How to get the most out of your HDTV Part 1: The Basics

Remember the days when the only connections available on TV’s were stereo audio and composite video (the red, white and yellow inputs) and it only took about a minute to hook up components? Well those days are over and things have gotten a little more complex. For those of you who have never owned a high def or flat panel TV , you might be a little intimidated by the back panel the first time you look at it. High Definition TV’s these days can have over 10 inputs with many different kinds of connections available. A person who isn’t used to dealing with home theater systems will probably have no clue what to do with them or what they are even for, and even some tech savvy people might get confused. The cable guy isn’t necessarily your best option either. Some know exactly what their doing while others could take the easy way out just to get the job done. Hopefully I can explain what these inputs are used for and which cables you should consider when connecting components to your new HDTV in order to get the best possible picture and sound.

There are a lot of people out there who think that anything connected to a High Definition Television will play in High Definition. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, just because your TV can show an HD picture doesn’t mean that it will. Now don’t go throwing your new TV in the trash-because the TV is not the problem. Before you spend a lot of money on components for your TV you need to make sure that they are able to produce a High Definition signal. You also need to make sure that any components you currently own are capable of handling High Definition if you are planning to use them for High Definition viewing. Older components like VCR’s will not handle HD because the technology was not available when they were produced. Having the wrong components can cause you a lot of wasted time and frustration in the HD process.

A component is probably HD compatible if somewhere on the box it says:

The next thing to keep in mind is that not all high definition televisions are created equal. You need to look at the specifications of an HDTV before you buy it. Some HDTV’s can not accept every High Definition resolution available. If the TV you are buying only has a native resolution of 720p, you may not get to see images in 1080i and won’t see them in 1080p because the TV simply can’t do it. If I were in the market for a new HDTV, I would buy one that gave me the option of using every connection and resolution available for High Definition so I could use it in any way I wanted. This is a big investment, don’t sell yourself short by getting a cheaper TV that limits your options.

High Definition Connections

Probably one of the most overlooked parts of the HD process is the connections. You need to have the right cables in order to pass a High Definition signal from one component to the next.

There are 3 types of video cable that will carry a high definition signal:

These are the only three cables that will give you a high definition signal! To figure out which ones you can use for your system, you need to check what connections are available on both your HDTV and your components. For example Blu-Ray Disc or HD DVD players require HDMI cables for full 1080p but also have component connections, regular DVD players can come with both component video connections, HDMI connections or both.

A few more things to consider before making expensive High Definition purchases

  • The Right Connections – Be sure that the home theater receiver, HDTV and components you are connecting have the connections that you need for High Definition. After you are sure of your connections, get the cables that are compatible with them.
  • Number of HD Connections – Make sure that you know how many High Definition connections your TV and/or receiver have. Most HDTV’s and receivers have only two HDMI inputs. If you only have 2 HDMI inputs, pick which two devices you want to run on HDMI and use Component Video for the rest.
  • Look for the SimplayHD Logo - When looking for High Def components, we suggest looking for products that contain the Simplay HD logo on them. This assures you that the product is compatible with all fromats of HDMI and has been regulated by Simplay Labs the leader in HD testing. Monster HDMI cables and Yamaha Receivers are examples of Simplay HD certified products.
  • Get Enough Cables - If you are going to run components from a home theater receiver to your HDTV, make sure you get an extra HDMI and/or Component Video Cable for the receiver’s output to the TV. Example: If you are hooking up a Blu-Ray Disc Player and a High Def cable box with HDMI, you will need 3 HDMI cables. One for the Blu-Ray to the receiver, one for the cable box to the receiver and one for the receivers output to the HDTV.
  • Keep it in the Family - Consider buying the same kinds of cable. Example: don’t buy one expensive HDMI cable for the cable box to the receiver and one cheap one from the receiver to the TV. This is not a must but can help save you from compatibility problems.
  • Don’t Forget About Sound - If you are going with component video or HDMI to DVI cables you will also need audio cables to get sound. HDMI cables carry both video and audio in one cable. NOTE: Some receivers will not repeat the audio signal through HDMI, if you are getting no sound but are getting a picture this is probably the case . We suggest using a fiber optic audio or digital coaxial connection if  available, but analog audio will work just fine if not, it just won’t be as good as a digital connection.

This is a lot to take in but if you do your research and plan out exactly what you will need, this whole process will be a lot easier. If you have any questions or want suggestions from us, post a reply to this article and we will try to answer your questions as best we can. Part II of this article will involve the actual connection of your High Definition components to your home theater system and which connections will maximize your HD experience.

29 comments on “How to get the most out of your HDTV Part 1: The Basics

  1. john sweder on said:

    I Have an older hdtv and satellite receiver, I’m now using a vga cable for an hd connection. Will vga be compatible with a newer satellite receiver with an hdmi connection? Thanks John

  2. Your Electronic Warehouse on said:

    If your new satellite receiver has no VGA connection then you will not be able to use that particular connection. There are VGA to HDMI converters out there but they are very expensive and a waste of money because the HDMI signal is degraded so much that you wouldn’t even notice a difference. Almost every HDTV has a Component Video Connection (Red, Green and Blue inputs) available and most satellite receivers also have one. Using a Component Video connection can give you High Definition in 720p or 1080i depending on the resolution your TV can accept. This connection will give you a much better picture than VGA (which is really not true high definition) and works with almost all modern components. Just remember that you need an audio connection along with the component video connection. I suggest a digital optical or digital coaxial connection if its available on both your TV and Satellite Box, but analog audio will work just fine if not.

  3. Ann Woods on said:

    I have a sony bravia tv and sky hd box. I have just purchased a panasonic home cinema system. the cinema system does not have a digital input either optical or coax.

    I have set everything up and when playing DVD’s the sound is great but when playing anything through the hd box, even when it is recorded in DD 5.1, it only plays back in stereo.

    I have connected my home cinema system to my tv through scart and to my hd box through audio leads.

    My sony tv only has one HDMI input – if I used an HDMI adaptaptor would this give me the sound quality I want. I have looked at these but they seem to only allow one component at a time and of course I wish to use my hd box and my home cinema simultaneously.

    Is there something else I can do. Please reply to my email address above

  4. Your Electronic Warehouse on said:

    If your Home Theater System does not have HDMI inputs then you will not be able to connect your HD box and home theater system with HDMI. If you wanted to still use HDMI you would have to go straight from your HD Box to your TV and could only hear audio through your Sony Bravia’s speakers.

    If your home theater system does have HDMI inputs, I would highly recommend using them because they will give you the best video and sound quality possible. In this case you would need an HDMI cable that went from your HD Box’s output to your Home theater receiver’s input and then another HDMI cable from your Home theater’s output to your TV’s input.

    I am not sure what kind of Home Theater System you have or what kind of connections it has, if I knew these details it would make it easier to help you out. If you want to talk to one of our customer service reps about you dilemma call us at 1-866-224-6171, e-mail us at or write another post in our blog.

  5. cameron on said:

    I have a Sony bravia HDTV capable of 1080p but when i put on a HD channel through my cable company i only get 1080i, also when im not watching a channel with HD its like 400i,what do i need to do!!!

  6. Your Electronic Warehouse on said:

    There are a few things that you need to understand about High Definition Televisions. An HDTV needs a high definition source in order to display in high definition. When you are not watching a high definition channel, you will be watching standard definition which is 480i. There is nothing you can do to change this, it is how every HDTV works no matter how cheap or expensive. This is how it will work until all channels are broadcast in High Definition which is probably a long way off.

    Also, just because your TV is capable of 1080p doesn’t mean that is what it is going to display in. You will not find any high definition channels that broadcast in 1080p on satellite or cable, high definition channels are either broadcast in 720p or 1080i depending on the station.

    The only HD sources that currently utilize 1080p are Blu-Ray Disc Players and HD-DVD Players, that is it. If you want to see Full HD 1080p you will need to purchase one of the two High Definition disc players and watch a movie. Don’t be discouraged, 720p and 1080i are both High Definition resolutions and will produce a far better picture than Standard Definition (480i). To be honest with you, it would be very hard for you to even notice the difference between 1080p and 1080i. Yes 1080p is the highest resolution you can get, but 1080i and 720p will produce a very comparable picture and are the resolutions that most all High Definition content is broadcast in.

  7. Victor on said:

    I have a Sony BDP-S500 1080p Blu-Ray Disc Player and a Samsung 52″ 1080i plasma TV. I us a monster HDMI cable and for some reason, when playing blue ray DVDs and regular DVDs in the dark areas, I see blue dots. I get the same results when I use component video cables also. I have tried adjusting the settings for both the player and screen and actually reading both manuals but to no avail. A “blue-ray techincal smart” friend of mine is telling me that since, my Plasma screen is 1080i instead of 1080p, that I will always have that problem and I will have to buy a 1080p TV if I want to get rid of those blue dots. Is this true?

  8. Your Electronic Warehouse on said:

    This sounds like a problem with your Blu-Ray Disc player, here’s why I think that is your problem. It is obviously not an issue with resolution like your friend claims because regular DVD’s only put out a 480p resolution, your TV is able to display double that resolution at 1080i. If your TV could not accept 1080p you would be able to see the regular DVD’s no problem and your TV would have no picture with the Blu-Ray Discs. If you are seeing the blue dots when you play regular DVDs (which your tv can play easily) and Blu-Ray Discs but not regular TV, it only makes sense that it is an issue with your Blu-Ray Disc player.

    Most 1080i TV’s can accept a 1080p signal but will downgrade it to 1080i (which is still a great picture). Again, if your TV could not accept 1080p you would not get any picture at all. Since you are getting a picture your TV can accept 1080p. I would call Sony about your problem, hopefully you are still under warranty.

  9. Charles Rollins on said:

    What are some simple rules for hooking up my new Sharp Aquos BD player to my Bose lifestyle 38 system.

  10. Your Electronic Warehouse on said:

    I am not sure which series Lifestyle 38 you have so I will tell you how to hook them all up.

    Lifestyle 38 Series II and III (Sold From 2004 to Aug 2007) – These are the older versions of the Lifestyle 38. You can connect your Blue Ray Disc Player with Component or HDMI for Video and either Digital Optical or Digital Coaxial cable for digital surround sound audio. The Digital Coaxial input is located underneath the two Analog Audio inputs (red and white), it will be grayish in color. The digital optical input stands by itself on the left side of the other inputs. If you use optical you will have to go into the system menu and under audio options, select which input you want to use it for. Both Coax and Optical have very similar performance so which you choose is up to you. You will plug the component video or HDMI straight into the TV. HDMI will give you 1080p and a sharper picture, Component will go up to 1080i and still give a High Definition picture but I recommend HDMI.

    Bose makes a product called the VS-2 Video Enhancer for $299. It will give you automatic video upscaling over HDMI which will maximize your picture on all inputs and it will give you 2 HDMI inputs. Another nice thing about it is that it controls both audio and video so you don’t have to match up audio and video inputs. It will put them both together automatically when you select which input you want on the Lifestyle Remote. If you have the Lifestyle 38 II or III and are interested in the VS-2 here is a Link to the product. If you would like to know how to connect it, read the Lifestyle 38 Series IV description I will give below. The only difference between the Lifestyle 38 Series II or III and the series IV is the VS-2 Video Enhancer will be included with the series IV.

    Lifestyle 38 Series IV (Sold from Sept 2007 to present) – You should connect the Video with HDMI which you will run from the Blu Ray’s output to one of the inputs on the VS-2 (you will also need the output to the TV to be connected with HDMI). You could still connect with Component Video but HDMI is better and is the only way to get 1080p. Even though HDMI passes both video and audio, the VS-2 only repeats video so you will still need to connect with Digital Optical or Digital Coaxial for your audio. Connect the audio the same way I described with the Series II and III models.

    If you need to buy HDMI, Component Video, Digital Optical Audio or Digital Coax cables we have them all and I have provided links to each. We have Monster Cable only because it makes the best quality cables that will give you the best possible picture.

  11. Mario Barrabi on said:


    What is the difference with HDMI cable and HDMI 1.3 cable
    I have a pioneer 720P with 1.3 HDMI connections, and I am interested in purchasing an HDMI monster cable. Witch one do you suggest I purchase. I see some that are more expensive than others.

  12. Your Electronic Warehouse on said:

    HDMI 1.3 is the latest version of HDMI, it has basically increased bandwidth and brought on extra features like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD. An HDMI cable that is HDMI 1.3 compatible will be able to fully pass HDMI 1.3.

    The reason for the difference in price in the Monster HDMI cables is that each one was made to pass different bandwidth. What kind of HDMI cable you get depends on what kind of sources you will be using with your Home Theater System. If you are connecting a standard DVD player or a High Definition cable/satellite box, I suggest either Monster standard speed or high speed HDMI cables. A regular DVD player will output .81 Gigabits per second (gbps) of data and 720p/1080i high definition will output 2.2Gbps which can easily be handled by the Monster MC500 Standard Speed HDMI cable. The MC700 High Speed HDMI cable can handle up to 4.95Gbps (1080p) which will give you a little more flexibility in case higher bandwidth 1080p HD Cable/Satellite boxes ever come out (which will not happen for a long time and may never).

    If you are connecting a High Definition DVD player like a Blu-Ray, I would suggest the Monster MC800 Advanced High Speed HDMI cable or MC1000 Ultra High Speed HDMI cable because High Definition DVD players can output anywhere from 4.46Gbps to 6.68Gbps. The Monster MC800 HD Advanced High Speed cable can easily handle these bandwidths, and the Monster MC1000 HDMI cable can handle up to 10.2Gbps which will be about as high as HDMI will ever go.

    If you are using a particular HDMI cable for a home theater receivers output, use an HDMI cable that can handle the same or higher bandwidth than the highest bandwidth HDMI cable you are using on your inputs. Example: if you are using the MC 800 Advanced High Speed HDMI cable for a Blu-Ray Disc player connected to an input, use another MC 800 HDMI cable or MC 1000 HDMI cable for the output. As a side note, the MC 1000 Ultra High Speed HDMI cable is guaranteed for life which means it will be able to handle any bandwidth both now and in the future.

    So here is what I have suggested for you:
    Standard DVD Player/HD Cable Box – Monster MC 500 Standard Speed or MC 700 High Speed HDMI cable
    Blu-Ray or HD-DVD player – Monster MC 800 Advanced High Speed or MC 1000 Ultra High Speed HDMI cable
    Home Theater Receiver Output – Monster MC 800 or MC 1000 HDMI cable (links are above)

    If you are interested in buying any of these cables from us, I have provided the links to every product page that you can follow. If you are doing any in-wall installations with HDMI, I suggest you consider the Monster M1000 HDMI cable because it can pass 10.2 Gbps and you will never have to replace it in the future.

  13. Mario Barrabi on said:

    I have a Pioneer PDP-4280HD. This tv claims to produce a 1080P signal when there is a connection made thru the HDMI 1.3. Is this true?
    The tv only claims to be a 720P.

  14. Your Electronic Warehouse on said:

    I think you slightly mis-read the specifications of the TV. Your Pioneer is a 720p/1080i TV that will accept a 1080p signal. This means that it will take a 1080p signal, then convert and display it in 1080i. Don’t be discouraged by this, Pioneer is the best brand of Plasma TV you can get and a Pioneer 1080i picture will look just as good if not better than most other brands 1080p picture. To be honest with you, at that size of TV it would be almost impossible for you to tell the difference between 1080i and 1080p. Blu-Ray and HD-DVD discs will still generate a terrific 1080i picture on your TV and I highly recommend getting one if you don’t already have it. I have the exact same model Pioneer in my home and Blu-Ray/HD-DVD’s look incredible on it. Also, High Definition Cable/Satellite boxes will only produce 720p and 1080i pictures, 1080p is currently only utilized by high definition disc players like Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players. For the price and quality of your TV, you definitely got a great value.

  15. Shawn on said:

    I just bought a new hdtv and I have it all hooked up to my cable, dvd, and ps3. But now I want to color calibrate it to ge them most of out it I can. How would I go about doing this without spending hundreds or dollars with having a tech come to my house? Any recommendations on product I could use? I have seen DVD that help you calibrate, are they any good?

  16. Your Electronic Warehouse on said:

    Monster teamed up with the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) to create a HDTV calibration DVD that gives you test pictures to help you adjust vital attributes like brightness, tint, black levels, sharpness and more. It is only $29.95 and will basically do what you would hire a tech to come in and do for a fraction of the price. Here is a link to the Monster ISF HDTV Calibration DVD if you are interested in buying.

  17. Eddie on said:

    I’ve noticed a lot of Monster HDMI cable being sold on eBay and I was wondering if this is authentic merchandise or counterfeit. How is it possible to tell if the cable a user is purchasing the real thing?
    Is there truly any difference in this cable versus the authentic Monster cable?

  18. Your Electronic Warehouse on said:

    Its funny that you ask this question on our blog because we are actually the only eBay store authorized to sell Monster on eBay. All of the other people out there selling Monster may be selling the real thing but it won’t have any warranties backing them up. People do sometimes list cables as Monster Cables even though they may not be. I suggest buying from an authorized dealer like Your Electronic Warehouse to be sure you are getting legit merchandise.

  19. brian on said:

    Ok i have a samsung 52″ 1080p tv an samsung blueray player with a samsung 5.1 theatre system with a HD DVR receiver my tv has 3 HDMI ports. I was wondering what is the best way to hook it all up?
    i was thinking i have a mc800 monster cable that i would run from the blueray to the tv an 600 monter cable to run from the HD DVR receiver to the tv an an 600 monster cable from the theatre system to the tv an a optical cable from the blueray to the theatre system. Would that work fine?

  20. Your Electronic Warehouse on said:

    I am not sure if your Home Theater System has HDMI inputs or not, but if it does you want to connect everything to that so you can experience surround sound with your Blu-Ray and your HD-DVR.
    Again if your home theater system has hdmi inputs, here is how you should set it up.
    1) Connect HD-DVR with HDMI to Home Theater Receiver HDMI input
    2) Connect Blu-Ray with HDMI to Home Theater Receiver HDMI input
    3) Connect Home Theater Receiver Output to TV input with HDMI
    This way you could control everything from the Home Theater System instead of having to use 3 different remotes by connecting everything to the TV.

    What you will need for this setup.
    -3 HDMI Cables – one for the TV output, one for the HD-DVR and one for the Blu-Ray
    I suggest getting two Monster MC 800HD HDMI cables, one for the Home Theater Output to the TV and one for the Blu-Ray to the Home Theater. I would then suggets a Monster MC 500 HDMI Cable for the HD-DVR to the Home Theater system. I have provided links to each cable if you are interested in buying.

  21. brian on said:

    “Ok i have a samsung 52″ 1080p tv an samsung blueray player with a samsung 5.1 theatre system with a HD DVR receiver my tv has 3 HDMI ports. I was wondering what is the best way to hook it all up?
    i was thinking i have a mc800 monster cable that i would run from the blueray to the tv an 600 monter cable to run from the HD DVR receiver to the tv an an 600 monster cable from the theatre system to the tv an a optical cable from the blueray to the theatre system. Would that work fine?”

    My theatre system has 1 HDMI input an 1 HDMI output so how would i do it that way i do have an optical cable aswell

  22. Your Electronic Warehouse on said:

    Use the HDMI input for your Blu-Ray player and use component video for your hd-dvr video then use the optical for audio. Cable/Satellite max broadcast resolution is 1080i, component video is capable of high definition 1080i. This way all of your systems can still be connected and all be in high definition.

  23. I have two Big screen tv’s that both have HD compatible with no HDMI connections. I want to hook up PS3 and wonder how to get a HD picture out of the tv. Some kind of converter?? Thx

  24. Electronics Guru on said:


    If your TV is an HDTV it will have at least one set of component jacks. While not included in the PS3 box, we sell the cable kits that enable full HD from the PS3 using component connections.

    Component + stereo:
    Component + surround:

    If your TV is not HD, there is no way to get an HD picture, but you can still run the PS3 through the TV using any of the connections present, provided you have the cables (eg: s-video, component, composite, etc.).

  25. Dear Guru, here is a question asked many times I am sure. Just bought a Sharp 52″ LCD, Panasonic Blu-Ray player, and 5.1 Onkyo reciever. My understanding is that I can plug everything via HDMI into the receiver and have just one HDMI output to the TV. Other than XBOX360, is this true? Will the receiver pass Video IN HD as well as the sound?

  26. Electronics Guru on said:


    Without specific model numbers I can’t say for sure. Ideally each component will be able to pass audio and video together — the whole point of HDMI. If your Onkyo receiver passes both audio and video then yes, one cable from your receiver to your HDTV will work. I assume you want audio to be passed because you won’t be using the stereo system (you do have a speaker system connected to your receiver, right?) every time you watch TV. Also, be sure to have the settings set properly for audio and video. Depending on the audio and video source and its recorded format, changes in quality and quantity can happen downstream. This information will be in your users manuals.

  27. If my Samsung plasma TV has a refresh rate of 600hz, will the Monster Cable High Speed 700 with 10.2Gbps be able to pass through that high of a refresh rate? The specifications for the cable only say “60/120hz”. Will that only show on the TV between 60/120hz instead of the 600hz that it is capable of?

  28. Electronics Guru on said:


    No need to worry because the 600Hz sub-field feature of your plasma display is done inside the TV. The video signal from your video source is what matters when the “refresh rates” are the issue. The TVs flash the pixels at increased rates — much faster than the source — to produce a better looking picture.

    The importance of having a quality HDMI cable cannot be more pressing: as features expand, data rates increase and HD content becomes standard, inferior cables will keep you from getting the most from your technology. The idea behind Monster Cable HDMI products is to design them for what’s coming tomorrow…the likely advances of the near future. Invest in a quality cable now and save yourself time and money in the future.

    Always maximize value by getting the best product you can afford.

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