DVD Recorder Connection Options (Antenna, Cable, Etc)

The types of connections that DVD Recorders have

LG RC897T DVD Recorder VCR Combo - Rear View
LG RC897T DVD Recorder VCR Combo - Rear View. Photo © Robert Silva

DVD Recorders provide several types of connections that allow you to record TV programs and copy home video content, but there are some limitations. As you read along, reference the photo at the top of the article.


Connecting an Antenna, Cable, or Satellite Box


If your DVD recorder has a built-in digital tuner (2007 model year or later), you can connect an antenna for receiving over-the-air TV programs so you can record them onto DVD.
By the same token, if you have a cable or satellite box that provides an RF output, you can connect that to the RF input of a DVD recorder that provides this option.


However, if your DVD recorder is "tunerless", you cannot connect an antenna, cable, or satellite box to it in the above fashion as no antenna connections are provided. If you receive TV programs via antenna, and you have a DVD recorder that doesn't have a built-in tuner, you need to connect the antenna to a DTV converter box and then connect that box to your DVD recorder using a composite or S-video connection.


One more point to add is that if you have a DVD recorder that can be connected to cable and satellite boxes, not all DVD recorders have cable or satellite box control. This means that on many DVD recorders, when you set the timer on the DVD recorder to record a cable or satellite program, you may also need to leave your cable or satellite box tuned to the correct channel ahead of time or set the cable or satellite box's timer to go to the correct channel to be recorded to match the time you have set on your DVD recorder.


To find out if a DVD recorder has satellite or cable box control, look for features such as a supplied IR Blaster (this feature is common in many VCRs), which allows the DVD recorder to change the channels and on/off functions of a cable/satellite box, much like a standard remote control, except that it is done on a schedule that you have programmed ahead of time.


Connecting Other Sources


In addition to the options and restrictions of connecting an antenna, cable, or satellite box to a DVD recorder, you can connect other external devices. For example, you can connect a DVD player, VCR, or analog camcorder to a DVD recorder via composite or S-Video connections (S-Video is not always offered). In addition, if you have a digital camcorder, most DVD recorders also provide a DV (IEEE-1394/Firewire) input (not shown in the above photo) so that you can transfer video and audio digitally from the camcorder to DVD.


It is important to note that the DV input connection and, sometimes, a duplicate set of composite or S-video inputs are located behind a flip-down door on the DVD recorder's front panel.


Connections to your TV


Getting a video signal to the DVD recorder so you can make a DVD is one thing, but you also want to be able to play the video back.


One option is to take your recorded DVD and play it in another DVD player, but DVD recorders also have the needed connections that allow you to view your DVD recordings on most TVs.
If your TV has composite, S-video, component, or HDMI inputs, DVD recorders provide one or more of those connection options as well. NOTE: On most newer TVs composite and component video connections are shared.


There are also additional things to take into consideration. On many DVD recorders that include an RF in/out connection loop, the loop may be a pass-through connection only for antenna signals. This means, that in order to view your DVD recording on your TV, you must use the AV connection options discussed above. If your TV only has an antenna connection, then you may have to place an RF modulator between the composite video outputs of the DVD recorder and the RF/antenna connection on the TV to watch your disc, whether commercially made or home recorded.


Other Connection Options


If you have an HD or 4K Ultra HD TV, it is best to connect the DVD recorder to that TV using an HDMI connection if that option is provided. This will provide you with the best picture quality. Even though DVD is not a high-definition format a DVD recorder with HDMI outputs and HD and 4K Ultra HD TVs provide video upscaling that can make both commercial and home recorded DVDs look better.


For audio, HDMI will send both video and audio from the DVD recorder to the TV. Also, if you have a home theater or sound bar that provide HDMI connections, you can connect the HDMI output from the DVD recorder to the compatible home theater receiver or soundbar from those devices to the TV. This way you can see the video portion of your DVD on your TV and hear the audio portion through home theater receiver or soundbar.


If your TV, home theater receiver, or soundbar does not have HDMI, you can also connect send the video signal to your TV using composite or component video connections (most TVs don't have S-video connections anymore) and connect the audio to your home theater receiver or soundbar using analog stereo, digital optical, or digital coaxial connections if one or more of these options are provided in the connection path.


The Bottom Line


DVD Recorders provide several connection options for both recording and playing back DVDs. However, there are some variations depending on which brand and model of recorder you have.


In addition to connections, there some additional things to take into consideration that affect what you can record and play back such as resolution, copy-protection, and other audio recording limitations.


Also, if you are planning to purchase your first DVD recorder or need to replace an aging unit, be aware that they are harder to find on store shelves these days.