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 they get you to connect to the green socket.

The Rear of a New Flat Screen TV

connect a VCR to new TVAt the rear of many new 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.

Note that not all TVs label the video in a clearly as in this photo. Some simply put a yellow circle around the appropriate green socket. 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.

My VCR only has a white audio out

Many VCRs are not stereo, they are only mono. Connect a VCR mono audioThat 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 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.

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27 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you, Geoff for this helpful, clear, specific information. There were plenty of old videos my parents and I wanted to replay, and we just couldn’t get the vcr going with our flat screen. Loved the example images as well. Thank you!

  2. I have the following:
    Panasonic VCR: NV-FJ630B
    Panasonic DVD recorder: DMR-EX77
    Panasonic TV: TX-50DX750B
    I want to transfer VHS to disc and be able to monitor the process.
    How can I do this?

    • Hi John,

      First up, let’s connect the DVD recorder to the TV in the best manner. That will be via HDMI. Simply use a HDMI cable from the DVD to HDMI 1 on the TV. Select HDMI 1 on the TV and check that the picture and sound work well when playing a DVD. This will be the standard way of watching DVDs in full digital HD quality.

      Now to connect the VCR player to DVD recorder.Connect a SCART cable from the “video out” of the VCR player to the AV 1 on the DVD recorder. Now play a video on the VCR and select “AV 1” on the TV (source). Check the picture and sound. This will be the way to watch any Video, and to view what the VCR is recording.

      OK, so all that is now connected the best way. If you start the recorder, it should also record the output of the VCR. But it won’t be the same quality as it is only a SD recording off an analogue signal.

      hope this helps

      Geoff

  3. Hi Geoff,
    We want to connect our Zenith stereo hifi VCR to our new Vizio (model#E32 D1) HDTV so we can watch our VHS tapes on the new HDTV. The VCR was connected to our old 27″ tube tv and worked fine. Now, after hooking it up to our new Vizio HDTV, TV says “no signal”.
    Here’s how we connected it: RCA cables yellow, red & white from VCR respectively to the Y/V (yellow/green) video in & red & white audio in composite connections on the back of the new Vizio HDTV. We then chose the input labeled “COMP” (our choices were HDMI 1 which we used to connect the COMCAST cable box , HDMI 2 which we used to connect the BluRay player, COMP or TV) on the TV screen. We tried to play our VHS tape, the TV at first showed a snipit of the tape, then went to snow & said no signal. We tried a new set of RCA cables, no signal. Why doesn’t it work? Do we need an RCA to HDMI converter?

    • Hi Christina,

      It seems like you have connected it all up correctly, and you have tried a different set of cables.

      Do you still have your old TV? If so, it would be worthwhile trying the VCR on that again.

      I’m thinking you may have dirty heads on the VCR. The symptoms of dirty heads is it starts to show a picture and then it goes all snowy. Modern TV’s don’t like showing snow, so it says “no signal”. I would have thought if you had the connections wrong, then you would immediately get “no signal”, but seeing snow indicates it is connected correctly.

      It would be interesting to connect the yellow, red and black cables to the DVD player to the COMCAST box (if they have the right connections) to confirm the cables and setting are all good. Alternatively, try to bring up the menu on the VCR, as this doesn’t use the heads. If that works, then it is probably dirty heads.

      It would be worthwhile using a head cleaner if you have one. If not, try just playing the tape for a n hour or so – sometimes the friction of the tape going through the machine will clean the heads. You could try a different tape, but initially it will still be snowy as the heads are still dirty.

      Let me how any of this goes,

      Geoff

  4. We have a flat screen TV,and when I hook up the box for the cable to the VCR/DVD player,it “blocks ” the signal from the box,so the channels wont show up.The main thing I’m trying to do is the flat screen gets the cable channels,but it does them 55-1,55-3,55-5,55-9,etc and the VCR only “reads”like channel 55.What can I hook up differently to tape certain channels?
    thanks

    • Hi Jim,

      I think the main issue is the VCR is not designed to tune in the all the digital channels that are available on the cable box. Therefore you need to connect the cable box to the TV (for normal watching), and to the VCR for recording,. Then you need to connect the VCR to the TV.

      Without knowing the details of all your equipment, the following is the basic steps you need to follow.

      Cable box to TV: Simply use a HDMI cable from the cable box to HDMI 1 on the TV. Select HDMI 1 on the TV and check that the channels change when you change the channels on the cable box. Also check that the sound is working. This will be the standard way of watching cable TV in full digital HD quality.

      VCR/DVD to TV: Connect the Yellow, white and red from the “video out” of the VCR/DVD player to the Green, white and red on the TV. Now play a DVD and select “composite video” or “AV” on the TV (source). Check the picture and sound. This will be the way to watch any Video or DVD, and to view what the VCR is recording.

      OK, so all that is now connected the best way. Now to connect the Cable box to the recorder. The recorder only has a basic input, that being the Yellow video in. So we need a cable from the yellow out of the cable box, to the yellow in of the recorder. Also use a red and white for the accompanying audio.

      Now to see if this works, you need to view the output of the VCR/DVD player, so select AV on your TV. Then on the VCR/DVD, press the INPUT or Channel button until AV1 is displayed on the VCR/DVD display. Now you should see the picture from the cable box on your TV via the DVD/VCR. If you start the recorder, it should also record the output of the cable box. But it won’t be the same quality as it is only a SD recording off an analogue signal.

      Hope this helps

      Geoff

  5. Hi Geoff,

    Thank you for the great article. I am finally considering replacing my DVD/VCR combo that went south a few years ago, because I recently made the decision to go without cable service. I don’t anticipate having too much trouble hooking it up since I have all this great info here in your article. But in searching for a unit, I have seen it mentioned that certain players have have tuners and certain ones do not. I would love to be able to get a unit that can be set to record at a certain time, now that I no longer have a DVR (I think I remember being able to set a VCR to record back in the day…?), so are there special considerations I should observe since I am just using one of those digital antennas now, and no have no cable box? My flat screen of course has a tuner, and we’re receiving OTA broadcasts, so no problem there. Just would like to be able to timer-record on occasion if possible. Thanks for any info you can give me, and sorry if this is a stupid question! This is not my area of expertise.

    • Hi Angela,

      I’m understanding that you mainly want to get a DVD player with the ability to record of the antenna shows. Previously you would have used a DVD/VCR to do this. But they only worked with analogue TV signals. You now have digital TV. While I don’t know your area, my understanding is VCR’s don’t have the ability to record Digital programs. So instead of a VCR/DVD you probably need to look for a PVR (personal video recorder) with DVD player. These normally have a hard drive to record the program. Cheaper units have the ability to record, but you need an external hard drive or USB stick to record on. Recording to a hard disk is better than having to record straight to a DVD, as you don’t need to find a disk each time.

      Anyhow, have a look around now for a PVR or DVD recorder with Hard drive, then let me know your findings or if you have any other questions.

      Geoff

      • Geoff,

        Thanks so much for your quick reply. I was glad to hear of the obstacle to recording a digital signal and feel this info saved me a lot of headaches. A bit of follow-up on my end shows that that there are also converter boxes available here that convert the signal back to analog for VCR recording, but this all seems a little much for me, since the whole point of pulling the plug on our cable was to watch less anyway. I think I will plan to be home if possible for the live airing of any program I deem worthy of watching, and will just get a standard DVD/VCR combo to watch some old tapes and DVDs I have, and for those rare movies that you cannot stream. Thanks again for bringing up the pertinent issue here and helping me make a quick decision about this!

  6. I have connected my VCR to my HD TV using the HD wires (red, blue, green and white), but for some reason I am unable to view TV or even play VHS tapes. I have a VCR/DVD player. When I push the “VCR” button on the remote, it doesn’t switch, it just stays on the “DVD” screen. Can you help?

    • Hi Denny,

      Most DVD/VCR players have two outputs: component (green, red, blue) and composite (yellow).
      If you look closely on the back, the component outs (green, red, blue) are only for the DVD side of the player. The VCR output is only on the yellow (composite) and the corresponding red and white for audio.

      Geoff

      • Thanks Geoff, but now, how do I connect it to my HD Television? As there are only five connectors (red, white, blue, green and I believe another red?). That’s what I am wanting to know now.

        • Hi Denny,
          For the video signal, you need to connect the yellow video out from the VCR to the Green input of the TV. Then the right and white from the VCR go to the red and white audio in on the TV. This is explained in more detail under the heading “The Rear of a New Flat Screen TV” in the article above.

          Geoff

  7. I am trying to connect an old Panasonic VHS recorder with only the mono white and yellow plugs to my flat screen tv. I have red, white and yellow connected on the tv. I only get audio and no video. Can you help me?

    • Hi Tina,

      Providing you have the yellow for the “video out” of the VCR connected to the Yellow of the “Video in” of the TV, it should work.

      If it doesn’t, there are two possibilities:
      1) the yellow lead is faulty. You can check this by swapping the white and yellow leads at both ends temporarily, as you know the white one works (because the sound works).
      2) The VCR heads are dirty. This would result in a blue screen or snow on your TV. You can check this by pressing the menu button on the VCR, and you should see this on the TV if all is connected correctly.

      There are other things we can check, but I’d check these simple ones first.

      Geoff

  8. I have a dvd player plugged into the yellow plug in the back of my Insignia flat screen and it works fine. There is a blue and red plug left on the back of the tv, can I use one of these to connect a vcr as well so both the dvd and vcr are hooked up? Hope that makes sense. Thanks

    • Hi Mary,

      The basic answer is no. The blue and read plugs are for color information when using component video, which needs the green, red and blue. If your TV doesn’t have another composite input, then you could use an AV switch like these.

      This would allow you to connect both the DVD player and the VCR to the switch, and then to the TV. The switch will let you choose which one to send signal to the TV.

      Hope this helps,

      Geoff

  9. hey thanks for the tutorial.
    I was wondering if there is anyway I could record my laptop screen unto the VCR.
    I was thinking that I could connect my laptop to my TV via HDMI and then connect my VCR to my TV. The TV would then display my laptop screen which I would then record using my VCR.
    I hope that made sense.

    Thanks in advance 🙂

    • Hi Jay,

      I like your thinking but there are some technical issues which means it will not work.

      Certainly connecting the laptop to the TV via HDMI is a good way the go. But that is where it stops.

      A VCR doesn’t record what is on the TV, rather the TV shows what the VCR is recording. That is why the VCR needs an input like an antenna connection, so it can produce the picture to record, and then the TV shows you what that picture is. That is why the connection between the VCR and TV is normally AV out of the VCR to AV in on the TV. Most TV’s don’t have a AV out. If yours does, then it may well work.

      HDMI is a digital signal, while AV in or out is an analogue signal, so if your TV does have an AV out, it would need to down-scale and convert the the signal from digital to analogue.

      And even if all that works, the quality of recording on a VCR is very poor compared to the HDMI output of your laptop. VCR quality was fine when we only knew analogue quality, and we used relatively small screens. But with bigger screens, the imperfections show up much more.

      If you want to record what you are doing on the laptop, then there are many video capture programs you could try. If you are wanting to record movies etc, then a digital recorder would be the best way, although there be some copy protection issues if trying to record directly from your laptop via HDMI.

      So, sorry to disappoint you on the technical practicalities, but I like your innovative thinking.

      Geoff

  10. Geoff,
    I am using an Insignia flat computer screen/tv and trying to hook up my (Sony) dual blurray/dvd combo to my (sony) slhft7 tape player. Trying to record onto tape, i have set the banana plugs out from disc player to tape and run a coaxial from tape to disc. But i also think i need a svga to a htmi plug set to go from the flat tv to the dvd.
    i am getting a blue screen now. Is this all i need to think of?

    • Hi Daniel,

      If you have audio and video leads from the “out” of the DVD player to the “in” of the tape player, it should record. Then you need to go from the “out” of the Tape to the “in” of the TV. This is simply done with RCA leads for both video and Audio. The yellow “video” lead may need to connect to the green video input if the TV doesn’t have a yellow video input.

      hope this helps

      Geoff

  11. trying to connect new Samsung tv to old dvd. Red, white yellow go from dish network cable box to same colors on tv.
    tv works great. have left over red, white yellow wires coming out of vcr/dvd. Only two empty holes left on back of tv are
    red and blue.
    thanks in advance for any help.
    John

    • Hi John,
      The problem with new TVs is they allow for more than one older or analogue device. Since you have two devices you are trying to connect to it you are short. There are two possible solutions for you to try:
      1) Does the Cable box have another connections like HDMI. If so, use that for the cable box and then use the current cable input on the TV for the DVD/VCR.
      2) if that is not possible, you will need to get an input switch box, something like these. This will les both devices connect to the TV, and you select which device you want on the selector box.

      hope this helps
      Geoff

  12. I googled and searched for so many hours to find out how to hook my new tv up with my old DVD player. Were it not for your diagram of the back of the flat screen tv I would have gone out and bought a dvd that has all the colors. How hard is it to just say “‘plug the yellow in the green hole and get on with life”. A picture is worth a thousand words.

  13. FLATSCREEN TV – RCA model:RLDED4016A
    DVD/VCR PLAYER/RECORDER – MAGNAVOX CDV220MW9/F7
    ATTACHED CABLES – HAVE BLUE/GREEN/RED PLUGGED INTO COMPONENT SECTION & YELLOW/RED/WHITE PLUGGED INTO VCR AUDIO AND INPUT OUT THEN BOTH ARE PLUGGED INTO TV (HOPED THAT HAVING BOTH WOULD DO THE TRICK BUT DIDN’T)
    NOT CONNECTED TO ANTENNA ETC

    PROBLEM – NO PICTURE WHEN PLAYING VCR BUT HAVE EXCELLENT SOUND. ALSO UNABLE TO PULL UP MENU FOR VCR. ( I’M NOT RECORDING ON THE VCR). SOURCE ON TV FOR DVD PLAY IS TV ONLY (HD MODES NOT INDICATING SIGNAL) BUT DVD PLAYS BEAUTIFULLY.

    I SHOULD KNOW HOW TO RESOLVE THIS. I’VE READ THE MANUALS REPEATEDLY AND THE ARTICLES ON YOUR WEBSITE BUT NO MATTER WHAT I TRY I’M HAVING NO LUCK. CAN YOU HELP?

    PAM

    • Hi Pam,

      I think there are two things happening which are not particularly mentioned in the manuals. Firstly, with the DVD/VCR, the R/G/B does give a better picture, but only from the DVD player, the VCR does not output through the RGB (component sockets). For the VCR to work you must use the yellow composite output.

      Now I can hear you saying “I’ve done that!” but the second thing the manuals don’t really say is (I think), on your TV there is only one AV source. I think the problem is because you have the DVD connected into the component input, the TV doesn’t see the yellow composite input signal from the VCR when you select AV – only sees the DVD signal. It may be you need to disconnect the R/G/B cables and see if that helps.

      let me know if this helps, as I’m sure there are other readers with similar issues.

      Geoff

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