All HDMI Cables are the Same! Or are they… – Full Test

March 30th, 2011 · 39 Comments · 3D HDTV, Blu-ray Players, LCD Flat Panel, LED LCD Flat Panels, Microdisplay Rear Projection, News, Plasma

All HDMI Cables are the same

A few months ago we ran a story where I said that there was no reason to spend a lot of money on HDMI cables. I still stand by that. Most cable companies are so incredibly misleading in their marketing/advertising it borders on outright lying.

Others just lie.

So we decided to put a test together to see if there really was any difference in cables. The results were… interesting.

The Plan
We gathered seven cables from four manufacturers/retailers, all over 50ft. Why over 50ft? Because the differences are going to be more pronounced than over shorter cables. Also, short HDMI cables, even the most horribly made ones, are highly likely to work just fine. In fact, I have yet to see a short HDMI cable that didn’t work.

A Bit of Background
The industry standard methodology is using a test pattern generator and a waveform monitor. That’s all well and good, but we felt that a “real world” test would give more useful results, showing what problems arise in actual systems. Turns out, there’s a lot.

There are four basic items in play when you’re trying to get an signal over HDMI from one place to another. The first is the source. There is a tiny transmitter in each source component that attempts to send a signal out along the cable. It’s not very powerful, but it is fairly robust. Presuming it has enough power to do its job (not a given) they work pretty well.

The next step is the cable itself. HDMI cables are actually made up of several individual tiny copper wires. The quality of the metal and gauge of the wire varies greatly, and both affect how well the signal from the transmitter can travel along the cable.

In the display, there’s a receiver that, well, receives the signal. At this point, presuming there’s enough signal to read, it gets decoded.

Resolution is the final factor. 1080p requires twice the bandwidth of 1080i/720p. This is why, as you’ll see in the testing, everything passed 1080i, but not necessarily 1080p.

If you want some more technical details, I talk about the science and technology of HDMI on my CNET blog.

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Not Better than, IS or ISN’T
This is the most important fact in this article: An HDMI cable either works, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, you’ll see it, have no doubt. What you’ll see, though, is not a softer image, or more noise. These are what happens to an analog signal when it degrades, not a digital one. With HDMI’s digital signal, if not enough of the data is received by the TV, you’ll get: sparkles, partial image, blank screen, and of course your TV saying there is “no signal.” I saw all of these in my testing.

Sparkles is perhaps the most insidious of the bunch, as the rest of the image looks fine, but random white dots appear on the screen. This was generally severe enough for anyone to go “wtf?” but on a few occasions, it was fairly mild. Still enough, though, that one would notice it and want a better cable. Even if it was mild, this still registered as a “fail” in my testing. Heeeeeeeeeeeeere’s some sparkles:

Sparkles!

To a lesser or greater degree, these are “sparkles.” White spots that look like snowflakes. Or dandruff. This is what a signal looks like that’s staring down the precipice of total signal failure. You can’t see it in this small picture, but the rest of the image on the TV looks just as detailed as it did using a cable that actually worked. It was as if it had started snowing inside the TV.

With the fails, there’s either no image, or an unwatchable image (flickering, etc). In all these cases, the cable is faulty or inadequate, and you should return it for a different cable.

So when a salesman says “this will give you a better picture” he is either lying, or doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

The Test
I used a Panasonic Plasma, a Samsung Plasma, a Sony LCD, and JVC and Sharp projectors. All were current or last year’s models. For sources, I used Oppo, Toshiba, and Sony Blu-ray players. The Oppo and Toshiba were also put through a Marantz receiver that merely switches (no upconverting). Lastly, I used my AT&T U-verse Motorola VIP1225. Early in the testing process I also used Apple TV and Roku boxes, but as even the worst cable was able to pass these signals, I stopped testing them.

The source breakdown is like this:

Oppo BD – 1080p/60
Oppo BD – 3D (Avatar BD)
Oppo BD – 1080p/24 (Avatar BD – not tested on the Sony as it wasn’t a 3D TV)
Toshiba BD – 1080p/60
Sony BD – 1080p/60
Marantz Receiver w/Oppo BD – 1080p/60
Marantz Receiver w/Toshiba BD – 1080p/60
U-verse – 1080i

Source material was a mixture of real video and test patterns, all from Blu-ray. Each display was tested with each source on its primary HDMI input and its “last” HDMI input (#4 in the case of the Panasonic and Samsung, #2 for the JVC and Sharp). If there was a discrepancy between these two, the remaining inputs were tested. The Sony, having two on the back and two on the side, occasionally had odd results, so each of its inputs were tested each round.

Each cable/signal was given a reasonable amount of time to sync up, though it was usually pretty clear very quick what worked and what didn’t. The image (when there was one) was inspected at close distance for any sparkles or other artifacts (which predictably, there weren’t).

All cables tested had “High Speed” on their jackets, though some were labeled “Standard Speed” on their company’s website. The difference is that “High Speed” is supposed to pass at least 1080p.

One final word on this testing methodology. Technically, a cable could pass 1080p, but still not conform to the full definition of “High Speed” or “Category 2″ cabling, which requires successful transmission of much higher resolutions. As none of these higher resolutions are in any current or future video spec, this is sort of irrelevant.

*****PLEASE NOTE***** In no way is this a test or indictment of the products used for testing. These are meant to be a sampling of available gear, not “Product A doesn’t work with Product B.” That is a completely different article.

Key:
Red=Fail
Green=Pass
* = Sparkles

Monoprice 2678 – 50ft ($53.32)

Monoprice 2678

Right off the bat, we’re got a compelling case for cheap cables. This is a $53 cable, listed as “Standard Speed,” yet passes 1080p just fine. No issues whatsoever. We might as well just stop here.

Monster Cable Monster MC 1000HD-50 –  50ft (MSRP: $499.95, $299.00 on Amazon)

Monster Cable 1000HD 50ft

Monster Cable 1000HDSo here’s the question. Like the Monoprice 2678, the 1000HD passes all signals to all the gear. Yet it’s 4x the price. Also, the 1000HD is decidedly one way. If you swap the cable ends, you get nothing. Odd for a passive cable. Overall build quality between the two was about the same, with the Monoprice cable being a little thicker, but the Monster having a better jacket and “feel” of connector. One thing in the Monster’s favor is that their plug was very grippy, locking into the HDMI connector on source and display more solidly than most other cables. Is this worth $250? No.

Straight Wire Super HDMI Cable – 52ft (MSRP: $400)

Straightwire Super HDMI 50ft

Straightwire Super HDMIThe Straight Wire cable has a built-in signal correcting circuit (as did two of the longer Monoprice cables). Like the Monster and 2678, it performed well in testing, though I got an odd fail with the Marantz/Toshiba combo.

Straight Wire told me to flip the cable around (“backwards” from what the instructions said) and it worked fine. So I listed them as pass for everything.

Amazon 50ft HDMI Cable ($19.54)

Amazon noname HDMI

There are several “no-name” 50ft HDMI cables on Amazon, but this one claimed to be 1080p and “10.2 Gbps” which implies High Speed (also known as Category 2), even though these words weren’t specifically mentioned.

As you can see from the chart, performance was pretty terrible. Amazon no-name HDMIIt works with some gear, but fails completely with others. I’d be curious what Amazon’s return rate is on this cable. I have several short no-name Amazon cables, and they work fine.

One odd result is worth noting. On the Panasonic with the Oppo at 1080p/60, inputs 1 and 2 worked, but 3 and 4 didn’t. This is possible on many products, as the quality of the HDMI receiver isn’t always consistent across different inputs. I have been told something as simple as the length of the internal wiring from the connector to the chip can have an effect. The Samsung had the opposite problem with the Marantz/Oppo pair, failing on input 1 but passing on 2, 3, and 4.

If you are frustrated that the cheapest HDMI cable didn’t work as well as the more expensive models, I feel your pain.

Monoprice 7697 -75ft ($47.70)

Monoprice 7697 75ft

Like the Straightwire, the 7697 has a signal correcting nubbin. There’s an 8-position dial on the top to help you fine-tune performance. The fails listed in the chart were where no setting garnered a picture. Some gear required an adjustment of the dial, others didn’t. Of those that did, some would only work in one position, others, several.

These cables are clearly labeled for use in one direction, and only work as such. Overall performance was very good, with only the Panasonic/Toshiba 1080p causing an issue on input 1 and 2. The Oppo at 24p was even stranger, as 3D and 60p require far more bandwidth, yet those passed.

Monoprice 2894 – 100ft ($76.23)

Monoprice 2894 100ft

Most cable manufactures will tell you that a passive 100-foot cable shouldn’t work at all, never mind working with 1080p. Yet here it is. Performance wasn’t great, with the Sharp not really getting anything, and the Sony and Panasonic not liking the Oppo. Still, for a ridiculous length of 100ft, and costing only $76.23, it’s worth trying the 2894 to see if it works with your gear, if you need this kind of run. If you do, this cable will likely be going through walls or something, so PLEASE test the cable before you put it in the wall.

Monoprice 7698 – 100ft ($57.00)

Monoprice 7698 100ft

Monoprice 7698For a little less money, the 7698 has a signal correcting nubbin, like the 7697, but is a thinner gauge than the 2894.

Performance was actually a little better than the 2894, trading the Samsung/Marantz for the JVC and getting a few more sources to work with the Sharp.

Subjective
As I discussed above, it’s not possible for one cable to look better than another. It either works and you see 100% of the signal, or it doesn’t work and you get nothing, sparkles, snow, or flickering. But, there were going to be people who would freak out if I didn’t give these cables a subjective component as well. These people (cable manufacturers) claim that certain HDMI cables look and sound better than others.

Now this is bull when it comes to video, but with each cable I looked for any increase in noise, or decrease in resolution, using actual video and test patterns. You can accuse me of bias all you want, but if I did see a difference, that would be a fascinating story so I was looking for it. The cables that worked all looked the same. Surprise surprise surprise

But audio… Now this is a little more complex. It is next to impossible for there to be any difference in audio when playing back Dolby or DTS codecs (of any resolution). This is due to how these formats are encoded and transmitted.

It is, however, at least theoretically possible for there to be an audible difference with PCM. This is due to the amount of jitter with HDMI, which can vary depending on manufacturing quality (true of any digital cable). There is so much conflicting data on this, I think it warrants its own article. So look for that in the near future.

In the mean time, use the decoder in your receiver instead of the BD player and you should be fine.

Conclusions
In all, I was rather surprised by the variety of performance among these long cables. Even so, our standard recommendation stands:

Buy the cheapest cable you can. If it works, you’re good to go.

That said, we have to add some caveats. Just because the cheap cable you buy works now with your current gear, doesn’t mean it still will if you replace your BD player, receiver, or TV. That much is very clear from the testing, there’s a lot of variety.

From this survey, the more expensive cables really were more likely to work on all the gear with different bandwidth signals. As frustrating as this is for all the deal-hunters out there (myself included) it does offer a “buy and forget” option for those that don’t want to worry about it. For those of us where $50 and $400 is a big difference, the cheaper cables are a fantastic deal, when they work. As long as you can return the cable if it doesn’t work, there is no risk in getting the cheaper cables. Even if in a year you get a new BD player and the cable no longer “works,” buying a new one will still save you $200 in the long run over the more expensive cables.

The fact is, below 50 feet, performance is going to be a LOT more uniform. In other words, you’ll have more cables that will work on everything. As such, it’s even more likely that a cheap cable will perform the same as their more expensive counterparts. At short distances (under 10 feet), like we’ve always said, there’s not going to be any difference.

The most important thing to remember is if you’re running HDMI through your wall, test it first!!! Also make sure it’s rated to match your local building codes.

 

Geoff Morrison – Follow me on Twitter @TechWriterGeoff
Check out Geoff’s book.

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39 Comments so far ↓

  • Occam49

    Why didn’t you perform some eye diagram testing and provide actual measurement data and images? You were dead-on to demonstrate differences in the quality of the transceivers used in the equipment had a larger impact on successful transmissions over long cables.

  • chudong

    hi

    we have a HDMI to HDMI +AUDIO

    Do you have intheresting it

    The SPDIF output supports 5.1CH Dolby Digital 5.1CH / AC3 & DTS 5.1CH audio

  • Troy

    I have a Monster optical cable and the end caps fell off! I know they aren’t popular anymore but salespeople telling me why a Monster optical cable is better than the cheap brand is really humorous.

  • Renzo

    Really interesting article, great job!
    I just ordered a 20 meter (that’s almost 75 foot I think) cable from eBay to connect my PC (HD6450) with my Yamaha RX-V1071 receiver. Hope it will work, and also support 3D :)

    Does this article also apply for 3D support, or will that affect the demand of a cable (a lot) more?

  • Kevin

    lol Geoff sry but you don’t know what your talking about. I always love when people that review equipment think they are experts in the field and the people who have been doing this a life time, are just crazy and what to just get you to spend more money. First the cables you review are still low end cables lol price does not indicate a higher quality and higher end cable. You also have to know what to look for before you can evaluate anything. The video display must be have high quality, and properly calibrated to be able to see the differences in cables. So not only do you not know how to evaluate cables your so biased that you dont want to see any difference because that would make you crazy like the rest of us who can lol

    Geoff: HDMI has been available since 2003. If you’ve been “doing this a life time” then you’re implying you are only 10 years old. If you are instead implying HDMI is the same as other cables, you are incorrect. HDMI is packetized data. The audio portion is error-corrected, packetized data. As such, it is impossible to have a difference in picture quality. These packets are either perfect and get to the television as such, or they are wrong, and unreadable by the display. This results in sparkles (or no picture) as seen in the above images. There is no middle ground. The picture can’t be softer, or of different color saturation. This would mean the packets are changing and this is impossible.

    For this, and other HDMI articles I’ve written, I spoke extensively to: cable manufacturers, TV manufacturers, Analog Devices (who make the HDMI transmitter/receiver chips), and HDMI Licensing (who write the actual HDMI spec). None of what I’ve said is my “opinion,” it is all facts readily available on the Internet for anyone to research.

    As far as “high quality, and properly calibrated” video displays, I’m not sure what it is you think I do for a living. All I have in my house are high-quality, properly calibrated displays. I’m a ISF-trained calibrator and have been so for over a decade.

    Your accusations of bias don’t make any sense, as I would have nothing to gain by pointing out that all HDMI cables perform the same. You, however, clearly do have something to gain by pushing the myth that expensive cables perform differently. Or, as Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

  • Craig

    Ooops, so CERN didn’t break the speed of light…

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9100273/Breaking-the-speed-of-light-CERNs-neutrino-experiment.html

    “Scientists at CERN have admitted an experiment that appeared to show neutrino particles could travel faster than light was potentially flawed due to a faulty cable.”

    CERN used the wrong cable… should have bought the $400 monster cable ;)

  • Jaytee

    Here we go again. Monster Cable have been causing pro audio guys to grind our teeth for nearly a generation now, with their hyper inflated claims and ridiculous prices. The coming of HDMI must have seen them almost wetting their pants with the possibilities. Problem is, it’s getting harder to get something that’s not of this ilk in the general electronics shops these days, at least in the UK. I’ve also noticed that many of the younger engineers who have come from the audio ‘schools’ (as opposed to the trainee system that used to exist when there were more than 2-3 big studios per city) have a problem with critical thinking and making objective comparisons of the products they use. Some of the weird myths I hear being passed on by these youngsters is incredible. I guess the age of reason is truly coming to an end.

  • Nicke

    About your comment regarding speed of ligt to Andrew:

    Well, actually it appears to be broken.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/8782895/CERN-scientists-break-the-speed-of-light.html

  • andrew

    I do not believe you know what you are talking about silver as anyone who know anything about electronics knows its a better faster conductor allowing for a better picture. and there is money to be made as far as profit how else would a company pay for bills. I think you really need to talk to a maker before putting something about someone lying.

    Geoff: Faster than the speed of light? That’s AMAZING. Someone notify CERN.

  • Jeff

    I am a little late to the party on this one but I totally agree with the author. I had an issue with the video dropping off totally on a 50′ (it would actually blink in and out). I was using a SIIG cable from Fry’s and it did not work. I tried the Altoona Cat5 method and it did not work. I got a 40′ cable (the actual length I needed) from Monoprice with a 24 guage wiring and it worked like a charm. I was amazed that every video store I went into nobody had the solution. Everybody wanted to sell me a $300 Monster cable when I ended up paying $30 from Monoprice. I feel there is something to be said for a heavy jacketed cable like I got from monoprice. I will always use Monoprice from here on out. Incredibly cheap cables.

  • Dennis

    Here is the worst part of all this. I worked at Best Buy back in 2007 or so. I’m not sure if they still have the same employee discount, but we were able to buy products at 20% above what the store bought it for. This provided insight into how the company made a profit. TV’s were barely any savings at all from the usual retail mark up, but alas the cables were a whole other story. The 6 foot Monster cable Joe Public would buy for 50 to 70 dollars, I could buy for 12 dollars. Mind you the discount is 20% MORE than what the store bought it for. So let’s just add that insult to injury.

  • Dennis

    I was watching the head of Monster (Noel Lee) where he explaining how signal been pass through hdmi cables on the oscilloscope.

    well they all seem to fail even monster cable when he tested the 10m cable. So my believe anything greater than 10m in run will failed period, cheap or monster cable doesn’t matter.

    As Noel Lee he keep mentioning in his video “The shorter cable are better” and did prove that monster cable failed at 10m test where the signal cover the center eye.

    Conclusion: They already warned buyers, it’s up to them if they wants to hear it or not.

  • bobsky

    I must bring up a point that hasn’t yet been brought up. When I sell a customer new equipment and it doesn’t work because the HDMI cables are inferior, half the time they return the equipment as “junk”. If they call me on the phone first, I usually send an employee to thier home (at our expense) with good quality cables to prove to them that the equipment works perfectly and that poor quality cables that are at fault. Unfortunately, customers often just bring the equipment back and return it in a frustrated state, simply not wanting to deal with it anymore. I want the equipment I sell to stay sold! So, I try to convince my customers to buy good cables that I know will work perfectly the first time. This doesn’t mean that I rake them over the coals for multi-hundred dollar cables; but a good audioquest Forrest or Cinnimon cable. Maybe your time means so little to you that can deal with the time, effort and trouble of trying one cable, then returning it and buying and trying the next level cable, then returning it and buying and trying the next level cable untill you’ve found the cheapest one that works, but many people lose the fun and excitement they feel toward thier new equipment from frustration doing this and would just rather have it work the first time. $35 for a great quality HDMI cable is worth it to many of us! Just something to think about when you recommend how HDMI cables should be purchased.

  • Alistair Thomson

    @ Geoff’s reply to Sergey

    With all due respect to you an HDMI cable is transmitting electrical signals. The difference between an analog signal and digital signal is that the waveform of a digital signal is a square wave. Both analog and digital waveforms will decay equally when presented with what we call ‘interference’. The major difference between the two technologies is how the equipment on each end of the cable will respond; as most of us know analog equipment will display a linear degradation in quality; digital equipment on the other hand will have a ‘magic’ threshold; once that threshold is crossed there will be nada. This is illustrated in your own test results. Bottom line: subject an analog or digital line to interference through cable length or interference and the distortion (to the waveform) will be uniform, as you quite correctly point out this ‘might’ not be an issue with an HDMI connection.

  • Alistair Thomson

    @Sergey,

    Your first post was excellent. Your last post – I’m not sure what you’re getting at.
    Geoff has shown us that there is a difference in HDMI cables (at the 50′ length) What we really need to know is why.
    HDMI is an electrical signal, thus it will be affected by length, gauge and quality of construction; by quality I’m referring to to shielding, connector resistance etc.
    Rather than relying on manufacturer specifications as to bandwidth, we as a community should seek to scientifically debunk the myths.

  • Sergey

    Hi
    I think all brands try to cheat us, consumers, because they never put resolution on their cables. HDMI cable, like all other cables just transmits electric signal. And this signal according to physics degrades with length, thikness & terminal quality. Manufacturer should proves us “my 10ft cable is capable of transmitting 1080p signal” not 850, not 920, but 1080. & if you switch on not movie but 1080 black & white stripes, you shoul see & count them all!
    Monster Cable started to mention it’s transfer rate – 3Gbps, 8 Gbps…. this is at least somthing – you can calculate yourself what cable you need for your resolution, if you know refresh frequency of your TV & debth bits of colour. Possible but difficult.

    Geoff: Woah, hold up. You are confusing how analog cables degrade and how digital cables degrade. If the signal gets to the display intact, it will ALWAYS be the same resolution that was sent by the source. If the signal doesn’t get to the source intact, you’ll get sparkles or no image at all. No HDMI cable will EVER output less resolution than what was sent, it’s not possible for HDMI to work that way. All Category 2 (High Speed) HDMI cables are rated to pass 10.2 gigabits per second. Category 1 (Standard Speed) is 4.95 Gbits/sec. Yes, over long runs (50+ feet) it’s possible that entire bandwidth won’t be possible, but in that case, the signal fails. It doesn’t get softer. This what this article was about.

  • John H

    Though not practical to test every cable out there I would have liked to see a mid priced cable in the mix.
    I’ve read about BlueJeansCable. They appear to be straight shooters with the information on their site. In addition to a low priced line. They use a well known US manufacture, Belden , for their upper end cable stock.

    Anyone have experience with these cables over long distances? Or with them in general?

  • Alistair Thomson

    Geoff: I appreciate what you’re trying to do here. That being said you are being a little misleading yourself; Your CNET blog that lands here is titled ‘Why all HDMI cables are the same’. Your own test results quite clearly prove the opposite; the Amazon cable is clearly a very poor performer and although the Monoprice cable is an excellent value at $53 it is over 2.5 times the price of the Amazon one. Given these results it seems odd that the advice in your conclusion is to buy the cheapest cable and see if it works. I agree that it’s frustrating that the cheapest cable didn’t work; it would have been nice if you had established whether you had a bad cable or not. Assuming that the results of several Amazon cables were consistent, it would have been interesting to establish ‘why’ – since an HDMI cable is carrying electrical signals, there must be an electrical difference between the cables to explain the results, the tests that the commenter Sergy talks of would likely highlight these.
    On the subject of the Monster cable, the fact that the plug is so ‘grippy’ is a pretty big deal; in an application where a projector or TV is on a motorized lift, this could prove valuable, it’s a shame this was on found on one the most expensive cables.
    One thing that should be emphasized is that with any cable that is carrying electrical signals is that it should be installed correctly, importantly, keeping it away from electrical power cables when running through walls and ceilings.
    Your test results illustrate what is common with many things in life; you don’t (necessarily) need to purchase the most expensive, but you probably won’t be best pleased with the cheapest.

  • Ken

    I would be careful to draw a distinction between generic cables that may or may not be sold by Amazon, and the Amazon Basics line. I found the Amazon Basics line to be well built and reasonably priced.

  • Syed Ahmed

    Geoff Morrison is obviously part of a massive conspiracy that wants to push cheaper cables that degrade image quality! Monster Cables are the best and the image they produce is at least 647% better than a cheap generic cable.

    Just kidding of course. I’m glad there are people like Geoff who are trying to educate consumers and help them save money. Every time I come across articles like this, I make sure to send it to everyone I know who is ignorant about the issue. I can’t even count how many times I’ve gotten into arguments with people about hdmi cables over the past few years. They just don’t want to hear it. Just last week, I visited a cousin who bought a new TV from some random store, but went out of his way to go to Best Buy and spend $50 on a FOUR foot Monster hdmi cable. What angered me more is that he tried his best to buy the cheapest TV possible because he didn’t want to spend too much. When I told him that he could have gotten a four foot cable online for roughly $5, he completely dismissed it and said it wasn’t “good quality.”

  • Kevin

    As the owner of a A/V Sales & Installation company I think you are misleading everyone. While it is true that you’ll not find that much difference between a Monster HDMI and all these others that you tested; if you are doing an install for a customer and his picture is not what he wants it to be and the HDMI run is over 50′ in-wall, then you’d better use a Belden J-Series HDMI especially for long runs. Sure, I’ll let you buy your own HDMIs but when they don’t work and you have to keep calling my company out to fix the problem you’re paying me $150/hr and in the end if you want to get a clear picture you’re going to need the Belden HDMI. A 50′ Belden HDMI cost me $149 & a 100′ cost me $287. But if you think it’s better to keep pulling 100′ HDMIs in and out of the wall because you took this guys advice then go right ahead. After you have to pull one out of the wall and put in another that you spent $30 on and it doesn’t work maybe you’ll go ahead and spend the money on something that works. Old Geoff is not an installer and has never pulled a 100′ HDMI through a wall.

    Geoff: Congratulations, you are the first person ever to call me “old.” I feel like I have completed a rite of passage. Having wired two complete Circuit City demo rooms, and the entire old Home Theater magazine test lab (multiple times), I can say I’ve pulled a fair amount of cables in my day. You damn kids and your HDMI, though. Get off my lawn. Yes, I don’t pull cables for a living. My job is to protect consumers from people like you.

    The part where you lose all credibility is where you say “his picture is not what he wants it to be” and “if you want to get a clear picture.” You are factually incorrect. It is not possible for different HDMI cables to look different. As I mention, in bold mind you, you should test all cables before you put them into a wall. If you’re not doing this, it’s your own fault.

    If you want to sell your customers more expensive cables because you feel they’ll last longer, be more likely to survive installation, and that kind of thing, I’m sure many will go for it. But if you are positioning your cables as “clearer” or having better picture quality, you are lying.

    The sad thing is, $149 isn’t totally unreasonable for a well-built 50-foot cable. Had you just written “I like this cable because in my experience it lasts longer and I get fewer complaints,” I wouldn’t have said a word.

  • Mocha

    TVs destined for the American market have a softer, more blurry picture than those destined for Europe or Australia. In short, you need to do your testing with proper TVs that display a sharp picture to determine whether there are, actually, any smaller regions (a handful of pixels) that get affected when using lower-quality HDMI cables.

    Sure, your test results are good for American and Japanese consumers, but incomplete for anywhere else in the world.

  • Mike

    “It’s not very powerful, but it is fairly robust.”

    Huh? According to my dictionary powerful and robust are synonyms.

  • Daniel

    I’m trying to put food on my familys table. Shut up. The tv business is completely devoid of margin, and soon enough, high end retailers are going to vanish.
    Jesus, if its not consumer reports telling people not to buy warrantys, its my own people killing the accessory biz. When your near by a/v store goes out of business, give yourself a big pat on the back. You helped.

    Geoff: I love this argument. Let me rephrase what you said so everyone can understand: “Stop telling people the truth so I can lie to them and fleece them of their money, the stupid fools.” Next time link to where you work so we can all not go there.

    I don’t have a problem with people trying to make money. A/V retailers offer a service, and that’s worth paying something extra for. If a consumer doesn’t feel that they’re getting enough of an added value from a retail store, they don’t buy there. Doesn’t the free market suck (pout, pout). Try doing what successful A/V salespeople do (and have always done): sell audio.

  • Scott

    Good article. You have confirmed what I have seen in 30+ years in this business – people overpay for cables a LOT!

    There is one other aspect of cables that you did not mention, I find this especially true of HDMI. If a cable is repeatedly disconnected and re-connected, stressed repeatedly (kids, pets, moving a TV on a swivel stand, etc), or otherwise manipulated – the quality of the cable matters. As you stated in your article, there are many fine wires inside the jacket of an HDMI cable. I cannot tell you the number of people that I have talked to with a “bad TV” after a period of time that turned out to be a bad cable.

    I do realize that the majority of people hook up their equipment and it stays for years without being moved. There are however, some folks that change out equipment, furniture, racks, or have little people that play with things. A good quality cable with a sturdy sheathing and a great connector can prevent headaches in these cases.

    I will go on record as saying that paying hundreds of dollars is idiotic.

    Just my two cents. Again, good article.

  • Ronnie

    We have seen some cables that would do audio and video fine but the Bravia sync on the Sony TVs and Audio systems would not.The cable that Directv was putting in their systems over a year ago would not do Bravia sync but the cable that is there now does.

  • John

    One needs to keep in mind that many of the High-End cable manufactures are nothing more than Marketing Organizations and they are good at it. I consider myself a Audiophile and have two upper end A/V system, Onkyo, Alantic Technology with a 107″ projection system and have tried both high and low cost cables and could detect no difference. Thanks for the article, it has proved my point that I have made to others that think the “M” brand is the only way to go.

  • Joe

    I like this article. The one thing I feel that might be missing is the in between priced cables. Such as PPC or Binary (custom channel only). Or even Ethereal cables. These are all priced less than the Monster, but more than the Monoprice. I find them to be a good deal because they generally have a better build quality than the Monoprice cables, but aren’t as expensive or flashy than the Monster Cables. A 50ft PPC cable will cost you $200 – $250 and they have locking connectors to keep them in place. The more expensive cable having an Ethernet channel as well. The Binary cable has an Ethernet channel and it’s MSRP is $329, though I would sell it significantly less. Ethereal has their 50ft priced at $350 retail, but again, can be had for less.

    The Monoprice cables obviously work, but I’ve had issues with them, such as the cable not staying in place (even with little or no strain on it) or the Monoprice cable that I pulled out of a cable box where the head of the cable came apart.

    Anyway, just my 2cents. Great article though.

  • HiFiFun

    HDGuru:
    Word of Caution When Buying/Returning as Best Buy/Retail Equation Track Purchases and Returns

    Please creat an article on this subject!

    Many consumers purchased and returned defective products over the years. Lets use one of the most common and frustrating: LCD TV clouding, banding and flash-lighting in the corners. Some members have purchased 3-5(!) of these displays trying to find an acceptable one. They worked with Best Buy too. At $4000 each this is $20K worth the merchandise returned.
    Now the innocent consumers permanent dossier at the Retail Equation will “exhibit return behaviors that mimic fraud or abuse” or “exhibit habits that are inconsistent with the retailer’s return policy”. Other stores will pick up on this too! So the consumer can buy but never return even defective merchandise.
    To make a determination the retailer will need to transfer your purchase history to the Retail Equation. As a third party, Retail Equation has no agreement with consumers. They will only talk to you on the phone. No written reports, to fend off the expected lawsuits.
    In reality they appear to be aggregating consumers purchase history from many retailers with personal identifiable information. Its not just about returns guys. This is why Best Buy is playing dumb.

    Surely this will raise the red flags in Congress, as they have crossed over the privacy line which even Google respects.
    Phase two will be selling this potentially negative data for targeted advertising, deny employment, raise insurance and background checks. All in secret and without due process. America Today!

    Always check with stores customer service to see if they demand your Driver License for returns with receipts, as this is how they track you. Shopping locally just lost its major benefit: easy returns. Mail order will only get stronger as a result.
    If still buying locally demand to view the TV for defects before purchasing it.

    http://www.theretailequation.com/CFaqs.aspx

  • teresa

    for long runs you would need HDMI extenders over CAT5 , Kramer works just fine or Atlona, we got Atlona to use on our 3D equipments, in the other hand.. we have used micro coaxial wires for long runs…..

  • Darren

    With more TVs and players having built in wireless cables and more houses having wireless networks, do you think that these devices and their signals can interfere with the signal being passed over the HDMI cable? Like you say, either the signal gets there or it doesn’t. However, if part of that signal is interference and noise then that will be transferred too(?) If so, is it better to get cables with more shielding?

    Geoff: It doesn’t matter what the cause of signal degradation is, as long as the cable works, it works. If the cable picks up a lot of “noise” as you put it, this will not make the image noisier. If the cheapest cable works, then you’re good to go. If it doesn’t, try the next least expensive.

  • rantanamo

    The problem DannoO is that most people are not doing this length of a run. 75ft is damn long run. I have some pretty long runs, and they are just using 35ft runs.

    Geoff: The shorter the run the more likely it will be to work.

  • teresa

    Its gets more confussing when your A/V equipments are 3D, we had to change all of our HDMI cables to use 1.4 ver, that includes HDMI extenders and distributors capable of suporting 3D signals….why all of them u might wonder… well… just in case

  • Tony

    While I found your article very informative, I also wonder about the mono price HDMI over cat5e/6 wall plate combos. I have often thought about using a pair of network cables to do long runs and if that is better or worse than the actual long cables.

  • Tommy Karlsson

    Really intresting review.
    And like DannO i look forward to the audio bit.

    One thing i would like to add to the testing is a Htpc.

    I did a big order from dealextreme a while ago and tought that i could take a chance on a cheap 15 ft cable from there as i already order a bunch off stuff.
    A did plan to move the Htpc to a closet since i use a bluetooth ps 3 remote that would be no trouble.
    But i can´t get it to work with the Htpc only get a really bad picture that flickers really bad.

    But if i use that cable with a dvd player with hdmi and a popcorn c-200 i get a good picture and sound seems to work too.
    I have tried on 3 diffrent tv´s and 2 recivers and a bunch off other blurays,dvd,players,htpc at friends,family and it always work ok except from htpc.

    I is only when i try a computer i have now tried 1 ion htpc and 2 pc with ati boards (HD5450 and HD6950) and one with a nvidia g210 and also the i3 intel.
    The only time i even get any picture at all is with the 5450.

    So since it seems like the cable works with almost everything but a computer.
    Can´t the hdmi out on grafikboards send at the power needed?
    I can´t really see any other explanations.
    All the htpcs tested here do work with 5-6 ft cable.

  • Sergy

    Hi,
    I would suggest to do more scientific cable test next time. One can use RF Network Analyzer to measure cable frequency, phase and impedance responses. These 3 measurements would actually show why some cables are “high speed” and why some are not. Also, measurements will show how well cable matches with video sources.

    Thanks
    Sergy

    Geoff: I was pretty clear why we didn’t do this.

  • Pete

    What about quality of construction? The way the wire is connected to the connector. If you are pluging and unpluging alot then this comes into play. Would be interesting to see this comparison.

    Geoff: The Amazon cable was definitely the flimsiest of the bunch. The others were all pretty solid.

  • DannO

    Hey,
    I just wanted to thank you for doing a real shootout. I work in Magnolia Home Theater inside a Best Buy, and have had a hard time selling anything other than the lowest-priced Audioquest HDMI that we carry (and I do bump people up to them from the Dynex cables we sell on the Best Buy side, the Audioquest Forrest cables being cheaper than anything else…I have seen the occurrence of “sparkles” more than once on cheap cables due to what I believe is poor build quality, but never on the AQ ones ). Your article more than justifies my inhibitions about selling “high-end” HDMI cables (although I have read several articles claiming the same things). I am very interested in the audio portion of the HDMi shootout, because this is the only area where “the jury is still out” in my mind. Thanks again for shedding light on this topic. Dan.

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