Know Your Cables: Audio Video 101

Having a good AV system is important, whether it be in your home, office, or otherwise. You could be an aspiring filmmaker or a worker bee presenting your idea at the next big company meeting or a keynote speaker at a conference for a cause; all of these areas (and more) require an excellent audio/visual system. Our responsibility while setting the system up is to find the correct cables/connectors.

In the vast conglomerate of cables and connectors, there are those that carry only audio, only video, and those that carry both. 

First, let’s talk briefly about those cables that carry only audio:

  • Optical Toslink

Optical Toslink cables are usually found in your regular home audio systems. They convert the audio signal into light or lasers, which are sent down the cable, and then at the other end are converted back to audio. Since these cables use a digital signal, they provide acute and clear audio. The only drawback is that the signal becomes too weak after about 15 feet and fails to work.

  • XLR 

XLR adapters or connectors are typically used in professional audio equipment. Depending on the number of pins/holes inside the connector, there are multiple versions of this connector. There’s the 3-pin (most common), 4-pin, 5-pin, 6-pin, and 7-pin. Microphones usually use XLR cables, along with some musical instruments. Sometimes they are also known as microphone XLR connectors. They are sometimes used for lighting equipment also. 

Other types of cables that carry only audio are the 3.5mm, 2.3mm, ¼”, SpeakOn and MIDI.

A succinct look at video cables comes next:

  • VGA

VGA stands for Video Graphics Array. It’s old-tech, used to make analog connections. Its maximum resolution is 640 x 480, which is lower than a lot of new types of cables.  Nowadays, laptops and TVs are not made with VGA ports, although some computer manufacturers still include them. 

  • DVI

DVI (Digital Visual Interface) is a little more complicated than your standard video cables only because there are various versions to choose from, and for the video to be seamless, you must know exactly which one you want. DVI is divvied into three types: DVI-A, DVI-D, and DVI-I. DVI-A transmits only analog signals; DVI-D transmits only digital signals; DVI-I is a combination of the two and transmits both analog and digital signals. 

The other cables that carry only video signals are the S-Video and DB9. 

Finally, let’s talk about cables that carry both:

  • F-type

These types of connections are coax cable connectors, mostly used to connect to the back of TVs. The same F-type comes from the metal connector, which is found at the end of that cable. The standard connector is threaded and screwed on to hold itself. This can also be found in a push-on version, which can slide into place. There are a few different alternatives when it comes to attaching the connector. The F-type connectors are available in twist-on, crimp, and compression. You would need various tools to build the cable, which depends on the variant you use. 

  • RCA

Since Radio Corporation of America was the first company to design and introduce the product to the world, these particular cables are called RCA connectors.

The generation before this one used to have CD players and DVD players that they would want to connect to their TVs. This was technology before streaming services, so they had to make these connections using cables. This is where RCA cables came into play; a regular RCA cable consisted of three color-coded plugs extending from the player to the corresponding color-coded jack on the back of the TV/projector/output device. The typically analog signals leaving or entering devices connected via these cables go through three different channels - two for audio and one for video - making it a high-quality transmission. 

These cables are only able to carry unbalanced signals, so they are used for only short-distance transmissions, commonly used in record player turntables and home theater systems.

  • HDMI

HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface. HDMI is the new norm for all audio/visual connections. HDMI is the complete 180° of RCA; HDMI is completely digital, while RCAs are fully analog. There are different types of HDMI. ‘Type A’ is the type commonly used in TVs and computers. ‘Type C,’ more commonly known as ‘Mini-HDMI,’ is used in devices smaller than TVs/computers like tablets and some laptops. And finally, there is ‘Micro-HDMI’, which is ‘Type D,’ which is seen in small devices, especially phones. 

The other cables that carry audio and video signals are BNC, Component, and DisplayPort.

Now that you have all the information concerning a plethora of audio-visual cables, it will become a little easy for you to buy one should you ever need to. One must have the proper audio cable that goes with its video cable counterpart if you wish to use separate cables for them or the correct AV cable, which does the work of both. This ensures that your presentation, pitch, and feature film run smoothly.

We have all of the cables listed above and then some. Please reach out to us if you need help figuring out which one you need for your set up.