How Many HDMI Cables do you Need?

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Choosing your HDMI cables

Home theater components can get pretty expensive and so can the cables that connect them. Take my home theater setup for example, where the prices for the hdmi cables alone could have purchased a small plasma TV.

HDMI cables are the most commonly used cables in hdTV setup and are used for sending high-definition video and multiple channels of digital audio within a single cable.

Since hdTVs are getting thinner and thinner, hdmi wires are the easiest, and most frequent, way to upgrade existing sound systems.

Although there are other digital audio options, HDMI cables are by far the most popular and affordable.

What kind of HDMI cable should I buy?

When it comes to your home entertainment system, you’re spoilt for choice with a multitude of available hardware. Apart from the display device, you should make sure that all your other components are interoperable.

HDMI is the standard for connecting A/V components. Its interface between a source device and a display device makes it the perfect choice to connect different entertainment components to one display device. For example, most modern LED/LCD TV’s have two HDMI inputs and one or more HDMI outputs. You can use these inputs and outputs to connect your DVD/Blu-ray player, your streaming device, your PVR, and your gaming consoles to your TV and avoid the dilemma of choosing which device to use.

When it comes to HDMI cables, there are many different types available on the market. This is where it gets a little bit confusing. Some manufacturers will use the term braided, shielded, gold-plated, gloss finish, high-bandwidth-video-channel, corrosion resistant, and ultra-high-speed to describe their HDMI cables. They may even use words to imply the cable can handle 1080i or 4K… when it can’t.

Does any of this mean anything to you? What do all these words mean? Here’s a table to help you get your head around it:

Cable types

Length, and Use.

HDMI cables are necessary for connecting game consoles, media players, Apple TV, Blu-ray players, and other devices to your TV. They also allow you to watch TV in a different room than where your equipment is set up.

However, not all HDMI cables are the same. In fact, they can be very different and each one has its own specific use case. For example, an HDMI cable with Ethernet is perfect for connecting computer monitors, but many other types of cables will work for this as well.

What is the difference between all the different cables? Here’s a handy guide to help you determine the number of HDMI cables you need to connect your entertainment system.

Passive or active HDMI cables?

A single HDMI cable can transmit high-definition video and audio from one source to one display. As high definition video displays have been adopted, more HDMI cables have been used in homes, offices, and digital electronics.

Once you know how many devices you are connecting and what their distance requirements are, you are ready to decide between active or passive HDMI cables.

Passive HDMI cables (or standard HDMI cables) for household use are generally either a few feet shorter than 15' or a few feet longer than 6'. At these lengths, the cable's signal doesn’t degrade. Most customers buy a few feet longer than they need. This way if the cable is near other cables, it will not affect their signal.

The price of cable doesn't always equal quality. Poorly made cables can hurt the picture quality, so the new rule of thumb is the higher the price, the better the picture.

Plated HDMI cables

Plated HDMI cables are wire-based and are used for the purpose of carrying High Definition Multimedia Interface signals, which collectively are a current digital video and audio interface standard. HDMI cables are used to connect devices such as DVD players, cable boxes, satellite receivers, video game consoles, TVs, and video content receivers to each other. HDMI cables are also used to link computer monitors and video projectors to each other.

HDMI cables are generally categorized as being "Standard" or "High Speed." High Speed HDMI cables are suited for 1080i/p resolution and greater. Standard Speed HDMI cables are ONLY suited for standard definition resolution.

HDMI cables are also generally categorized as being either "Plated" or "Non-Plated." Plated HDMI cables (also commonly referred to as "Gold-Plated" or "Solid Copper") are constructed with pure 24k gold plated copper connectors, while non-plated HDMI cables are constructed with 100% copper wire.

Plated HDMI cables exhibit better conductivity than non-plated HDMI cables. In fact, solid copper plated HDMI cables are the only HDMI cables that don't actually EXCURSION.

Price

HDMI cables are the most popular and widely used piece of cable in your system. Its use has become ubiquitous, in televisions, Blu-ray players, home theater receivers, audio/video receivers, laptops, DVD players, projectors, and even DVRs. Because it’s used in so many different devices, it’s now commonplace for an HDMI cable to be included with the purchase of a TV or any other device that uses an HDMI cable. On average, it’s estimated that more than ten pieces of equipment in your house are using HDMI cables.

Since HDMI cables are so popular, the market is flooded with them and, consequently, they come in a wide range of prices. Therefore, it’s no surprise that cable pricing can be a confusing topic. Unless you’re an expert in this field, you probably have a hard time making sense of the issue. If this rings a bell, you’re not alone. Thankfully, this article will bring clarity in the subject and help you make the right decision next time you’re selecting an HDMI cable.

Tips for buying the right HDMI cable

HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) is a newer audio/video interface which has been around since late 2002, replacing older types of ports and cables.

In the early days the industry trend was to provide expensive HDMI cables which claimed to be a standard. This was proved wrong and the industry quickly learned that there are no gold-plated HDMI cables!

In today’s market, we are much more aware of what is actually inside a cable, which affects how much it’s priced.

The two most important factors are the type of shielding and quality of the copper used.

If you have an older television or source of HD content, with only one or two HDMI inputs, you probably need a single HDMI cable for connecting those devices to your TV or soundbar.

Since the 4K/Ultra High Definition (UHD) TV’s have come out, the standard has changed. Some manufacturers built in only a single HDMI port on their 4k TV sets, which means you may need HDMI cables for your different types of devices you want to connect to your TV such as:

DVD/Blu-ray player, gaming console, or media streamer. Not to mention any HDMI cable you may need for audio only to connect a speaker system to the TV.

Get some length

If you’re not a tech-geek and you’re just setting up a new home theater system, you may not be familiar with all of the cables or their roles. If you’re like most people, you may know about HDMI cables because you’ve probably spent a good chunk of money buying them for your new HDTV.

But do you really know how many of these cables you need? What do they do? This post talks about the different HDMI cables and how many of them you need in your home theater setup.

For most consumers, the term “HDMI” is synonymous with the word “cable”. Between the two HDMI cables and HDMI cable extenders, there are several options available to you today and that variety is likely to increase in the future, as new uses are developed for this technology.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to buy your HDMI cables without being confused and overwhelmed. First, stay away from the gold-plated variety and get the boring black cable—you’ll be glad you did when “boring” is the operative word when it comes to your cable clutter.

Don’t overspend

The HDMI market is full of too many items to count and it’s important to note that an HDMI cable is simply a connector.

Lower priced HDMI cables do the same thing as more expensive ones, they are engineered a bit differently and are usually segmented in the way that they are constructed. HDMI cables are available in sequential sizes, from the smallest size –the miniature, also called micro HDMI, and right up to the largest size, which is the XLR HD HDMI.

HDMI cables are a dime a dozen, but the quality will vary. To offer a range and a lifetime guarantee, most retailers will choose the more expensive, but well-made higher-end HDMI cables. But in a true component analogy, you’re paying a premium but you are getting the same thing, no more and no less.

On a retail level, the profit margin on HDMI cables is 78%.

Therefore, if you see a price tag that’s more than you think is reasonable, think again. If you’re dealing with a big-box seller, you can expect this sort of markup, but there are plenty of alternatives that will work just as well.

Make sure your cables match your device output

HDMI cables have a connector that support a variety of modern devices. Cables come in many different lengths. It is best to know exactly how many HDMI cables you will need and their lengths before purchasing them. It is generally best to buy with a length longer than what you think you need just in case. The bottom line is you need your cables to match your input and output devices. With the vast variety of modern devices with HDMI outputs this may require additional cables.

There are three main types of HDMI cables that you might need. They are 1) the fixed length, 2) the flexible or bending length, 3) and the extended cable length.

The fixed length has a fixed length and does not need to be bent, this makes it perfect for wall-mounting HDTVs. The flexible or bending length is used for positioning to adapt to the desired direction of the cable. Theses are especially useful if you are trying to position your devices close to your TV or monitor. The extended cable lengths give you more freedom without worrying about the limitations on cable length.

To sum up, it is important to know the length of your HDMI cable and the distance from your source to display before purchasing HDMI cables.

With this information you can calculate the total length required for your system. The main input and main output cables should be the longest ones as they will have the farthest distance to go.

Some final thoughts

The stuff that I have outlined above will get you through 95% of the average HDMI scenarios you'll encounter, but let’s cover some advanced situations.

In situations where you have a really long HDMI cable run and sources that aren’t exactly state of the art, you might need to make use of some extra features included with higher end HDMI cables. Features such as:

  • HDMI Ethernet Channel
  • Audio Return Channel
  • 3D
  • 4K UHD (Ultra High Definition) Resolution
  • Lip sync adjustments

All of this can be handled by the correct HDMI cable.

Let’s use a few examples for these situations to illustrate this point further:

Long Cable Run / cheap source: Many newer HDTVs, especially in the lower price ranges, suffer from input lag (the delay in the image from your source). If your TV has an input lag of 100 ms, then you can use an optical cable to bridge the gap.

HDMI Ethernet Channel: This will let you plug your Internet-ready devices directly into your HDMI ports without the use of any Ethernet cables. This is especially handy for devices with one Ethernet port such as some Smart TVs.

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There are tons of HDMI devices out there and it’s very easy to find yourself with end up with a spaghetti wire haired jumble of HDMI cables plugged into all of your devices. But what happens when you are trying to play your Blu-ray, your Playstation and your Wii on the same television at the same time? Too much wiring can cause problems.

But figuring how to maximize your HDMI usage can be a bit of a challenge. Let’s start with some basics. HDMI’s (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) most recent standard is version 1.4a. Most HDMI devices today (such as your Blu-ray player or plasma TV) are typically 1.4 compliant by default. The only way to find out your device’s version is to look for the HDMI logo, usually on the back of your device. If it has a "1.4" or "1.4a" next to the logo, it has the latest features.

With the HDMI standard moving so fast, how do you know what you need? Do you need the 1.4a or 1.3? The latest standard is 1.4a, which has the most recent features.