How do I connect my DVD recorder to my cable box and TV?


Most people are familiar with how to connect a DVD player to a TV. But connecting a DVD recorder can be confusing especially if you want to be able to record live TV onto a DVD.

I used frequently record the shows my kids watched when were younger so they could watch them on a card ride with a portable DVD player, hoping for the best for a smooth ride with little to no whining….

The following steps on connecting a DVD recorder to a TV and cable box will obviously vary based on the options of each device, but I’ll try to explain it step by step with photos based on my Magnavox DVD Recorder and Verizon Cable Box.

Its important to understand all of the connection types and the quality of each so you can make record the best quality DVD as well as best playback on your TV.

In fact these steps would be identical for connecting a VCR to a flat screen TV, that is if you ever wanted to record onto your VCR (which you may). A VCR might have different outputs, but the processes of selecting highest quality connection first is the same.

Also the steps don’t exactly have to be in this order but this is the order I like to connect my devices.

1. Connect the Best Video Output From The DVD Recorder to TV

In order to get the best picture on your TV you want to choose the best possible output signal from your DVD recorder since it also is your DVD player.

Remember the output from your DVD recorder must match an available input on your TV.

Below is an order of best to worst connection type

Best to Worst DVD Recorder Video Connections

HDMI Output

Ideally you have an HDMI output on your DVD Recorder – that is your best option for connecting to your TV.

HDMI is a digital signal and the only way to get the very best video quality from your DVDs, as well as the audio signal.

Most if not all DVD Recorders and VCR/DVD players have an HDMI out port as they upscale video to high resolution.

One problem many people bump into with so many devices connected to their TV is that they don’t have any available HDMI input on their TV. But thanks to the miracle of technology there are HDMI splitters that can combine multiple HDMI inputs into a single HDMI connection.

It works by letting you click a button on the splitter to determine which input signal gets pass through to the DVD, allowing you to switch between multiple HDMI sources.

Obviously if you are connecting to an older TV that doesn’t have an HDMI connection then there is no need to worry about it, there’s still plenty of output types to consider.

Component Output

Many people aren’t familiar with component output, but its a high quality video output that should be considered.

Component output is a still an analog output, so its not a digital signal like HDMI but still produces a high quality video signal.

It takes the combination of all 3 connections (green/blue/red) to produce the video signal, but by splitting part of the video signal into 3 portions it doesn’t need to be compressed as much as other connection types like composite, which we will get to later.

You can use a standard video (yellow/red/white) to for component connections but just be sure to make the exact same connections to your TV.

Many modern flat-screen TVs have this as an input option so its a great secondary choice to consider

S-Video

S-Video is another connection type many people aren’t familiar with yet you may be an option for you.

A few decades ago when VHS ruled a newer format came out called Super VHS, or SVHS for short. It recorder and played back at a higher resolution, around 400 horizontal lines vs the 240 vertical lines of VHS.

In order to carry this improved signal quality not only did the VCRs and tapes need to change to record and play back the higher quality video, so didn’t the connection.

S-Video splits the black, white and color signals to produce a better image quality than Composite, but its still not as good as Component video.

Plus – it requires a special cable (called an S-Video cable) that most people don’t have but may consider purchasing if this is your best video output option.

If you are really interested in s-video here’s a link to more technical details on Wikipedia.

Composite Video

Most people are familiar with composite video as its a very popular output on VCRs, DVD players, and cable boxes. But its also one of the poorest quality video signals you can use other than coax cable.

For composite video the Yellow cable of generally combined cable of yellow, red and white is the composite video connection.

In order for the entire analog video signal to travel through this single connection it has to be compressed a great deal, which results in a loss of image quality and therefore would be your last choice for a video connection from your DVD Recorder to your TV.

2. Connect the Best DVD Recorder Audio Output to Your TV Audio Input

Having a great audio signal connection to your TV is the next important step.

HDMI

If you have an available HDMI connection from your DVD Recorder to your TV then you are all set as HDMI carries your audio signal as well.

Digital Audio Coax

If you have this connection you need a special RCA cable to carry the wider bandwidth that this type of audio connection carries.

Composite Audio

This is the standard red and white RCA cable you probably have lying around or may be also have a yellow RCA connection on it as well for composite video.

3. Connect the Best Cable Box Video Output to the DVD Recorder Video Input

At this point your DVD Recorder is connected to your TV and you could play DVDs at this point. But if you want the ability to record TV onto a DVD you need to connect your cable box outputs to your DVD Recorder input.

Much like how you chose the best connections from your DVD Recorder to your TV, you’re going to find the best available inputs to your DVD Recorder as chances are your cable box already has that kind of output.

The image above displays the most probably video outputs from your cable box that you can connect to your TV. or DVD Recorder You would never connect all of them, only the most appropriate.

The Verizon cable box I have clearly highlights in yellow all of the video outputs, which the audio outputs have a white background. I’ve highlighted with red outline the most probable video outputs you would select.

HDMI

Chances are your DVD recorder doesn’t have an HDMI input (my Magnavox DVD Recorder doesn’t), but if you do consider yourself lucky.

But this presents a new problem if you have this situation: Your cable box most likely only has a single HDMI output.

This leaves you with 2 options:

  1. Connect the cable box HDMI out to the HDMI input on your your DVD Recorder. Then when you watch TV, that way the HDMI signal will pass through the DVD recorder to your TV
  2. Purchase an HDMI splitter which splits 1 HDMI signal into 2 or more HDMI connections and are very affordable on Amazon. Run the first HDMI connection from the splitter directly to your TV, then the 2nd to your HDMI input on your DVD recorder

Component Video

Again this is the green/blue/red RCA connection type that your cable box probably has as an output, but you may or may not have as an input on your DVD Recorder

My Magnavox DVD Recorder does not have this connection type unfortunately.

S-Video

Chances are both your cable box has this type of output, and your DVD recorder has this type of input.

I strongly suggest if this is your best possible video input connection to your DVD recorder that you purchase an S-Video cable and use this connection as this affects the quality of the recording onto your DVD, not just how it looks during playback.

Composite Video

This is a very common but lower quality connection, but the one you may wind up using. It’s the yellow RF connection marked “Video Out” in the picture above.

RF-TV (Coax)

This connection is the lowest quality, and your DVD Recorder may not even have this type of connection.

A regular cable/coax cable is used for this type of connection, but again its the lowest quality so if you can use a better connection above please try.

4. Connect the Best Cable Box Audio Output to the DVD Recorder Audio Input

Using the same logic above for connecting your DVD recorder to your TV, find the best audio input on your DVD recorder and match it to the same output connection on your cable box.

HDMI

Again most DVD Recorders won’t have an HDMI input but it yours does that’s great because its both the best video and audio signal you could input to your DVD Recorder.

Digital Audio Coax

This is your 2nd best choice for audio behind HDMI.

Composite Audio

This is probably the default audio connection (red and white) RCA connection most people will wind up using.

How to Record from your Cable box onto your DVD Recorder

At this point everything is connected and you simply need to record whatever show you want to store on DVD.

  • Make sure your Cable box, DVD Recorder and TV are all turned on
  • Change the input of your TV to be whatever connection you made from the DVD Recorder to TV – hopefully HDMI
  • At this point you should see the cable signal on the TV but it is being passed through the DVD Recorder
  • Make sure you have a blank DVD disc in the DVD Recorder
  • Hit the [RECORD] button on the remote once you want to start recording, then STOP when you are done.

When you are finished you most likely have to finalize the DVD disc to make sure it is playable on other players.

We have an entire article for finalizing a disc on a Magnavox DVD Recorder if you’d like to see how to do that.

Bob Hennessey

Bob Hennessey has been an avid videographer for several decades. Having shot video in just about every tape-based format from Video 8 , Hi 8, Digital 8 and Mini DV I am more than familiar with how to transfer video tapes to digital formats.

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