RCA cables, also known as RCA connectors, are cables used to connect various electronic devices to one another. RCA originally stood for Radio Corporation of America, the name of the first company to design and produce electrical connector cables in the 1940s. All RCA cables and compatible devices use a color code system to indicate the correct socket for each cable plug.
RCA cables are specifically used to connect the audio and video components of a variety of devices, including televisions, gaming consoles, DVD players, VCRs, speakers and cable boxes. RCA cables are capable of transmitting analog audio, digital audio, component analog video and composite analog video. Each signal type has a color and every cable plug is color-coded to help you identify which type of signal it will transmit.
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Most Common Colors
The most common RCA cable colors found in a household setting are red, yellow and white. This is because most common devices that require RCA connectors, such as televisions and gaming systems, only feature three basic audio and video ports: two for analog audio (left and right) and one for composite analog video. Composite video means that the red, green and blue video signals are all being carried by a single cable. In the color code, red and white stand for audio to the right and left speakers respectively, and yellow stands for composite video.
Other Audio Colors
When more complex sound systems are being used, such as surround sound, more connector cables are generally necessary. Digital audio also requires a different cable than standard analog audio. Digital audio cables are orange. In a surround sound system, there are six additional cables to the usual red and white. If there is a center speaker, the cable will be green. Left surround and right surround speakers are blue and gray, respectively. The left and right back speakers are brown and tan. Finally, the cable used to connect a subwoofer is purple.
Other Video Colors
In certain cases, video connectors other than the standard yellow composite video cable are necessary. If the video device being connected uses component video instead of composite video, it will require a different cable for each of the three primary color signals: red, green and blue. The color of the cable will correspond to the color signal it carries; red cables carry red signals, blue carry blue and green carry green.