Component vs. Composite Cable – What’s the Difference?

Component vs Composite Cable

If your work has something to do with the tech world, you probably already know what a composite and a component cable is. But even if you aren’t techie, you must have encountered these cables at least once in your life. You definitely did if you tried hooking your TV to a VCR or DVD machine before.

These cables are widely used and available in the market. But what do they do exactly? All you know is if you hook them up, you can play your VCR, CDs, and DVDs on your TV. How does that happen? Well, all that you will find out in this article.

You may also like: What is a Component Cable? Everything You Need to Know

You will know more about component vs. composite cable in the next part of the article.

Component vs. Composite Cable

Both component and composite cables transmit audio and video through an analog signal. This function is the biggest similarity between the two cables, which is the only one. The reason is that composite cable is now less available and supported by most of the devices you see in the market today.

As one of the oldest cables used for transmitting audio and video signals, it is now being replaced by more modern ones. The component cable is one of them, along with HDMI, that is even more popular. HDMI is the latest interface capable of carrying both high-quality and high-fidelity video and audio signals.

Besides this, there is also a difference in the number of connectors. A composite cable is usually made of 1 or 3-headed RCA connectors. On the other hand, component cables come in 3 to 5 RCA heads. With composite cable, only a single connector is used for the video signal, while the component uses three.

Both cables can only carry analog signals. They cannot push through a resolution if it is anything higher than 1080i. Although both are slowly getting replaced, you can still see them in older televisions, DVD players, and video game consoles.

Composite Cables

Let’s talk about composite cables first, also known as the yellow plug cable or RCA cable. It is one of the oldest standards used for transferring a video signal. On that note, it is unable to transmit HD data. Similarly, this cable does not have a progressive scanning feature.

Besides transferring data in only a signal cable, you should also know that this data is significantly compressed. It is the reason why the video you see through this cable is below average. The content loses plenty of clarity, resulting in a drastic drop in resolution. More than that, a composite cable is susceptible to radio frequency interface.

It makes the video signal carried by the connector worse. Thus, it affects not only the sound quality but video quality as well. Composite cables are considerably low quality than other connectors, but you will still find people using it today.

Red-White-Yellow RCA Cables

It was mentioned before that composite cables typically include three color-coded connectors. Their colors are red, white, and yellow, which are common in old media devices. What do these cables do? Why are they color-coded? And how come the device needs three separate connectors? There are reasons for that!

composite cable

First, let’s talk about what RCA means. RCA stands for Radio Corporation of America, the first company ever to produce these connectors. Composite cable, RCA connector, AV cable, or audio-video cable – they all mean the same thing. It is that three-headed cable in red, white, and yellow connectors.

The color codes are there to make it easier for you to connect the cables to the correct port. It is only a matter of matching the colors to the corresponding ports. Each color also has a specific meaning or purpose. Before, it was mentioned that composite cables transmit video signals. The color of cable that does that is yellow, which only caries video, not audio.

When you hear someone mention “composite video,” it refers to that yellow cable. There remain two colors – red and white. Both these color-coded connectors are for the analog audio. The red is for the left side, and the white is for the right side. When you connect both, then you can listen to stereo audio.

If only one of the red and white cables is plugged in, you will only like to hear a sound from the cable hooked in, or sometimes no audio at all. With that, be sure to plug your composite cables properly, or your video and audio will not function well. Remember that RCA cables are not ideal for High-Def resolutions. Its maximum resolution is only 480i.

Uses of Composite Cable

As you probably know by that, the composite cable is a technology that is now on the last dregs of its life. More modern techs are now available and capable of supporting HD signals. Because of that, more and more people are also turning to other connectors such as component and HDMI.

Some people still use composite cables today. These are individuals who still use older devices like VCRs. You can only power up these devices using a composite cable. The reason is that older machines do not support the new component connector formats like component cables.

Image Source: amazon.com

Because of that, you will still see some of the newer TVs today sporting ports for this connector. It is a way for the manufacturers to support older devices despite more modern machines here and there. Nevertheless, it will not be long now when composite cables become entirely phased out, which is not surprising.

What to Look for in a Composite Cable

If you are still using a composite connector and searching one for your device, it is for the best to buy the best you can find. Of course, it has to be durable that you can use it for a fair amount of time so that your money will be worth it. On that note, you want a composite cable made from a strong, low-loss RG-59/U coaxial cable.

This cable is ideal for carrying a large amount of video data that you need to transmit. It should have solid copper conductors and two levels of shielding. With this, the composite cable is protected from distortion due to electromagnetic interference and radiofrequency. Typically, there is also a layer of aluminum and copper braid shielding with aluminum foil outer shield.

Outside, a durable PVC or polyvinyl chloride jacket covers the connector. With gold plating, it should be resistant to corrosion and connector noise. Look for these qualities, and the composite cable you buy will be long-lasting. Although this particular cable is far from HDMI, it is still useful, so it is best to get one that you can use numerous times.

Component Cables

When you compare component vs. composite cable, the former is more advanced. As mentioned before, both cables transfer audio and video signals. Another similarity of the component with composite cable is the generally three coded cables it has. The colors of this cable are slightly different, though.

Image source: amazon.com

A component cable usually has green, blue, and red wires. Every one of the cables can transfer specific information regarding the video signal. Although typically three coloreds, some component cables have five. There are other cables for other functions, which is useful for a home movie theater.

Here are what each color carries:

  • Green, aka, Y cable – transmits information about the video’s brightness
  • Red, aka, Pr – carries the video’s red information
  • Blue, aka, Pb – carries the video’s blue information

For the green component, it is inferred by combining all three signals. Comparing component vs. composite cable, you can see that only the yellow line carries the video signal with composite. On the other hand, a component has green, blue, and red cables carry the video. Red and white cables carry the audio. Since the signal is split into three, the compression rate is not too much.

component cable

 

For that reason, a component cable can support full HD resolution too. Similarly, this cable can progressively scan images. With that feature, the images of the video look much more defined and smoother. A component cable is definitely the better connector compared to composite with its limited capabilities.

Uses of Component Cable

The component cable is the apparent analog replacement to composite cable. After all, it has better image quality and HD support. It is why you will find most modern TVs, like HDTVs today, have a component port. Even the consoles and games you use has this cable input.

Component Cable

Limitations of Component Cable

When it comes to the limitations, both component and composite have almost the same. It is because they are both analog cables, meaning they transmit signals the same way. The component cable is just a little more advanced thanks to the HD picture and progressive scan qualities.

No matter their limitations, it is a fact they are still used today. For how long that will be, no one can be sure. HDMI and other cable types are already making their ways in the market. They are taking over in almost everything, but still, it will take some time before component and composite cables are replaced.

Conclusion

With this comparison of component vs. composite cable, I am hoping you find the answers you are looking for. There is a difference between the two, but they are pretty similar. When searching for it, look at this post, and you can understand what they are.

References:

  1. Component vs. Composite Cables, Bill Wilson, Appuals.com, May 6, 2019
  2. Component vs. Composite Cables, James Red, Techwalla.com
  3. Learn About Composite Video Cables And What They’re Used For, Cmple.com
  4. Red White Yellow Cable: Composite Cables Explained, S. Santos, Bluecinetech.co.uk, May 13, 2020
Author: James Core

I write dozens of helpful informational articles based on topics that I have identified again and again throughout my research and work experience. I am here to help you find the right CABLE AND CONVERTER for your needs.

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