Whether you're creating an all-in-one home theater system or making the most out of your Internet connection speed, at Best Buy you'll find the A/V cables you need to do it right. We'll help you learn more about the different types of cables and how to make the ideal connection between your devices and your content.
What kind of A/V cable do I need?
Without the right cable connections, you won't experience the best possible picture and sound quality your devices are capable of. Your expensive TVs, speakers and computers deserve better, and so do you.
Your connection is only as strong as the weakest component involved. It doesn't matter how nice your TV or monitor is if your cable can't carry a strong enough signal to keep up.
Video cables connect your television or monitor to a set-top box, DVD player, or other device. While wirelessly streaming video has become more common, a hard-wired connection is still the most common way people watch video at home because it's usually faster and more reliable. The spread of HD video brought a diverse selection of high-definition cabling options, but HDMI has emerged as the industry standard.
HDMI was crowned king of high-definition video cables by an industry-wide group of A/V manufacturers that wanted a consistent, universal format to use in their products. Why did they settle on HDMI? For one, it's the only format that carries a video signal in its original, all-digital form, resulting in the purest video output possible. HDMI cables also transmit audio, making it simple to connect an entire system without a tangle of wires running between components.
And HDMI is still evolving. As newer video formats like 3D and 4K Ultra HD require signals to be carried faster (measured in Gigabits per second, or Gbps), HDMI cables have increased capacity to keep up. Your cable's age is a good indicator of its capabilities.
Not all HDMI cables are created equal. Higher-end cables offer greater durability, support for all forms of 4K Ultra HD picture quality (2160p), and extra features like built-in Ethernet capability. These high-speed cables are retro-compatible and can still handle any connection your old HDMI cable is capable of.
AudioQuest HDMI cables offer superb quality, a wide range of options, and those additional features like Ethernet capability within the same cable.
Component cables split up a video signal into three component signals, with corresponding plugs usually colored in red, green and blue. These cables can transmit high-definition video (but not audio) and remain compatible with most home theater systems. For example, you can use a component cable to connect a Blu-ray player or high-definition gaming console to an HDTV.
Capable of HD signal transmission, VGA cables are mostly used to connect a PC or laptop to an external monitor, TV or projector. This lets you compute using two screens simultaneously or project video onto a larger screen. An audio cable is still needed for sound playback. You might also see these cables referred to as 15-pin D-sub cables (named after the connector they use).
DVI cables are also primarily used with high-definition computer monitors. Unlike VGA cables, DVI cables carry a signal that is directly compatible with HDMI. If your computer has a DVI port, you can use a DVI-to-HDMI cable or adapter to play 1080p-quality video on any HDTV with an HDMI port. DVI does not support sound signals and needs to be paired with an audio cord for audio playback, including when connected to an HDMI port.
S-video cables are only capable of transmitting standard-definition video and need to be paired with audio cables. If you use an S-video cable to connect a DVD player to an HDTV, you'll experience better video than with composite cables, but your picture quality will be lowered to standard definition.
This is the classic yellow, red and white three-plug cable for standard-definition video. For instance, you can use this cable to plug a VCR or early-generation gaming console into a standard-definition tube television. Using adapters, you can also connect older video technology to your HDTV, keeping in mind that your picture will remain in standard quality.
Coaxial RF cables
Coax cables are most often used to connect your cable box with your TV receiver. They carry the lowest-quality standard-definition video signal, so using these cables will reduce the picture quality of almost any source newer than a VCR.
Audio cables are used to connect your sound source to your device's internal speakers or to an A/V receiver. Some audio cables can carry sound to more channels (e.g., speakers and subwoofers) than others.
Analog audio cables can only carry two channels; this is known as stereo sound. Analog cables work well for playing back most CDs, which have only two audio channels encoded. Analog signals can be interfered with by the signals of surrounding cables or ambient radio waves.
Digital audio cables are capable of carrying the six or more channels needed for surround sound. Digital signals are much less susceptible to interference than analog signals.
HDMI cables are the most compatible and easiest to use audio cables on the market today. Since HDMI cables don't compress audio signals, they're the only way to get true high-definition surround sound, and the only digital cables able to transmit new audio formats like Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio.
Digital coaxial cables
These digital audio cables are capable of carrying up to 7.1 surround sound. Their plugs, and the ports they fit in, usually are colored orange.
Optical audio ports are found on many TVs, cable boxes, subwoofers, and other audio-carrying products. These digital cables are the least affected by signal interference, especially over long distances. However, they don't have enough bandwidth to carry surround-sound audio beyond 5.1 (6-channel audio). Also, these cables can be ruined easily if bent at too sharp an angle.
Dual RCA cables
In composite cables, these red and white analog audio cables come bundled with a yellow video cable. They can also be purchased separately and produce stereo sound.
Coaxial RF cables
This cable typically connects an entire home theater, not just an audio system, to a cable jack. A coaxial RF cable transmits a stereo audio signal along with a video signal.
Speaker wire carries the sound signal from your A/V receiver to your speakers and consists of a copper-based wire wrapped in an insulating material. The diameter of this wire is given a number using the American Wire Gauge (AWG) standard. The smaller the gauge number, the thicker the wire and the more current it can handle. In general, lower-gauge (thicker) wire does a better job preventing signal degradation over distance. However, wire thickness is only part of the story. Higher-end cables such as Monster use superior construction and materials to maintain signal integrity and the full range of frequency response, so your music and sound is reproduced with the best clarity and depth possible.
This useful cable can connect any device with a headphone jack — an iPad, iPhone, MP3 player, or laptop — to any other, such as a car stereo with an AUX port or a home entertainment system with a mic jack. The wired connection can result in a higher-quality signal and reduce interference that might occur with a wireless signal like Bluetooth or FM.
Networking cables connect devices like computers and game consoles to an Internet router, to each other, or to other devices on a network (scanners, printers, etc.). While wireless networks are practically everywhere these days, wired connections are often faster and more reliable. The strength of a networking cable is measured by the amount of bandwidth it can carry, in megabits per second (Mbps).
Ethernet cables are the most common type of home-networking cable. They connect routers, computers and other network devices that have similar-looking ports to the ones phone lines use. These cables are separated into categories by carrying capacity: as the category number increases, so does the carrying capacity. Category 5 (CAT5) Ethernet cables can carry up to 100 Mbps of data, fast enough to meet most home computing needs.
Largely replaced in recent years by Ethernet cable, coaxial cable is still used by cable broadband providers. It's the same cable used to carry television signals and can carry up to 30 Mbps.
Transmitting data as pulses of light instead of electrical signals, fiber optic cables can carry more data than other networking cables — up to 40 Gbps — and suffer very little signal loss or interference over long distances.
Installing Your Cables
Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind when installing your cables. If you aren't the do-it-yourself type, contact the Geek Squad® to set up a consultation or home-installation appointment.
Make sure the cable will be long enough to reach the devices you want connected, accounting for any obstacles in the way. It's okay to budget a few extra feet, but if the cable is too long you may start to experience signal interference and degradation.
In-wall, underground and outdoor installation
If you're running your cable through a wall, underground, or outdoors, verify it's rated for that kind of use. Usage guidelines should be described on the packaging or in the product description online.
When installing a cable into a hard-to-access location, consider high-quality cables that will still work with your system after you upgrade other components.
Splitters, couplers and adapters
These tools can be used to connect, split and extend your cords practically any way imaginable. Consult the Geek Squad®online or in store or our Blue Shirts in store to help you make the connection you need.
Shop Online or In Store
Find a wide variety of A/V cables at BestBuy.com. Your local Best Buy store also has a large selection of cables. Plus, our friendly Blue Shirts are there to answer questions and help with choosing the best cable for your needs.