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How do I know which cables to use?
There are a handful of cables that transmit both audio and video signals. For years, coaxial video cables were one of the only choices for connecting video components. Coaxial video cables have that famous one-pin connector, sometimes called a stinger, that can either be pushed or screwed into place. Coaxial video cables are now mostly confined to outside connections, such as satellite TV or cable TV lines that come through the wall. A single coaxial cable carries both video and audio signals.
HDMI cables are an updated version of DVI. HDMI cables were also designed for use with HD components, but their connector is much slimmer, like a large USB cable. HDMI also includes HDCP copy protection. Manufacturers of HDMI cables tend to advertise their product as the only choice for connecting HD video components, but that's not true. DVI cables work equally well. However, if you're using an analog TV, all three work equally well [source: Cobalt Cable].
In Europe and the UK, the most popular dual-purpose cable is called SCART (Syndicat des Constructeurs d'Appareils Radiorécepteurs et Téléviseurs). SCART cables have fat, 21-pin connectors. In Europe, SCART cables do the work of RCA analog audio cables as well as composite, s-video and component video cables, but they can't carry high-bandwidth digital video or audio signals, such as those necessary for high-definition TVs. HDMI is the preferred cable in Europe for HD components.
FireWire, or IEEE 1394, cables are mostly associated with connecting devices to computers, but a few high-end home theater receivers and HDTVs now come with FireWire ports. FireWire is capable of carrying compressed MPEG-2 video and digital audio. You might use a FireWire cable to connect a digital video camera directly to your home theater system to show off some unedited footage.
To sum up, here are the cables that you would use for some common home entertainment systems.
Home stereo system (CD changer, stereo receiver, speakers):
Lower-end: If you're playing regular CDs or MP3s, you'll only need RCA analog audio cables and speaker wire.
Higher-end: If you want crisper digital audio, go for optical or digital coaxial cables and thicker speaker wire.
Highest-end: If you want the unparalleled sound of DVD-audio in full surround sound, you'll need special DVD-audio cables and 12-gauge speaker wire.
Alternatively referred to as a cord, connector or plug, a cable is one or more wires covered in plastic that transmit power or data between devices or locations. The picture is an example of what the power cord may look like for your computer or monitor. The power cord is one example of thousands of other cables found in and around computers.
There are two main types of computer cables, a data cable and a power cable. A data cable is a cable that provides communication between devices. For example, the data cable (i.e., DVI, HDMI, or VGA) that connects your monitor to your computer allow it to display a picture on the monitor. Other popular examples of data cables include the CAT5, IDE/EIDE, SATA, and USB cables. A power cable is any cable that powers the device. For example, the power cord that connects to your computer and a Molex style cable inside the computer are both good examples of power cables. Below, is a listing of the most common types of cables found with computers and electronics and examples of devices that use them.