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SHOP WINDOW -- AV LEADS

 

If you thought AV connecting leads were just another boring but useful accessory we’ve got news for you, you’re right, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to buy any old lead, there are some quite considerable differences, as we shall see. We’ve put together a selection of leads from various sources, to keep things simple we’ve tried to compare like with like by looking at the two commonest/most useful sorts,  SCART to SCART AV connectors, and SCART to phono (composite video and stereo audio) camcorder leads.

 

So far video has escaped the almost maniacal obsession with leads and cables that has gripped the audio industry for the past few years. No-one is yet making absurd performance claims for video leads, though technically speaking the quality of leads and connectors has a far more significant effect on signal quality at video frequencies, that it has on audio information. But if hi-fi enthusiasts are happy to pay through the nose for inch-thick speaker cables in the hope they will make their systems sound better, who are we to argue?

 

It’s a matter of simple physics that all leads degrade the signals they carry, to a greater or lesser extent. Resistance in the cable results in a reduction in signal level even the molecular movement in the wire itself generates minute amounts of noise. Noise can also be generated by the metal to metal contacts at either end, and all cables will pick up radio frequency interference, even if they’re screened; it’s a wonder some of them work at all...

 

We’re also concerned about the quality of manufacture, which covers the type of cable used, the integrity and durability of connectors, especially on multi-way SCART connectors, which are fragile and poorly designed things to begin with. Each of our sample leads went through a series of electrical and mechanical checks, this is what we found.

 

BOX COPY - SCART WIRING

SCART plugs are constructed and wired according to conventions, based on European and British standards (EN 50 049 and BS 6552), set out by the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (better known as CENELEC). The pins in SCART plugs are wired ‘straight’,  or ‘crossed’. For example, a straight connection means pin 4 on one plug (audio ground), would be wired to pin 4 on the other plug. However, pin 19 (video output) has to be wired across to pin 20 (video input), in order for the signal to get from one piece of equipment to another. The same applies to the audio inputs and outputs which are also crossed, (pin 1 cross-wired to pin 2, and 3 wired to 6). Not all pins need to be wired though, there are four ‘partially-wired’ configurations, designed for specific applications. Type A leads are for audio-only signals, so the pins that carry video or control signals (5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20) are left unconnected. A Type C  (or ‘9-pin’) lead is used for composite video and audio signals, pins carrying RGB, S-Video and blanking signals are not connected. Type V is for video-only signals, the audio connections are unconnected, and lastly there’s Type U (‘universal’ or ‘21-pin’) lead, where all pins are connected, with the necessary audio and video inputs and outputs crossed.  Don’t be fooled into paying extra for special ‘Super VHS’  SCART to SCART leads, all fully-wired Type U leads should work with S-Video (S-VHS/C or Hi8) equipment. Watch out too for line or extension leads, where all the pins are wired straight, but there will normally be a plug and a socket, instead of two plugs.

 

 

AICO AIA-V-SL3SW £6.50

SCART to 3 x phono lead, 1.2 metres long,  switchable for AV input or output. Phono plugs clearly labelled, though not colour-coded with black plugs used for both the right audio and video channels. Incorrect wiring diagram on packaging, wiring inside plug not sleeved, mediocre construction.

 

VC RATINGS

Electrical                     8

Mechanical                  5

Value for money 6

 

 

AICO AIA-V-SL20 £6

Fully wired Type U SCART to SCART with 2-metre shielded cable. Our sample was a real mess, the video connections were correctly crossed, (but shown as straight on the supplied wiring diagram), whilst the audio pins were wrongly wired straight.

 

VC RATINGS

Electrical                     1

Mechanical                  7

Value for money 2

 

 

AVI TVA-4118 £6

Switchable SCART to phono lead, 1.5 metres long. Labelled red and black audio plugs, unusual blue-coloured video plug. Good quality components and 3-way screened cable, reasonably well made, good value.

 

VC RATINGS

Electrical                     8

Mechanical                  9

Value for money 8

 

 

AVI TVA-4132 £8

Type C SCART to SCART lead with 1.5 metre cable. Good quality construction, and sensibly priced.

 

VC RATINGS

Electrical                     8

Mechanical                  9

Value for money 9

 

 

BANDRIDGE VL7542 £10

SCART to 3 x phono lead, 1.5 metres long (also available with gold-plated connectors for £13, 7542G, and 3-metre cable, VL7545G). Clearly labelled and colour coded moulded phono plugs. Very high standard of construction throughout.

 

VC RATINGS

Electrical                     9

Mechanical                  9

Value for money 9

 

 

BANDRIDGE VL7392 £13

Fully-wired Type U SCART to SCART lead, 1.5 metres long but also available in 3 and 5-metre lengths. Heavy-duty construction using individually screen audio and video cables. Also available with gold-plated connectors (VL7392G, £15), and unscreened ( VL7392E, £10). All recommended.

 

VC RATINGS

Electrical                     9

Mechanical                  9

Value for money 9

 

 

BANDRIDGE VL7392T £18

Snazzy silver-coloured Type U SCART to SCART with 1.5-metre cable (also silver). Gold-plated contacts but in the end it doesn’t work any better than a black coloured lead. Maybe worth thinking about if your leads are on show...

 

VC RATINGS

Electrical                     10

Mechanical                  9

Value for money 6         

 

 

HAMA 29418 £17

1.5 metre SCART to 3 x phono with switchable for input and output. Gold-plated contacts at both ends, labelled and colour-coded moulded phono plugs. Very well built, all wiring fully sleeved.  Good but expensive.

 

VC RATINGS

Electrical                     9

Mechanical                  9

Value for money 7

 

 

HAMA 29419 £10

1.5-metre Type U SCART to SCART with gold plated contacts. Well made with fully sleeved wires. Very good value.

 

VC RATINGS

Electrical                     9

Mechanical                  9

Value for money 9

 

IQ IQVL6 £6

SCART to phono lead, well made, good quality components. Phono plugs labelled but not colour coded with red used for right and left audio channels.

 

VC RATINGS

Electrical                     8

Mechanical                  7

Value for money             8

 

 

IQ IQVL3 £8

1.5 metre long Type U SCART to SCART. Single screen multi-way cable a potential problem area, otherwise reasonable quality and well made.

 

VC RATINGS

Electrical                     6

Mechanical                  8

Value for money 8

 

LINXS 37120 £7

SCART to phono lead, 1.5 metres long. Phono plugs labelled but not colour coded with black being used for both audio left and composite video channels. Wiring sleeved inside SCART but earth braids exposed and liable to come into contact with unwired pins.

 

VC RATINGS

Electrical                     8

Mechanical                  5

Value for money 6

 

 

LINXS 47109 £8

Fully wired Type U SCART to SCART, 1.5 metres long. Heavy duty construction with 7 screened cables. Reasonably well made though stripped thread on the retaining collar on one plug suggest lax quality control and could lead to problems.

 

VC RATINGS

Electrical                     8         

Mechanical                  7

Value for money 8

 

 

PHILIPS FREEBIE

Type C SCART TO SCART, 1.5 metres in length, supplied as standard accessory with Philips VCRs. Good quality components with screened audio and video cables. High standard of construction with all connections full sleeved. Excellent, as it should be.

 

VC RATINGS

Electrical                     9

Mechanical                  9

Value for money n/a

 

 

VIVANCO 9/84 £9

High quality switched SCART to triple phono, 2.0 metres long. Phono plugs colour coded and clearly labelled, all connections sleeved. A little pricey but very well made.

 

VC RATINGS

Electrical                     8

Mechanical                  9

Value for money 7

 

           

VIVANCO 9/17 G £20

Outrageously expensive but very high quality Type U SCART to SCART. Heavy industrial grade 2-metre, 7-core co-ax cable; gold-plated contacts, very well made with silver-coloured SCARTs. First choice for fussy, well-heeled AV enthusiasts.

 

VC RATINGS

Electrical                     10

Mechanical                  9

Value for money 5

 

 

VIVANCO 9/37 G £15

Type C SCART to SCART lead, 2 metres long with gold-plated contacts. Silvery plugs at either end, but don’t let that bother you. Very high quality construction throughout.

 

VC RATINGS

Electrical                     10

Mechanical                  9

Value for money 7

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1994 2907

 

 

 


 

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