This was a blog post we found today, and it gives us an opportunity to address a great debate, especially between A/V people and computer people. The idea that cables don’t matter — because “digital is digital” — is not new. Many believe high-end cables are just marketing fluff and represent nothing more than a way for the retailer or integrator to make a lot of money. While the actual differences between brands and grades of cables do vary, this theory is factually flawed. With HDMI, the differences are much more glaring than with a high end audio or video cable. It’s not a simple matter of 1s and 0s.
First we should understand the complexity of HDMI. There are 19 individual wires and connectors in an HDMI cable, so there’s very little room for error. Cheap manufacturing methods and low-cost, low-quality copper strands can actually render an HDMI cable useless. Inside an HDMI cable, you would find digital signals and grounds, handshake signal wires, voltage carrying conductors — even a wire to sense if you unplugged the cable while a product was powered on!
Signal degradation with longer cable lengths also play into the equation, especially when you need an HDMI longer than 10 to 12 feet. There is a 5 volt carrier wire inside an HDMI cable, and there is little room for variance. If the exact voltage measurement at each end is different by less than half a volt, you will get no picture. If the ground connectors inside aren’t shielded properly among the signal connectors, your picture can suffer from “snow” or the inability to hold a steady picture. This is just the beginning. Add in different connector types, and an ever-changing software version system, and HDMI becomes far more than “just digital”.
We have our own feelings about HDMI, and we’d be happy to talk about your needs and make realistic recommendations that allow you have an up-to-date and cost-effective system. There are times when a lower cost HDMI cable will work perfectly well, especially when pieces of equipment are located close together where short cables make sense. AV Awakenings takes this into account when building a system that works properly for you.
For a detailed understanding of the complexities of HDMI, look at the Wikipedia page for HDMI.
If you have questions about HDMI, how we approach system designs with HDMI, or would like to discuss your own needs, let us know!