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S-Video Connectors and Cables Explained

S-Video connectors often provide a quick and easy way to connect audio-visual components.

You might recognize them as they can be color-coded yellow.

However, not always, so don't rely on this - because a composite connection is often yellow too!

So what is an S-Video connection exactly, and when should you use it?

And, can you connect an S-Video output to a composite input connection?

Read on to discover the secrets of an S-Video connection.

What Do S-Video Connectors Look Like?

An S-Video connection on your device will look something like this.

Video adapter with a 4-pin s-video connection

The most common type is this 4-pin mini-DIN connection, pictured above.

However, you may also come across some with 7-pins like the one pictured below.

7-pin S-Video Connector on the side of a laptop

The 7-pin version is more common on PCs and notebook computers. The extra pins can be used to send an RGB video signal.

An S-Video connection with 7-pins will accept a cable with 4-pins. However, you obviously can't connect a 7-pin cable into a 4-pin port.

Even though the connection is circular, the plug will only fit one way due to the position of the holes for the pins.

Don't push too hard until you have it lined up correctly as it is quite easy to damage the cable this way.

What Does the S-Video Cable Look Like?

S-Video Cable

An S-Video cable looks like this. This is the version with a male 4-pin mini-DIN.

You should be careful when inserting the plug as it is quite easy to bend the pins.

If the pins do get bent, you can often use a small screwdriver or pair of long nose pliers to straighten out the wonky pins.

Be careful though, too much movement will result in the pins breaking off. 

Been there, done that.

A simple, well-made S-Video cable should be all that you need. I wouldn't spend extra for a 'high-performance' cable. But, you can if you like.

Something like this S-Video cable at Amazon should provide a reliable signal:

Cmple 4-PIN Gold-Plated S-Video Cable
Check Price

The main thing to check is that the cable has the correct number of pins for the connection on your device. The cable pictured above has 4-pins.

What Does S-Video Do?

S-Video connectors transmit a medium quality analog video signal between devices. It can only transmit standard-definition images and it does not send audio.

It is a fairly common interface on many types of consumer audio-visual equipment - especially things like video cameras and game consoles.

If you use this type of connection for the picture, then you will need a separate connection for the audio.

When Should I use an S-Video Connection?

You would mainly use an S-Video connector for things like linking your video camera or an old games console to your TV - or for other older consumer electronics devices with limited alternative connections.

An S-Video connection wouldn't normally be used to interconnect devices such as DVD players and Blu-ray players. These devices will usually have better options such as an HDMI connector - or by using a component video cable.

And, most of these devices wouldn't have an S-Video out anyway.

However, you should get a better image using this type of video than with a composite video connection

So, if you have a choice between these two, then try S-Video first.

What Else Can You Tell Me About S-Video?

S-Video is a type of component video - but don't confuse this with the standard component video connections you find on consumer AV devices.

It can be called component as the video signal is split into two separate signals - luminance (brightness) and chrominance (color).

This process of separating the signal produces a better image than we get with a composite signal.

Can I Convert S-Video to Composite Video?

Yes, you can.

Consider this. What do you do if you have a video device with an S-Video output - but you only have a composite video input on your TV - or other display device?

That's easy. Just buy a simple S-Video to composite video adapter cable like this:

StarTech S-Video to Composite Video Adapter Cable
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Then, connect the S-Video connector on the adapter cable into your output device. You can then use a simple composite video cable from the adapter into your display device.

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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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