Audio interfaces and video interfaces define physical parameters and interpretation of signals. For digital audio and digital video, this can be thought of as defining the physical layer, data link layer, and most or all of the application layer. For analog audio and analog video these functions are all represented in a single signal specification like NTSC or the direct speaker-driving signal of analog audio. Physical characteristics of the electrical or optical equipment includes the types and numbers of wires required, voltages, frequencies, optical intensity, and the physical design of the connectors. Any data link layer details define how application data is encapsulated (for example for synchronization or error-correction). Application layer details define the actual audio or video format being transmitted, often incorporating a codecs not specific to the interface, such as PCM, MPEG-2, or the DTS Coherent Acoustics codec. In some cases, the application layer is left open; for example, HDMI contains an Ethernet channel for general data transmission.
Some types of connectors are used by multiple hardware interfaces; for example, RCA connectors are defined both by the composite video and component video interfaces, but DVI is the only interface that uses the DVI connector. This means that in some cases not all components with physically compatible connectors will actually work together.
Some of these connectors, and other types of connectors, are also used at radio frequency (RF) to connect a radio or television receiver to an antenna or to a cable system; RF connector applications are not further described here. Analog A/V connectors often use shielded cables to inhibit radio frequency interference (RFI) and noise.
For efficiency and simplicity, the same codec or signal convention is used by the storage medium. For example, VHS tapes can store a magnetic representation of an NTSC signal, and the specification for Blu-ray Discs incorporates PCM, MPEG-2, and DTS. Some playback devices can re-encode audio or video so that the format used for storage does not have to be the same as the format transmitted over the A/V interface (which is helpful if a projector or monitor cannot handle a newer codec).