What is a Stereo Video Cable?

Jeremy Laukkonen

A stereo video cable is a type of wire assembly that is capable of carrying both audio and visual signals. The term stereo refers to the fact that the cable can carry two channels of audio, while the video part of the name indicates that it can also transmit visual information. Stereo video cables are typically used to connect devices like digital video disc (DVD) players or camcorders to televisions. A composite stereo video cable can typically only transmit a standard definition video signal, while a component or high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) cable can be used for high definition. Stereo video may also be used to refer to two channel, three dimensional (3D) video, though there is no special cable associated with this.

RCA connectors.
RCA connectors.

The simplest type of stereo video cable typically includes wires and connectors for two audio channels and one composite video channel. Many different styles of connectors are available, as devices can have various configurations. One common stereo video cable configuration involves the use of male Radio Corporation of America (RCA) connectors on both ends. Most televisions and other audio and visual components use RCA connections, allowing this type of cable to be used with a wide variety of devices.

A HDMI® cable.
A HDMI® cable.

Small camcorders are one type of device that regularly uses another type of connector. Some of these camcorders may use a mono video cable with RCA jacks, though a different connector, such as a stereo mini plug jack, may be used instead. This type of connector can allow for one audio and two video channels, so it is possible for a stereo video cable to have a mini plug on one end and RCA plugs on the other.

Component video uses three channels of visual data, rather than the single one used in composite video. This means that a stereo component video cable would need five connectors rather than three. Component video cables sometimes come without audio connections, requiring that a separate audio cable be used. Other cables can include everything in a single assembly, such as those available for some video game systems. This type of stereo video cable will typically have a proprietary connector at one end and five RCA plugs on the other.

Video and stereo audio signals can also be carried by HDMI cables. These cables can transmit digital data, unlike most stereo video cables that carry analog signals. Another difference is that an HDMI cable has a single plug for both audio and video, unlike the three or five connectors required for composite or component stereo video cables.

Some component video cables require separate audio cables.
Some component video cables require separate audio cables.

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