Is the RCA cable dead?

Well, not dead, but sick. Solid Signal carries a large selection of RCA cables and as a matter of fact we just added some new lower-cost options. It seems that people still want these cables, because they’re pretty much mandatory for connecting up old televisions and VCRs. I have a feeling the spike in demand has to do with the recent death of Radio Shack, so it’s likely to be short-lived.

Don’t weep for the RCA connector, though — it’s lived a long life. It was originally introduced by the Radio Corporation of America as an easy way to connect record players to AM radios. Yes, this was back in the 1930s when that was a thing. It continued to grow in popularity for home audio equipment for decades, and the humble RCA cable really found its stride in the 1980s when it was used for connecting VCRs and game systems to televisions.

Designed as it was to be a solution for relatively low-bandwidth audio, it’s not surprising that it’s been largely abandoned today. RCA cables don’t provide enough shielding for an HD-video application and the way they are constructed makes it very expensive to create truly high-quality cables. On the other hand, the F connector is a very good solution for transferring HD digital video, which is why nearly every cable and satellite operation in the world uses it.

For a very short while, high-definition video and audio was carried over a total of five RCA cables working together, but even that isn’t sufficient for a digital signal with surround sound. It’s also not very friendly for consumers who want a single cable that carries everything.

There really isn’t an upgrade path for the old RCA connector. If you want to convert your standard definition signals to HDMI for a new TV that doesn’t have those connectors, we have a solution for that, so at least there’s some possibility of connecting a VCR up to that new 80″ 4K TV. I can’t promise it will look terribly good, but you can do it.

If you’re like me and you literally have a bag of RCA cables sitting in the garage, this is the time to responsibly recycle most of them. Keep a couple because you may need them, but otherwise, let the copper within them be used for something else. They’re just taking up space out there so why not give them a second life?

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 5,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.