How Do I Hookup a DVD Recorder to a TV/Home Theater System?

Magnavox MDR557H DVD/Hard Drive Recorder
Magnavox MDR557H DVD/Hard Drive Recorder. Image Courtesy of Amazon

Although DVD recorders are getting harder to find, there are still some available, and there are definitely many in use. Depending on your TV, and the rest of your home theater setup determines what connection options you may be able to use.

You Can Connect a DVD Recorder to Any TV, But...

To start, a DVD recorder can hook up to any TV that has at least a set of AV inputs. However, if your TV does not have AV inputs, you will need an RF modulator to provide a connection bridge between your DVD recorder and TV.

Just hook up your cable or antenna feed to the ant/cable input of the DVD recorder and loop it out to the RF (cable/antenna) input on the TV.

In addition, you will need to hook-up of the DVD recorder to the AV inputs on the TV for DVD playback.You can choose from following choices: composite, S-video, component, or HDMI.

Note: Although some DVD recorders have an RF loop through to the TV, it is usually passive. Also, another situation you might face is that some DVD recorders no longer provide RF connections, as they may not have built-in tuners. If either of these is the case with your DVD recorder, when playing back a recorded DVD you must use the AV inputs of the TV. As mentioned above, if your TV only has a cable/ant input, you will have use an RF modulator between the DVD and TV, which will convert the AV output of the DVD recorder to a channel 3/4 signal that the TV can display.

Do Not Use The Same Signal Path To Connect a VCR and DVD Recorder to a TV

You should not hook up a VCR and DVD recorder into the same path to your TV. In other words, your VCR and DVD recorder should be hooked up to your TV through separate inputs on the TV, or hooked up to an AV switcher or receiver and then use a video output of the receiver to connect to the TV.

The reason for this 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, this effect is not present on tapes or DVDs your make yourself.

The best way to hook-up both a VCR and DVD recorder to a single TV is to split your cable or satellite signal so that one feed goes to your VCR and other to your DVD recorder. Then, hook up 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 hook up 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, selecting the unit you wish to view.

Connecting a DVD Recorder to a TV Through a Home Theater Receiver

When connecting a DVD recorder to home theater receiver, you can connect it just as you would a VCR, through a VCR1 or VCR2 loop (if your receiver provides this option), or any available compatible video input that this not being used for another component. You also have the additional option of either connecting the analog audio output, or either the digital coaxial or digital optical output of the DVD recorder to the corresponding digital audio inputs available on the AV receiver. Another option is to connect the DVD recorder to the AV receiver using HDMI if both the DVD recorder and AV receiver has this connection option.

Use the monitor output (preferably the component or HDMI output) of the AV receiver to supply the video part of the feed to the TV. In this type of hookup, you have access to all the surround sound functions of DVD playback (of commercial DVDs), while sending the video signal to the TV.

The Bottom Line

Before the days of HDTVs and home theater receivers, connecting devices like a VCR or DVD recorder to a TV was pretty straight forward. However, now there are several options available, depending on what connection options are provided on both your DVD recorder, TV, and/or home theater receiver.

Since there are some variations, all owner's manuals provided with DVD recorders have explicit and simple hookup diagrams for a variety of setup scenarios. If you get lost, before you get on the phone to call tech support, make sure you take a look at your manual for any connection troubleshooting tips - of course, that is after you check out the tips discussed in this article.