How can I connect several different inputs to my tv?
November 8, 2010 6:46 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to connect various inputs to my old tv and it's driving me insane. Halp!

I have:
1. An old TV, only input is a coaxial cable.
2. An oldish Sony DVD player.
3. A really old VCR.
4. A Wii.

Right now, I have everything routed through my VCR. Coax cable from the wall is going into the coax input on VCR (I don't have cable tv, but my internet is through the cable company and since my building is wired I can use this to get the networks.) For other stuff, I turn channel 3 on the tv, and power on the VCR. I tune the VCR to the channels below 2 for "A/V Rear" (DVD), "A/V front" (Wii). Only output on the VCR is a coax cable going to the back of the tv.

It's not fancy, but it works for me. Until last week. My VCR has finally kicked the bucket after a valiant 20 year run, and since I have no need for it to watch a tape, I'm going to dump it. So, I need to find some other switcher to route the cable in, DVD, and Wii through, but I can't seem to find anything with a coaxial output.

I am normally good at figuring these things out on my own, but this is throwing me for a loop. Is this is what I get for trying to make 20 years worth of electronics work together? What is the magical phrase that I am not googling that will help answer my dilemma?

Bonus! Ideally, I would find something that had a coax and, (?) output so I could connect the audio out to my stereo (right now I have just the DVD audio going directly to my 10 year old stereo through the red and white plug situation, whatever that is called. (I've tried researching, really.)
posted by AlisonM to Technology (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
honestly, i'm sure there's a ready made product for this, but your cheapest and easiest solution will be to pick up another VCR for like 20 bucks. i think i once had a super shitty, cheap DVD player picked up from walmart (the kind that are lighter than a magazine) that had all these parameters.
posted by nadawi at 6:50 PM on November 8, 2010

Get yourself an RF modulator (google it, or go to RadioShack). It'll take any RCA output and modulate it for the coax input.
posted by Netzapper at 6:54 PM on November 8, 2010

If I just read that right, I think you're gonna want either an RF modulator or video switcher.
posted by NoraCharles at 6:57 PM on November 8, 2010

Best answer: The red and white situation is named "RCA audio," and the similar-looking yellow thing often found nearby is "RCA composite video."

Just a video switcher or just an RF modulator wouldn't give you what you need, you actually need to do both (signals from your source devices need to be switched to a single output that goes to the TV, and that output needs to be modulated from RCA video to the RF format your TV understands.)

You could take a video switcher like this one and combine it with a single-input modulator like this, and you'd have replaced the functions of your VCR.

Another way to go would be to look for a replacement TV. Given that your source material is all standard definition and inferring that your budget for this is low, I'd recommend that you look around on Craigslist or in thrift stores for a CRT TV (that's the old bulky kind as opposed to a flatscreen) that's old enough to be cheap but new enough to have the more modern video connections. (Newish cheap flat screens are a bad choice, they tend to be bad at displaying standard definition content and the wide screen is the wrong shape for the television you'll be watching.) You probably won't end up spending much more than you would've on the modulator and switch, you'll have a system that doesn't need to be held together with a bunch of little converters, and you'll actually get to enjoy some of the advances in video technology that have come about in the last 20 years. Most any TV made after 1990 will have the multiple composite video inputs that are your bare minimum, and your Wii (and probably DVD player) would benefit even more from component video, though that may require extra cables. It may also have RCA audio output that you could feed to your stereo system.
posted by contraption at 8:29 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

When reading the product descriptions/reviews for the RF modulators/video switchers, the phrases you'll need to know are: RF connector and F connector (for the coaxial cable), and as Netzapper mentioned above, RCA connectors (the red, white and yellow plugs).

Any consumer electronics store should have something that will work for your setup -- is there one close to you? The big box stores often have AV adapters/converters of this sort, but the ones they keep in stock might not have all the features you need. Just make sure that the device does indeed have the RF input/output (e.g. a search for "video switcher" may show products that exclude that feature), that it has enough inputs to accommodate both the DVD player and the Wii, and (for your bonus item) that it has RCA audio outputs.

As a couple of reference points, these products at Amazon that seem to meet all the criteria, at first glance: the RCA CRF940 which is in stock, and the Magnavox M61151, which seems to have a better average of reviews but isn't in stock now (and may have been discontinued?). In any case, definitely take a look at the photos for those products -- they'll give a better idea of the kind of device you're looking for.

Good luck!
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 8:35 PM on November 8, 2010

A word of warning: A new VCR might not display video from your DVD player very well, due to Macrovision "copy protection":

You might consider
- Getting a DVD/VCR combo to replace your DVD player. These will have coax out. This one is cheap.
Or, as others have said above,
- You could get a RF modulator and video switcher, or
- A (new-to-you) used CRT with video inputs.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:07 PM on November 8, 2010

I have a similar setup and the VCR has served as the hub for my cabling for years. If my VCR were to fail, I'd do one of the following:
  1. Get a new TV. Although mine (and yours) has only coax input, new ones have several inputs of various types. There's supposed to be a glut in the market in the next few months, so prices are expected to be very good after Thanksgiving.
  2. Look on Craigslist, eBay or a thrift store for a cheap VCR to replace your old one. You should easily be able to find one for $10 or less
If you don't like those suggestions, this is probably what you need.
posted by tomwheeler at 9:35 PM on November 8, 2010

Response by poster: RF Modulator! Video switcher! Thanks guys - those were exactly the terms I was looking for. I'm gonna call around and see if I can track down the Magnavox that rangefinder linked.

I'll mark best answer when I actually have something hooked up that works!

New (to me) TV isn't an option right now, mostly because I live in a walk-up and have a bad back. I can't even imagine how I'd get a CRT of any decent size up here. And getting the old one down...well, I'd sooner throw it out the window, if I could manage to get it off the TV stand and to the window. (When I moved in 5 years ago, it took two people to get it up 2 flights, and I remember what hell that was.) Hopefully within the next year or two, I'll be able to get one of those fancy flat screens that all the kids are getting these days.
posted by AlisonM at 6:05 AM on November 9, 2010

Response by poster: Ok, so I got this from a 3rd party amazon seller. Would you believe that I couldn't find anything at a brick and mortar store in NYC? (I searched both online and in person at all the Big Name places.) Anyway, thanks guys, everything is working in harmony again :)
posted by AlisonM at 8:08 PM on November 18, 2010

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