What Is an AV Cable?

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The audio visual (AV) cable comes in many forms, and understanding the different types can help you decide which is best for your application. The type of input your device has and whether you need a high definition video display will dictate the type of AV cable that you use.

RCA AV Cable

The Radio Corporation of America cable – better known as the RCA cable – is one of the oldest AV cables still in use today, originally introduced in the 1940s. RCA cables have been used with many standard definition devices such as cable boxes, gaming consoles and DVD players. The RCA cable can't carry a high definition (HD) signal, so the use of RCA cables has declined over time. The RCA cable is actually broken into three output cables. The red part of the RCA cable is used for the right audio channel, while the white cable is used for the left audio channel. Video comes through the yellow part of the cable. It's important to securely and correctly plug all three of these cables into your device since failure to do so can result in a poor picture on screen or distorted audio.

VGA/DVI AV Cable

The Video Graphics Array (VGA) cable is typically used for displaying video from a computer to a video display such as an HDTV or monitor. VGA cables are capable of displaying RGB video onscreen at both low and high resolutions. But, because the VGA signal is analog, its resolution won't be as high as DVI and HDMI cables are capable of. The VGA port is standard on most desktop computers from the 1990s through the 2010s, so it may be a good option to use if your display monitor has a VGA port and you can't use DVI or HDMI.

The Digital Video Interface (DVI) cable is also primarily found on desktop computers. It's capable of a higher resolution display than the VGA cable since it uses technology similar to HDMI cables. The DVI cable is a good choice for displaying a high resolution picture from your computer to your monitor, but just like the VGA cable, it can't carry sound. You'll have to use a 3.5mm audio cable from your computer to your audio input device with both the DVI and VGA cable if you want audio with your video.

Coaxial AV Cable

The coaxial cable is used to transmit both audio and video between devices. Because coaxial cables carry audio and video from the cable provider to your cable box, they're primarily used in the cable industry. They're also used to carry cable internet to your modem if you subscribe to internet service from your cable provider. The cable box is usually hooked up to your TV through an HDMI cable.

HDMI AV Cable

The High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) cable is capable of carrying HD video and audio from a device to your TV or computer monitor. It's standard in all HDTVs and many other devices including BluRay players, gaming consoles and most laptops and desktop computers. HDMI cables come in a variety of configurations. Standard HDMI cables can display 720p or 1080i video and carry audio, while standard HDMI with Ethernet cables can do everything the standard HDMI cable does plus perform device networking if both devices support it. High-speed HDMI cables are designed to handle higher video resolutions such as 1080p, 4K, 3D and Deep color alongside audio. The type of HDMI cable you use with your device will depend on whether the device is standard HDMI with a resolution of 720p or 1080i or if the device is 4K.

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