March 17, 2007

Is your cable TV connection only providing monophonic sound?

If you are fortunate to not need a cable box to get your cable TV, the feed directly from the cable company carries stereo sound, and connecting your TV directly to the cable will result in stereo sound on your TV. If, however, your cable service requires the use of a cable box, and you connect a stereo TV or stereo VCR or any other device using the coaxial (RF) cable wire (the typical connection made by the person who comes and connects your cable) from the cable box to your TV or VCR, you are only getting monophonic sound, not stereo.

So what do you need to do if your cable company requires the use of a cable box and you want stereo sound to come out of your stereo TV? (Note: I will address analog audio/video options here. If you have a digital TV, you may have additional choices.)

If your TV does not have any option except to connect the cable wire where an antenna would otherwise be connected, you are out of luck. No stereo for you. Your TV needs to have stereo RCA jacks for stereo sound to be fed to it. So to get stereo sound from your cable box, you need to connect the line-out jacks marked L and R (usually color coded red and white) to the line-in jacks marked L and R on your TV. But wait -- that only gets you sound. If you want a picture, you need to connect the yellow video-out to the matching yellow video-in on your TV. If both your cable box and TV have s-video, try that instead for a better picture. And if you are fortunate enough to have the option of component video out [that's 3 separate cables carrying just the video] and your TV can accept that, use that for the best picture. Now when you turn on your TV, don't panic when there is no picture or sound. That's because your input source is now Line 1 or Video 1 or some such similar choice. You are not using the TV tuner, so you are not watching through channel 3 or 4 (depending on where you live).

What if you want to include your VCR or other video-recording device in the loop? You would follow similar instructions, except that you would, in essence, be doing the same thing twice. First replace the term TV with VCR in the instructions above for connecting up the cables from the cable box. Then, pretend the VCR is the cable box and follow the instructions again. And as in the direct from cable box to TV above, you will need to remember that you are now watching through Line 1 or Video 1 or whatever it is called on your TV. One other thing. In order to watch TV you will need to also turn on the VCR.

There are more complicated options, but I've opted to not address them here.

And again, the above addresses standard stereo TVs and VCRs. Connecting digital and high definition (HD) TVs and other digital devices will require different cabling and connections to get the best picture and sound. But even on the HD cable boxes, the RF cable-out only provides monophonic sound.

You may want to share this article with your friends and family, who may not know that they are probably watching TV and recording programs in glorious monophonic.

Richard Kuper
The Kuper Report