A/V cable help, please?
March 3, 2010 12:06 PM   Subscribe

I am in need of new cables and speaker wire to connect the following components, and I've apparently gotten old since the last time I rigged something like this. Please hope me?

Here are the current components:

Receiver: Yamaha RX-V665

TV: Hitachi 57F59

DVD player: Phillips DVP5960

Speakers: Acoustic Research HD150

Which (HDMI, tos) cables, how many of each type and most importantly what bloody gauges do I need for each type? What gauge speaker wire -- I've seen everything from 12 to 18 gauge recommended elsewhere. Assume runs no longer than 8 to 12 feet. Are there other parts I need to pick up?

FWIW, I will be buying from Monoprice if they have everything needed.

Please feel free to answer as though I am not competent at this in the least, because... I'm not. Competent.

Ancillary question: Are there other components I should be looknig to add to this system? (you can laugh)
posted by vers to Technology (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Connect all of your various components with HDMI. For the speakers, I can't imagine gauge is really all that important, and with no more than a 12-foot run, thinner wire should really be fine.
posted by kavasa at 12:20 PM on March 3, 2010

You will need two HDMI cables. One to to connect the DVD player to the receiver and one to connect the receiver to the TV. Check Monoprice to see if any particular color is on sale. Last time I ordered from them recently the orange ones were dirt cheap.

As far as the gauge of wire is concerned the lower the number, the thicker the wire. With the amp you have you could get away with 18, but I generally use at least 16 gauge wire for speakers with 14 being preferred.
posted by BishopFistwick at 12:32 PM on March 3, 2010

18 gauge will be just fine for the speaker runs. 18 gauge should carry 14-16 amps. Using the lower number, if you've got an 8 ohm speaker, power = amps * volts, volts = amps * resistance, so P = I^2*R. Using 14A, since it's the lower value, P = 14*14*8 = 1500 watts. If you had 4 ohm speakers each cable would carry 750W. No reason to go with anything heavier than 18 gauge for a home setup.
posted by 6550 at 12:44 PM on March 3, 2010

Thank you for the answers so far. Yes to the two HDMI cables, but which gauge? Also, don't I need an optical audio cable (toslink) from the TV to the receiver?
posted by vers at 12:44 PM on March 3, 2010

I hope this addresses your concern about gauge for HDMI cables: When buying HDMI and similar cables, like DVI, you can basically just pick the cheapest ones.

The HDMI standard is fully digital, so what's traveling along the cable is a signal of digital information with a good deal of redundancy built in. Whether a digital signal can be decoded at the end of the cable is a binary outcome; either enough of the required digital bits arrive or they don't.

With analog signals traveling along a cable, degradation of the signal due to poor cabling can actively cause picture or sound problems. With digital signals, the redundancy built into the digital encoding means that cables will give you functionally-identical performance from anywhere within their working range.

So you don't need HDMI cables with gold-plated connectors, or heavy-duty insulation or anything fancy. You just need a cable that was made to minimum HDMI standards and you'll be fine. (Assuming standard lengths for same-room hookups)
posted by chudmonkey at 1:04 PM on March 3, 2010

You cannot just buy the cheapest and expect the most.
Signals are probably fine for most uses and people, but there is a small difference between most cables; and the higher price isn't always better.

Much more importantly (for me), is the physical durability and quality. The cheapest cables I've purchased (and that's a lot), have connectors that don't seat snugly, and this means that they can (and have) worried themselves out. Total pain in the ass. Also, While I'm usually very happy with monoprice, the last HDMI cable I bought from them was connected to the back of a 52" LCD display. The cable had plenty of play, but when the display was rotated 7 degrees on its stand, the HDMI connector first folded in half and then cracked open. Also a big pain in the ass. There was a second cable on the tv connected to a different source, and it was fine. I think I paid $20 for that cable and ~$10 for the monoprice cable.

Just because someone shouldn't waste their money getting ripped off by monster cable does NOT mean that all cheap cables are as good as anything slightly more expensive.

You don't have to spend much, but you shouldn't waste time and money trying to buy the cheapest possible. Find a good product at a good price.

Of course, I still recommend Monoprice :)
posted by terpia at 1:28 PM on March 3, 2010

The above comments are correct. Gauge shouldn't be an issue at all, for the short runs of speaker wire you'll need. Go with 18-gauge like 6550 said. For all the rest of your cables, particularly the digital ones, you don't need anything fancy. Contrary to what terpia says, cheap cables will work just fine in 99% of situations. Unless you're constantly unplugging the cables and bending them and moving them around, I doubt you'll have an issue. You should be able to leave your cables alone after everything's installed and not touch them again for a long time.

The two-HDMI-cable setup BishopFistwick will work if you are only watching DVDs. Assuming you have another input source in mind (cable, satellite, etc.) you'll also need an RCA audio cable to connect the TV to the audio receiver. Actually, according to the DVD player manual, it came with one -- so you won't need to buy it.

As for other components: I'm surprised you're only going with a DVD player (even an upscaling one) instead of Blu-ray. Blu-ray players are backwards-compatible with DVDs so your existing movie collection won't be unplayable. If you watch a lot of TV you might consider getting a DVR too (many cable boxes and satellite receivers have DVR functionality built-in these days).
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 1:32 PM on March 3, 2010

Are you cable or OTA? If you are OTA then you need an optical cable from the tv to the receiver to get surround sound. If you are cable then you are all set if you have hdmi out from the cable box.
posted by Ferrari328 at 2:35 PM on March 3, 2010

An optical (Toslink) cable should not be necessary, given that your receiver supports HDMI. As noted above, you will need two HDMI cables: one running from the DVD player to the receiver, and the second running from the receiver to the TV. Are there any other video sources for your television that you've left out, e.g., using a built-in tuner for watching broadcast television? If so, then you'll have to run a Toslink cable from your TV to your receiver. Otherwise, you're set.

With regard to HDMI cable quality... buying the absolute cheapest cable is not always the best way to go despite the digital signal. For example, if you want support for any of the HDMI 1.3 features like deep color or certain HD audio formats (I note that your receiver supports these features, though you won't have any use for them watching DVDs), you will need to make sure you purchase HDMI 1.3 certified cables. Monoprice explicitly denotes the level of standard support in each of the cables they sell. If you're using an HDMI switch like the 4x1 unit that Monoprice sells, then you'll want to get, on top of 1.3 spec, at minimum 24AWG (read: unreasonably thick) cables, or you will experience occasional frame skipping, signal loss, etc, even on very short runs (speaking from direct experience). For your setup as it is now, however, you can probably go ahead and pick up some 28AWG cables and not worry.
posted by indubitable at 2:41 PM on March 3, 2010

I just started to write that that you don't need an optical cable, then noticed that you TV doesn't have HDMI out.

You need:
  1. DVD output --HDMI--> receiver input
  2. receiver output --HDMI--> TV input
If you had some kind of audio coming from the TV (from a built-in terrestrail HD tuner, for example) then you would run an optical cable from the TV to the receiver.

No cable TV in the mix here? If there is, you should probably run that into the receiver.
posted by paulg at 3:00 PM on March 3, 2010

And ignore that first paragraph. It's a true but confusing vestige from an earlier revision of my post.
posted by paulg at 3:02 PM on March 3, 2010

The manual for the TV warns that
Optical Audio Out "Only" available using Digital Tuner on Digital Channels. No other input's Audio is output via Optical Audio Out. This includes HDMI audio. It is not output.
I don't really know what that means, which is why I suggested RCA audio instead of Toslink, just to be safe. It sounds like any analog signal is going to be ignored and not converted. To my knowledge, most cable and satellite feeds don't support more than two channels of audio anyway.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:21 PM on March 3, 2010

Thank you all for the help!

Two notes:
No cable, virtually no OTA (had to google that). I've watched TV twice in, say, the last 15 or 20 years (I remember both times). That could change at some point of course, but not now. This set up is for watching DVDs. Also, the TV and DVD player are existing equipment, the speakers were a gift, and the receiver to make it all work looked like it might be a bit future-proof at a decent price.

The only other part is a
Terk HDTVI HDTV Indoor Antenna. No HDMI switch, no tuner except the built-in on the TV, no PC, no Tivo... still open to suggections of components, even like DVR, that I might use. Someday. After the cables are deliverd.
posted by vers at 5:03 PM on March 3, 2010

Ah, yes. That is a terrestrial HD antenna for the tuner in your TV (I didn't look at the manual again, but the feature page seems to indicate that the TV does have an ATSC tuner). If you want the audio from those programs to play through the receiver you will want an optical cable from the TV to the receiver.
posted by paulg at 6:41 AM on March 4, 2010

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