Anything But HDMI Please

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admin

Audioholics Robot
Staff member
First of all, don't get us wrong about our views on HDMI. It's a great concept. A single digital cable connecting audio and video from one component to another. It's just that it's been a bit of a roller coaster for custom installers and consumers alike. In fact, a very large percentage of custom installers - you know, the guys doing million dollar plus installs - won't touch HDMI with a 10-foot snake. Why? Because it sucks for a myriad of reasons...


Discuss "Anything But HDMI Please" here. Read the article.
 
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KurtBJC

Audioholic
Thanks for the interesting, and highly accurate, article. I have long been amazed at the odd decisions that were made in adopting, and then revising, the HDMI spec. The amount of consumer confusion over HDMI cables has been amazing, and we spend a great deal of time explaining things like what the different spec versions mean (next to nothing where cable is concerned, but not quite nothing), what is required to support special features (cable-wise, nothing but support for adequate bitrate; but some people are spreading nonsense on this subject and labeling cables for "12-bit color" or "xvYCC color," and things like that), and so on.

Component video works better; it's more robust; it's simpler to diagnose; it runs dependably over distance. And yet, sad to say, component video cable runs everywhere are being supplanted by HDMI cable runs which are none of these things.

Kurt
Blue Jeans Cable
 
J

jotham

Audioholic
Hey guys, I hear what you're saying and that makes sense from a custom install perspective but I have to argue from a consumer perspective. My previous receiver had a tons of RCA, s-video, toslink and coax connnections to myriad pieces of equipment. Now, I'm down to a few toslink and hdmi cables.

It may suck for long runs and the connectors could certainly be improved but the one-cable approach is a dream when it works (newer installs).

When it came time for me to do a 30 foot run of the stuff, I picked up a Blue Jeans hdmi cable and it worked perfectly. I guess I could have run coax but I'm a computer guy and if I can stick to the digital domain I will. Ideally I would have run Cat-6 but that doesn't seem to be an option in the A/V world.

I can't see running an analog connection to a projector but I acknowledge what an unreasonably tricky thing hdmi cables are. Other than Cat-6, are there any other competing digital standards that would have been better? Perhaps ethernet over coax? Or maybe optical interfaces?
 
Midcow2

Midcow2

Banned
My response - A little harse on HDMI; I love HDMI

1. Yes Negotiaton is slow when switching devices or intially connecting. However, no problem during operation.

2. No problem with connectors, buit htne again once hooked-up no stress or movement. Bought quality HDMI to start with.

3. Okay preset lengths. I agree it might be had to terminate and make exact length cable ,but it is pretty simple and easy to measure the length of cable you need.

4. Yes, HMDI is expensive, but then I am not running 1000 ft. The early adopters paid a bundle, but current prices are becoming more and more reasonable.

5. Changing the rules. Yes HDMI 1.1 and HDMI 1.2 did not do exactly what the specs said. HDMI 1.3x seems much closer. I was not an early adopter and did not take all of the bleeding arrows. As with all new technology, it is an iterative process and it aseems pretty stable now and have become evoluntionary as opposed to revolutionary. I think a major change as you suggest in HDMI 1.4 will be similar to TCP/IP going from v4 to v6 it will happen much more slowly and with backward compatibility. There just wasn't the support or equipment base for HDMI 1.1 and HDM1.2 that there is for HDMI 1.3 Whether we like it or not HDMI 1.3 has become a DeFacto standard and is here to stay for awhile!

6. Baluns and convertors have been arround for a long time ans well as limited distance drivers and signal boosters. Wireless HDMI may show up, but my predicition is it will be a ROI problem. If you have the gain and speed high enough to please users, the cost will be prohibitive.

HMDI right now seems to have a niche to connect AV equipmet to Recivers/AMPs to display devices whereby the cable length are realtively short.

YMMV(Your mileage May Vary) or in this case IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) becuase you may completely disagree with me which is fine!. I myself, personally really like my HDMI setup and I am very pleased with it! Good Luck
 
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KurtBJC

Audioholic
Well, when it works, it's very convenient. No doubt about that. But it often does not work; it is a mess, and it could have been made to work much more simply and reliably.

In particular, consider SDI. All they really needed to do was run HDMI as a copy-protection-enabled revision of SDI, and you'd be able to hook up your gear with a single coax. If more control features and what-not were desired, a bundle consisting of one coax and a few miscellaneous low-speed data conductors would have done that. Return loss could have been controlled, a robust connector could have been used, the whole repeater/booster/EQ unit business could have been irrelevant for people with runs up to 300 feet, and every protocol and feature that the HDMI people wanted to support could be supported. Instead we got this four-shielded-pair, nineteen-pin monstrosity with a tiny fall-out connector, complex switching, distribution and repeating problems, and low reliability over distance.

Nobody disputes, I think, that when it works well it works well, and it makes for a much simpler, cleaner installation. However, it is very common for it not to work well.

Kurt
Blue Jeans Cable
 
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bongobob

Audioholic
When it came time for me to do a 30 foot run of the stuff, I picked up a Blue Jeans hdmi cable and it worked perfectly. I guess I could have run coax but I'm a computer guy and if I can stick to the digital domain I will. Ideally I would have run Cat-6 but that doesn't seem to be an option in the A/V world.

I can't see running an analog connection to a projector but I acknowledge what an unreasonably tricky thing hdmi cables are. Other than Cat-6, are there any other competing digital standards that would have been better? Perhaps ethernet over coax? Or maybe optical interfaces?
Please note that I believe that unless you have a DLP or LCoS display the signal converts to analogue anyway so there's no real advantage. Correct me if I'm wrong on this point. And the connector is the WORST design I've ever seen. One of the pins is recessed a good deal so any movement can cause loss of signal. I don't see it ever changing as there is no room for any locking mechanism on either the plug or receptical. The only real reason for HDMI at this point is if you have BLU-Ray.....
 
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B

Beans

Enthusiast
The problem is HDMI is what we have, and unless im not keeping up with the times as much as I thought its not going to be replaced with something better. Everything is going digital and a good digital connection is needed, even if today its for convenience, tomorrow it will be a required.

There is not way I could have my system hooked up economically without HDMI. BD, HD DVD, SACD, DVD A..could you imagine the mess of cables ? Even if you just have 2 of the above its not only a crazy amount of cables (and part of the reason two of the above never took off), but simply not possible if you have different source players. Anyone ever seen a processor with more then 1 set uf multi channel analog inputs?

For me HDMI is great. My system has only 5 HDMI (BJC) cables (4 in 1 out) and 6 COAX cables leading to my amp/sub. Honestly I would like to know what percentage of systems have image and audio failings due to HDMI and what percentage of systems need 50+ feet of HDMI runs to put things into perspective. Also if installers generally dont want to touch HDMI with a 10 foot pool I would challange one to hook my system up (or any system with todays tech) without using HDMI. Is it even possible?

I use HDMI 1.1 and enjoy all the quality todays technology can offer without the slightest hickup. "knock on wood"

Maybe I have just been lucky, but some of the problems with HDMI that people refer to i have not seen and cant even imagine. i.e. How does and HDMI cable just fall out of its connection? Whats moving or causing movement at the back of a reciever for this to happen? :confused:

On a different note not mentioned in the article and one major dissadvantage I can see for cable comapnies and HT retail is a decline in overall cable sales. Perhaps Kurt can chime in on this. Does the adoption of HDMI not ultimately mean a decrease in overall cable sales? I mean less cables are now needed to hook a system up. Perhaps BJC sees growth because of its value, but generally speaking able ompanies and retail outlets who have positioned themselfs as selling "high end" cables with major difference will find themselfs in an awkward position with time.
 
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KurtBJC

Audioholic
On a different note not mentioned in the article and one major dissadvantage I can see for cable comapnies and HT retail is a decline in overall cable sales. Perhaps Kurt can chime in on this. Does the adoption of HDMI not ultimately mean a decrease in overall cable sales? I mean less cables are now needed to hook a system up. Perhaps BJC sees growth because of its value, but generally speaking able ompanies and retail outlets who have positioned themselfs as selling "high end" cables with major difference will find themselfs in an awkward position with time.
Well, for us it hasn't represented any decline in cable sales overall, but I do get the impression that it has for others. I have seen a few competitors disappear and I have suspected that the cause was that they had tried to go "high-end" with their HDMI offerings in a market that is increasingly aware that if the interface seems to be working well, it's probably working perfectly, so that spending more money on cable won't get you anything better in resulting performance.

That is the big change, I think: the "high end" is harder to justify in the digital domain because where analog always allowed one the ability to posit how a higher-quality cable would make for a higher-quality picture (which, in fact, it frequently will, although (1) in short runs cable quality frequently makes little to no difference, and (2) "quality" and "price" are not good proxies for one another), digital doesn't really allow that. With HDMI, receiver circuits don't generally fail gracefully, so cable failure turns up as sparkles, line dropouts, and sync dropouts or as the rather unambiguous "no picture at all" result. People know this (thanks to the Internet, more than anything else), and consequently when a vendor tries to say that his HDMI provides better color definition, deeper blacks, et cetera, the online discussion is extremely hostile because people know that those claims are not just false as applied to the specific product; they are, in principle, impossible.

For this reason we are seeing people try to shift around and market HDMI cable as though specific cables are required to support specific features and protocols. In particular, look at Monster Cable and its various little insignia it puts on cable packages, promising deep color, xvYCC color support, special audio formats, and so on. These claims--that one cable stock is suitable for these features while another is not--do not make sense. Some of those features are bitrate-neutral, and the others do affect bitrate but there is no way a cable can tell whether, for example, the bitrate it carries represents 480p at 16-bit color or 1080p at 8-bit color. Bitrate is all there is when it comes to support for different resolutions, features, etc., and bitrate is unsexy, boring stuff, hard to promote with flowery language. Ultimately, I think all of this complication is going to become harder and harder to get the customer to sign on to.

We certainly are witnessing the "death of analog" in consumer AV right now. My wife and I started our business by building assemblies from stock Belden and Canare materials in our living room just six years ago, and today I do not think one could really start such a business with any success, because the need for HDMI cable is simply too great. If you buy HDMI cable in small quantity lots, it's expensive, and if you buy it in large lots, well, you need to be able to sell it in quantity or you'll be buried in paid-for, unsold cable. We are constantly shipping HDMI cable to China for termination, and are constantly shipping HDMI cable from China in finished form, and it places an enormous strain upon planning and inventory management.

If we had not shifted our focus heavily to HDMI cable, I think our business would be in sharp decline. Certainly things like component video cable do not sell as well as they once did. We decided, as is well-known, to take a two-pronged approach to the HDMI market. First, we decided to offer unique product with special characteristics--specifically, Belden-made bonded-pair cable stock--so that we had something we could genuinely represent to our customers as our own, unique product. Second, we have stayed competitive in the low-price market for Chinese-made HDMI, which is a moving target. If you're not the best or the cheapest, it's hard to sell cable unless you have some other advantage (e.g., retail placement in big-box stores). Without these things--which most of our old competitors did not mirror--we would be losing our grip fast, but as it is, business is still healthy and growing.

Kurt
Blue Jeans Cable
 
Clint DeBoer

Clint DeBoer

Banned
Please note that I believe that unless you have a DLP or LCoS display the signal converts to analogue anyway so there's no real advantage. Correct me if I'm wrong on this point.
Pretty much everything is digitally-sourced and displaced now. You'd have to have a CRT-based display to deal with any analogue signals now.

Standard CableTV is of course, largely analogue signals, even when they are converted to digital. Anything that originates on disc and gets placed on an HDMI-capable flat panel or rear-projection display (save older CRT-based ones) is digital.
 
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jotham

Audioholic
Can anyone explain why DisplayPort is trying to get involved in this snafu :) DVI-A, DVI-D, HD-15, HDMI is bad enough, I don't want more!

Couldn't they just tweak DVI?
 
majorloser

majorloser

Moderator
My personal opinion has always been that the audio and video pipelines should be separate. One cable for each.
 
Duffinator

Duffinator

Audioholic Field Marshall
Nice read,but I still love my HDMI.
Me too and I don't have a crackpipe. :D

I would have preferred that component cables with optical/coax were still the standard as it would have kept me from spending a lot of money upgrading. But isn't that one of the points of changing standards, get consumers to spend more money? Anyone want to buy some nice used BJC component cables? ;)
 
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obscbyclouds

obscbyclouds

Senior Audioholic
While it may stink and make us all angry, many of us don't even have a choice. Another instance of DRM gone mad. :(

If you have more than one uncompressed audio source, you're all but out of luck if you don't use HDMI. Not many recievers have more than one analog multi-channel input. Even if they did, who the heck wants to run 18+ RCA cables just for audio????

Try getting a PS3 (or many other BR players for that matter) to play a DTS-HD MA track without HDMI.
 
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kleinwl

Audioholic
Displayport

Can anyone explain why DisplayPort is trying to get involved in this snafu :) DVI-A, DVI-D, HD-15, HDMI is bad enough, I don't want more!

Couldn't they just tweak DVI?
Displayport is so that computer/GPU/monitor manufacturers can have the advantage of a HDMI "like" cable without paying the roalities inherent in HDMI. A few cents, maybe, but multiplied by millions of systems.
 
Midcow2

Midcow2

Banned
Glad Blue Jeans Cables is on the "best' end

.... If you're not the best or the cheapest, it's hard to sell cable unless you have some other advantage (e.g., retail placement in big-box stores). Without these things--which most of our old competitors did not mirror--we would be losing our grip fast, but as it is, business is still healthy and growing.

Kurt
Blue Jeans Cable
Hey Kurt, I for one am glad that Blue Jeans Cables is on the "best" end of the sales rather than the "cheapest". And also glad your business is healty and growing!
 
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e-paladin

Audiophyte
I think the frustration here (and what we mostly all agree upon) is that we need an industry standard that will stick.

While I'm sure that those who have adopted HDMI have carefully figured out it's compatibility with thier respective systems and it works fine. The danger in a constantly changing standard is what happens when you decide to change (upgrade) a component or try to integrate a newer technology into it?

There is no doubt the benefits of digital technology in current and future HT setups but constantly patching a flawed delivery system (HDMI 1.0,1.1 ...) is just an indication of a system doomed to eventual failure and obsolecence.

What needs to be looked at is what a resonable bandwith requirement for home theater data (audio, video, ...whatever)is and what is the cheapest most flexible and robust way to implement it.

Oh, and I'm sick of people in the industry trying to profit from the creation of this type of standard, its like people trying to take credit and profit for the design of the 2 (or 3) prong power plug.

(I'm of the opinion that coax might be the way to go unless some type of more flexible fiber optic way could be invented)
 
D

Drag0nFly

Enthusiast
While it may stink and make us all angry, many of us don't even have a choice. Another instance of DRM gone mad. :(

If you have more than one uncompressed audio source, you're all but out of luck if you don't use HDMI. Not many recievers have more than one analog multi-channel input. Even if they did, who the heck wants to run 18+ RCA cables just for audio????

Try getting a PS3 (or many other BR players for that matter) to play a DTS-HD MA track without HDMI.
While I do see your point, my 8 year old Denon receiver sports both 8 ch. + 6 ch. external inputs; one of which is currently used with impressive results to transmit SACD & DVD-Audio from a player with very decent D/A converters.

And I am _glad_ I am not forced to replace that component just to enjoy high-def audio formats... (I'll gladly run eight more RCAs from a future BD that decodes DTS-HD Master Audio internally.) ;)
 
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allargon

Audioholic General
Can anyone explain why DisplayPort is trying to get involved in this snafu :) DVI-A, DVI-D, HD-15, HDMI is bad enough, I don't want more!

Couldn't they just tweak DVI?
They already tweaked DVI. They added audio to it and gave us HDMI. DVI with its lack of ability to do long cable runs passed that "feature" to HDMI.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hdmi
 
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