An RCA or phono connector (also known as Cinch connector) is an electrical connector type used to carry audio and video signals together, typically through 1 video and 2 stereo audio connectors (as in the case of composite video). In the component video, the RCA connectors can number 5, with 3 video connectors and 2 stereo connectors instead. HDMI instead involves both video and audio flowing through one cable because it’s the more advanced, digital, and high-definition transmission standard capable of many other things aside from establishing A/V connections.
At their most basic, the RCA connector is a style of connector used by many different connection standards like component and composite video while HDMI is a complete transmission standard of its own.
Top 10 Best RCA-to-HDMI Converters
Here are the top RCA to HDMI converters we could get our hands. It became pretty obvious to us which ones are the most cost-effective and the most dependable regardless of price.
#1 ABLEWE RCA to HDMI Converter
It’s hard-to-pronounce (or silly-to-pronounce in most an English speaker’s ear) company name aside, the ABLEWE RCA to HDMI Converter does deliver the goods in all the most important spots or aspects of A/V conversion. We’ve tried it on Blu-Ray and DVD players, VCRs/VHS players, Xboxes, PS1s/PS2s/PS3s, STBs, PCs, NTSC/PAL, and so forth and it worked fine.
For all the devices that worked splendidly with this converter—mostly those that have RCA composite or S-video ports—it worked and delivered “1080p” upscaled footage or at least 1080p in the sense that the original 480i/p image has been blown up to accommodate your HDTV display’s native resolution. It also works with monitors and projectors with enough tinkering. It’s one of those multi-format types of converters that covers a whole swathe of appliances in one go.
It has pretty high ratings on Amazon by almost 4,000 reviewers for good reason. It’s a great de facto VHS to Digital Display Converter at the most affordable price possible of $16 (give or take a cent). It has one key flaw though that many a one-star rating and review on Amazon would attest—it does not work on any Samsung TV. Samsung TV owners, you’ve been warned. This isn’t a case of factory defects, all converters of this brand won’t work with Samsung TVs across the board.
#2 Techole AV to HDMI Converter:
This about $14 converter covers many popular 1990s A/V connections, including RCA. As its high ratings would suggest, it’s highly popular and many customers were able to make it work with their vintage or legacy systems, allowing them to see their video games or VHS tapes in full 1080 HD for the most part. Most customers use it to make their PlayStation 3 work with an HDTV.
Like the ABLEWE converter, Techole offers an RCA to HDMI converter that’s also an all-purpose AV converter for PAL/NTSC, Composite CVBS AV, and so forth. It’s mostly bought and used for linking game consoles like the Sony PlayStation 2 and 3, Nintendo Wii, Xbox and Xbox 360, SNES, NES, VHS/VCR, DVD player, PCs, and more to HDMI displays like an HDTV, projector, and computer monitor.
Additionally, its resulting upscaled output runs at 60 Hz and has a stretched or blown-up version of 480/576p/i at 720p or 1080p. It’s a pretty standard converter at an affordable price point. Alas, there are quality control issues that drag down the customer ratings of the Techole device on Amazon. There are those that claim it’s a waste of money because there’s a 50/50 chance that it won’t work with your old media source. Some call it faulty, some had it turn your screen blue, while others insist that those are only defects.
#3 Xmerry RCA to HDMI Converter:
Xmerry will give you the feeling of a Merry, Merry Christmas with its Xmerry RCA to HDMI Converter. Why? It works as fine as the $16 ABLEWE but it’s $1 cheaper (give or take a cent) and it doesn’t have a “doesn’t work with Samsung TVs” caveat to boot. It’s an adapter/converter capable of turning an SD to an upscaled HD display at full 1080p for various standard definition AV standards of the past.
It specifically works with PAL/NTSC for TV, PC, composite RCA CVBS video and audio, and many other electronics and peripherals that make use of the standard SD AV cables of the time. It’s compatible with VHS players or VCRs, early versions of the Blu-ray Disc player, Xbox and Xbox 360, PlayStation 1-3, and so forth. Just remember that it’s input is RCA and output is HDMI. As an added bonus, you don’t need extra drivers or software in order to run this converter.
What this means is that only works on RCA source media connected to an HDMI display, like an HDTV, computer monitor, or modern projector. It does have its flaws though. There are several complaints by customers in regards to how it makes a squeaking sound when used. Some units have issues with port contact and damage from intense heat. The supposed poor quality and durability of the adapter is a common complaint.
#4 Anbear RCA to HDMI Converter:
For only $10 or about $5 to $6 less than the previous two converters, you can get your hands on this RCA to HDMI adapter. It’s also listed as a converter but it is a lot more compact than its peers on this list, giving it more of an adapter feel. It’s capable of working with CVBS/S-video types that use the yellow, white, and red cables with their input. This converter allows you to link source media to HDTV displays easily.
When it works, the Anbear Converter is capable of converting the analog input into an output that usually only works with 720p/1080p videos at 60 Hz. It also works with monitors that have the HDMI output as well as projectors. It also has an advanced HDMI 1.3 transmitter and it’s integrated with 9-bit ADC to boot. The main caveat that allows this adapter to only be $10 aside from its size is the fact that only RCA inputs work with it.
The adapter supports source formats such as PAL/N, PAL/M, SECAM, NTSC4.43, NTSC3.58, and PAL standard TV regions. It’s main goal is to provide advanced signal processing with great details, resolutions, colors, and precision when all is said and done. Alas, it does have flaws aside from being RCA-only with it not working on some appliances and electronics despite it claiming wide compatibility for VCRs or VHS players, DVD players, Blu-Ray players, STB, the Nintendo Wii, the PlayStation 1-3, and the Xbox and Xbox360.
#5 Neoteck Alloy AV CVBS to HDMI Converter and Upscaler:
This converter/upscaler does what it advertises to a degree. Does it justify the almost $20 price tag? As far as we’re concerned, the extra dollars are more for its alloy casing and better quality materials that put Xmerry’s offering to shame. It doesn’t necessarily perform better than the likes of ABLEWE, but it does work and it is durable than other adapters and converters out there.
It is compact, lightweight, and portable. It also has a well-made box, firmness, and a case alloy that’s truly solid construction material. The RCA composite and audio ports are tight and flush with the casing. The printing on the box is vibrantly clear as well. This solid piece of hardware includes a USB plug that’s a bit short and might require an extension. The full-sized USB size has a bit less grip on it though. It’s also more of a VCR or VHS type of plug-&-play home theater converter.
If you’re a retro gamer who wants to play retro games from the aftermarket onto your HDTV, don’t buy this converter. It’s too limited in scope to cover the different consoles of the past. The device doesn’t work as well with your Nintendo 64, Turbo Grafx 16, Sega Genesis, or NES. It produces a low-quality picture that’s not ideal for your gaming needs. A composite-compatible television works best for such game consoles.
#6 CoolDigital S-Video RCA to HDMI Converter:
The main claim to fame of CoolDigital’s converter is that its RCA conversion isn’t limited to composite RCA but also covers S-video as well. It’s also a more robust conversion system as a result, with it being available at the not-insignificant price of about $40. So is it worth the money or should you buy something worth $10 to $15 instead, since this is about $30 more expensive than Neoteck’s converter offering?
From what we ourselves have seen and experienced, the customer ratings for this product are decent. It’s because the quality of the product is quite superb specs-wise and results-wise. The resulting upscaled converted picture is quite amazing, almost like something ripped off of DVD (almost), with minimal scaling and artifacts to worry about. The sound quality in particular is greatly improved when converted into digital.
We used it on the PlayStation 2 and while there isn’t much of a different and the image is definitely stretched to fit into the higher resolution, it’s a serviceable converter when all is said and done. With that said, its ratings are much lower than its cheaper counterparts despite its inclusion of S-video to its conversion list on the top of RCA composite. You can also choose between 720p or 1080p conversion. It does suffer from lower ratings due to quality control and delivery issues as well as its exorbitantly high price.
#7 Tensun Composite and S-Video to HDMI Converter:
As for the Tensun 3RCA AV CVBS Composite and S-Video to HDMI Converter, it was in such high demand that it isn’t currently available. Judging by its reviews, it’s a highly esteemed converter covering all the basics of RCA conversion such as converting CVBS A/V for composite and S-video connections as well as turning R/L stereo audio into something that’s somehow better in digital despite having an analog source.
It’s like how MP3 CD rips sound all right and the human ear couldn’t notice the change of bitrate or compression when an analog SD 480p/i or 576p/i signal is turned digital. Many customers buy Tensun in order to play their PlayStation 2 and 3 (as well as PSX) games through their respective consoles and on an HDTV. It can even cater to making a Nintendo 64 game 720p or 1080p at 60 Hz. Like the $40 CoolDigital Converter, it also converts S-video signals to HD.
Additional features you won’t find in order converters include having the settings of the input and output signal auto-stored when you cycle the power on and off. The RCA composite and S-video cables can share the same audio input as well. In terms of drawbacks for this upscaler, it produces oversaturated colors, extremely dark contrast, and the image is stuck at a 16:9 ratio, making the normal square picture of a 4:3 SD video look like it’s been stretched out to a rectangular frame, resulting in slightly wider faces and distorted backgrounds.
#8 E-SDS HD Mini AV Composite Video/Audio RCA to HDMI Converter:
As for the E-SDS or E-SDS RCA to HDMI Converter, it ticks all the boxes of a decent converter, from decent upscaling, hi-fi audio conversion, and digital HDMI for up to full 1080p HD. With it, you can play your VCR, DVD player, camcorder, or game console on your HDTV or HDMI monitor as well as your modern projector with an HDMI port.
It does come with certain caveats, starting with its $44 price tag that’s slightly higher by a few dollars than the $40 CoolDigital Converter. There are also times when you won’t get sound, which indicates that your HDTV is recognizing the HDMI signal as a DVI signal instead. In such cases, adjust your HDTV settings to receive the correct HDMI signal input to restore sound to your video.
Its supported format for audio is 2-channel analog stereo audio. The device is smart enough to detect AV signals in NTSC/PAL, scaling it thusly to 720p or 1080p. Just take note that the additional expensiveness of the device roots from its being an all-around SD to HD converter instead of solely being an RCA to HDMI converter.
#9 Musou 3RCA AV Composite CVBS to HDMI Converter:
If spending upwards of $40 or more for an RCA to HDMI converter isn’t your cup of tea, then let’s get back to the more straightforward and affordable converters available online. The Musou 3RCA AV to HDMI Converter in particular has an affordable price of about $17, making it at least cheaper than even the $20 Neoteck.
Sure, the $10 Anbear is much cheaper, but the aluminum casing and better workmanship of Musou is worth the extra price in our estimation. Moreover, this AV converter with an aluminum alloy design supports all the usual SD video suspects such as PAL, NTSC3.58, NTSC4.43, SECAM, PAL/M, PAL/N standard TV formats input. It covers all the standard requirements of a high-caliber converter.
Like with other converters under $20, the Musou can be quite the mixed bag when it comes to retro gaming but it works fine if you’re just using it for home entertainment purposes, like hooking up your VCR or LaserDisc player unto it to watch “Cliffhanger” or something. In regards to flaws, it has quality control issues like customers complaining about their units nearly falling apart or missing screws.
#10 GANA RCA Composite CVBS AV to HDMI Video Audio Converter:
Last but not least is the GANA RCA to HDMI Video Audio Converter. It comes at a $14 value, so Anbear is still cheaper than it but it should give the $16 Xmerry Converter a run for its money in terms of overall value. It passes the initial hurdle of supporting a 720p or 1080p output, for one thing.
It has similar customer ratings as many of the items here, for another thing. It even supports everything from a PlayStation 3 and 4 to an Xbox as well as laptops and PCs with their own set of HDMI computer monitors. It takes care of even more vintage equipment such as the Nintendo 64, VCRs or VHS players, various cameras, and early versions of the DVD player.
It’s practically a steal at $14 without getting as many complaints about shoddy workmanship as Anbear did with its $10 offering. In terms of caveats and flaws, customers have taken note that it’s not a perfect 1:1 conversion, such as some boxes producing a green picture like there’s a green filter over it. If it runs with your TV then that’s great but you can also err on the side of caution and buy a more expensive converter in case this one doesn’t work.
Why Bother Getting an RCA to HDMI Converter?
There are a lot of RCA-type ports used by A/V legacy systems like old game consoles, VCRs, LaserDiscs, Betamax players. You might even need to upscale the video from standard definition to high-definition so you end up with something watchable on an HDTV.
If you want to, say, play an Atari 2600 or watch VHS tapes of Remington Steele on your VCR through an HDTV or computer monitor, you will need an RCA-to-HDMI converter to make everything work smoothly. After all, HDMI signals are high-speed and transmitted on differential pair wires that cancel out noise by the way they’re designed. You’ll need the converter to convert the A/V signals into something your all-digital HDTV can read and transmit.