Cable-> VCR -> TV?
June 3, 2004 12:43 PM   Subscribe

If I run my TV cable (for cable TV) into my VCR first, then into the television, will I (noticeably) lose signal/picture quality?

(I only seem to have one auxiliary input on the TV, but if I go through the VCR into the TV, I can have VCR, DVD, plus Playstation hooked to the VCR's aux. input. Thanks.)
posted by Shane to Technology (21 answers total)
How nice is your VCR?
posted by codger at 12:47 PM on June 3, 2004


Our cable passes through the VCR on the way to the TV, and when the VCR is on and set to "TV" (as opposed to "VIDEO"), the picture is noticeably worse.

Depends on a variety of variables, I imagine -- the quaility of the VCR's tuner, the cables, the connectors, etc.
posted by briank at 12:49 PM on June 3, 2004

Cable only has about 300 lines of resolution, so with basic cable the odds are you won't lose much quality (unless your cable is digital).
posted by The God Complex at 12:50 PM on June 3, 2004

Probably nothing you'd care about. Try it; coax is cheap.

You might want to run coax into vcr and then connect the vcr to the tv using a/v cables (RCA jacks) instead of another bit of coax. That will probably save you from re-encoding and "transmitting" the signal to the tv which would then have to use its tuner. Tray that too -- a/v cabling is cheap too. You'd be using the vcr to change channels in that case.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:53 PM on June 3, 2004

Yes, because you are going through a device that is sucking from the whole signal so the signal being passed is less. Have seen it run through the VCR then to the TV having a better picture too. This is one of the solutions they tell you when having a weak signal( go directly to the TV from the cable outlet).
posted by thomcatspike at 12:54 PM on June 3, 2004

How nice is your VCR?

Cheap, but four-head. Moderate quality? The cable is not digital.

Thanks, folks. I'll try it out and maybe the jacks (and let you know, if this thread isn't down the page by then.) The problem is also the heavy bookshelf I use for the TV, which will require an extra hole sawed in the back for the VCR, making a trial run, you know: more effort vs my already lazy nature. And the fact that I finally have a TV with a good pic, and I'm digging it.
posted by Shane at 1:08 PM on June 3, 2004

Try it. For the most part VCRs have better tuners than TVs.
posted by alex_reno at 1:36 PM on June 3, 2004

VCRs are designed to sit between the signal & the TV. They have a signal booster built in so you won't reduce quality, and in many cases it will be better.

[A SCART lead between VCR & TV will improve the signal...a direct link to the TV without going thru the TV's own tuner.]

Also, make sure the channel your VCR is tuned to a channel that doesn't intefere (or vice versa) with a broadcast channel. There is usually a recessed grub screw near the RF input at the back of the VCR which changes the channel the VCR is set to.
posted by i_cola at 1:39 PM on June 3, 2004

Running your DVD player into a VCR aux will not work unless:
1)Your VCR is so old it does not recognize Macrovision.
2)Your DVD disc does not have Macrovision.
3)You are over-riding Macrovision.

You could run all other things through the VCR and use the TV aux for the DVD. You could also use a RF modulator (leaving TV aux free) and then select between DVD or VCR (including all devices).
posted by sailormouth at 1:39 PM on June 3, 2004

I've been using my VCR as a switch box like this for years. Keep in mind that VCRs are designed to pass the signal through, so naturally they've worked out ways to minimize degradation by now. That said, you'll almost certainly get better results with RCA cables than coax.
posted by jjg at 1:40 PM on June 3, 2004

The answer really depends on the quality of your VCR and the quality of your cable signal. You might hook it up and find that everything is fine.

If you find that you have a problem, an alternative that would allow you to hook everything up to your "aux" input on the TV would be a little A/V switch box that accepts multiple "RCA-type" inputs and hooks up to the aux on your TV. This would allow you to switch between VCR/DVD/Playstation by pressing a button rather than swapping cables.

Not sure where you live, but Radio Shack here in the US has them. Less than $20 as I recall.
posted by rglasmann at 1:41 PM on June 3, 2004

You could run all other things through the VCR and use the TV aux for the DVD.

That's the plan, I just didn't explain it well:
Cable --> VCR --> TV --> DVD

rglasmann, I wondered if an AV switch like that existed. Thanks again, all.
posted by Shane at 2:05 PM on June 3, 2004

I second/third/fourth the switch. On one of our older sets we have inputs (on the switch) from satellite, vcr, dvd, and playstation. The output from the switch goes into the tv. Ours came from Walmart for under $20.
posted by busboy789 at 2:39 PM on June 3, 2004

Is your play station DVD? Kick myself now for recently purchasing a DVD player.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:07 PM on June 3, 2004

Running your DVD player into a VCR aux will not work unless:
1)Your VCR is so old it does not recognize Macrovision.
2)Your DVD disc does not have Macrovision.
3)You are over-riding Macrovision.

yeah, my only tv was a tv/vcr combo. i bought a dvd player, hooked it up, and guess what? everything looked like crap. That's utter bs, DVD industry. i shouldn't have to buy a new television because of your copy protection schemes.

posted by fishfucker at 3:07 PM on June 3, 2004

TV aux for the DVD.
Shane does your TV have RCA jacks, video, right & left sound? We know you have a coaxal input.
That is what is being referred here. Your VCR & play station may have them too - but why have a DVD player if your playstation is DVD.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:25 PM on June 3, 2004

Doing so should work just fine. Even a cheap VCR isn't likely to degrade an analog cable signal any more substantially than the cable company has.

"why have a DVD player if your playstation is DVD."

Because the PS2's DVD player functionality sucks, you have to pony up $20 and give up a controller port in order to have a remote control, and the decoded picture looks like crap.
posted by majick at 4:55 PM on June 3, 2004

Or look for a used a/v receiver. You can find them cheap enough, they'll handle all your inputs at once so long as you keep them all the same kind (ie, all composite+audio or all s-video + audio). You can pipe the sound back to the tv if you really want to along with the video, but you'll get immeasurably better sound out of even the crappiest hi-fi speakers.

And you can plug your cd player and tape deck and ipod and what have you into it too for bigger sound.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:27 PM on June 3, 2004

I have PS1, not two, so I guess it's not DVD.

I'm turning on to the switch or av receiver ideas. I'll do this tonight or tomorrow and let you know what happens.

BTW, the back of the shelf is thin plywood and my drill is out of commission, so I drill a hole with a self-tapping screw and screwdriver (which is less likely to splinter the wood, too), then insert a small hacksaw blade (without the saw frame) to make a neat, small rectangular opening. Heh. Self-tapping screws are the best invention since the wheel.

BTWBTW, the new TV is just a cheap Radio Shack 27" RCA, but the picture rocks. I discovered in the buying/comparing process that bargain flat-screens suck. DVD was a bargain too, but the picture is great.

Just FYI, you know.

posted by Shane at 9:10 AM on June 4, 2004

majick, thanks for the info majick.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:58 AM on June 4, 2004

No cable box right? Because running the cable from the wall to a VCR or anything before a cable box might mess up any on demand/pay per view services done through cable. If the cable box has to communcate through coaxial for listings or ordering, the VCR might drop this information before it gets to the outlet. Took me 5 cable guys to realize the problem when it happened to me.
posted by ALongDecember at 10:09 AM on June 5, 2004

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