnects pick up AC Hum from AC cords. Also, I recommend you invest in some good quality "surge protector/line conditioners (Panamax, Monster Cable, etc.,) to plug your components.
MOST damage occurs to home A/V electronics from prolonged exposure to the continuous, "common" surges generated by garage door openers, refrigerator and A/C compressors turning on & off, & local power utility company power grid switching.
Other practical information on Home Theater can be found at http://www.visual-cue.com/PHTT.htm
Copyright © 2002-2003 Visual Cue.
An audio-video enthusiast/hobbyist for the past 25 years, and one of the visionaries of www.Visual-Cue.com: an internet based HomeTheater company purposing to help customers (via information and low-priced/high-quality product) maximize their investment in HomeTheater.