How do I hook these up: TV, DVD, VCR, and cable?

We got my dad a DVD player for his birthday, and the rest of the family pitched in with DVDs to start off his library (James Bond collection, WOOHOO!). Anyways, I’m looking at this stuff, trying to figure out how to hook it up, but I’m stumped.

There is:

  • one 15 year old TV with coaxial input.
  • one 5 year old VCR with coaxial input/output.
  • one cable box with coaxial output.
  • one brand spanking new DVD player with video/l-audio/r-audio output, S-video output, and coaxial output that looks nothing like the coaxial ports I’m used to seeing.

The DVD player came with a video/l-audio/r-audio connector, but that’s not a whole lot of use to me. The coaxial connector looks just like all the rest of the connectors on the DVD, and nothing like the coaxial connectors on the VCR, cable box, and TV. Also, the DVD player has no video input, so I can’t piggyback anything on it AND the direction says I must connect it directly to the TV, and not through the VCR (otherwise, I’ll get noise in the picture).

The best solution would be if I could somehow hook everything up to the TV. The next best solution would be to get the cable box and DVD hooked up to the TV. The VCR could go to the TV upstairs.

Is there any sort of cable adaptor or junction box I should get? I promised my parents you guys could help me out. I’ll be back later today to read your advice.

I ran into a similar problem when I bought my DVD player. Luckily, my VCR had RCA (video/l-audio/r-audio) in/outs, so I just piggybacked the DVD onto the VCR. Is buying a new TV or VCR a viable option? New TVs and VCRs come with coax and RCA in/out connectors, so that would solve your problem. Just connect the DVD to the RCA inputs on the TV or VCR, and run the coax from cable box to VCR to TV.

If a new TV or VCR isn’t an option, Radio Shack sells an RF modulator for $30.00 that lets you connect multiple components to the TV (I tried to include a link here to the page on the website, but it won’t work for some reason. Go to the site and click on TV/Audio/Video -> Video Converters -> RF Modulator/Switch). You might be able to connect the VCR and DVD to the modulator, or you might have to use a separate A/B switch to toggle between them. Hopefully, someone more experienced in this kind of stuff will come along and give you a better answer. Good luck.

What do you mean the coax jacks look “different?” There are two types I know of, the screw kind and the pop kind. You should be able to use regular coax patch cables.

What I would do is get one of them nifty coax switches from Radio Shack, and do this:

Cable --> VCR --> Switch --> TV
           DVD -/

You then have to operate the switch to change from the VCR to the DVD, but that’s not a big deal. This arrangement will also allow you to tape off your cable as usual.

If a standard CATV/Antenna coax patch doesn’t fit any of those ports, then probably he does not have a “coax” at all – my DVD, not exactly the top o’the line, included RCA video & audio L/R connectors, S-video connector, and a “digital out” that looks at first like a coax but isn’t. From what I saw while shopping for my DVD deck, the standard CATV coax connector is NOT standard on DVD decks. Fortunately, 6 months before that I had bought an inexpensive ($99) VCR with the proper plugs.

In his setup the “odd man out” is the DVD deck and headshok has described the likely solutions.

As to how come this bit of elementary retro-compatibility has been ignored, specially when coax-only VCRs and TVs were still being sold as DVD was introduced, my hypothesis is that the makers expected the bulk of people who would pop the dough for this new technology at the start would be people already invested in the more updated/elaborate audio-video setups, and that by the time We The Peoples got around to it we would have replaced our older TVs and VCRs or bought adapters.


Radio Shack also sells an S-Video-to-RCA converter which you could buy along with a standard S-Video cable. Then you could use the S-Video and l/r audio outs on the DVD to piggypack through the VCR or through one of those A/V distributors.

He’s probably got an AC-3 RF output (the jack next to the words “video accessory”).

Most Laserdisc & DVD players deliver Dolby Digital (AC3) RF (Radio Frequency) modulated signals that have to be converted into digital bit stream signals before processing in many A/V amplifiers and receivers. Here’s more info on AC-3.

Ugh. A / V wiring is complicated, especially if you’re short of inputs & have to start cheating with Y-cables & mechanical switches. My suggestions is probably the most expensive: get a new receiver that is A / V capable (has multiple inputs & a single video feed to the television).

We ended up going to Radio Shack this evening, and a really helpful guy there got us straightened out. With an RF modulator and a switchbox, we should be able to get everything straightened out.