How Do I Hook Up... my DVD player or upconverting DVD player? Newsletter Signup
January 1st, 2008 by Joe Chianese Page 1 Page 2Page 3

Hooking up a DVD Player

Now we move on to some more advanced options for connecting your DVD player. Again, this How-To doesn't involve receivers or anything else except for a DVD player and a television. For those connections, check out How To Hook Up a Receiver.

The Advanced (Digital) Outputs of a DVD Player

Newer DVD players will come outfitted some better options for outputting audio. There are two: fiber optic and digital coaxial.

Fiber optic audio is all digital, allowing for the highest quality surround sound audio A flat, square connector that opens inward to the unit is known as fiber optic. As seen here, this connector has a hinged door that pushes in when a cable is connected. Sometimes there is no door. You will usually notice a bright red light coming from the inside of an open fiber optic connection.

Fiber optic is an all digital connection. There is no left or right channel; just one cable that can pass-through mono, stereo, and surround sound (5.1, 6.1, 7.1 and beyond). It is in fact the only way you will get surround sound from a typical DVD player when connecting to a surround sound receiver (or digital coaxial works, too). However, when connecting to a TV, the benefits are less obvious. You may or may not notice a difference in audio quality between fiber optic and composite audio when going from DVD player to television. For the sake of argument over which to use, use it if you have it - don't go out of your way to get a fiber optic cable if you don't have a spare. You'll also need to make sure your TV actually has a fiber optic input. Most new, high definition TVs have either fiber optic or digital coaxial available.

Digital coax provides the same quality and 5.1 surround sound as fiber optic cables, but it is in a more familiar RCA connector type cablingIf you don't have fiber optic (or maybe you have both), than you may have digital coaxial. It looks exactly the same as red, white, or yellow composite output. It will be marked "Digital" or "Coaxial" or "Digital Coaxial". It is usually black or orange in color but this can vary. Digital coaxial is nearly identical to fiber optic. There is no practical difference between the two cables (both are all digital and can pass through mono, stereo, and full surround sound). Use what ever connection you have available to you for audio between a DVD player and a TV.

The only other audio-only output you may have would be 6 channel direct. This is only used for connecting to a receiver and is beyond the scope of this How-To. If you'd like to learn more about it, check out How To Hook Up a Receiver.

HDMI and DVI: Digital, High Definition Video

Now on to HDMI and DVI. You may have heard of these connections as of late. They are the all-digital video inputs capable of high definition content up to 1080p.

HDMI is especially useful because it can transfer both audio and video in one cable (if both devices support this - not all do; check device manuals to ensure compatibility).

HDMI can provide high definition video and 5.1 surround sound in one small cable A very compact connection, HDMI can transfer both audio and video in full high definition and surround sound. This is great in regards to both quality and less cable clutter. Keep in mind that not all components support audio being carried through HDMI cables so you'll have to check it out for yourself. My TV and DVD player both support audio and video through HDMI.

Here's a shot of the back of my DVD player. The composite audio cables are going to my receiver for simple stereo surround (nothing fancy for the bedroom; its an old receiver with no digital inputs).

The back of my DVD player showing HDMI connecting to my LCD TV. Composite audio connects to my receiver

This really shows you how nice it is to be able to utilize HDMI. If I wasn't using surround sound, I wouldn't have the red and white cables. I'd just need HDMI and my power cable. Simple, right?

Another all-digital cable, DVI is capable of high definition video, but it can't carry audio. Its also a very wide connector A DVI output is quickly becoming old news because of HDMI. Nevertheless, you might have this available to you, especially on an upconverting DVD player. In fact, you probably won't have HDMI or DVI unless you have an upconverting DVD player. And in that case, you'll want to use whichever of the two you have available for the best picture. You'll know you have DVI because of its signature long, pinned connector. It might not be colored white like here, but you get the idea.

And that's it. There's no other outputs you need to be concerned with for the basic hookup of your DVD player. And if you're using digital coax/fiber optic or HDMI/DVI, you're hooking up beyond the basics. You might have other 'stuff on your DVD player, like firewire or USB ports, but they aren't for hooking up your audio and video connections.

Continue on to the last page of this How-To for a quick wrap up and some pointers on the best DVD player and hookup combination.

>>Next: Choosing the Best DVD Player (3)

More Home Theater How-To Articles!

- How to Hook up Surround Sound
- Hook up a Receiver
- Running Speaker Wire
- Home Theater in a Box

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