How To Differentiate Your Cables

October 2016

If you've ever attempted to set up a new television or audio system, you know that differentiating the colorful cables from one another can pose a challenge that rivals mounting a heavy screen to the wall. Unfortunately, even with so much technology going wireless, cables are still a necessary evil. At a very basic level, cables facilitate the communication of audio and video signals — they don't convert or process any of the information relayed by any of the connected devices, rather, they serve as the messenger between the parties.

In this article, we will teach you how to differentiate your audio cables from your video cables and walk you through the color-coding system used by companies to make finding the right cable a little bit easier.

How To Tell Cables Apart

Audio Cables

When it comes to sound, there are two main categories of audio-only cables: analog RCA and speaker wire.

Analog RCA cables are perhaps the most common audio-only cable on the market. Often found in red and white or red and black pairs, these cables are used to connect media players (such as DVD or BluRay players) with a television or even to connect stereos to speakers. All RCA cables come in pairs in order to facilitate sound transmission from two sides of a device: the red cable transmits sound to the right side of the device, and the white (or black) cable transmits sound to the left side:

Speaker wires are made from copper and run the gamut in regards to thickness and length. These wires are used to bridge the connection between loudspeakers and audio amplifiers.

Video Cables

There are three main types of video-only cables: composite, component video, and DVI (digital video interface).

Despite being an older cable, composite cables are still the most common video-only cord on the market. Marked by its yellow connector, composite cables are often found bundled with analog RCA cables. These cables facilitate the transmission of color and brightness from a disc to your screen:

Component video cables are a sort of tri-cable made up of one red, one green, and one blue cable. These cables are most often associated with higher-technology systems, such as BluRay and HDTV, due to their ability to display sharper images and deeper colors.

DVI cables are specific to HDTVs and other high-definition systems. These 18-pin connectors could almost be mistaken for computer cables and are used to connect a video source (such as a DVD player) to a display device (such as a monitor).

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