How to Buy Video and Audio Cables

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How to Buy Video and Audio Cables

Anyone who has had the chance to wander through an electronics dealer these days knows how diverse the choices for sound and vision equipment have got. There are literally dozens of combinations that users can purchase when considering the combinations of audio and visual elements. As a result, it is easy to get overwhelmed and, ultimately, overcharged for video and audio cables. However, understanding the ins and outs of video and audio cables is not as complex as it seems. Indeed, learning how to buy video and audio cables is as simple as breaking the purchase of each item down into three simple steps.

With a little information, buyers can feel more comfortable navigating through the process of buying video and audio cables, by understanding some very basic steps and what their options are. This includes choosing the best format of both video and sound as well as finding the cables necessary to provide it. In addition, understanding the various places to purchase video and audio cables, as well as the ease of buying them on eBay, will increase the confidence level of the consumer and enable him or her to make an informed decision before buying.

Three Steps for Buying Video Cables

The purpose of video cables is to carry the electronic signal of a video source, such as a satellite receiver box or DVD player, through to the television screen. In order to optimise set-up, it is important that buyers make sure they have the right cable for the job. Indeed, the wrong connection can immediately turn the highest quality picture into the lowest. Therefore, buyers need to carefully evaluate their video connection and options, determine the proper cable type and length, and, finally, compare the materials of cables available.

Step 1: Evaluate the Video Connection

The video cable connects a video source, such as a DVD player, to the television. Therefore, step one to finding the right video cable is evaluating the highest resolution connection available on both video sources. Resolution refers to the number of 'scan lines' that are visible on the screen. Each scan line contains thousands of tiny dots which are called pixels. More lines equate to more pixels displayed and thus a sharper picture. In general, video will come measured in 240, 480, 720, or 1080, referring to the number of scan lines on the screen.

In addition to the number of lines, video resolution is also measured based on the type of picture displayed: interlaced (i) or progressive (p). The difference between these two types of picture qualities depends on how the screen displays the picture, either in two batches (interlaced) or one (progressive). The latter produces a smoother and clearer image, and is subsequently considered to higher quality. Picture type will be displayed as a letter following the scan line number, e.g., 1080i vs. 1080p.

Step 2: Select Video Cable Type and Measure Length

Once the capabilities of the television as well as the video source have been evaluated, the next step is finding a video cable that provides service at the highest end of each device’s spectrum. Therefore, providing a 780p cable for a 1080p television is not the best option, as the quality of the picture will suffer.

In addition, it’s a good idea for buyers to first measure the distance between the television and video source to ensure they know how long the video cable needs to be in order to connect the two comfortably.

Step 3: Compare the Materials

The final step in choosing the best video cables involves evaluating the different materials that are used to make the cables. Clearly, the higher the quality of cable material, the better the picture that the cable produces. This is because a higher-quality cable is better equipped to send the signal from unit to unit while also filtering out any interference. In general, top of the line materials include multi-layer shielding, oxygen-free copper conductors, gold-plated connectors, and strong outer jackets (for protecting the actual cable from damage).

Three Steps for Buying Audio Cables

As video cables do for picture, audio cables transmit sound between major components of a home entertainment system, most often between a stereo and speakers. Just like with video systems and their cables, getting the best performance out of an audio system relies on the user employing the proper audio cables. There are three basic steps in choosing the right audio cables to buy: determining the best sound format, finding the right interconnect cable, and, finally, selecting the proper speaker cable.

Step 1: Determining the Best Sound Format

The first step in buying audio cables is determining the sound format of the audio source. Buyers can either look at the equipment they already own, or make this determination during the purchase of other audio equipment. Obviously, newer technology costs more, so budget will come into play in this decision as well. However, in general, there are only three basic formats from which to choose: stereo sound, analogue surround sound, and digital surround sound.

Step 2: Finding the Right Interconnect Cable

After deciding on or determining the sound format for the audio system, the first cable that needs to be purchased is the interconnect cable. Interconnect cables transmit messages between the audio receiver and the audio source. Therefore, the proper interconnect cable must be compatible with both units. However, there are some further distinctions beyond stereo, analogue, and digital that buyers need to consider.

General Format

Specific Types of Formats

Recommended Interconnect Cables

Dual channel sound


RF Coaxial Cable

Dual RCA Cable

HDMI Cable

Optical Cable

Coaxial Cable

Analogue Surround Sound

Dolby Pro Logic

DTS Neo:6

RF Coaxial Cable

Dual RCA Cable

HDMI Cable

Optical Cable

Coaxial Cable

Digital 5.1 Surround Sound

Dolby Digital

DTS Digital Sound

Multichannel RCA Cable

HDMI Cable

Optical Cable

Coaxial Cable

Digital 6.1 Surround Sound

Dolby Digital Surround EX

DTS-ES Discrete

Multichannel RCA Cable

HDMI Cable

Optical Cable

Coaxial Cable

Digital 7.1+ Surround Sound

Dolby Digital Plus

Dolby TrueHD

DTS-HD Master Audio


HDMI Cable

The key to buying the proper interconnect cable is found in matching the needs of the audio receiver with the needs of the TV. Whereas some cables, such as the HDMI cable, will work for all formats, others are stricter. That is why the first step, determining the sound format, is so important.

Step 3: Selecting the Proper Speaker Cable

The second and final cable that needs to be chosen is the speaker cable. A basic speaker cable consists of a pair of wire conductors encased in an insulated plastic covering. There are two main elements to consider in the selection of speaker cables: gauge and connection type.

Speaker Cable Gauge

The gauge of a speaker cable refers to the physical size of its wires. This measurement is determined through taking note of the diameter of the wires inside of the cord, which is then expressed in the British Imperial Standard Wire Gauge or SWG. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the wire is.

It is important to note that, the thicker or larger the diameter of the wire, the greater its capacity to transmit a current. A greater capacity equates to being able to carry sound for a longer distance without interference. Therefore, wires that need to be run for longer distances should be of a lower (i.e. thicker) gauge than those needed for much shorter distances.

Speaker Cable Connection Type

The next consideration when buying speaker wires is the type of connection needed between the cables and the speakers themselves. The point of contact between these two elements is called a cable terminal. There are two basic set-ups used in cable terminals, and determining which one is needed for a particular speaker will help buyers decide on the best speaker cable to buy.

The first option, spring clips, uses a clamping mechanism to attach to either stripped wire or pin connectors. The other option, 5-way binding posts, uses screw down connectors to accept either the same stripped wires or pins as well as banana plugs and spade lugs.

Where to Buy Video and Audio Cables

Once buyers have gone through the process of determining which video and audio cables are needed for their particular set-up, the buying process can commence. There are several stores and websites that offer video and audio cables for sale, including large electronics retailers, small sound and vision shops, and their online equivalents. One convenient option for many buyers is to shop for video and audio cables online through eBay.

Buying Video and Audio Cables on eBay

Choosing to buy video and audio cables on eBay is a smart decision for many people. The structure of eBay's website makes the purchasing process simple and effective. Buyers who are new to eBay can register for an account with ease and begin to search immediately.

eBay's search system is set up in a way that makes it easy to find anything you want without hassle. This means you can initiate a search from any page on the site by simply typing keywords into the main search bar. For many buyers looking for video and audio cables, this means being specific. Try typing something like 'HDMI interconnect cable' for stronger results than simply 'interconnect cable' or 'HDMI' alone.

Once items have been located, you will find that using the eBay site and its many tools to evaluate products is also simple. Since eBay is a community that brings together many sellers and buyers from all over, this process involves reading the listing for the specific product of interest as well as the details about the seller who offers it. By taking the time to cover these steps, eBay buyers are likely to have a better experience overall.


Learning how to buy video and audio cables does not have to be hard. In fact, evaluating the proper cables for a particular set-up is as easy as following three simple steps for each type of cable.

For video cables, buyers should begin by determining the type of video connection they have. Using a system of measurement that accounts for the number of lines on the screen at any given time as well as the way in which those lines are delivered is key to finding the right video cable. Buyers also need to consider the cable's length as well as the materials with which it is made.

For audio cables, a similar three-step process needs to take place. Buyers begin by assessing the type of audio system that they have or will buy. Then, the interconnect cable needed is determined based on this evaluation. There is one other type of audio cable needed – speaker cables – and these cables require a different evaluation. Here, buyers must determine the proper gauge of the speaker cables as well as the connection needed to unite these cables to the speakers they serve.

Finally, after these elements have been evaluated, buyers are ready to purchase video and audio cables. This can be done in a number of places, however, eBay offers its users some of the best selections and deals around. Combining the eBay shopping experience with buying video and audio cables is a great way to save time and money.

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