HDTV – How To Connect Multiple Devices
January 4, 2006
If you read the article on Basic HDTV Cabling, you may have noticed that I didn’t answer part of the original question there — namely, “how do you hook up multiple program sources (cable boxes, DVD players, etc.) to the same HDTV?”
To have multiple sources, you’re going to need to have a way of switching between them. Fortunately, for most HDTV sets, there are multiple sources of inputs, and you can switch between them via the TV’s own remote.
Deciding what to plug in where
The hard part is often deciding just what device to plug into each input. Going back once again to the cabling article, you’ll notice that some cabling choices give better quality results than others.
In general, you want to plug each device into the highest quality input that it will fully support.
For example, if you’ve got an HDTV satellite receiver with component and digital output, and a progressive scan DVD with component output, then you’ll ideally want to plug the satellite receiver into an HDMI or DVI input, and the DVD into a component input.
If you don’t have HDMI or DVI, then you’ll want to plug them each into separate component inputs.
Now if for some reason you don’t have at least two component inputs, then the choices get a little uglier — you can either get an external component video switch that will let you switch between each source manually, or you could decide to take a little loss on the DVD picture quality, and plug it into an S-video input instead.
In general, each video input should also have it’s own associated set of audio inputs — this is typically analog stereo (two channel, usually red & white RCA jacks) for composite, S-Video and Component, and analog stereo or digital audio (coax or optical) for Digital inputs (HDMI or DVI).
Some HDTVs may have a single digital audio input, shared between multiple digital video inputs. If that’s the case, then there will usually be a menu option on the TV to select which digital video input is associated with the digital audio.
Frankly, if you’re doing digital audio however, then it’s probably time to look into a surround sound system and plug your audio into it instead of into the TV. In some systems this can mean that you’ll end up fumbling between two remotes to switch both the video and audio (that’s why learning remotes like the Logitech Harmony were invented), or in more advanced systems, everything will plug into a Home Theater receiver which is then plugged into the TV, and handles switching the audio with the video. But that’s a whole different article.
But for the most part, most modern HDTVs and programming sources give you enough input and connection options that with a little planning, you can manage to hook each device up to the TV (with at least stereo audio), and use the TV’s remote to switch between them.