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Composite Video Signal – the Cable and Connection Explained

Composite Video Signal - the Cable and Connection Explained


A composite video output is an easy way to connect your AV devices - but is it the best way? My guide explains if you should reach for a composite video cable...

Using a composite video signal for your home cinema devices is usually a last resort.

However, there may be times when this type of connection will be just what you need for a quick and easy connection.

Does a composite cable support audio signals? What is YUV video?

What do we need to know about this connection type?

What Does the Composite Connector Look Like?

A composite video connection looks like this:

Composite video signal connector

It is a single female RCA jack which will be color-coded yellow.

Due to the design of this type of connection, you don’t have to insert the plug a particular way round in composite video outputs and inputs.

In this case, it is marked as an ‘AV Out’. This tells you that the device is designed to send video out from these ports.

You would connect this to the ‘input’ coaxial connection on another device which will display the picture.

An output connection like this would usually be on the rear of a unit that can play video material. Like a DVD player or video camera.

Therefore, this device would send composite video to the composite input of a display device. Like a TV, or AV receiver.

It is also common for the composite video connector to be paired with a stereo analog audio output/input. As in the case in the picture above.

This is so you can send the picture and audio at the same time.

What Does the Composite Cable Look Like?

Composite video cables look like this:

Composite video cable

They will have a single male RCA connector at either end and will be color-coded yellow.

The color-coding is simply there to make connecting your system easier.

It isn’t a special type of cable purely for this type of connection, and you could use it for connecting analog audio if you wanted to.

What Does a Composite Video Connection Do?

A composite video connection transmits a basic analog video signal between devices. It sends standard-definition video only – and does not carry an audio signal.

As mentioned above, if you use a composite video signal for the picture, then you will need a separate connection to hear the audio.

When Should I use a Composite Video Signal?

Composite video outputs should normally be used as the last option to view images from a device. You should get a better image from (in order of quality):

  1. HDMI connector
  2. DVI connector
  3. Component video connector
  4. S-Video connector

Therefore if any of these options are available then it would be better to try these first.

The advantage of this type of connection is it is available on almost every audio-visual device, and so should allow you to get a picture from a wide range of devices – both new and old.

Most AV devices will also provide composite video cables in the box and so this is often the easiest type to set up. But that doesn’t mean it’s the one you should necessarily use!

What Else Can You Tell Me About Composite Video?

Composite video is an analog signal. It is not common to use this these days as most devices have some form of digital connection.

It is called a composite video signal as it combines three signals into one – known as YUV.

Y is the brightness, and UV combines to make the chrominance or color.

It is this combining of the signals which make a composite signal the most basic quality.

When you see it on a TV screen the image will appear less-defined and with poor color accuracy, compared to the various flavors of component video that you can get.

A component video signal is clearer as it separates the color signals. Which allows for a better picture.

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Composite Video Connections Explained

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About Home Cinema Guide

Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has worked as a sound, lighting and audio-visual engineer for around 20 years. At home, he has spent more time than is probably healthy installing, configuring, testing, de-rigging, fixing, tweaking, re-installing again (and sometimes using) various pieces of hi-fi and home cinema equipment.

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I just want to tell you that the way you explain things along with great visuals is beyond excellent. I read through your posts just one time on analog connections when transferring home movies to DVD and completely understood the process using the composite video to HDMI converter that I purchased. Thank you for the time and effort you put in helping those who are often in a fog working through this ever-changing technical world.
~ Sharon ~