Which HDMI Cable is Right for My Home Theater?

bigstock-Close-up-Of-Hdmi-Cable-In-A-Ha-38039866_smallerIn the last post, we talked about whether or not you needed to buy the most expensive HDMI cables out there in order to ensure a brilliant, crisp, vivid picture in your home theater (spoiler alert: you don’t). Today we’re going to discuss the various versions of HDMI cables out there and hopefully help you cut through the noise so you can make the best purchase for your needs.

Now, while we stated in the last post that the only cable you need to connect all your devices in your home theater is typically an HDMI cable, we want to clarify that there are a number of different versions out there. Let’s look at each one in turn and what it offers. In the end, we’ll make some recommendations.

STANDARD HDMI CABLE

The Standard HDMI cable is designed to handle most home applications, and is tested to reliably transmit 1080i or 720p video – the HD resolutions that are commonly associated with cable and satellite television, digital broadcast HD, and upscaling DVD players.

STANDARD HDMI CABLE WITH ETHERNET

This cable type offers the same baseline performance as the Standard HDMI Cable shown above (720p or 1080i video resolution), plus an additional, dedicated data channel, known as the HDMI Ethernet Channel, for device networking. HDMI Ethernet Channel functionality is only available if both linked devices are HDMI Ethernet Channel-enabled.

HIGH SPEED HDMI CABLE

The High Speed HDMI cable is designed and tested to handle video resolutions of 1080p and beyond, including advanced display technologies such as 4K, 3D, and Deep Color. If you are using any of these technologies, or if you are connecting your 1080p display to a 1080p content source, such as a Blu-ray Disc player, this is the recommended cable.

HIGH SPEED HDMI CABLE with ETHERNET

This cable type offers the same baseline performance as the High Speed HDMI Cable shown above (1080p video resolution and beyond), plus an additional, dedicated data channel, known as the HDMI Ethernet Channel, for device networking. HDMI Ethernet Channel functionality is only available if both linked devices are HDMI Ethernet Channel-enabled.

If you want to ensure that you are getting all of the capabilities that one cable can handle, then shop for High Speed HDMI Cables that are labeled 2.0a. However, if you’re not running 4k yet, and don’t have an ultra high definition blu-ray player, and most do not, then HDMI 1.4 should be more than sufficient. Also, on a sidenote, don’t be concerned that a cable like an HDMI 2.0a will not be compatible with your older blu-ray or TV:  HDMI cables are backwards compatible!

Do I Need to Buy Expensive HDMI Cables?

bigstock-Hdmi-Cable-111474623_smallerIn today’s home theater world there really is just one type of cable that’s needed for each source:  an HDMI cable. For all of you details-oriented readers, HDMI simply stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface. And that just means it’s the cable that transfers the audio and video from your source to your HDTV or projector.

To create your home theater, you’re only going to need one of these HDMI cable for each source. One cable will connect your blu-ray player to your receiver. A second cable will connect your cable box to your receiver. Another for any gaming systems you may have. Then, once you’ve got all of those components connected to your receiver, you’ll need one more HDMI cable to run from your receiver to your HDTV or your projector. And there you go! Power everything up, hit the play button, and you’re ready for movies. Or football. Or movies about football.

Alright, so you know what you need to make all the connections for your home theater. However, before you rush out and drop hundreds of dollars on these cables (which is entirely possible if you listen to the salesperson), let me shatter a common home theater myth.

See, conventional thought, when it comes to HDMI cables, is that you need to buy the most expensive ones you can afford. After all, the salesperson will say, this will provide the best picture and crystal clear sound. Makes sense. Yet, it’s not true. Yes, you read that correctly:  you don’t need to buy the most expensive HDMI cables out there!

HDMI cables deliver digital picture and sound. That means it’s all or nothing. If you’re getting a picture and audio from your cable, then you’re getting the best picture and audio possible–no matter how expensive or cheap the cable was! If there is no picture, or if it’s breaking up, then there’s something wrong with the cable and it needs to be replaced. It’s not that you bought a cheap cable that is only capable of providing an inferior signal.

Now, of course, there are some really cheap cables out there that claim to have specific certifications that have not been tested to actually carry the signal they say it is intended for. There are companies trying to sell you junk, but there are just as many that are trying to sell you more than you need. When shopping for cables for your home theater, just keep this in mind:  a reasonable price for a 6 foot HDMI cable should be around $5 – $10. You will pay more for say a 25 foot or 50 foot cable, but it shouldn’t cost $75 or more.

In the next post, we’ll dig into the different versions of HDMI cables out there and hopefully give you the information necessary to make the best choice possible!