How to Properly Use “S” Video Cables

S-video cables offer enhanced picture-quality on older television sets. They come with a series of pins at the end (either 4, 7, or 9) that plug into a circular slot. To properly use S-video cables, you'll need to choose the correct cable for your television / component pair, then connect the two properly.

Choosing the Correct S-Video Cable

Make sure your television and component support S-video.

S-video cables connect a component (something that generates video, like a DVD player) with a screen (like your television).

  • S-video input slots are circular with several small holes clustered around the middle of the port. Both your component and your TV must have S-video inputs for you to use S-video cables.

Count the small holes in your TV and component S-video slots.

This will determine which specific S video cable to buy and whether or not you will need an adapter.

  • S video inputs can be either 4, 7, or 9 pin.
  • If your component S-video input has 7 holes (a 7-pin configuration) and your TV S-video input has 4 holes (a standard 4-pin configuration), for example, you’ll need a 4-pin to 7-pin adapter.

Purchase your S-video cable.

S-Video cables tend to be much cheaper than their high-definition counterparts.

  • A gold-plated connector won’t oxidize over time (unlike a silver- or copper-plated connector), so while buying a more expensive cable won’t affect your picture quality, it may make for longer cable life.
  • High-quality cables are usually cheaper online than in a store. Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy are reputable online providers.

Purchase any necessary adapters at the same time.

  • If you have multiple components that need connecting, such as a VCR and a receiver, purchase an “S-video cable splitter” in addition to more S-video cables. Splitters should cost around $5.

Connecting Your S-video Cable

Turn off your TV.

If you try to swap out cables with your TV on, you can damage your set.

Unplug any video input from your TV.

Your TV quality can suffer from having too many video inputs plugged in at once so it’s best to start with zero.

Plug one end of your S-video cable into your component.

The S-video slot is round with a series of small round holes clustered around the middle, to match the number of pins on your S-video cable. The small pins on the cable should go in the top of the input.

  • If your TV requires a different number of pins than your component (or vice versa), count the pins first to make sure you’re plugging in the correct end of the cable.

Plug the other end of your S-video cable into your TV.

Use an adapter if your setup requires it.

Make sure your audio cables are attached.

These could be red and white composite cables (in which case leave the yellow video cable unplugged) or a higher-end setup.

Turn on your component(s).

Your DVD player (for instance) should be fully on before you turn on your TV.

Turn on your TV.

If your DVD video appears, you plugged in the S-video cable properly!

  • You may have to switch your TV’s default input channel after changing to S-video. To do this, press the “Input” or “Source” button on your TV or TV remote.


  • S-video cables are generally used for achieving standard-definition–in most cases, 480i. If your TV is rated for 720p or 1080p, use an HDMI cable rather than an S-video cable.
  • If you have to overhaul your cable collection just to make your components all link to your TV with S-video, consider purchasing a new TV rather than new cables.
  • S-video cables don’t support audio. If you don’t have separate cables for audio, purchase them when you buy your S-video cable.


  • Be gentle when unplugging you cables. It’s easy to put a kink in a wire or damage the head of a cable.

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