Sticky GUIDE: Connecting Your PC To Your TV/Audio System

Discussion in 'Home Theater and Automation' started by Hi Ho, Oct 28, 2005.

  1. Hi Ho

    Hi Ho Certified Audio Nut

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    This an updated version of the "PC to TV Connections Guide" that was previously stickied. I have included updated information and more detailed explanations. I have also updated all of the links. I Hope people in need of help on the subject find it helpful.

    Types of Connections

    <FONT SIZE=3>Video Connections</FONT>
    I will begin with the basics. There are several types of video connections that you can use depending on the inputs on your TV and the outputs on your PC. The following connections carry only video. CLICK HERE for pictures of all the video connections covered in this guide.

    1. Composite Video (analog) – The most basic type; Easily identified by its single yellow RCA jack, this connection offers the lowest quality video. All video signals, color and brightness are mixed together and sent through a single coaxial cable cable. Most TV’s have this type of connection. If your’s does not it is most likely quite old and unless your PC has an RF output you would need an RF Modulator.

    2. S-Video (analog) – The next step up, offers a slight improvement over composite. Color and brightness (chroma/luminance) is sent in two separate signals. S-Video cables are made up of two coaxial cables and use a 4 pin Mini-DIN connector. This connection is found on many TVs but is less common than composite inputs. S-Video is relatively common on PC video cards and laptops. If your TV does not have an S-Video input and your PC has only and S-Video output you will need a converter like THIS.

    3. Component (analog) – Yet another step up; can be dramatically better than composite or S-Video. The video signal is split even further and sent over three separate cables. YPbPr is the standard in HD sets. This type of connection is capable of carrying high definition video signals. Many video cards offer component video out.

    4. VGA (analog) – VGA was the standard on PC monitors back in the days of chunky CRTs. Many LCD monitors still have VGA inputs but it is not the ideal connection for digital displays. VGA uses a D-Sub connector (DE15F to be specific) which is found on select HDTVs. VGA can work fine and offer excellent video quality but I have had better luck using other connections.

    5. DVI (digital) – This digital connection offers the best possible video quality when used with digital displays. DVI is explained in detail HERE. For the purpose of this guide, all one needs to know is that DVI is present on virtually all modern graphics cards and most cards offer VGA output through the DVI connector using a DVI-VGA Adapter. More importantly, however, is the ability for one to adapt a DVI output to HDMI which is much more common on HD sets using a DVI-HDMI Adapter.\

    6. HDMI (digital) – This is the newest type of connection. It is meant to replace DVI. It is, in fact, identical to DVI except for the fact that it is a different connector and can also carry audio signals. HDMI is capable of carrying high definition video and up to eight channels of high definition audio. Many modern laptops offer HDMI output along with a growing number of video cards.

    7. SCART – SCART is a standardized connection found only in Europe. It is used to connect audio/video equipment using a single cable. It combines the analog connections, including audio, into a single cable. PC’s do not have SCART connections. There are adapters available.

    <FONT SIZE=3>Audio Connections</FONT>

    You will probably want sound along with your video. Here is a breakdown of the different audio connections you may encounter. CLICK HERE for pictures of all the audio connections covered in this guide.

    1. RCA Connection – This is the most common audio input on TVs and many receivers. Signals are sent over two cables (stereo). Signals are analog and quality depends on the quality of the cable and the equipment.

    2. Mini-Plug – (3.5mm) This is the most common output on PC sound cards. It is basically the same format as RCA except it is combined into one connector and cable. Some sets offer a 3.5mm input but it is more than likely that one will need a 3.5mm to RCA cable.

    3. Coax Digital – This connection sends signals over a single 75OHM coaxial cable with RCA connectors. It is hard to beat a digital connection. It is the best way to go if you have a sound card with a digital output and a receiver with a coax input. One possible problem is that it may only go about 15 feet before it needs a repeater. My personal experience, however, has shown that transmissions of 50ft are possible. I have a 50 foot length of RG-6 cable linking my PC to my home theater system and it works great.

    4. Optical (TosLink) – This connection sends signals over fiber-optic cable using light pulses. It’s certainly the “hippest” way to connect and audio quality is top notch. Audio quality is virtually identical between optical and coax connections. Optical signals can be sent over very long distances and while the cables aren’t at bargain bin prices it is usually cheaper for long distances than coax and repeaters. A possible drawback is that if you bend an optical cable too sharply it will never work again. If you’re careful though you won’t have to worry much.
    *Note: Most sound cards will not output a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital signal when playing a game. The only way to achieve this is with a card that includes a Dolby Digital Live (DDL) or DTS Interactive (DTS-I) encoder. Either of those chips encode all of the sounds from a PC into a Dolby Digital or DTS stream. Most sound cards, including the popular Creative Audigy and even the brand new X-Fi series will not do that out of the box. Creative offers a $5 software upgrade that supposedly enables a DDL encoder that has been there all along but buyer beware as I paid for it and never got it to work. The bottom line, if you want to play games and transmit sound over the digital connection you need a sound card with DDL or DTS-I or you will get nothing more than two channel audio via a digital connection.

    <FONT SIZE=3>Down to Business</FONT>

    Now that we have covered all (or at least most) of the connections you may encounter it’s time to clarify things and narrow it down to your specific needs.

    Simple Connection to TV

    The first thing to do is determine the common connections between your PC and TV. It should be rather straight-forward from there. If your TV does not have any of the more advanced connections it’s either time for a new TV or, as mentioned above, you will need an RF Modulator. You can connect to a VCR in the same way. Either by RCA or through an RF modulator. Don't expect great results using this method.

    Connecting With a Reciever
    Throwing a receiver into the mix adds a bit to the complexity. It can offer more options and better sound quality. A digital connection will give you the best sound quality but, as covered in the note above, you will not get 5.1 sound in anything but DVD movies. Whether you go coax or optical depends on what your equipment has available. There is no difference in audio quality between the two. Many sound cards that have a digital output, also known as S/PDIF (Sony/Phillips Digital Interface), use a mini-plug output. In that case you will need a 1/8in mini plug to RCA agapter and a regular 75 OHM coax cable.

    If you want to play games using your home theater receiver and have 5.1 sound without buying a sound card with DDL or DTS-I, you can use multi-channel analog connections. This is assuming that your receiver has a multi-channel analog input. Check your receiver’s manual to see if you have this feature. If so, three 3.5mm to RCA cables would be required.


    Software/TV Settings

    Now that you have your TV connected you are probably wondering how on earth you’re supposed to get your TV to display anything. The first thing to do is make sure you have selected the correct video input on your TV. It is usually a button on the remote labeled “Input”, “Video Mode” or something similar. If you cannot figure it out consult your TV’s user manual. (If you don’t have your TV’s users manual you may find it at the manufactures website).

    Setting the software can be more difficult to figure out. Even then, it’s not hard. The exact procedure depends on the video card you have. I will cover the two major players in the video card industry. ATI and Nvidia. Before attempting to follow these directions make sure you have the newest drivers installed for your video card. Below are links to directions on the Nvidia and ATI websites.

    Nvidia

    ATI

    Tip
    Don't fall for overpriced cables. They offer little more than better aesthetics and a very nice markup for the retailer. I use Monoprice.com for all of my cables.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 25, 2009
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  2. secrecyguy

    secrecyguy

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  3. ComputerDragon79

    ComputerDragon79

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    I have a question that's basically this topic in reverse. I have my TV output connected to my computers input (RCA connection, plugged into the video cards video input). Is there a way to view the display in full screen, kind of like a dual display where what I see on television is seen on the monitor?

    Note: I don't know if it's relevant, but I have a ATI All-in-wonder 9800 pro.
     
  4. trowand

    trowand

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    Hey, don't the high end sound cards like the platinum version of the Audigy 2 ZS and X-Fi (with all the bells & whistles that you install in a 5.25" drive bay) have a DD optical output?
     
  5. Hi Ho

    Hi Ho Certified Audio Nut

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    It depends on what you're doing with it. If you're playing games, then no, even the new X-Fi cards will not output 5.1 over the digital connection. Appearently Creative would rather sell the encoder seperately.

    If you're watching DVD movies, then yes, you will get Dolby Digital/DTS from the digital output.
     
  6. trowand

    trowand

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    Yeah, I just saw that DTS-610 reviewed in MaximumPC magazine. It looks like I'll need it to hook my PC up to my Sony ES receiver. I decided that since I never get upstairs to use my home theater/surround sound system anymore (since my kids were born), I'll bring it downstairs and hook it up to my PC for some surround sound gaming goodness!
     
  7. RJ

    RJ

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    Something to add about the SCART: It includes Composite, S-Video and RGB for the video connections. It does not include Component.
    Besides the stereo audio the SCART connector also includes a pin for automatically switching to the SCART and 4:3 / 16:9 mode change.

    RJ
     
  8. EHFR

    EHFR

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    I've been having some trouble getting digital audio from my audigy 2 zs card to my receiver in digital audio. I'm actually using the wire you mentioned in the link your original post (nice post btw), but i only get two channels. Do I lose some of the signal somehow as the wire splits into L/R channels?

    Perhaps I should give up and switch to analog signal since my receiver does accept 5.1 analog input. Just would need to splice off the signal for the fronts so that I could send one chunk to the receiver and another to the desktop speakers (so the receiver doesn't need to be on all the time)
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2006
  9. Hi Ho

    Hi Ho Certified Audio Nut

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    Are you trying to get 5.1 sound in games or movies? If it is movies then you should be getting 5.1 sound provided your DVD software is a full version and supports 5.1 sound (OEM versions require a plug-in).

    If you are trying to get 5.1 in games then you are out of luck. The Audigy cards will only pass 2ch stereo through the digital output. The analog outputs will work fine though.

    See the note above:

     
  10. trowand

    trowand

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    Have you guys seen this?!

    Hey check this out! It's a cool and easy cable made by Creative to easily hook your sound card to a HT Receiver. It's only $15! Will this output games in 5.1? Creative HT Cable

    ALSO, this link is to Creative's Professional line of PC Audio hardware. Will any of this work? Emu High End PC Audio
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2006
  11. Hi Ho

    Hi Ho Certified Audio Nut

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    That cable will work fine. It's basically three mini-jack to RCA cables in one.

    The EMU cards are not for games or movies. They are for recording. M-Audio is more popular for that than the Creative cards.
     
  12. indigo0086

    indigo0086

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    I was wondering, if I do hdmi<->dvi cable to go out from my computer to tv, is htere a way to have audio simultaneously while it's in your computer?
     
  13. Dustmann

    Dustmann

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    Thank you Hi Ho! I was going crazy trying to figure out why my $200 abit fatal1ty board with 7.1 "audiomax" would NOT run surround sound through games, but my $70 nf7s would. That is the first soundcard I've found with a coax out, I've been searching for one forever! You should win a prize man. :cool:
     
  14. vw_zach

    vw_zach

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    I don't have a video out of any kind on my computer, is there a way, like maybe USB to connect it to the TV, a cable of some sorts?
     
  15. Twotips

    Twotips

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    Thanks for all the information you have posted. Newbie here. I need some advice on using a 20" tv as a pc monitor. This sounds kind of funny but it is for my VERY old parents who have decided that the only way they will have a computer is to be able to view it together! They have had "WEB TV" (aaargh!) for several years and love using the email and internet. Tried setting up a pc for them, but no go. Then tried to get them to use notebook, but they didn't like the small screen.
    So...I have a few old pc's around and want to try and set one up to use with a 20" Toshiba tv that they are using to view "web tv". I have found a pc to tv converter that comes with all cords and a remote, and will set up with composite, s-video, or component for about $85.00. Then I read that all you really need is a video card with tv/out. Please tell me which will provide the clearest picture using the component video input on their tv. Will the video card connect to the component video input? Just really looking for easy set up and clearest possible picture without spending too much $$. Thanks in advance for any help/advice.
     
  16. ozb

    ozb

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    HDMI Connections to AV Receiver & TV

    Hi All,
    hoping for some help or advice, and realising that i am a novice, hope that i don't get chewed up and spat out.

    I was, until last night, happily usings a bog standard HP M8190 media centre PC running vista, with Nvidia Geforce 8600GT and (i think) a Realtek sound card connected to a LCD flat panel by DVI (video) and L/R analog audio. Flat panel is a Hitachi 32" with native resolution of 1360x768, yamaha AV receiver is RXV861.

    The realtek control panel supports digital output to HDMI output and the Nvidia supports both HDMI and DVI. I connected the PC to the receiver by HDMI cable and the receiver to the TV by HDMI, changed output settings in realtek and shutdown to restart to enable the HDMI output in the nvidia control panel (this would not switch from DVI to HDMI until i restarted and disconnected the DVI.)

    All seems to work, except.
    1. cannot get the native resolution (or even higher or lower resolutions) to fit on the monitor, as the outer edge of the desktop is outside the screen extent (just.) Have tried all the scaling options in nvidia and the full range of resoltions but not successful.
    2. the screen text is poorly reproduced, looking blurry, assume that this has something to do with the resolution issue.
    3. try to play DVD using media centre, and get a 'this disc has copy protection, cannot play in current output mode" message.

    Does anyone have any experience in adopting the HDMI connections instead of digital coax or line level outputs and any suggestions that might overcome the resolution/scaling issues i am experiencing?

    Hoping someone with a bit more experience has overcome similar issues.

    Thanks,
    Os
     
  17. Hi Ho

    Hi Ho Certified Audio Nut

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    It sounds like the PC doesn't want to play nice with the receiver and HDCP is forcing lower resolutions. Most receivers don't play nice with PCs. I would recommend switching back to DVI straight to the TV and using digital coax for audio from the PC to the receiver.
     
  18. XenaWP

    XenaWP

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    For #1, it's likely because of overscan. Basically if you use your native res. the tv set's overscan causes the edges of the display to be cut off. If you change the resolution, #2 results.

    Best I can recommend is a long visit to the Home Theater Computers sub-forum at AVS Forums. Search on overscan, nvidia, etc. until you find your answer.
     
  19. Spriggan

    Spriggan

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    Hi, I just saw this, and remembered I had more cables in the box my Mobo came in and figured I'd find what I need in there~ so I hooked this dual sided svideo cable (Each end had PRONGS) into my TV, then into another cable that had red/green/blue connectors (unused) and an svideo connection that was the same as on my TV~ But at the other end of the 2nd cable (With R/G/B) it said "HD Comp.Out" and was red... I didn't expect it to plug into my video card as I figured I'd find another SVideo connenection - but lo and behold I got it to go in.

    So I went to my NVidia Control Panel~ and went to Display / Change Display Configuration - and I told it (as I read in this forum) Use the Same on both Displays (Clone)

    and then selected "Select displays you would like to use" and told it - Sceptre X9wG-NavaV (My monitor) + TV

    then I told it my "Primary display for windows" - My monitor.

    Hit the TV/Video switch on my TV A few times, and wallah! SVideo!

    But it doesn't fit on my TV, I run 1440x900 on my widescreen monitor, and my TV is square~

    it doesn't fit top to bottom OR left to right, when I move my mouse, it scrolls side to side on the TV, but defeats the purpose of a good copy...

    How do I get it to display properly on my TV?
     
  20. EM199Si

    EM199Si

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    Is there a way to hook up my TV to show on my 17" LCD monitor?
     

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