What is an AV Composite Cable?

RCA jacks are found on most digital video recorders.
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  • Written By: Jeff C.
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2015
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An AV composite cable contains a video cable and an audio cable and are often referred to by the acronym CVBS, meaning "color, video, blank and sync." Composite cables are distinguished by three RCA connectors and are the most common connection between televisions and VCRs. RCA connections were invented in the 1940s by the Radio Corporation of America and largely replaced the "tip, ring, sleeve" (TRS) connectors or jack plugs.

AV composite cable is does not transmit signals at very high quality compared to some of the other types of cable available. Cable hierarchy from lowest quality to highest quality is coaxial cable, AV composite cable, S-Video cable, component cable, and HDMI cable. The use of AV composite cable is restricted to analog, not digital signals. Composite video cables are capable of transmitting NTSC, PAL, and SECAM signals.

A composite video cable contains one wire pair and is defined as any single cable that transmits all the brightness, sync, and color signals via a single RCA connector. This cable is quickly identified as the cable terminating in the yellow RCA connector. Composite video cables cannot support high definition or progressive scan signals and are intended to connect older video components, such as VCRs and televisions.


AV composite cables cost a fraction of their digital counterparts, component or HDMI cables. Most modern televisions offer a composite connection on the front of the set for hassle free connection of camcorders, digital cameras, computers, and older video game consoles. Composite video cables can transmit a 480i resolution; the "i" is short for interlace, and denotes how the video images are broadcast to the screen. Interlaced means the cathode ray tube (CRT) gun paints the screen with the even numbered lines on a first pass and then renders the odd numbered on a second pass. The CRT afterglow, combined with persistence of vision, allows the image to be viewed flitter-free at half the bandwidth progressive scan requires.

A composite audio cable can be recognized by the red and white RCA connectors. The red connector is for the right audio channel, and the white connector is for the left audio channel. Composite audio cables carry a stereo signal of far higher quality than that provided by coaxial cable. Using RCA connections to pass analog line-level audio signals between components is still the industry standard. RCA jacks can be found on most types of audio/video component, including TVs and digital video recorders.


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Post 3

I am surprised to read in this article that coaxial cable connections are considered the lower rung of video quality.

Actually, that would explain a problem I’ve been having. Some months ago I bought a high definition flat screen television. I have satellite but a non-high definition receiver.

Therefore, I connect the TV to the receiver by using coaxial cable. (Actually I think that I have component cable too, but I haven’t messed with that).

Long story short, I haven’t been too pleased with the picture quality. It certainly looks like nothing comparable to the video quality I saw in the store.

It’s not terrible, but sometimes the picture gets a little blurred as it tries

to stretch those signals into high definition. I have options on my remote where I can basically turn off the high definition, but this results in cropping the picture from top to bottom and left to right.

I guess I’ll have to bite the bullet and get a high definition receiver, and an HDMI cable.

Post 2

@Mammmood - Yeah, I know what you mean. I have a camcorder AV cable for my digital camcorder and it’s very versatile.

Not only does it let me play my video direct to TV, but it also lets me digitize my analog recordings. I hook up the connections the same way, except I press “record” on the camcorder and it will record what’s playing on TV onto my digital tape.

I realize that there are more convenient ways of doing analog to digital conversions, but this has come in handy and doesn’t require me routing any signals through a computer.

Post 1

While a standard AV composite cable is not exactly the best for high quality signal transmissions, it sure has been a life saver on a number of occasions.

I have composite cable connections on both old and new audio, video and game console equipment, and if it weren’t these connections, I wouldn’t be able to get these devices talking to each other.

These cable connections are very reliable, and just about every manufacturer offers them with their equipment. You can consider composite cables a kind of Swiss army knife of cables, when nothing else will do.

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