AV Education on RHT
HDMI: One Cable to Replace Them All?
Written by Bryan Dailey
Staring at the back of a modern home theater receiver or AV preamp can be a scary thing for inexperienced AV enthusiasts. The number of connections on a higher-end piece can be overwhelming, with multiple video input and output types ranging from composite to component to S-Video and DVI/HDMI. The audio options can be just as daunting with toslink, AES-EBU, composite and digital RCA audio connections all filling up a great deal of real estate on the receiver or AV preamp. Assuming a user can figure out how to best configure the system and put the right cables in the right connections on the back of the gear, the process is only half over at this point.
Programming each input of the receiver/preamp is a whole task in itself and requires some planning and foresight to be sure that each video and audio input is properly assigned. Since all receivers and preamps differ in configuration, getting the right audio input and video input lined up properly can sometimes prove difficult.
When all the cables are plugged in and the programming has been completed, even some of the most well thought out cabling set-ups often result in a large rats nest of cables cluttering the back of the equipment rack. Surely anyone who has gone through the task of installing a system has said to himself or herself at some point, Cant they just make one cable that replaces all of these? Unless you have been living under a rock and dont know what HDTV is, chances are you have heard of HDMI, and it just might be the answer to cleaning up a considerable number of these cables and improving the performance of your system.
HDMI, which stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface, is the only interface in consumer electronics that can carry both uncompressed high-definition video and uncompressed multi-channel audio in all HD formats, including 720p, 1080i and even the granddaddy of them all, gigabit HD 1080p.
Besides the technical specs of HDMI that are superior to other video cable formats, the physical connection itself is a much improved design over its predecessors. S-Video cables are the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the quality of the connector. The very small pins on these cables are notorious for getting bent or broken off and have collectively caused more hours of grief than any other connection in all of AV. Just like computer tech support people are trained to tell customers to try re-booting their systems when problems occur, the number one rule in AV when you dont have a picture and are using S-Video is to check to see if one of the pins on the cable is bent. S-Video of course does not transmit HD signal. However, high-end receivers and AV preamps are now able to video transcode S-Video signals and output them via HDMI.