If you want to achieve a better-quality signal, you need high-quality audio video cables. However, it is challenging to find the one you need when you have so many options. The choices include HDMI, optical, component, and RCA, among others. This article compares component vs. RCA cable, two of the oldest audio video cables.
What is an Analog Signal?
Before talking about whether component and RCA cables are the same, let’s start with what an analog signal is. First off, it is a different form of a signal, just like digital. Signals are how information is relayed from one device to another. Also, analog is a continuous wave that changes over some time.
Component and RCA cables are both analog connections. They are described by period and amplitude or frequency and phase. Also, they have no fixed range and easily distorted. While digital signal (like HDMI) transmits data in binary (0 and 1), analog signal (component and RCA) carries data in the form of a wave.
With this, you already know how component and RCA cables are similar to each other. Both transmit the same kind of signal. So, are they the same? Well, you can delve into it more below.
What is a Component Cable?
A component cable is a connector that splits the video signals into three. It has three lines in different colors – green, blue, and red. Each of these cables carries specific information of the video signal. The blue and cables, also called Pb and Pr, bring the blue and red components.
The green cable, also called Y, is responsible for transmitting the signal’s brightness information. The green information of the picture’s color comes up when all three signals combined. Since not all video components are compressed into one cable, the result is a higher quality video.
The fact that a video signal’s components are not compressed allows this cable to support HD resolutions. It can even handle a 1080 resolution as well as progressive scan images. With that, the video produced through a component video has smoother images with more defined edges.
What is an RCA Cable?
RCA cable, also known as composite video cable or “yellow plug” cable, is the old standard. It is what people used in the past to relay a video signal through a single cable and connector. It is basically one video cable, as opposed to the three cords of a component cable.
With RCA cable, all components of the video signal are compressed in a single cable. Because of that, the quality of the video is somewhat subpar. It is why you cannot use RCA for HD content or progressive scan images. Since RCA cables also have to deal with radio frequency interference, the picture quality is further degraded.
Components vs. RCA Cable
As mentioned, both RCA and component cables transmit an analog signal. People usually use them to carry audio and video signals from devices like TVs and media players. People who are not familiar with audio-video cables get confused and compares component vs. RCA cable.
However, wondering whether one is better than the other is, in fact, pointless. While people call it RCA cable, it actually refers to the type of cable and plug. It makes more sense to compare component and composite video. They are two ways that video signals are transmitted.
As mentioned before – with component video, there are usually three cables that relay the different components of the signal separately. With composite, only a single cable transmits all of the video information. People get confused because of how these cables are used.
You use RCA cable for sending analog signals. It is also a plug with a single solid round metal pin in the middle. Since both component and composite video connection sends an analog signal, the RCA plug works on both. It would be great not to be confused when you hear that a component cable is also an RCA connector.
A component cable is, in truth, three RCA cables color-coded for correct identification of which cable is which. It does not even matter that the wires are not followed in order since what is important is that the endpoints match the cables. The RCA cable most people know has only one line for video and two for audio.
Although a component uses RCA plugs, it is not limited to those only. It also uses the really old SCART, plus VGA connectors and other cables. They are component video connectors that do not have an RCA plug. You will often find them used in computer monitors.
With this, you can surmise that a component and RCA cable are the same. It applies whenever there are three cables to split the video signal. If there is only one cable, then that is a composite RCA cable. Since both use an RCA plug, you can use a composite connector in component one, but it will have degraded video quality.
The quality of the materials used in the construction of the cable also affects the video quality. Similarly, the way that the cable was build has an impact. It is not so much that the cord used that matters. On that note, you can use cheap cables for short distances, but better invest in pricier ones for long distances.
Uses of RCA or Composite Video Cable
The technology behind the composite video is now dying because it does not support HD video signals. That is why it might be a better choice to go for a component than a composite if you have a choice. The only time it is ideal to go for a composite RCA cable is to use it in older equipment.
People still use a composite cable for legacy devices such as VCRs and older video game systems that do not support component video. Although it is dying, many people still use it today since not everyone has an HDTV or similar devices. Because of that, many modern devices still have at least a single composite video input for compatibility.
Uses of Component Video Cable
Since more people now use HD video signals, component cables became the default analog video cable. It is all thanks to this connector’s HD support and improved picture quality. You can use a component cable nearly in all HDTVs, DVD players, most video game consoles, Blue-ray players, set-up boxes, and others.
Types of Connectors Used in Component Video
Strictly speaking, there is no component cable. It would be less unclear just to say composite video with an RCA or VGA plug. But since people became used to it, then composite cable it is. It is still best to know about the different connector designs that a component video cable may have.
This one you already know by now. RCA stands for Radio Corporation of America, the first company to develop this type of connector. At first, RCA is used to feed audio from phonographs to radios but transitioned to video signals. It is the most common connector type since you use it in both composite and component video.
VGA is a 15-pin connector commonly used in RGBHV or Red-Green-Blue-Horizontal-sync-Vertical-sync connections. This connector can also transmit component video as long as the devices have component video signal configuration. When used in component video applications, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd pins carries the signal. The 6th, 7th, and 8th signals then act as grounds.
BNC is also a connector sometimes used in component video connections. It’s often used in professional-grade or high-end consumer electronics. BNC connectors are categorized as “bayonet-style,” engaging in the same way as a bayonet mounted on rifles. When plugged in, you need to twist the connector so that the pins lock.
No matter which connector type you want to use in a component video connection, consider how it will fare in extended use. Choose the connector that you see will stand up to the constant disconnection and reconnection. It would also be best to use a cable with a firm grip and non-corrosive plating for durability and oxidation-proof.
Limitations of RCA or Composite Video Cable
Like RCA or composite cable, a component cable is also analog. Therefore, it shares some of the limitations inherent to this type of signal. As mentioned before, an analog signal is transported as waveforms. Digital signal, on the other hand, is transmitted like a binary code, in 0s and 1s.
Since an analog signal is in a waveform, they can suffer from radio wave interference and other electrical signals. Compared to digital signals, analog also has less bandwidth. It means increased compression negatively impacts picture quality, although it is a lot less noticeable than composite video.
If you’re interested to know more about component and composite video, you might like this clip.
After comparing component vs. RCA cable, you now realize that the two are similar and different at the same time. The component cable can have an RCA plug, while RCA cable is a typical composite video name. So, when you say RCA cable, you can actually mean both composite and component.