How to connect older devices to your newer television

If you haven’t been paying attention, HDMI is pretty much the go-to standard when connecting high definition video devices. And television manufacturers have responded by adding more and more HDMI ports to their televisions. It’s not unheard of to have 3, 4 or even 5 HDMI ports on a new television these days.

These are perfect if you have a cable or satellite box, a Blu-ray player and a game console like the Xbox 360, all of which look fantastic when connected to your television via an HDMI cable. But what about all of your older devices that were made before HDMI ever existed?

Composite connections

You know the ones I’m talking about. You connect them with three wires—red and white for audio (left and right stereo) and yellow for video. It’s called a composite cable and it’s probably what you used to connect things like your VCR to your television.

composite cable

Here’s the problem. As the television manufacturers add more and more HDMI ports, they take away the older composite connections. As proof, the last flat screen television I purchased has only one composite connection. This was not good as I wanted to hook up 3 devices (including the Nintendo Wii) via this connection.

The solution

Luckily, there’s an easy solution. It’s called an A/V selector but goes by other names as well such as an A/B switch or simply a video switcher. The A/B switch is technically an inaccurate description for what I’m about to tell you but trust me, people still call it that. I personally use the Sima SVS-14 4 Input Manual A/V Selector pictured below.

Sima SVS-14 4 Input Manual A/V Selector

Here’s how it works. You connect the A/V selector to your television using the familiar red/white/yellow composite cable I described earlier. Then you connect up to four devices (some do less, some do more) to the A/V selector using the supplied numbered connections on the back.

For illustrative purposes, let’s say you have a VCR and a Nintendo Wii you want to connect to one composite port on your television. To accomplish this you would start by connecting the A/V selector to your television. Next, you would connect your VCR to connection #1 on the back of the A/V selector. Then you would connect your Nintendo Wii to connection #2 on the back of the A/V selector.

When you want to use either of these devices, you first tune your television to the composite input. Then you press the #1 or #2 button on the front of the A/V selector to select the VCR or Nintendo Wii respectively. You can switch back and forth between the two at any time but you can only use one of the devices at a time.

Rinse and repeat if you have other composite devices you want to add to the mix.

The Sima A/V Selector I use will run you about $15-$20 at Amazon and works like a charm. It even handles S-video as well as composite video which makes it all that more well-rounded of a solution.

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  1. Penemuel

    You have NO idea how timely this post is.

    We still use a VHS because we’re only reluctantly using the digital cable box (We used to have 3 VHS recorders on a splitter so we could tape three different channels at once, AND copy from one tape to another, when we had the old cable, before they forced us to switch. Now that we have digital, we have LESS capability than we did on the old analog. But of course, that’s just because Comcast would like us to pay MORE money to get a DVR or whatever other option they have…)

    ANYway, with the Olympics coming, I knew we were low on tapes, and the Target near our work didn’t have ANY. I was worried I’d have to try to figure out how to hook up our VHS/DVD recorder (so I could use DVDs instead of VHS) to the cable when absolutely NONE of the connection diagrams match what we have. Now I think I know WHY none of those diagrams match, and even have a way to solve the problem! (We did eventually find VHS tapes at a different Target after the initial failure, but at least now I don’t have to live in constant dread of the day they go completely obsolete!)

    Thank you!

    • Patric Welch

      I love hearing stories like this! Thanks for sharing. :)