Home Theater A/V Connections - Disappearing Options

Four Connection Options Whose Days Are Numbered

Back of home theatre device showing s-video, phono, component video, and multi-channel analog audio connections that are being eliminated
S-video, phono, component video, and multi-channel analog audio connections are being eliminated from home theater components.

Robert Silva

One aspect of home theater that is inescapable is that you need to connect everything together in order to make it all work. That means a plethora of speaker wire and audio/video connections that can cause a lot of clutter.

On the positive side, those same cables and wires that cause all that clutter also provide multiple ways to connect both old and new components together. However, over the past few years, with the accelerated pace of the change from analog to digital, a trend has emerged that may put a "connection squeeze" on the ability to connect older components to new home theater components.

There is a systematic effort by consumer electronics manufacturers to eliminate several "legacy" connections from home theater components that consumers have used for years, or even decades. These actions limit the practical use of older, but still functioning, devices that may use these connections exclusively.

Shown in the above photo montage are four types of connection options that you are seeing less of (note: these connection are not to shown to scale).

S-Video Connections

Starting on the top left is an S-Video connection. This connection is aggressively being eliminated on TVs and home theater receivers, as well as other video source components. Legacy devices, many of which are still in use, that use this connection are S-VHS VCRs and Camcorders, Hi8 camcorders, mini-DV camcorders, older DVD players, AV switchers, and most of any remaining LaserDisc players still in use.

Phono Turntable Connections

Next, on the top right is a phono input that allows you to connect a turntable to a home theater receiver. However, this option is now only available on some higher-end home theater receivers, but even a growing number of high-end home theater receivers are eliminating this connection option. This is actually pretty puzzling as listening to vinyl records is currently on the upswing.

As a result, if you have an older turntable that is still good working order, you may need spring some cash for an additional, external, phono preamp in order to match the voltage and equalization output of your turntable with a newer home theater receiver. If you really enjoy vinyl records, your only other option is to purchase one of the growing numbers of new turntables that have a built-in phono preamp.

Component Video Connections

Pictured just below the phono connections, is a set of component video connections. Due to new regulations regarding copy-protection, combined with the introduction and the rapid acceptance of HDMI as the standard for high-definition video transfer, a policy referred to as The Analog Sunset is being enforced which effectively eliminates the practicality of component video connections. This issue is especially causing headaches for custom installers that have previously wired homes using component video connections for high-definition video connectivity, as now they have to start converting to HDMI, as new components are installed.

The Composite - Component Video Input Dilemma

An additional development regarding the use of Component Video connections is that a growing number of TVs now combine both composite and component video inputs. What this change means for consumers is that in a growing number of cases going forward, you will not be able to connect both a composite and component video source component to the TV at the same time. This affects those that have more than one of the following: a VCR, older non-upscaling DVD player, or standard definition cable or satellite box.

Multi-Channel 5.1/7.1 Channel Analog Audio Connections

Finally, pictured on the bottom portion of the photo at the top of this page, is a set of 5.1/7.1 channel analog audio inputs. With the rapid adoption of HDMI, the need for these connections is rapidly fading, so many newer home theater receivers are eliminating the 5.1/7.1 channel analog connection option. However, consumers that own older SACD or DVD/SACD/DVD-Audio players that may not have HDMI connections, must rely on these connections to access full multi-channel uncompressed audio from their player to a home theater receiver. Eliminating this connection option effectively renders those older players almost useless when it comes to being able to access full audio capabilities when using many newer home theater receivers.

Also, on the opposite end of the connection flow, 5.1/7.1 channel analog audio connections are also being eliminated by manufacturers as an audio output option on Blu-ray Disc players. This is a problem in that many older home theater receivers that are still in use do not have HDMI inputs but do have 5.1 or 7.1 channel analog audio inputs. This means that in order to gain full audio access from a Blu-ray Disc player in this situation the player needs to have a set of 5.1/7.1 channel analog audio outputs, which is only available on a shrinking number of higher-priced players.

Final Take

Well, there you have it, take a good look at the connections in the above photo as these connection options are falling by the wayside, and fast. However, don't panic, the lowly, but trusty, old composite video, and 2-channel stereo analog audio connections don't seem to be going away anytime soon on TVs, home theater receivers, or cable/satellite boxes - but they are being removed from most Blu-ray Disc players made after 2013.