HDMI Cable comparisons


I'm retiring my XBR CRT and installing an Elite plasma very soon. I've gotten mixed suggestions regarding HDMI quality and brand. I'm interested in hearing comparisons of cables you may have upgraded and the differences. Are there any HDMI cable reviews?

It seems like there is a lot going on in such a small package.
vicdamone
When I set up my HT about a year ago, I bought four Audioquest HDMI-X cables at $100 each. Later I bought by mom/dad a TV for Christmas and bought HDMI cables from Monoprice.com after reading about them over at AVS. Out of curiousity, I swapped out the Audioquest cables in my system with the Monoprice cables and honestly couldn't tell a difference. I'm a believer that audio cables make a difference (to a point) in a quality two channel setup, but for video I would suggest that you try the Monoprice cables before you sink a wad into high priced HDMI cables. At least they would give you a point of reference if you decide to experiment. Just my two cents.

http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=102&cp_id=10240&cs_id=1024008&p_id=3992&seq=1&format=2
Have a look at the video story at this link. It's an investigative journalism story from a consumer affiars show.

http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/packing_the_deal/

I would conclude that there are no differences in cables in terms of data transmission. They all have to meet the HDMI standard. There would be differences in quality of construction. So a more expensive cable might have better strain relief around the connector or it may be more durable for repeated connection and disconnection. Whether that is worth the extra cost of the premium cable is your own judgment.
The British What Hi-Fi Sound and Vision magazine has an extensive review of cables including video cables. I recently bought the recommended Chord Company Silver 1.3 Silver Plus (HDMI). But I have not hook it up so I cannot say anything. But I have experience with component video cables before and I can say that there is an improvement over the original cables that come with the electronics. I am using the Monster Cable Video 3 Component now. I also use a PS Audio Ultimate Outlet for my TV and DVD player and the colors are definitely richer. The best thing to do is to borrow a few cables at different price points and make a value judgement. The Pioneer Elite plasma is a very good plasma. You should be able to see a difference between the cables. You also need a top notch Blu-ray player to get the best out from the Elite.
I have lots of premium aftermarket cables from various price ranges, and I hear the differences pretty easily. I also have three or four sets of component video cables, and in the analog video realm it's also easy to spot the differences.

But HDMI is digital. It either transmits the bits or it doesn't. It seems to me that HDMI cables would be the easiest to review and test, because you could take screen shots of signal passed through one vs. another, and it would be easy to determine if one cable had more dropouts than another, or better color saturation, or whatever. It could also be done to determine which cables work better for the longer runs, which booster links keep the signal intact over long runs, and all that jazz.

But to my knowledge no one is doing this. When you consider that there are Sound & Vision, Ultimate AVMag, The Perfect Vision, Home Theater, and others, HDMI is de rigeur for HDTV, and HDMI 1.3a-compliant cables range from $4 from PartsExpress to several hundred from AudioQuest, that it would be ripe for reviewing.

I suspect there's so little difference that the mags don't dare publish a comparison test or shootout and lose a significant amount of advertising revenue that they'll otherwise keep simply by keeping their mouths shut.

Cynical, yes. But given that you can find reviews on all manner of interconnects, speaker cables, power cords, demagnetizers, and power conditioners, why aren't there any comparison tests of HDMI cables?
I agree with the above statements on HDMI cabling NOT being superior due to pricing or the lableing on them... and true that, online and print mags do seem to side step the direct comparison reviews between them... So what's that say? They've been around now long enough... there does seem to be enough talk about them and certainly enough interest.

...but then as was said, Why cut your nose off to spite your face?

With many audio, and for that matter video component, cabling itterations, there are substantial differences in the materials being used, the amounts of those materials, and how each conductor (s) are both wound or woven, and terminated.

Not so with HDMI. HDMI AWG range in size from 22 - 28. they may be individually isolated further than their applied/coated dialectrics, but usually they are not. otherwise the sheer girth of so many conductors likely would cause issues... though probably not for Virtual Dynamics.;-)

Another point is the compnents to which these cables are attached. Seen any mega dollar sources or preamps, or even amps, for that matter, with HDMI interfaces?

No. you most likely won't either. probably not even with those digital topology based items. of course these items don't require so many single conductors, yet a similarly configured yet lessened conductored cable could be generated... and for far less $$$ too.

You could call it HDMI Lite! ;-))

Until the quality and hence resolution, of the HDMI devices gains a lot of ground and enters the high end arena completely, there won't be sufficiently resolving gear with which to make proper comparisons.

Sometimes things are just what they appear to be, and the less said of them the better for.....??? usually it's not a comsumer friendly, er, wallet friendly affair in the end.

true enough though, my exp with HDMI says one doesn't need to buy into the high ticket HDMI cabling lines, as the diff simply isn't justified.... and I'm not one to penny pinch on cabling, generally speaking.
FWIW, I tried both the economy (28AWG @ $3.96) as well as the thicker gauge(24AWG), higher cost HDMI 1.3a compliant monoprice cable and have to give my nod to the later. Better color saturation, richer, better contrast. Plus it's only $6.97 for a 3ft. Also, if for nothing else, it's much better built and looks the part with a nice mesh jacket. YMMV.

Best,

Kenobi
09-30-08: Pictura
The British What Hi-Fi Sound and Vision magazine has an extensive review of cables including video cables. ... I have experience with component video cables before and I can say that there is an improvement over the original cables that come with the electronics. I am using the Monster Cable Video 3 Component now. I also use a PS Audio Ultimate Outlet for my TV and DVD player and the colors are definitely richer. The best thing to do is to borrow a few cables at different price points and make a value judgement. The Pioneer Elite plasma is a very good plasma. You should be able to see a difference between the cables. You also need a top notch Blu-ray player to get the best out from the Elite.
Anybody can see the difference in component cables. What's interesting in my experience is that when switching to an HDMI upconverting player, the picture is better through a $20 HDMI cable than through a $250 set of component cables.
09-30-08: Kenk168
FWIW, I tried both the economy (28AWG @ $3.96) as well as the thicker gauge(24AWG), higher cost HDMI 1.3a compliant monoprice cable and have to give my nod to the later. Better color saturation, richer, better contrast. Plus it's only $6.97 for a 3ft.
Well, that's understandable. You need at least an acceptable level of mechanical and materials build quality. But would a 2M $375 AudioQuest HDMI-3 be worth the money?

Blindjim: Marantz *does* offer a $2000 Blu-ray player with HDMI output, though I suspect you're talking about much higher priced components. It's not that HDMI is a "mid-fi" interface. It hasn't shown up on the megabuck components because most of them have much longer R&D times to bring something to market. They couldn't afford to "bet the farm" on one format of HD disc over another. The big companies like Onkyo, Sony, Marantz, etc. could throw more people and development money at an HDMI-based product than the smaller upper high end companies can. They'll get around to it eventually.
What ever brand make sure 1.3 compliant for deep color, high speed.
You might find these articles of interest... http://www.bluejeanscable.com/articles/hdmi-cable-information.htm
Don't waste money on an expensive HDMI cable...

My Bachelor degree is in Computer Science with a specialization in networking; this included studying electrical signals and their propagation along electrical lines. Passing signals across HDMI is a form of handshake networking.

I can assure you different cables will not change the video or audio quality of a digital signal, especially since the signal is buffered into memory along the way. When a signal is buffered it is stored temporarily in a cache memory as a charge then re-propagated again to be transmitted somewhere else or to be processed into analog. To sum up, the cable just carries the digital bitstream signal temporarily and the signal is reformed at the other end. So basically even if something was happening to the signal in-between, it would be completely taken out of the bitstream in the rebuffering process...

The digital signal passing is also an all or nothing proposition. If the cable were malfunctioning past the point of error correction, the signal would stop working completely.

People who think they are hearing and seeing differences with different types of digital signal cables are suffering from the placebo effect. Don't believe the bologna...
I can assure you different cables will not change the video or audio quality of a digital signal, especially since the signal is buffered into memory along the way.

Where exactly is this cache residing? Not in the cable. So if it exists at all, it would be beyond the input receiver and would have nothing to do with the cable.

So basically even if something was happening to the signal in-between, it would be completely taken out of the bitstream in the rebuffering process...

If shielding is poor (or the cable is too long) and the signal has degraded enough that the input receiver is unable to recognize it, you are hosed.

If the cable were malfunctioning past the point of error correction, the signal would stop working completely.

I have no clue whether or not HDMI supports any error detection or correction. Interference can be transient so that drop outs are the result. If it happened frequently you might notice it.
Where exactly is this cache residing? Not in the cable. So if it exists at all, it would be beyond the input receiver and would have nothing to do with the cable.

It has everything to do with the cable. As long as the signal gets to the receiver where the cache resides with the bits "distinguishable," even if highly attenuated, the signal is regenerated. In other words, you don't need to spend 100s of dollars to get the signal to a receiving end when a $11 to 20$ cable will give the same exact result as long as it is in line with standard specifications. You don't have to spend a lot of money to buy an in-spec cable.

If shielding is poor (or the cable is too long) and the signal has degraded enough that the input receiver is unable to recognize it, you are hosed.

And why do you think this is contrary to any of the points I am making? Read what I wrote...

There are plenty of cheap cables that are built to proper specifications. Spending 100s and 1000s won't get you any more in-spec than the standard demands.

I have no clue whether or not HDMI supports any error detection or correction. Interference can be transient so that drop outs are the result. If it happened frequently you might notice it.

Whatever the case may be, you still don't have to spend excessive amounts of money to get a well built, in-spec cable. People that think so are either delusional or trying to sell you something...
BTW Bob, I would consider those Blue Jeans cables to be in order with appropriate pricing and in-spec cabling...
Hi all- the reviewers at Audioholics have already performed some exstensive thesting. Go to this link http://www.audioholics.com/education/cables/long-hdmi-cable-bench-tests to see the results. Not much difference in the cables, inexpensive or otherwise, until the cables start to grow in length. And then the differences ARE obvious.

Russ
What I've read so far. HDMI is only affected by it's length. Smaller gauge runs beyond forty feet can begin to drop out. 22AWG is available for runs up to 100'. Many who suggest that other than a slight improvement in a cables construction there is no difference in the cables performance have suggested reasonably priced Monoprice or Blue Jean as their vendor of choice.
Both retailers offer varying levels of design. Varying AWG from 28-22AWG, silver coated copper conductors, ferrite filters, etc..

SDI (unbalanced coax) is the professional standard which is not affected by length, less prone to RF interference, and has a locking termination. HDMI is the consumer industry standard which is balanced, has nineteen conductors, and a complicated termination held by friction.

There are a number of consumers who have reported that they have experienced an increase in performance. While Home Theater magazine has the equipment and the knowledge to measure an HDMI cables performance they've measured none. As someone above suggested an understandable reasoning why they haven't.

I'm still unsure, more later.

Vic
Vic- follow the link in my response above. Audioholics has done the testing; an excellent review.

Russ

Johnnyb53

Actually, no, I wasn't really. I was pointing to the less than wide spread use of HDMI on likewise components from makers such as BAT... EMM... Cary... aero ... etc. or any such firm which makes devices that could use HDMI to some degree or entirely... yet do not... in favor of previous standards, AES, SPDIF, or TOS, as their digital interface choices.

The paranoid side of me says, "it's so cable makers can keep making more money, and by so doing the device makers don't rock the boat there" another more sane side says, "it's most likely due to the design requirements which are needed to implement the HDMI aspect in lieu of or in addition to, those curent standards."

Either case however supports a lengtheir span before widespread integration will take place in top flight components.

And yes, a couple grand for a disc player is in the game IMO, as I believe that entry fee puts it well outside the mass media buying market.

In all honesty, it may well be both aspects.

Personally, I dig the HDMI interface as a solution. I'm not too keen on the once in a while shutting down and restarting to get the "hand shake" thingy going on, but that's a rare issue... For me, anyhow. Let's face it, it sure would be a big benefit for the consumer too. Although the HDMI implementation was put inp place to be sujpportive of copyright infringements and not so much as a user friendly interface.... that's simply a by product. Let's not even mention the cleaner esthetic appeal.

hell, come to think of it, then everything would need a digital facet too .... pramps, amps, and speakers.

OK. Scratch that. Sorry. Both sides of my brain haven't been talking to each other lately.
Jkalman, I agree with your premise. I didn't follow the argument how buffering after the fact had any bearing on the cable. Yes, if the "bits" get to the receiver, then you're OK (buffering or not). If the "bits" don't ("something was happening to the signal in-between"), buffering can't help you. And I was picking the nit that a digital signal "would stop working completely" if error correction could not recover the data. I don't know what the HDMI spec says should happen in this situation, but stop working completely is probably not an option. CD players "mute" (I assume DVD players do the same). What do CDROMs do? Retransmit?
Bob,

Some people argue that you are getting a better maintained signal when you use a better cable. Some people also argue that bits aren't bits and that signal degradation is going to affect the sound even if the bits are still recognizable as ones and zeros. My point is, it doesn't matter even if you believe those arguments. If the cable follows HDMI standards, which it doesn't have to be expensive to do, then it will get the signal there unless the cable is broken. The signal is regenerated by the processor chip cache and/or memory buffers, so the attenuation issue some people consider a problem is a non-issue as long as the cable is following the standards (sizing/gauge/etc).

If the bits aren't getting to the receiver, then the cable is broken or is not adhering to standards... Paying more for a cable isn't going to prevent the possibility of getting a malfunctioning cable. If you have a broken cable, return it.

Perhaps there isn't an implicit error correction for HDMI itself. I do know that the signal isn't processed when the cable is malfunctioning with certain media, but with other media some kind of error detection/correction must be occurring. I've had one malfunction and then break on me due to mishandling - I tried to snake it through the wall one too many times. Ironically enough, it was a relatively expensive cable (over ~$60). Signal passing worked on that cable with some material and not with other material.

I know with CDs there are multiple error checks when the disc is read. If you are sending data via bit stream to a preprocessor to have it decode certain compression algorithms, I believe the decoding process error checks the stream as well when converting it to PCM. Am I 100% certain of which algorithms perform error correction or not? Not off the top of my head. There are kinds of error correction that don't require a resending of information (redundancy checks), they are usually built into the stream in the form of some kind of checksum or the stream itself is framed a certain way to provide a checksum. These checks take place via decoding software.

CD ROMs have multiple redundancy checks, and so do Internet protocols (at more than one layer of the TCP-IP stack, as well as between larger ISP trunks using proprietary signaling frames).

I used bad terminology by referring loosely to the underlying digital signal and HDMI as one and the same...

If you are looking for more detail than that, you are going to have to research it yourself. I am taking four engineering classes ATM as prerequisites for an MS program in an engineering field I want to pursue (I had a test on Monday in Calculus 3, a test last night in Engineering Physics, and a test this morning in Statics...). This leaves me little time for leisure. I don't feel like wasting too much of that time researching topics in which I have only a passing interest. I would be interested in what you find out though. :D
People who think they are hearing and seeing differences with different types of digital signal cables are suffering from the placebo effect. Don't believe the bologna...

There is a well known problem of interface jitter from transmitting the clock signal along with the data. I would agree that in the scheme of things this form of distortion is usally pretty small nowadays (compared to other problems like speaker distortion) but nevertheless it provides an example of why a digital cable might make a difference.

If you are just copying data from one drive to memory or to another drive and teh clock signal is ignored - then I completely agree with you and do not believe the bologna.
There is a well known problem of interface jitter from transmitting the clock signal along with the data. I would agree that in the scheme of things this form of distortion is usally pretty small nowadays (compared to other problems like speaker distortion) but nevertheless it provides an example of why a digital cable might make a difference.

The jitter issue you are referring to is completely independent of the cable and symptomatic of the chosen bit stream framing format (tying the video and audio signals together in a certain way). Changing cables from a cheaper brand to more expensive brand has no effect on the jitter issue you are referring to in your post. Given the same exact lengths of cable and gauge, a $20 cable and a $2000 cable have the same exact jitter issues...

Likewise, the jitter levels introduced are imperceptible. Except by people with overactive imaginations, but they are hearing their imagination, not jitter... :D
Shadorne,

In other words, what you are referring to is a product of HDMI in general (though no one has scientifically proven they can actually hear that small a level of jitter). It is an issue with the HDMI format itself, independent of cabling.
Here is an older thread, but it has good technical info on jitter and HDMI. I'll post a link to page 3 which contains the most relevant info, but it is a great thread overall for info on jitter in general.

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=908665&page=3
Jkalman,

Thanks for the links. It seems to corroborate my statement that interface jitter is a well known problem when devices are synchronized using a clock signal - or am I missing something? The way I see it, a long run of HDMI cable might behave differently from a short run. I agree that good quality equipment should effectively handle the interface jitter in both cases to the point that either cable is indistinguishable to the ear in double blind tests. I was only trying to point out that in some cases of borderline equipment performance then an audible difference "might" occur. I realize some authors have suggested that as much as 20 ns is necessary for jitter to become audible and since there are infinite forms of jitter the debate may never be resolved, however, it is easy to show that certain forms of signal correlated jitter will indeed rise above the noise floor at 100 psec on very high quality gear (whether this is audible or not - this simple fact has a tendency to cause concern because S/N is such a standard specification in our industry and modern electronics has incredible S/N performance).
I was only trying to point out that in some cases of borderline equipment performance then an audible difference "might" occur.

Not in the context of $100+ (or even $50+) HDMI cables vs. $20 HDMI cables of the same length and gauge. If the cables have the same gauge and length, they will behave the same... You don't have to pay excessive amounts of money to get the same gauge and length as some companies that charge $200+. The jitter is going to be the same amount in both cables, yet you are insinuating someone should pay more for one digital than the other because it "might" be different. It isn't different... So don't pay more for a cable to get an imaginary benefit.

That thread I pointed out to you also mentions that jitter is eliminated at several places in the receiving end before the signal is turned into analog (though there was some questioning of buffer size needed to prevent overrunning the buffer). Plus there were links to pages that provide DBTs with jitter. It really is a non-issue now a days at the levels these preprocessing units function at...
Shadome / Jkalman- guys; take a break, just go here.

http://www.audioholics.com/education/cables/long-hdmi-cable-bench-tests.

Russ
Russ, get'cha a case of beer for that link, BINGO! While not much was said regarding the quality of materials such as silver plated conductors and such, the big issue turns out to be length.

So with that, I'm ordering a batch of Blue Jeans cables simply because of the incremental lengths they offer. Still, I'm going into the next video boutique and ask for a high end/low end HDMI demo.
Keep in mind, 15m = 49 feet...
Go with Blue Jeans Cables, they are made in USA-Seattle - MONOPRICE are made in China! Support our American-Made products
Keep in mind also that transmission line effects are important for video signals and for hi rate transfers. The length of run of the cable comes into play when considering transmission line effects -hence a reason to use a cable with the proper characteristic impedance when the wavelength of the highest signal component approaches the length of the cable. Bandwidth of the cable, is another factor to consider for high high rate transfers of data. Jitter is affected by both.

That being said - and back to the OP's upgrade question - my recomendation for all your cable needs (sounds like a pitch but its just from a satisfied customer) is Blue Jeans Cable - fair pricing , quick delivery, there is no hiding the ball on their products - you can find their cables and connectors at the manufacturers' web sites prior to buying and for the most part they use Belden - a recognized industry std manufacturer, the guys on the other end are practical, their workmanship is professional, they will provide the length you specify, and there is no hype.
To Clarify the remarks above, Blue Jean Cable has a very informative article about the sourcing of their cables. Their bulk cable is made by Belden in the USA and then it's terminated in China.

To their knowledge there is NOBODY doing the complete HDMI cable in the USA, but they are working on it.

I really appreciate their honesty on the sourcing of the cable and intend to support them in the future, especially since it looks like their products are well designed.

http://www.bluejeanscable.com/articles/where-does-hdmi-cable-come-from.htm

Your mileage may vary.
Wader, As I understand it Blue Jeans uses US made Belden cable with assembly done offshore. I did purchase a set of six.