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Having all the Right Connections

or....How to unravel the spaghetti that came with your new electronic wonder

This can be one of the many daunting tasks that faces one when first unpacking that marvelous new technological goody. Actually, though, it's not usually that difficult, as long as you don't let the panic of being in unknown territory get to you.

It's easy to panic when you look at the rear panel of your receiver/amplifier (or whatever you're using) and see a mass of plugs staring blankly out at you. But fear not, a little common sense and some derring do and you're in business.

Here's a quick rundown on how to get sound and picture out of and into your tape deck or VCR:

Most plugs these days are colour coded, and this gives you a good head start. For audio, plug the red plugs into the red sockets, and white into white. The yellow jacks are for video connections. Easy, eh? Getting the rest of it right is a bit more complex, but only a bit.

Knowing the Ins and Outs

It may seem absurdly simple, but you'd be surprised how many people neglect some of the most basic concepts. For instance, you have to make sure you get "Play" connected to "Play" and "Record" into "Record."

Fair enough. But what happens if the manufacturer throws you a curve?

Well, if your tape deck or VCR's plugs are marked "Line Out" that means the signal is going "out" from the player. So that's "PLAY." Likewise, "Line In" means record. For the video signal on your VCR, it works the same way, with "Line In" being "Record" and "Line Out" being "Play."

Still simple, right?

At the other end of the equation is your "destination," the stereo receiver, TV, or whatever. If these plugs are labelled with a modicum of thought behind them they'll say "Record" and "Play," just like the above. That makes it easy. But beware Murphy's Law...

"Line In" and "Line Out" here mean exactly the opposite to what they do on the tape deck. "IN" here means the signal coming FROM the tape deck/VCR (or tuner or whatever) and "OUT" means it's going somewhere else, like back to the tape deck/VCR (for recording) or to some other device, like a TV. Ditto for video patch cords.

So, if you want to play a tape, your patchcords should go from "Line Out" or "Play" on your tape deck to "Line In" or "Play" on your receiver/preamp. For recording, you follow the same analogy, with the appropriate differences.

To record from one deck to another, patch 'em both into the audio video receiver identically, then use the switcher in the receiver to control them both. On the switcher, select the playback deck (this works for audio and video), put the recording deck on "Record" (usually by pressing the big, red button), and the record deck will get the signal.

Don't forget to press "Record" and "Play" on the right decks, otherwise you'll erase one tape and not record the other one, leaving you with two blank tapes!

Normally, you should only have to do this hookup once, 'cause you're not going to change your equipment every week. The only time this could change is if you're doing the occasional recording from one deck to another without going through the audio/video receiver, like when you're dubbing from one VCR (or a camcorder) to another.

In this case, patch "Play (Line Out)" and "Video Out" from your playback deck into "Record (Line In)" and "Video In" on the recording deck.

Then you'll be able to record to your heart's content!

 

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Updated May 13, 2006