Connecting Both a DVD Recorder and a VCR to a Television

Adding a DVD Recorder to Your Current TV and VCR Setup or Home Theater System


Adding a DVD recorder to a current TV and VCR setup requires some planning. Here are some connection and setup tips.

Basic DVD Recorder-to-Television Connection

A DVD recorder can hook up to any TV that has at least a set of AV inputs in addition to the standard antenna/cable TV connection.

Note: You will need an RF modulator if your TV does not have AV inputs.

To connect a DVD recorder to a television (with no VCR present), just connect your cable or antenna feed to the antenna/cable input of the DVD recorder and loop it out to the RF input on the TV.

However, if your DVD Recorder is without a tuner and does not have RF inputs, you will have to connect an antenna, cable, or satellite TV signal to a DTV converter, cable, or satellite box first, then use the AV outputs for the cable or satellite box to one of the corresponding sets of AV inputs on the DVD recorder.

Next, you will also need to connect the AV outputs of the DVD recorder to the AV inputs (composite, S-video, or component) of the TV for DVD playback.

Note: Although some DVD recorders have an RF input and output - in most cases, it functions as a passive loop-through to the TV. When playing back a recorded DVD, you must use the AV inputs of the TV or buy an RF modulator to put between the DVD recorder and TV to convert the recorded signal.


Factors to Take Into Consideration When Adding a DVD Recorder to Your TV-VCR Setup

1. The proper DVD recorder to Television Connection Path

You should not connect a VCR and DVD recorder into the same path to your television.

In other words, your VCR and DVD recorder should be connected to your TV via separate inputs on the TV, or hooked up to an AV switcher or home theater receiver (more on this option on page 2).

2. The Copy-Protection Factor

The reason that you should not connect your DVD recorder and VCR in the same path to your television is copy-protection.

Even if you are not recording anything, when you play a commercial DVD on your DVD recorder and the signal has to go through your VCR to get to the TV, the anti-copy signal will trigger the VCR to interfere with the playback signal of the DVD, making it unwatchable on your television.

On the other hand, the same effect is present if you have your VCR hooked into your DVD recorder before the signal reaches the television, in that a commercial VHS tape with anti-copy encoding will cause the DVD recorder to interfere with VHS playback signal, causing the same effect on your television.

However, the copy-protection effect is not present on tapes or DVDs that you make yourself, such as home camcorder videos or most broadcast or cable TV show recordings; with the exception of recordings made from some premium channels, such as HBO.

3. The DVD Recorder-VCR Direct-to-Television Connection Option

The easiest way to connect both a VCR and DVD recorder to a single television is to split your cable or satellite signal so that one feed goes to your VCR and other to your DVD recorder. Then, connect the outputs of your VCR and DVD recorder separately to the TV.

If your television only has one set of AV inputs, you can either connect the output of your VCR to the TV's RF input and the DVD recorder to the single set of AV inputs OR get an AV switcher to place between the VCR and DVD recorder and your television.

An AV switcher would give you more flexibility in selecting the unit you wish to view, if you only have one set of AV inputs on your television.

NOTE: If you own an HDTV, and the TV has an HDMI input connection, check to see if your DVD recorder has an HDMI output. If so, use this connection option between the DVD recorder and the TV instead of component, S-video, or composite video connections.

4. DVD Recorder-to-VCR Recording and Vice Versa

If you have a DVD recorder and VCR connected to your television in the manner prescribed, in order to be able to record, or cross-dub, video between the DVD recorder and VCR, you also need to make additional, separate, connections between the DVD recorder and VCR.

If you wish to make copies of VHS tapes to your DVD recorder, you may need to unplug your VCR's AV line outputs and reconnect them to one of the DVD recorder's AV line inputs when you want to perform this function.

If you wish to copy video from a DVD to your VCR, many DVD recorders have more than one set of AV outputs to perform this function. If this is the case, simply connect a set of AV outputs to the AV inputs on your VCR.

Good illustrations on how to connect a VCR to a DVD recorder are provided in each DVD recorder user manual. By the same token, your VCR owner's manual should have instructions and an illustration on how to connect two VCRs together -- all you have to do is replace the references to the additional VCR with a DVD recorder, as the connections would be the same.

Important Reminder: You can only make copies of non-copy protected DVDs and VHS tapes.

Proceed to Page 2 - Connecting a DVD Recorder and VCR to a Television via a Home Theater Receiver

Connecting a DVD Recorder and VCR to a Television Via a Home Theater Receiver

If you have a home theater system that includes a home theater receiver (also referred to as an AV or Surround Sound Receiver), you have an additional option for adding a DVD recorder to your setup.

When connecting a DVD recorder to home theater receiver, you can connect it just as you would a VCR, through the VCR1 or VCR2 loop, with additional connection of the digital coaxial or digital optical output to the digital audio inputs available on the AV receiver.

Reminder - Make sure you still split the incoming antenna or cable signal so that those signals go to the DVD recorder and VCR separately.

Use the monitor output of the home theater receiver to supply the video part of the feed to the TV. In this type of hook-up you have access to all the surround sound functions of DVD playback (of commercial DVDs) as well as the DVD recorder's recording and dubbing functions from other video sources (such as a VCR) connected to the AV receiver. Most DVD recorders also have front mounted AV inputs as well for the connection of a camcorder or other video source.

Additional Tips

1. Refer to the owner's manuals provided with your DVD recorder. It will have several diagrams for a variety of connection scenarios for your television or home theater system.

2. Before purchasing a DVD recorder, determine whether or not your VCR is in good working order. If you have an older VCR, or one that is not functioning as well as it used to, you might consider purchasing a DVD Recorder-VCR Combination unit.

This will simplify both the adding of DVD recording to your current VCR and Television set-up and also give you the easier access to DVD recorder-VCR cross-dubbing functions.

For additional information on DVD recorders - how they work, what they can and cannot do, and how they can fit into both your current and future video and home theater needs, check out my DVD Recorder FAQs