With advancements in video and audio technology, home theater equipment can do more than ever before. With the excitement of your home entertainment systems superb and sophisticated specifications, it is easy to overlook the small things, like owning the right cables that allow you to enjoy the full power of your TV’s advanced specs and maximum performance from your speaker’s crystal-clear audio.
HDMI cables, or “High-Definition Multimedia Interface”, have become the standard over your basic AV cables, offering a stronger more precise signal to and from your video and audio devices. AV cables are analog vs HDMI’s digital feed which is naturally a much better fit with all the new technology that continues to be integrated into televisions and such.
Having a digital signal vs analog is essential for the digital technology of HD televisions, games, and audio because having to convert that digital signal to analog through an AV cable would cause serious degradation to the quality of the media signal. Additionally, because of HDMI is digital, it can transmit multiple channels of audio and video from a single HDMI cord whereas with AV you would need multiple audio cables for stereo, 1 for composite video, and 3 cables for component video. So not only does HDMI support the latest technology for the best visuals and sound, but it is also much cleaner as you no longer need a crazy number of wires that get tangled and messy.
Why are HDMI better than AV cables?
- High Definition displays require HDMI cables to support the technology, AV cables do not support High Definition
- HDMI offers much greater speeds at astonishing bandwidths starting at 18 gigabytes per second
- Better picture quality with perfect audio delivery
- HDMI supports data ARC (audio return channel) technology for astounding sound.
- AV cabled are much more prone to noise than HDMI cables
- You only need 1 HDMI cable where you would need 3 to 6 standard AV cables
- Compatible with virtually every new piece of video and sound equipment while AV ports are being phased out and often not available in newer products
Do you need an HDMI cable?
Unless you’re using one of those old analog TV’s you will probably need an HDMI cord. Although most older televisions now are 4k and any standard speed HDMI cable will work well, I would encourage to use a high-speed 4k HDMI cable (HDMI 2.0a, 2.0b). With a high-speed HDMI, you get Ultra High Definition resolution up to 60Hz as well as static formats like HDR10 and HLG. If your TV has 4k HDR (high dynamic range) and you watch a lot of Blu-ray movies or HD streaming, you must have a high speed HDMI to handle the faster signals of HDR.
With new entertainment equipment such as Blue-ray players, receivers, and speakers, many won’t have an AV port anymore. So, if you do have an older model TV you can always use an AV to HDMI converter to connect your receivers or anything else that has an HDMI port to your TV. It will reduce the quality of the signal, but at least you’re connected.
For Gaming, high speed HDMI is the minimum speed level HDMI cable you should be choosing as newer consoles like PS5 already support 8k formats although most games are still in 4k. A faster HDMI cable gives gamers faster refresh rates and better picture quality for smooth gameplay.
Generally, you would typically think of buying a longer cable because longer is better. With HDMI cables you want the opposite and should be buying the absolute shortest length possible. Longer cables with a lot of bends and folds can cause interference to the signal and all sorts of problems. The quality of components of the HDMI cable also has a role in its performance. Austere, is pretty much the standard when it comes to top-grade high speed HDMI cables. Their cables have everything needed for optimal performance with gold and oxygen free copper contacts that don’t erode, woven armor for durability and protection, and are available in the perfect lengths. I would strongly recommend looking at Austere’s cables, although there are many brands that produce a quality HDMI cable that can work.
If you need a very long HDMI cable because of the layout of your entertainment, gaming or theater setup, there are couple alternative options. There are active HDMI cables which integrates added technology in the cable that monitors and manages the signal to eliminate any potential interruption or interference. There are also HDMI cables that you can have customized to be run through your walls. And lastly, you can use a fiber optic HDMI cable for very long distances which are fragile to install, but will completely block out just about any interference, even from surrounding devices. Active hybrid HDMI cables combine some fiberoptic technology and they’re much easier to install yourself.
The Evolution of HDMI
HDMI cables exploded into popularity over the last 20 years as a better alternative to AV cables allowing both 1080p High-Definition video in 8 bits of color along with 24 bits of audio over a single HDMI cable. With each upgrade HDMI slowly added new support for things such as DVD audio, RGB spectrum for computers, Bit DSD audio, 16-bit color and increased bandwidth until the major advancements of what is considered the standard HDMI 1.4 and beyond.
- HDMI 1.4 – Released in 2009 with ARC support and 4k up to 30Hz
- HDMI 2.0 – Released in 2013 with enhancements to surpass 4k with 60Hz video
- HDMI 2.0a – This 2015 update now supports HDR video
- HDMI 2.0b – In 2016 HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) HDR format support was added. This is for HDR content that gets broadcasted over the air
- HDMI 2.1 – Unleashed in 2017 and the largest update for HDMI since its inception. HDMI 2.1 provides new support capabilities for video with 8k at 60Hz and 4k at 120 Hz as well as eARC technology
Do I Need HDMI 2.1?
The latest HDMI 2.1 made the greatest leap forward over previous updates and enhancements to the technology. With a HDMI 2.1 cable you get transmission speeds of 48Gbps vs the HDMI 2.0’s 18 Gbps. This extra bandwidth allows for better resolutions and quicker refresh rates.
With ultra-high bandwidth speeds, the HDMI 2.1 supports dynamic HDR and eARC (enhanced audio return channel). eARC gives you more bandwidth for audio and adds supports for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio. Additionally, 2.1 supports variable refresh rate which alleviates frame ripping while gaming and smoother transition when swapping video sources.
For gamers, an HDMI 2.1 cable can be very useful with automatic low latency to reduce in signals and superb refresh rates. Even if your display supports 4k, you can still get greater speeds and refresh rates with an HDMI 2.1. As more Televisions today are offering 8k UHD displays, the 8k HDMI cable, or HDMI 2.1 will most likely become the standard. Although it is nice to have and offers great benefits over 2.0, unless you’re a gamer, have some form of custom setup, or own one of the latest televisions with 8k Ultra High-Definition displays, you will be able to experience the full abilities of your television or computer.