High calibre, high definition hook-up

It’s important to make the right choice when wiring your gear together

In our experience, a huge number of home entertainment systems are hurt by one simple oversight: the wrong connection. What makes this especially unfortunate is that we are not talking about subtle differences in picture quality, but in many cases enormous ones. We have gone into the homes of friends and family, yanked one cable out, replaced it with another, and been gratified by the looks of amazement that have greeted the change.
So let us make sure that your system isn’t hobbled by a simple, incorrect choice.

Joining up different systems

Even the lowest cost, most basic system will use at least one connecting cable. That would be from the DVD player to your TV. As you add more components to your system, there are more connections, and in higher end systems there can be even be a daisy-chain of connections. But let us start with that basic system.

You have your HDTV with its integrated HDTV tuner, so that you can enjoy the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. But between times you will want to watch DVDs, so of course you have a DVD player.

What a lot of people do, usually because the cables that come in the DVD player’s box are free, is to use a composite video connection from the DVD player to the TV. That is, the single yellow video socket on the DVD player is connected to the equivalent one on the TV, and the red and white – right and left, respectively – audio cables are then run parallel to this.

This is the worst possible way of feeding video into your TV. If you have such a connection, we suggest that you switch on your TV now along with your DVD player. Put a DVD in the tray and go to its main menu. If there are bold colours in the main menu you will see running around the edges of those coloured areas little irritating dots of visual ‘noise’. These are artefacts due entirely to the use of composite video.

The best way to make the connection is with HDMI. It you change that composite video connection to HDMI you will see that noise eliminated, and the whole picture will deliver a feeling of stability and clarity completely different to what you experienced with composite video.

If your DVD player doesn’t have a HDMI output, don’t worry. We shall return to alternatives shortly, all of which do a better job than composite video.

GadgetGuy tip

Be prepared to spend reasonable amounts of money on interconnects, the cables that connect one item of equipment to another. By ‘reasonable’, we mean not too cheap, but not too expensive either. As a general rule, plan on spending around 10 percent of the value of your home entertainment system on good quality cables.

A note on installation

Connecting all the equipment in a home entertainment system can be complicated, especially if it involves several video sources – DVD player, HD PVR, Blu-ray recorder, Pay TV box, games console – connected via a home theatre receiver to a TV. Fortunately, several retailers provide various levels of support – for additional cost – ranging from simple advice to a full installation. Enquire about these options with your retailer, as the cost of some of these services can outweigh the hassle of getting the gear home (try fitting a 42 inch plasma into a hatchback!) and setting it up yourself.

So, what is the optimum way to connect your system? Read on…