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What Are S-Video Cables and Connectors For?

an s-video output on the rear of a DVD player

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

The 7-pin version is more common on PCs and notebook computers, and 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 to 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 pretty 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 pretty 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 break off the pins.

Been there, done that.

A simple, well-made S-Video cable should be all that you need, so you don’t need to spend extra for a ‘high-performance’ cable – but you can if you like.

As the cable transfers analog video, a cable with good shielding can be important – especially for longer runs around other electrical equipment.

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

Cmple 4-PIN Gold-Plated S-Video Cable
Cmple 4-PIN Gold-Plated S-Video Cable
Image Credit: Cmple

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.

S-Video is a reasonably standard 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, you will need to make a separate connection for the audio.

When Should You Use It?

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 usually 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 a component video connection.

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 Is There to Know?

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).

Separating the signal produces a better image than a composite signal.

Can You 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 only a composite video input on your TV – or another display device?

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

StarTech S-Video to Composite Video Adapter Cable
StarTech S-Video to Composite Video Adapter Cable
Image Credit: StarTech

Then, connect the S-Video connector on the adapter cable to your output device.

You can then use a simple RCA composite video cable from the adapter into your display device.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s answer some quick and easy questions about S-Video.

What Is S-Video Used For?

S-Video is a connection used by some consumer AV devices to send a picture to a screen or monitor. You should only use this medium-quality analog video signal if higher-quality video connections aren’t available – like HDMI or component connections.

What Is an S-Video Cable?

An S-Video cable is used for connecting S-Video connections on audio-visual devices. DVD players, video cameras, laptops and game consoles may all have an S-Video output for sending the picture to a TV or projector.

How to Use an S-Video Cable

Your source device will have a female S-Video output connection, and your screen or AV receiver will have a similar female S-Video input. You will need a male-to-male S-Video cable to connect between the device’s ports. When you select the correct input on your TV or receiver, you will see the picture from your player.

Does S-Video Have Audio?

No, S-Video doesn’t carry an audio signal. It is video-only.

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About The Author

Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has been 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. You can find out more here.

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