This blog will act as a one-stop centre for my Blogs on High Definition (HD) stuff. Click on the ones that are of interest to you.

*Choosing a HDTV

*Choosing a Blu-ray Disc (BD) Player

*Choosing a HD Media Player

*All about the Sanyo HD2000 camcorder

*My experience with the Sony XR350 HD camcorder

*Choosing a HD Audio-Visual Receiver (AVR) - coming soon

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Which HDMI cable?

Since HDMI cable is the most important part of any HD setup, this post will be devoted to this item. Well, HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface and as the name suggests it is an item that can transmit both High Definition video and audio over a single cable. So it does make connecting your HD equipment so much simpler.

Versions of HDMI cable

There are several versions of HDMI cable and the most common type available now is HDMI 1.3 that was released in 2006 with later variations such as 1.3a, 1.3b and 1.3c but these are more for testing purposes and does not affect the normal usage of the HDMI cable so any version HDMI 1.3 is good enough for use. The major improvement of HDMI 1.3 over the earlier version 1.2 is the support for HD audio such as DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD

The latest version is HDMI 1.4 that was released in mid-2009 and the main advantage of this is the addition of an Ethernet channel, an audio return channel and support of 3D over HDMI. The Ethernet channel allows for an Ethernet connection between two devices connected by the HDMI cable, the 3D support enables you to connect your 3D Blu-ray player to your 3D HDTV while the audio return channel can send the audio signal from your TV to your AVR for better sound reproduction. This is assuming that all your devices are HDMI 1.4 capable so you must check the specifications of your equipment to ensure that this is the case or these new features will not work.

Example of HDMI 1.4 cable.

Are Expensive HDMI cable better?

A very definite NO if they are of the same version. (This is in terms of usage but in terms of physical build, the more expensive ones probably use better material and may outlast the cheaper ones.) All experts (the real ones, not those in some Hifi magazines that give glowing reviews to some pricey HDMI cables) agree that the cost of a HDMI makes no difference to the quality of the sound and picture since the transmission is digital, either you get the signal or you don't so either it works or it doesn't work. No amount of gold in your gold-plated cable will improve the sound or picture a single bit (or pixel). This is unlike in analogue connections where the quality of the connecting cables will affect the quality of the transmission. You can just pick any HDMI cable, even from the supermarket, and it should work just as well as those monstrously priced in HiFi shops.

Here are some examples of the wide rage of prices for HDMI 1.3 cables from Amazon, including the monstrously priced one. Anyone of them will do just as well for your HD needs.

HDMI versions compatibility

The new HDMI versions are compatible with older versions meaning your old gear will work with new versions of HDMI cable and new gear will work with older versions HDMI cable except that you will not get the features introduced with the newer HDMI versions mentioned earlier but you should still get the basic sound and picture. The best is to ensure that everything is matched along the whole HD chain to avoid any surprises. There is usually no problem with video but there may be problem with the sound since there are so many audio options in the BD player so just make sure that HDMI is selected as the option and set to Auto. The user manual of your equipment will have details to set the correct options to get the desired sound output. But because of the way how many user manuals are written, you may have to do some trial and error to get it right.
If you have 3D equipment, just make sure you use HDMI1.4 cable all along the chain.

AVR with HDMI cable

An AVR is really useful when use together with HDMI cables if you have many HD sources to connect to your HDTV since most AVR allow you connect the different sources to the AVR with just one HDMI cable out to the HDTV and the AVR will do the switching as you select the source that you want. Otherwise, you will end up with so many cables but if not all your equipment are with HDMI port, you will still have to use some of the older cables. My next post will look at the other types of cable and connection for non-HDMI input/output.

Ronald Kwok