How do I connect my Flat Screen TV

Connecting your TV is not as hard as it looks. All the sockets on the back and up the side of a flat screen TV can be imposing, but tackling them one by one reduces it to a simple task. I say simple, because you don’t need to use all of them – just the ones best suited to your equipment.

Choosing the Best Connections

So which cables, plugs and sockets should you use? It depends on what outputs your other devices have. Below is the basic hierarchy for cables and connectors when connecting devices to your flat screen TV. For more info on these connections, see the reference articles on HDMI, Component video, S-video, and Composite video.

 

OrderConnectionComment
1st Choice

HDMI

Best quality digital picture and digital audio in one cable
If no HDMIComponent Video + AudioBest quality analogue picture, plus analogue audio – requires five cables. Normally you would have all five cables joined into one, or use a 3 core red, green blue for the video and a separate red and white RCA (phono) cable for audio
If no Component Video

S-Video + Audio

Not as good as Component Video but better than composite video, not available on all flat screen TVs. Also requires a RCA (phono) lead for the analogue audio
If no S-Video

Composite video + Audio

The most basic video connection, being phased out on newer equipment. Uses the common yellow, red and white connections. Use the yellow cables for composite video and the red and white cables for analogue audio

Let us use a DVD player and a VCR as an example: if the DVD player has a HDMI output, then use HDMI to connect to the flat screen TV. That’s it, done. If the DVD doesn’t have HDMI, then use the green, blue and red component video connections with the red and white audio leads. A VCR probably doesn’t have HDMI or Component video connections, so you can use the S-video cable with the red and white audio leads. If it doesn’t have S-video, then use the basic yellow composite video cable with the red and white audio leads. Some manufacturers make a red and black coloured lead for audio – use this just the same as a red and white lead. In fact the colours don’t really matter at all, they are simply there to assist you in connecting the output sockets of the DVD player to the correct input sockets.

If you need to purchase cables, here is a link to Amazon’s range of Audio and Video Cables.

All about the Sockets

Let us look at the back of a typical flat screen TV to see how to use each socket.

The best quality, and the simplest connection is HDMI. If you can connect all your devices using HDMI, then you probably don’t need to worry about all the other connections. If you connect a device to HDMI input 1, then use the “input” or “source” button on the flat screen TV remote control and choose HDMI input 1 to watch that program.

The next best quality is to use Component video. You need three cables for the video (red, blue and green) and two for the audio (red and white). Simply connect the green socket from the DVD player to the green socket on the flat screen TV. Do likewise for the blue and red connectors. Then use the red and white audio connectors to connect the audio. If you connect a device to Component video 1, then use the “input” or “source” button on the flat screen TV remote control to choose Component 1 input to watch that program.

After HDMI and Component video, the next best video connection is S-video. It is not always available, but if it is available, it gives better quality video than Composite video. It may also be difficult to find a S-video cable, but it is worth it if you can. You also need to connect the red and white for the audio. Some flat screen TVs have the S-video input labeled as S-video, while others will have it labeled as AV1 or AV2.

Finally, if no other connections are able to be used, you can use the basic Composite video. This is most common when connecting a VCR to your flat screen TV. This uses the yellow connection for the video, and the read and white connections for the audio. Most flat screen TVs will call this input AV1, AV2 or video in.

A lot of manufacturers are not providing a separate connection for composite video. That is, they are not providing the “yellow” socket that was common previously, like in this image:

Composite VideoThe solution for this is usually to use the Green “Y” socket. In the case of this example, it is also labelled “composite”. This means you would connect the yellow lead from your VCR to the green socket on this TV. With some TVs, you may need to go into the menu and tell it that you want to use the component input as a composite input, but  a lot of TVs will automatically detect this. For a more detailed description, see the article How to connect a VCR to a flat screen TV.

The PC input is used to connect a laptop or desktop computer to your flat screen TV. A “Mac” computer can also use this input with the appropriate adapter plug (normally used at the computer end).  This 15 pin connector is for RGB video only, so a separate cable is required for audio.

The audio out sockets can be connected to an external amplifier. This will be covered in a future article.

European models of flat screen TVs also have SCART connectors. These 21 pin sockets can carry composite video, RGB video and audio. You will notice on the model in this picture that the top SCART connector accepts Composite video and audio (AV), while the bottom connector accepts RGB video and audio.

Connecting to the Outside World

The “ANT IN” connector is where the cable from your antenna plugs. If you have cable TV, this will plug in here instead. If you have a PVR (Personal Video Recorder) then the antenna/cable lead will normally plug into the PVR. From the PVR  will be another antenna cable to connect to the antenna in socket of your flat screen TV. More details of connecting a PVR will be in a future article.

The “LAN” connector (extreme right in the picture) is where a internet/network cable is connected. This is required for “Smart” TVs to allow you to view videos and other content on the internet directly on your flat screen TV. Some Smart TVs have a wireless network built-in, if you use this you won’t need the wired internet connection.

Power On

Once everything is connected you can connect the power lead and turn the power on. Many flat screen TVs have a separate on/off at the bottom or at the rear of the screen. Not knowing about this switch or not turning it on has caused many people to think their new flat screen TV is faulty – so beware of this trap. It also can  take 3-5 secs for flat screen TVs to turn on (show a picture) once you press the “power” on button of the remote control.

Practical Points

  1. Before starting to connect all you equipment together, sit them in the location you want them to be. This way you will be able to work out how long each interconnecting lead will need to be.
  2. The correct length of interconnecting cables is a balance between aesthetics, practicality and availability. Aesthetically it is good not to have long cables bundled up making a mess behind all the equipment. Practically, you need to have the cables long enough so that you can move (pull out or turn around) each device without the cables pulling out.  The availability of different lengths may be the deciding factor, but err on the side of not having the cables too short.
  3. Some retailers of flat screen TVs charge a premium for HDMI cables – often in the $100-$200 range. This is because they can make little or no profit from selling flat screen TVs and so try to make a greater profit on the accessories. Shop around, short high speed HDMI cables can often be bought for only $10-$20.
  4. Most flat screen TVs also have some input sockets on the side of the screen. These are meant to be a convenient way of connecting portable devices like cameras or laptops. They can also be used for connecting permanent devices if required – but the cables are difficult to hide.
  5. Many flat screen TVs have the ability to rename the input labels. This means that instead of choosing between HDMI1 and HDMI 2, the input on the screen menu will be labelled DVD player  and PVR (for example). If you have more than one external device, this is an easy way for all users to easily choose the right input. You will need to look at the users guide for your particular flat screen TV to see how to do this.

Summary

Connecting your flat screen TV is not too difficult. Take each device one at a time. If possible, use HDMI. If HDMI is not an option, follow the table at the top of this article to deliver the best possible picture quality. Give it a go, you may be surprised how simple it is.

If, after reading the article, you still have problems connecting your flat screen TV, let us know via a “comment” below. Please include model numbers of all equipment you are connecting so I can try to download their manuals and determine the best way to help you.

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117 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Geoff,

    We have older home theatre components, such as keg standing speakers, phase wall mounted speakers, a sub woofer and receiver that use s-video that we want to hook up to a new samsung 4K tv that has only hdmi hookups. I know we need to use an s-video to hdmi converter and upscale, but do we need one for each component? If so, how do we do that as we don’t have enough hdmi ports? Please help. Thanks.

    • Hi Kathy,

      Probably a simpler (and definitely cheaper) solution would be to use a switch to select one of your existing devices to go to the HDMI up-scaler. Something like this should work for you.

      Does this help?

      Geoff

  2. Hi Geoff,
    Great blog you have there.
    We have an LG 50′ TV mounted on the wall so that no cables are visible. Even though we already rent two cable boxes from Cox Communications, they are now requiring that all TVs without a cable box attached to attach one of their “mini-boxes” to receive a signal (that should certainly help increase their profit margin).
    My question is: Can we hook up the mini-box via HDMI without removing the TV from the wall and fishing cables to it?
    There is currently a Sony BluRay and Roku hooked up to same TV set via HDMI.

    • Hi Steve,

      I think there is a simple solution for you.

      I’m going to suggest using a HDMI switcher. Like any of these.

      These will let you use one of your existing HDMI cables to connect all your devices.

      Let say you currently watch the Sony blue ray on HDMI 1 (on your TV). Actually let’s go a further step backwards and work out what input your devices are on.
      Turn your TV on and set it up as if you’re watching a DVD. It is probably on HDMI 1 or 2 or whatever. You can confirm this by going to the back of your DVD player and pull the HDMI lead out. The picture should go off. Now you know for sure what HDMI cable is connected to your DVD player. Let’s say it was HDMI 1.

      Now you simply take the HDMI cable from the back of the DVD player, and connect it to the output of the switch. Then the output of the DVD player (which is where the HDMI cable was connected) gets connected to an input of the switch. The output of the cable mini-box also connects to another input of the switch. Now you can keep the TV connected to HDMI 1, and let the switch select whether you watch the DVD or Cable box.

      I suggest you get a 3 way switch, as this allows you to connect another device in the future. Most of the switches will automatically select the device which is turned on, or a switch to latest device which is turned on (this is called Auto switching). Or there is often a manual switch which you can use, or some have a remote control to allow you to select the appropriate input from the comfort of your chair. Some have all 3 options.

      I hope you can follow this and it makes enough sense to you, if not let me know where I lost you and I’ll start again.

      Geoff

  3. HI. Again

    You assisted me months ago when my equipment was:
    ATT Uverse (VIP2250)
    Seiki HD TV (model SE32HT10)
    Panasonic DVR/VCR combo (DMREZ48V) (used to transfer saved tv shows from STB to DVD or VHS).
    This is a necessity. (Not used for movie copy. But I record a lot of shows for my research. (I am a writer and it is not always possible for me to watch live tv).
    Sony DVR/VCR combo (RDR VX560) used for viewing many disks not compatible with DMREZ48V. A necessity for other household members)
    Toshiba HD DVD Player (HD-A3) (used by other family members). (this can be moved to another TV, if it has to be)
    All components are working okay; however, I have purchased the following component that I would like to also connect to the Seiki:
    1 ea. Roku 2 (model 4210R) (HDMI included, plus 50ft of Ethernet cable.)
    (I plan to downsize the Uverse cable service in June, as soon as family members can tolerate the ‘dis-connect. I will have to medicate them, smile)
    One more question: XBOX coming in June. Will I be able to add it also? Just wondering…
    Thanks, in advance.
    Shasta

    • Hi Again,
      It good to have a returning customer!

      It looks like you have finally run out of HDMI inputs on your TV. The around this is to purchase a HDMI switcher like these.

      You could get a 2 input, 3 input or probably a 4 input switcher would be best given your penchant for adding devices. This will allow each HDMI connected device to connect via the switch. The TV then stays on one HDMI input and use the switch to select which device uses the TV at any particular time.

      The Xbox could connect via the composite as discussed last time, or even through the HDMI switch if it has a HDMI output

      hope this helps

      Geoff

      • Hi Geoff.
        I returned from a trip today and was glad to see your reply.

        I had thought for some time that an input switcher may be in my future, since my family, as you mentioned, constantly wants to add devices. Sometimes I think they are out of control with all of these connections! (smile)
        I think a 4-way switcher will suit my needs. I will make my selection from the link that you provided.

        Thanks again…

  4. We just bought a RCA Flat Screen and we can’t connect our older VCR, DVD or Receiver to it because there aren’t enough ports on this new flat screen. What is a simple solution to solve this problem?

    • Hi Darlys,

      The smiple answer is to use a 3 or 4 ways source selector like these. This would allow you to use one of these switches to connect any one device (DVD etc) to the TV.

      does this help?

      Geoff

  5. i there I have a Panasonic TH42PWD8 I want to connect to it my DVD, SKY BOX, Using cables as there are no scart sockets on the tv it only has a s video socket, 2 coax sockets in/out and audio in, I also have a 3 way input box to switch between just cannot figure out the wiring.if you can help.

    • Hi Malcolm,
      According to the manual I downloaded for your TV, you should be able to connect it up similar to page 12 of the manual. That is, from the Skybox use the yellow, red and white from the out of the Scart plug and connect to the yellow, red and white of the AV in of the TV.

      The best picture from the DVD will be achieved with the green, red and blue (the colour of the cables doesn’t really matter as long as you match the out and in colours up – that is you can use a spare yellow, red and white lead to connect the R/G/B out of the DVD to the in of the TV). You will though need three RCA to BNC adapters to connect to the TV. You also need a red and white for the audio (5 cables in total for the DVD)

      If this is too difficult, you can use the switch box to switch between the yellow, red and white for the DVD and Skybox to the one input of the TV.

      hope this helps

      Geoff

  6. Thank you, your clarity saved me taking the DVD player back. Nowhere in either the DVD or TV manuals did it mention green = yellow if using composite connectors, now it works beautifully.

  7. Hello,

    I am having great difficulty connecting the following three units together. The main problem is getting a television program recorded, there’s nothing but noise on the screen. I have listed the sites that cover the products that I have. I think I might have to buy a new DVD recorder?

    Vizio Television: http://www.vizio.com/e43c2.html

    Sony DVD Player/Recorder: http://esupport.sony.com/US/p/model-home.pl?mdl=RDRGX330&template_id=1&region_id=1&tab=manuals#/manualsTab

    Cox Mini Box: http://www.cox.com/residential/support/tv/article.cox?articleId=4ce98620-1668-11e4-d88c-000000000000#back

    Thanks!

    • Hi Debbie,
      It looks like the recorder is for analogue tv. However the cox box looks like it outputs an analogue signal on channel 3 or 4. So you will need to connect a lead from the “to TV” socket of the Cox, to the VHF/UHF in of the recorder. Then tune the recorder to channel 3 or 4. Your noise should go away and you should see the picture from the cox box.

      hope this helps
      Geoff

  8. Hi Geoff
    I’m particularly hopeless at things like this so wondering if you can help.

    Our new TV is a Panasonic model number TX-40CX680B.

    Everything working perfectly except our oldish (5 years) Sony BDP-S185 blue ray DVD player. The picture is perfect but I can’t get any sound at all.

    It is connected with a HDMI cable which I’ve tried in various different sockets with no luck.

    Any ideas to help someone really thick at these things??

    Thanks so much.

    • Hi Lisa,

      Don’t fret too much – it may not be your problem.

      There are several settings you may need to adjust on the DVD player and/or the TV. Is the sound working for normal TV and not for DVD or not for both. If both, go to the menu of the TV and select “sound”. Then select “TV speaker setting”, and make sure the “TV speaker” is selected.

      Failing that, I think it could be the DVD player is not giving the audio out in the format the TV is expecting. On the DVD, select “settings”. Then select “audio settings”. Then select “Audio (HDMI)”. if “auto” is selected, change it to “PCM” or vice a versa.

      All this assumes that the HDMI lead is good. You might be able to test that using another TV or STB or DVD player or something.

      hope this helps

      Geoff

  9. dear Geoff,

    I have an old NEC and also an old Samsung VCR. Both have only video and audio input and output. I want to attach to my sony bravia for the purpose of playing surf videos only (not recording). In the Sony bravia operating instructions the VCR has 3 connections (as do all the google responses i’ve read). i’ve been through all yours and nothing mentioned only two connections on old VCR models, so my obvious question is how do i connect with 3 connectors on the tv and only 2 on the VCR? I have already put my antenna to vcr and rtf to tv. thanks in advance.

    • Hi Martina,

      It should not be too hard to connect from your VCRs to the TV. Back in the day when VCRs were popular, most TV’s didn’t have stereo speakers (left and right) built-in, they only had one audio channel – mono. Hence most VCR’s only needed one video out and one audio out.

      So all you really need to do is connect the yellow video out from the VCR to the Yellow video in on the TV. For audio, connect the audio out of the VCR to either the left or right audio in on the TV – it doesn’t matter which one. Connecting the audio from the VCR to either the left or right should work fine. A perfectionist would probably get a mono to stereo cable (like this) so that the sound would come through both the left and right speakers of the TV, but it will work coming through just one of the speakers.

      Hope this helps you

      Geoff

  10. Hi Geoff. I’ve been reading your replies and wondered if you could help. I’ve bought a Samsung 32″ Smart LCD 6400. It has one scart and four HDMIs. I want to connect virgin cable (two scarts) and a dvd/hdd recorder with Freeview (two scarts and one HDMI). I currently have set up using two scart tv and can record freeview while watching virgin at the same time. If I want to record virgin then I can’t view another channel which is ok because I can watch stuff I’ve recorded. My thoughts are that I route scarts the same except for dvd recorder which I could use hdmi to tv but not sure if I can record using that – comments I’ve read seem to suggest is one way and no way to record. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks.

    • Hi Geoff. I submitted a query re my set up and have now resolved it so didn’t want you to spend time on it – I hope I’ve caught you in time. I thought you might be interested in my solution since I didn’t find it on the Which connection “wizard” which I’ve used in the past. Which said I would need a scart splitter which was not what I wanted. I have put external aerial to dvd/hdd recorder and aerial from there into tv. I’ve put cable box into tv via scart and then into dvd/hdd recorder. I’ve connected recorder to tv using hdmi cable. This has now given me more options than before. I used to be able to record freeview while watching cable but could only have cable on when recording this. I can now switch between freeview and cable on my recorder and record while watching freeview separately on the tv. Tv has internet connection. Hope this is of some use since I couldn’t find this solution anywhere when googling for help. Good luck with your endeavours. Thanks. Mary

    • Hi Joyce,

      Generally I think it is best to connect a wire between a DVD player and a TV. Often it is possible to run a cable down the wall from the TV to a low cupboard under the TV to house the DVD player. While a bit of an effort, it will give you a long hassle free solution. Sometimes I’ve drilled through the wall behind the TV, gone down the wall behind, which happens to be a wardrobe or cupboard (and therefore you don’t see the cables) and then back through the wall to the DVD player. There are all sorts of options.

      You can also use one of these. While normally used to transmit between rooms, they would work fine to transmit to your TV, although you would have to have the receiver mounted behind the TV. These also only offer composite video which is the poorest of quality, but it is a workable solution.

      What would be good is a little box that you connect your DVD player to, and then this box sends the signal to your smart TV over your Wifi. After some searching I found some devices that almost do this. They certainly take the DVD signal and transmit it over WiFi, but it appears you then need an app on your phone or tablet to watch it. It also enables you to watch it anywhere in the world – which is a bit of an over kill for what you want. I can’t see where they say there is an app for any smart TV to watch it directly on the TV. You could do some local inquires on Sling Media and Belkin @TV Plus.

      Sorry I can’t help anymore. I guess I have always used cables, as I don’t trust wireless. The cost of some of these smart boxes would probably cover the cost of getting a cable put in if you can’t do it yourself.

      Geoff

  11. Hello. I am having trouble connecting all my gadgets to my tv. I want it so I do not have to disconnect one and connect another. My tv has 8 inputs, so it should not be a problem, right. At first, I thought I was a genius. (( I do not have cable so I have rabbit ears instead to get some local channels. )) I connected my rabbit ears and my ps2 via my rf modulator, which I connected to the antenna plug in on back of tv. Then I connected my ROKU via HDMI input. My Wii via the side composite on my tv. So far so good! Then I noticed I was running out of composite locations….
    So I plugged my Audiovox Home theater system into a component location on my tv. When I tested it before moving to the next item (I did this with every item), the screen is pink. 🙁 I really want to use this home theater system. It works fine when connected via composite cords. So I still have my home theater system, vcr, and vtech that need plugged in and only one composite left.. I could have my vcr go through the theater system, but then I have my vtech with no home. Why is the pink screen happening??? It does it with my regular dvd player too, when I try to use the component connection. Below is a list of my items and the information for them. Thank you in advance!!!

    **TV: 58″ Class Viera S2 Series 1080p Plasma TV Model: TC-P58S2 *** 3 HDMIs, 2 Component, 2 Composite & antenna plug in. Manual found at : http://service.us.panasonic.com/OPERMANPDF/TCP58S2.PDF

    **Home Theater System: Audiovox DV5007 – 500with 5 DVD Home Theater System: ***Component or Composite or SVideo Connection. Manual found at: http://www.manualslib.com/manual/508871/Audiovox-Dv5007-500with-5-Dvd-Home-Theater-System.html?page=12#manual

    **VCR: Sanyo VWM-648 ***Composite in and out & Antenna in and out

    **Wii – Connects with composite only

    **PS2 – Connects with composite only

    **VTECH – Connects with composite only

    **ROKU – Connects with HDMI only

    **Antenna (Rabbit ears) – Connects with antenna only

    ** DVD Player – Connects with HDMI, Composite, or Component. ( I am trying not to use this one as I lost the remote and use the 5 dvd included in the home theater system instead)

    • Hi Marlene,
      Thanks for providing the details and links to your gear, makes is easier for me to clarify things.

      Let me start by saying you seem to be going about this task in the right manner. It is only a simple task of connecting one device, testing it and moving on to the next device – well done. Well, it is simple until it doesn’t work. I have never seen your exact description of a pink screen when using Component. The most common issues are a bad cable, a bad connection and/or the wrong cable in the right hole. So, I’m afraid I can’t be much help on that one.

      However, there some other solutions I can tell you about.

      You can buy a Component to HDMI convertor box like this. This will allow you to plug any of your Component devices into any of the HDMI ports.

      Another option is to use something like these. These will allow you to connect all your Composite devices into one Composite in on the TV. Then simply select the input on the selector box to use the device you want. You can get a selector switch for 2-6 devices. The only downside to these is you need to get up to manually use the switch, but my argument is that you mostly need to get up to insert the VCR, or grab the controller etc anyhow.

      hope this helps some

      Geoff

  12. Hello sir, i have a pc and i want to hook this up to my new 40 inch flat screen tv and i have bought a cable VGA TYPE AND PUT IT ON MY PC AND HOOKED IT TO MY TV AND TURNED ON THE TV, AND MADE SURE THE TV IS ON VGA AREA AND THEN NOTHING COMES ON , ONLY ON THE SCREEN IT SAYS NO SIGNAL. I HAVE TRIED ALL I KNOW AND CANNOT GET ANYTHING, NO PICTURE, NO VIDEO FROM MY VIDEO ON MY PC. WHAT CAN I BE DOING WRONG. THANKS FOR YOUR EXPERT ADVICE. RICHARD

    • Hi Richard,
      Providing the VGA cable is good (which it should be) and the VGA source is selected on the TV (as you say it is) then logically the computer is not talking to the TV. If it is laptop, then you often have to turn on the 2nd display (often using the Fn key and one of the other function keys). If it is desktop, you need to ensure you haven’t connected to a VGA output which is not being used (like an on-board VGA and you are using a Video card, or a HDMI only output).

      The easiest way to determine if it is a Computer or Tv problem would be try to use your computer on a another TV – if it works then it is a TV issue. If it doesn’t work on another TV, then it could be a Computer issues, try using a borrowed computer. If it still doesn’t work then it probably a VGA cable issue.

      Hopefully this will point you in the right direction to sorting it out.

      Geoff

  13. Hi Geoff:
    We have just purchased an LG LED smart TV that has no audio output suitable for Sennheiser wireless headphones. There is only a single audio out socket – optical digital audio out (square-shaped) – which I understand is for connecting home theatre.
    I have connected the headphones to the red and white audio out sockets in the cable box, but now there is a slight difference in the timing of the audio from the TV speakers and the headphones, which sounds like an echo to the user of the headphones.
    Can you please suggest a way to connect the red and white plugs from the headphones into the optical digital audio out socket in the TV, perhaps with an adapter of some kind, that will allow sharing of the sound between the TV speakers and the headphones?
    Many thanks!

    • Hi Alex,
      Yes, this is a common problem with modern TVs, as they are all digital, and have no analogue audio in them. Hence they have no analogue audio connections. The little square digital socket you mention is the way to go. You simply need a digital to analogue converter like these. You will also need an optical cable to go from the TV to the convertor, these are called “toslink” cables.

      The normal red and white leads will plug into the convertor box and supply your Sennheiser system fine.

      hope this helps

      Geoff

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