If you want to revive an old device such as a camcorder or games console with an S-Video output, you might wonder what sort of resolutions you can expect from this technology. Will you be able to get sound too? In this article, we’ll look at the maximum resolutions that S-Video can handle, as well as whether or not it can pass audio signals.
What Is an S-Video Cable?
S-video, also called Y/C, is a big step up from composite video. It separates the luma, or brightness signal, from the chroma or color signal, and eliminates any chance of artifacts from the composite video signal. The most common connector has four pins: two pins carry the actual signal, and the other two act as grounds. The advantage of S-video over composite is that it results in a cleaner picture with less noise. However, it is important to note that S-video is not HDTV compatible and will not provide the same level of detail and clarity as HDMI.
Seven-pin cables, on the other hand, do exist but they are not very common. These cables provide two additional signals: one for an RGB video signal and the other for an I2C interface. The I2C interface is used to control things like contrast, color, and brightness. While these cables are not commonly used, they do offer a higher quality picture than standard four-pin S-video and they were used in some Macs and PCs.
Where Is It Used?
These days it’s less and less common, but in the second half of the eighties and early nineties it was the norm for consumer electronics devices such as camcorders, video game consoles, and VCRs to offer an S-video connection. If you have any old devices gathering dust in your attic, there’s a good chance they support this standard.
Does an S-Video Cable Carry Sound?
No, an S-video cable does not pass audio. You will need to use a separate audio connection such as composite audio cables (the white and red cables) or a 3.5mm aux cable to get audio from one device to another.
One common misconception is that seven-pin cables can pass audio signals because they have more pins than the more common four-pin cable. This is not the case! The extra pins on a seven-pin cable are only used for RGB video or an I2C interface and will not carry sound.
What’s the Highest Quality Signal Transmittable Over S-Video?
At best, S-Video cables can transmit video at 480i or 576i. This is because S-Video only uses two signal cables (luminance and chrominance) instead of the three needed for component video. That said, you will need to ensure that both your devices support S-Video to take advantage of this connection.
Another factor that can affect the quality of your S-video signal is the length of the cable. The longer the cable, the greater the chance for signal degradation. For this reason, it’s best to use the two devices connected with S-video to be as close together as possible.
S-Video vs. HDMI
HDMI is a newer video standard that transmits digital video signals in code. The main benefit of digital video is that the signal doesn’t degrade from source to destination. That is the main difference between S-video and HDMI. It’s also capable of transmitting higher video resolutions up to 8K.
On the other hand, S-Video is an analog video connection that uses two signal cables. It can deliver better image quality than composite video, but not as good as component video. Maximum quality can be achieved using an S-video connection between devices supporting it.
S-Video to HDMI: Possible?
You will need to use an adapter if you want to connect a device that uses an S-video connection to a device that only has an HDMI input. There are a few different adapters available, but will they work? I tried one of these converters connecting an old PC with my modern smart TV, and it did work, so it is possible. The converter I used was an S-Video to HDMI Mini Converter Box. It’s a little black box that you plug your S-video cable into on one side and then an HDMI cable from your TV on the other. The only thing to remember is that since S-video only supports standard-definition video, don’t expect any miracles – the quality will still be SD. Also, don’t believe when one of these converters says it will “upscale” the video to HD. It might look better than if you used a composite connection, but it’s not true HD.