How do I connect a VCR to a Flat Screen TV

You may still have many video tapes that you like to play but find it hard to connect a VCR to your new flat screen TV. Often this is because you can’t find the right connections on the new TV. This article will explain the different options on how to connect a VCR to a flat screen TV, even if you can’t find the yellow socket.

Basically you need to connect from the “line out” of the VCR to “AV in” of the TV. This needs to be done for both the video and for the audio. Some VCRs have one audio out socket (mono) and some have two audio out sockets (stereo) – we will look at stereo first, and look at the differences for mono later in this article.

Connect a VCR with the Yellow, Red and White Leads

Connect a VCR with RCA leads

To connect a VCR to most flat screen TVs, you will need a cable with these yellow, red and white connectors. For non European VCRs, you will need a cable with these plugs at each end. For European VCRs, you may need a SCART plug at one end, and these yellow, red and white plugs at the other end to connect to the TV.

These plugs are often called RCA or Phono plugs. The yellow cable is used for the video signal, the red cable for the right audio, and the white cable for the left audio signal. Many VCRs come with these leads supplied. If you don’t have any, they should be available at most electronic or electrical stores.

The rear of the VCR

Connect a VCR Stereo out

This photo shows the standard connectors on most (stereo) VCRs. If you look closely, on the right hand side are the “line out” sockets (the left hand side is for “line in”, which we don’t use for connecting to a TV). The top right red socket is for the right audio out. The white middle right connector is the left audio out socket. The yellow socket at the bottom right is the video out socket.

The markings or labels on most VCRs are as hard to read as in this photo, so you may need to use a torch to see the markings clearly. Once you have found the line out sockets, it is a simple matter of connecting the yellow, red and white plugs of the connecting cable to the corresponding yellow, red and white line out sockets of the VCR.

The Rear of an Older Flat Screen TV

Connect a VCR LCD connectors

Older flat screen TVs are easy to connect a VCR to as they have at least one yellow “video in” socket. In this photo you can see it just below the centre of the photo, it is labelled “Video”. Below this yellow socket for video in is the corresponding white and red sockets for the left and right audio in.

Having found the yellow, red and white sockets, it is a simple matter of connecting the corresponding yellow, white and red plugs of the cable connected to the VCR to these sockets.

You may have noticed that in this photo, these sockets are in a section labelled “VIDEO 1 IN”. This normally would indicate that this is the input you need to select on the TV to watch the VCR. Most TVs require you to press “Source” or “Input” on the remote control to select the “Video 1” input signal.

Other TVs might label these inputs “AV” (short for Audio/Video).

Some older TVs might have several AV inputs, normally labelled AV 1, AV 2 etc. Many older flat screen TVs also have AV inputs on the side of the TV as well as on the rear of the TV.

My TV doesn’t have a Yellow Socket!

I get many questions from people saying they can’t find the yellow socket to connect a VCR into. Don’t worry, I have a solution. But first check the sides of your TV to make sure the designers aren’t trying to trick you by hiding the yellow, red and white sockets up one side.

Don’t worry if you can’t find a yellow socket to connect a VCR in to, as many new TVs don’t have one. Manufacturers think there is no need to supply TVs with the ability to connect a VCR through the standard (and old) yellow, red and white sockets. Instead some TV’s let you connect to the green socket, and others require you to use a HDMI input. I discuss each way below.

If there is a Green Socket

connect a VCR to new TVAt the rear of many flat screen TVs there is no yellow socket for “Video In”. But as you can see in this picture, they say you can use the green socket instead. Notice on this TV, (and most others) there is only one of the green sockets nominated as “Video in” for you to connect a VCR to.

So for this TV, you would connect the yellow lead from the VCR to the nominated green “Video in” socket. The red and white audio leads from the VCR would connect to the corresponding red and white audio sockets below the blue and red.

Be careful not to fall into the trap of connecting the red audio cable, to the other red socket labelled “Pr” – the right audio will not work if you do this. Also ensure you don’t connect anything to the blue or red video inputs or your VCR picture will be in black and white only.

Note that not all TVs label the “video in” as clearly as in the photo above. Some simply put a yellow circle around the appropriate green socket. Some use a combination of yellow and green. Others label this socket as “Composite Video”.

conenct a VCR with Composite Video

Composite Vs Component Video

You don’t need to understand this section – it is for those people who like to understand why it is possible to connect a VCR this way.

The green, blue and red sockets labelled Y, Pb and Pr in the photo above are for connecting a DVD player. These three video signals are called “Component Video”. It is the best way of connecting a DVD player if the DVD player doesn’t have HDMI. The green input from a DVD player is basically the black and white picture. The blue and red inputs are for the colour information of the picture. Then the other red and white sockets are for the right and left audio.

The video signal from a VCR has the black and white picture and the colour information all joined together – called composite video.

Modern TVs are clever enough to know when you only have one lead connected with all the information (composite video) or separate leads (component Video).  Hence they don’t need to provide a separate input for Composite only. For a more detailed explanation of component video see this article, or this article to learn more about composite video.

Connect a VCR with HDMI only on the TV

Many new TVs do not have any analogue inputs. Therefore you need to use one of the HDMI inputs on the TV.  However you can’t connect your VCR directly to the TV, you need a converter box. Something like these offerings from Amazon:

This allows the yellow, red and white lead from the VCR to be plugged into the input of the converter box. The output of the converter box connects to a HDMI lead. The other end of this lead will plug into one of the HDMI inputs of the TV.

If you are going to buy a composite(RCA) to HDMI converter consider these tips:

  • Beware, many on-line searches return two types of converters: a RCA to HDMI converter and the reverse, a HDMI to RCA converter. To connect a VCR to a TV using HDMI, you need a RCA to HDMI converter.
  • You may also need to buy a short HDMI lead, if you don’t already have a spare one.

My VCR only has a white audio out

Many VCRs are not stereo, they are only mono. TConnect a VCR mono audiohat is, they do not output a left and right audio channel. Instead they only output one single audio channel (mono audio). Therefore, they do not have a red and white audio output (for right and left audio). They only have a white output, for the mono audio. You may remember most old TVs only had one speaker, so the VCR only needed one audio channel (mono).

To connect a VCR with only mono audio to a flat screen TV, simply go from the “audio out” socket of the VCR.

That is the easy bit. How you connect to the TV will depend on the TV.

Connect a VCR - monoSome TVs will have sockets on the back like this picture. On the left hand side you should see the Audio right (red) and left (white) input sockets. The left socket is also labelled “MONO”. If your TV is like this, then simply connect the “mono out” from the VCR to the “mono in” of the TV. The TV should direct the sound to both (left and right) speakers of the TV.

If your TV does not have a Mono input, then you have two or three options:

  1. You can simply connect the “mono out” from the VCR to the “Left in” on the TV. This will send the sound to the left speaker only. While you might think this is not ideal, you may be surprised that it sounds fine when sitting some distance from the TV. The red cable is not used if connecting to the TV this way – it can just hang on its own behind the VCR and TV.
  2. You Connect a VCR Mono adapter leadcan use a cheap mono to stereo adapter cable. The single (black) plug is connected to the white audio out of the VCR. Then a normal red and white audio lead is connected from the adapter cable to the right (red) and left (white) audio in sockets of the TV. This will send the same mono audio to both the right and speakers of the TV.
  3. You can also use a mono to stereo adapter plug. This plugs straight into the ‘Audio Out”Connect a VCR RCA splitter on the back of the VCR. Then a normal red and white audio lead is connected from the two sockets of the adapter to the right (red) and left (white) “audio in” sockets of the TV. This works exactly the same as the lead above – use whichever one is available to you.

Whichever way you connect the mono audio, you will hear the sound through the TV. Keep in mind that many video recordings were probably recorded in mono, so you are not missing much.

Don’download articlet forget to also connect the yellow video lead from the VCR to the TV (as described above).

If you still have a problem to connect a VCR to your TV, list the details of the equipment and your problems in the comments box below, and together we can all learn other issues involved.

119 COMMENTS

  1. Concerning your detailed instructions to connect the VCR to flat screen TV. Question: Since VCR is Video Cassette Recorder, does your simple connections instructions allow the user to record other TV programs while watching different programs?

    Thanks,
    Harold G

    • Hi Harold,

      Most people use VCRs to play old recordings only. There are two main reasons for this.

      Firstly, VCRs were designed to record through their analogue Tuner. Most places in most parts of the world are now using digital transmissions, so the VCR tuners are useless.

      Secondly, even if you did record on the VCR, the quality would be poor compared to what we are used to with digital media – especially on a big screen – all the imperfections are exaggerated.

      It is still possible to record on your VCR through the composite video inputs on the back. They can be connected to your cable box or a digital set top box. Although the quality would be much better if you use a Hard Disk recorder as builtin to a PVR (personal video recorder) which is the digital equivalent of a VCR.

      Geoff

  2. Hi Geoff,

    I am trying to attach my old vcr to a Philips 40PFL5505D/F7 TV. The RCa cables did not work so I tried a RCR /HDMI cable in one of the out puts. Thats not working either . I know there is a way to make this happen, just don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I don’t want to spend any more money on an HDMI converter if I don’t have to. I thought the RCA-HDMI cable would work. Thanks. Mike

    • Hi Mike,

      You don’t say how you have tried to connect your VCR to the TV, but it seems if you are using the yellow, red and white leads they need to connect to the video 2 inputs on the side of the TV not Video 1 on the back.

      Although there seems to something more fundamentally wrong if it doesn’t work with either direct connection or via a HDMI converter. There are two basic things I would suggest checking. Firstly the yellow cable could be faulty – I would try another one. The other common issue is the video heads are dirty on the VCR which doesn’t produce a picture. I often press the Menu button on the VCR to ensure there is something on the picture (the menu screen) even if the heads are not producing a picture.

      hope this helps

      Geoff

  3. Hello Geoff, your article was very informative.
    I have a RCA flat screen tv with exactly the same connections you show in your RCA-connections picture. I am trying to connect my Emerson VCR & DVD player to the flat screen. I plugged my AV yellow cable into the green composite cable and the red and white cords into the corresponding audio ports. However, I am only getting a black and white picture- no color at all. What do I need to change?

    • Hi Janessa,

      It is difficult to be specific without knowing what model of VCR and TV you have. But I can suggest some general things to check.

      Make sure there is nothing plugged into the spare red and blue sockets, this is most common reason for B & W pictures.

      Make sure you are connected to the yellow video out socket of the VCR, not the green DVD output.

      Some TVs don’t automatically switch the green component input to being a composite input. If this is the case, you may need to go into the menu and tell it to use the input as a composite input.

      If this doesn’t help, email me the model numbers and photos of the connections and I’ll try to find the manuals and see what is happening.

      Geoff

      • Hi Geoff,
        Thanks for replying so quickly! After checking and re-checking, I verified that all my cords were plugged into the right ports, but after fiddling with the input options, I realized that when I used the red, white, and yellow AV cords my input needs to be set to “AV”; not “Composite” which I had it set to before. The “Composite” input option works great when I have the red, green, and blue composite cords plugged in for the DVD. So everything works great now and I appreciate your excellent article and helpful reply!

  4. Geoff, I am getting ready to purchase a new flat screen TV. So far I have been able to get by with my analog Panasonic. I still want to be able to record and view on my old VCRs. What sort of inputs should I be looking for on my new TV? I thought I would ask the question before instead of after I made the purchase! Thanks in advance for your response.

    • Hi Elaine,

      As outlined in the article above, it would be good if your new TV had a composite input (the yellow socket), but very few do these days. Next best would to use the green component input as the yellow input, but even these are vanishing off TVs. So you will probably need to purchase a little converter box as shown above.

      That will take care of playing your existing tapes back on the new TV.

      As for recording, it is important to realize that you have never been able to record off the TV. Rather, previously, the aerial or cable box was connected to the VCR and it recorded off that signal. The TV simply monitored what you were recording.

      If you have a cable box or a set-top box it may be possible to connect the output of that to your VCR to record a program. But I’m not sure that you would you want to? The quality of the recording is very poor by today’s standards, and this poor quality is only exacerbated by using large screens.

      Most people would buy a PVR (personal video recorder) but it will depend if you have cable and how it might work with it.

      Does this help?

      Geoff

  5. Have an old Samsung DVD/VCR player model-6800 and a new Samsung 4k TV. The TV does not have RCA input.. Would using the TV output on the player work if connected to the aerial input on the tv.

    • Hi Murray,

      Yes, connecting the VCR/DVD to your TV should work, as long as the new TV has an analogue tuner. By default the DVD will transmit to the TV on ch 36, so this will work if you don’t have any free-to-air channels on that channel. If so, there is a setting in the menu of the DVD to change this to a free channel.

      While it will work, it will look quite poor on a 4K TV, especially if it is a large TV. Getting a Composite to HDMI converter should make it look a bit better. But I appreciated they are not as cheap in Oz or NZ as they are in the States.

      Hope this helps,

      Geoff

  6. Hi Geoff- I just found your website in a search and read your article and folks messages- it has encouraged me to try to connect an old ( but mint-condition Sanyo beta VCR) to my tv rather than sell/ dump it!! Do I assume that it is not, however, possible to RECORD from tv to VCR with your described connections?

    • Hi Hamilton,

      You can certainly use your old Sanyo to play tapes on your TV.

      It is important to realise that you have never been able to record off the TV. Rather, in the old days, the aerial connected to the VCR and it recorded directly off the antenna. The TV simply monitored what you were recording.

      If you have a cable box or a set-top box it may be possible to connect the output of that to your VCR to record a program. But I’m not sure that you would you want to? The quality of the recording is very poor by today’s standards, and this poor quality is only exacerbated by using large screens.

      Does this help?

      Geoff

      • Thanks Geoff- I’ll be more than delighted to simply be able to view old tape collection! Thanks for help. I’ve yet to get down to putting it all together and looking out existing connections or leads. But I won’t be throwing out the VCR (not yet, anyhow!). I’ll let you know when I finally get round to the job.

    • Hi Tony,

      It will depend on what brand and model of TV you have, and how you have connected the VCR to your TV. Normally you would press the source or input button and select either video, composite video, or component video. If this doesn’t help me let me know your TV brand and model number and I’ll try and find the manual for it.

      Hope this helps,

      Geoff

  7. Hi Geoff,

    I have a RCA TV and I’ve been trying to connect my VCR to it. I put a movie in to see what would happen and if it would work, but when I do that nothing happens but the movie cuts in and out. Also when it cuts in and out anytime the movie appears on screen it is black and gray. I wonder if you have any suggestions as to how I can fix this after I followed all the steps.

    • Hi Raquel,

      I think there could be two things happening. If the picture is cutting in and out it is likely to be dirty heads in the VCR. To check this, press the menu button on the VCR so that you get a steady picture of just the menu.

      The second issue is the way you have connected to the TV. Presumably you have the yellow from the VCR connected to the green of the TV. Make sure you have nothing plugged into the adjacent red and green socket of the TV. If you don’t, and it is still Black and white, then you may also need to tell the TV that you using a composite signal rather than a component signal.

      Let me know how you go,

      Geoff

  8. Hi Geoff,

    Trying to connect up a VCR for my grandmother to enjoy her old videos. At the moment, we’ve got a SCART going from the VCR directly to the TV (a HD SHARP), but we’re only getting audio, no picture. Tried switching the end of the SCART around, because read somewhere that could be the issue, but no difference. In fact, I can’t even get the menu options for the VCR to come up, let alone play a video. The thing is, it’s a Samsung joint VCR/DVD player, and the DVD side is working perfectly. The TV is set to receive CVBS (and I cycled through the others just in case). It works perfectly on a different, albeit much older TV (shaped like a box), so it’s not dirty heads. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Lorraine,
      Without knowing the models involved, it seems you have generally connected them correctly.

      The comment that struck was “The thing is, it’s a Samsung joint VCR/DVD player, and the DVD side is working perfectly.”. This would indicate that you are connected to the DVD out only, and not the VCR/DVD side of the DVD/VCR.

      If this is not the issue, can you send me some photos of the connections showing how you have tried to connect it.

      Thanks

      Geoff

  9. Hi Geoff,
    I just wanted to drop you a line and THANK YOU for your excellent instructions and I’m happy to say my old DVD/VCR which I haven’t used in years has come to life again.

    Thanks again,
    B

  10. Hi Geoff

    I have a Panasonic TXP42S30B tv and a JVC HR-S5955 VCR. I have lots of reference tapes recorded in SVideo format but my TV scart does not accept SVideo signals over scart. My question is can I take an SVideo signal from the Scart of the VCR and use a component input on the TV to get the benefit of the higher resolution?

    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Keith,

      I think you would be better off using an S-Video to HDMI converter. This will also upscale the S-Video to 1080 or to 720. A converter like this should work well for you.

      Hope this helps,

      Geoff

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