HDMI Cable Makers and Dealers Use Misleading Labels to Push Needless Expensive Upgrades

August 12th, 2010 · 44 Comments · 3D HDTV, LCD Flat Panel, LED LCD Flat Panels, News, Plasma

(August 12, 2010) Have you seen HDMI cables online or in stores labeled “120 Hz,“240Hz” and “480 Hz”? It’s easy enough to slap such labels on HDMI cables but it’s a sham. HDMI cables can no more be manufactured for specific refresh rate HDTVs than garden hose can be manufactured specifically to water seeded lawns and sod lawns. The same water flows through either one. The same HDTV signal flows through all HDMI cables, whether labeled “120Hz”  or “480Hz”

In fact a TV’s refresh rate has nothing whatsoever to do with the signal flowing to that set. The refresh rate is determined by the set’s circuitry once the signal gets there (link), so how can different HDMI cables be manufactured for different refresh rate sets?

Clearly the intent of the refresh rate labeling is simply to confuse you into spending more money on HDMI cables than you need to. TV retailers, including Best Buy, use this new misleading labeling to push naive customers into buying unnecessary, overpriced cables that can cost 800%-5750% more than necessary (link). Adding such labels as 3D  or 240 Hz helps sales clerks persuade customers to overspend. The extra dollars spent will have no effect on image quality but it will lighten your wallet.

To view Blu-ray, Full HD 3D content and any other source at the highest (1080p) resolution you need HDMI cables. It is a single wire solution that conducts a standard definition or high definition 2D or 3D video image and accompanying audio tracks from a source device to an HDTV. Only two types of HDMI cables are included in the HDMI licensing spec: “Standard” (aka category 1) or “High Speed” (aka category 2). The latter is required to assure the cable passes 1080p signals (including 3D), which is the highest bandwidth video signal (now and for the foreseeable future).

 

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Monster, Audioquest and other HDMI cable makers mislead consumers by mis-labeling their step-up quality HDMI cables with the various refresh rates used by set makers to improve picture quality. The signal fed by an HDMI cable to a set never exceeds 60Hz.

The HDMI Standard

HDMI Licensing LLC licenses the design, specifications and requires labeling of cables as either “Standard” or “Hi Speed”. HDMI does not have any rules concerning additional labels, according to its spokesman. While the HDMI standard has been updated to include new (optional) functionality such as passing Ethernet signals, there remains only two speed categories. Any “Hi Speed” HDMI cable should handle any display and any video signal you can throw at it.

HD Guru visited a number of local TV dealers. Best Buy (BB) had the widest selection, offering “Hi Speed” HDMI cables from Monster, Audioquest and Rocketfish (BB house brand) and Dynex (BB house brand). They all display labels that tout their own capabilities. The least expensive is a Dynex 4ft. length “Hi Speed” cable and costs $29.99. The box says 1080p 60Hz. The first step-up is the Rocketfish at $49.99/4 ft and the package reads 120Hz. Next is a 4 ft. $69.99 Monster 700 model cable, with a label stating 60/120 Hz. followed by 120 Hz and 3D labeled model 900 for $79.99. The Monster 1000 model boasts a 240Hz-480 Hz and 3D for $129.99 for 8 ft. Audioquest has a line of  “Hi Speed” HDMI cables, its packaging states “Delivers 100% of the data required for 120Hz, 240 Hz, 600 Hz  displays” and costs up to a whopping $229.99 for its 6’6″ Carbon model (sold on line at Bestbuy.com) . The BB website states “High-speed 1080p/120Hz-4K”.  (Note: there  are no 4K consumer video signals).

(continues after photo)

By comparison you can purchase a 6″6″  “Hi Speed” HDMI cable from Amazon for as little as  $3.99 ($20 retail). It is a “High Speed” rated cable that will pass any HD signal (including 3D) to any HDTV. Keep in mind a signal carried over an HDMI cable is all digital, meaning any properly functioning cable will provide a perfect picture. There is absolutely no picture quality advantage of purchasing a cable that is rated higher than the HDMI “High Speed” standard of a 10.2 Gbps!

There are added features available on “High-Speed cables. They are audio return and Ethernet pass through. However no source devices sold today include the Ethernet feature and just a few HDTVs today include audio return channel.

There may be differences in the quality of materials, construction and wire gauge using premium priced HDMI cables. These differences could be beneficial  if you are constantly disconnecting and reconnecting the same cable. HDMI cables  provide a complete signal transfer as long as the cable conforms to the HDMI specifications (if it is defective  or improperly designed i.e. a bad HDMI cable will produce a high error rate which can cause signal dropouts, such as the screen going black then the image reappearing ).

To summarize, buying a more expensive HDMI “Hi Speed” cable , regardless of labeling or what a salesman tells you will not give you any improvement in picture quality. Use the money you save from falling victim to misleading HDMI packaging towards the purchase of products or services that will increase your enjoyment of HDTV such as a Blu-ray player, professional set-up and calibration or a surround sound audio system.

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44 Comments so far ↓

  • Rob G

    I have been an audiophile for the better part of 30 years and our, audiophiles, rule of thumb is that your gear is only as good as its connection… Not to take away that the high end name brands you probably never herd of mostl means they’re not marketing the crap out of their product like Monster Cable ans Bose. Do your research and than purchase.

  • Henry

    Tom Low seys:
    “AudioQuest makes no claim, in our sales material or on the box, to differences in video performance between our $25 cable and $895 cable. ”

    So, you’re just content screwing people out of the other $870 ?…Tom:”Hey,if you’re dumb enough to buy it!”

    Also: ” it is surprising that a cable with zero errors can be better or worse than another cable with zero errors. There’s always more going on than humans yet understand, though I suspect that deep in the labs, there are people who know perfectly well that nothing is “perfect”

    Now he’s saying it’s all electronic “magic” that we simple humans don’t understand? Please.

    Deceptive advertising and bogus claims by uninformed sales-reps have been/will always be with us. Fortunately, the abundance of factual information available now to the layman is greater than it’s ever been.

    AQ and Monster can suck a bag of dicks.

  • daarrid

    After reading William E. Low’s lengthy comments ( Mr. Low is CEO/Designer
    of AudioQuest) I’m still waiting to see if he will submit his cables for testing by the HD Guru.

    Mr Low makes some amazing claims about his cables but evidenty prefers not to have them tested.

  • Michael

    Funny thing is if you go to HDMI.ORG and look up to see if Monster and Audio Quest are adopters of HDMI cables THEY AREN’T. Unless the company has a different name. So this is nothing more than a scam!!!!! 10.00-25.00 dollar cables are all one needs. It is an industry standard!!! There is standard and high speed and both can come with Ethernet capability.

  • Sean

    Ok everyone here who has commented on HDMI , you have valid concerns. I didn’t read through all the numerous post to see if anyone said this. First rule buyier beware and you get what you pay for. On that note I work for best buy and have conducted my own HDMI experiment. Using a cheap 4ft Dynex , Monster and a Audio quest cable. A lot of people would like to think thier is no difference. First off what does HMDI stand for. It is High Definition Multimedia Interface. first off that is the key- HIGH DEF. You all bought into the HDTV Craze cause consumers wanted something better and the industry supplied it. Well back to the HDMI cables. First their are 3 things I would like to point out of what makes a good HDMI better then say 3 dollar cable as someone put it.

    Some of you all ready mentioned
    1) The conductor is one, silver being the best. 2) The 2nd should be quality of the insulation, 3) The connector at each end. the last one is important I seen connectors break apart or break off inside TVs. Audioquest is one solid piece. never seen one break yet. And they offer if it ever breaks or fails send back to them and they will get you a new one at no cost to you.

    So my test I used a cheap Dynex 6ft cable on a High end Pioneer Blu Ray player. this was attached to The new Sharp elite 70″ tv. I played the new Tron movie. BTW that is like 90% all computer generated. I could see standing 10ft away that the picture was pixalating. on that movie should not happen. I said maybe its the setting on the tv. I tried for 15 mins and made no difference. I took one of the Cinnamon cables from Audio Quest and the Pic cleared right up. How can this be if their is no difference. tried again with another cable from dynex just to make sure we didn’t get a bad one. had the same issue. To me it looked like I was watching DVD rather then Blu ray. I was once told by Monster Cable rep on quality of cable you can loose from 3 to 5 percent of signal loss. So take 100% from one end and end up with 95% at the other you could be looking at a grainy pic or a clear one. So here what I say if your going to buy a 1k to 3k TV and only buy a $10 cable.
    I know your gonna not get the best for your money. And lets face their are some crappy TV brands out their. Again you get what you pay for.

    I’m convinced that their is a difference between cables. Buy a monster or Audio Quest cable from best buy and check out a few movies on blu ray. if you don’t see the difference just return it. Best Buy take returns back. no charge. Hope this helps.

    Thanks all

    Sean

  • Tom

    Wow! This article is so right and so wrong at the same time. While it is true that refresh rate labels are unnecessary for actual performance. People need it! I’ve already read comments here about people saying they need to get an LCD not an LED and vice versa. AN LED TV IS AN LCD DISPLAY. It uses LED’s to backlight instead of fluorescent tubes like standard LCD’s allowing the display to have a very low profile. Also HDMI cables will not offer any picture difference. The cables from amazon will give the same quality picture as the $1100.00 Diamond cable sold by Audioquest. The difference is in audio quality, using higher quality materials such as silver will make all the difference. Silver is an excellent electrical conductor and it actually becomes a better conductor as it oxidizes. Many compinies try to sell consumers on Gold as a conductor because it does not corrode or oxidize, but it’s barely better than copper as a conductor. I guess the point is, if you have a $1000 plus A/V receiver, with $2500 speakers spend $300 for a quality cable. If you’re hooking up your cable box to your Vizio use the $3 cable. BTW nothing against Vizio I own 3 of them.

  • John

    To all the people saying Bestbuy is trying to sell you an expensive cable for commission and stuff, your wrong!!! Research it and you’ll know bestbuy took out comission around 1993 that’s why you see a lot of teens working there now that really don’t know much of there stuff because there it is not mandatory to do so. Other then that great info i always had a hunch that the HDMI’s cable didnt have a difference. There are so many different types and I almost bought i even saw one for 900 dollars at some places.

    But does the length of hdmi do anything? or whats the whole gbps thing?

  • FLAT TOP

    My wife just purchased a TV from “P.C.Richards”. The “Manager” (not the salesman) played on her ignorance & sold her an $89.99 cable, because she was buying a 240mz set. To add insult he sold her a $159.00 surge protector to protect the set – even though I told him I had one installed on our main power box. I had never heard of this site until I spoke with the electrician across the street.

  • Baicon

    I like to ask a question that is a little off subject here, but not really that off.

    I bought a 15′ HDMI wire to replace the 6′ wire I had been using because I needed a longer wire. Like an idiot I paid $9 for it online.

    I hooked it up just as I had been doing the 6′ wire and turned on my TV and then my computer. Now neither my Computer or TV will work at all.

    The maker of the wire says it couldn’t have happened or that if it did then it was not his wires fault. I called Vizio and Dell and they tell me it had to be a defective HDMI wire and that it may have short circuited both my boards.

    My question is: Is it possible that a defective HDMI wire could have such a devastating? effect?

  • Jan Hayes

    “Bait,” Sales are ALWAYS trashed…
    This holiday season we went shopping for our 1st flatscreen t.v. Best Buy and H.H. Gregg both advertised some great sales. I went to both on different days to purchase the “Sale” t.v. only to have it completely trashed byt the salesman who was working on commision trying to talk me into the more expensive t.v. that was also on sale! They do this on purpose. I was determinded to stay in budget and told him I didn’t care, that was the one I wanted, and if it was such a crappy t.v. then why did their store carry it???? Both of their answer: “Be cause we HAVE to…” BUT when I went home and read the consumer reviews on both t.v.’s they both got great reviews. Marketing/Sales at it’s worst and I stuck to my guns and got the one on sale… A lot of people allow themselves to be railroaded into a praice they can’t afford only to have their payment plan sugar-coated to lure the buyer. So STAND FIRM on your budget-buying decisions!

  • Taylor

    Awesome info! I just bought a 3d tv and BB salesguy tried to sell me a$129.00 hdmi 3d cable. I had my reservations. Used my dynex hdmi and it works just fine. Switched my monster cable that I use with my ps3, there is no difference. Great info.

  • WALDO

    The $12 from ebay 50-foot HDMI cable I use for my new 42″ plasma delivers a perfect image. Go buy one and don’t be stupid and buy cables from Best Buy!

  • tom

    I’m in the process of buying my first HD TV so this article with the many comments have been immeasureably helpful.I have been advised to buy LED rather than LCD.

    It is confusing when you see LCD-LED advertised for the same tv.

    I plan to stick with reputable brands but ,again, I am being told by some that Vizio is just as good a brand as any..I have my doubts.

    Thanks again for your very informative article.

  • jan

    Well said, William Low.

  • robert!

    Oh geez yes, I have noticed the ads for HDMI cables going way berzerk! I wonder if these companies will ever be reined-in with their lies!

  • Bob Stone

    My thanks to the HD Guru for his informative article. While I personally didn’t find anything new here, I’m sure it clarified a number of points for many consumers.

    What I found interesting were the comments made by William Low, CEO of Audioquest.

    He claims that he has seen video of vastly different quality (poorer contrast, poorer blacks, poorer color density) using two different “zero error” HDMI cables. I wonder if he would submit examples to the HD Guru for testing. This certainly is a curious finding.

    Secondly he claims the major difference between Audioquest’s various HDMI cables is in their superior audio quality. He describes digital audio as “fragile”.

    Once again I wonder if he will submit cables to the HD Guru for comparison.

    There is a unique opportunity here for the HD Guru to follow-up with additional testing if Audioquest’s CEO is willing to back up his questionable claims with action, ie, by providing sample cables

  • Amr AboTaleb

    Ok … 2 years experience with HiFi and different systems I have and will have, spend your money on good Audio cables (Audio Quest/Monster) but for HDMI don’t get the $3.00, instead get your self in the middle by buying a good quality build cable, pay a max of $15 ~ $25 max cause after that price they all look sthe same except if you have a very high end HDTV and your are missing up your setup.

  • ray

    thanks for your site! nice knowing some guys still wear white hats!

  • Nick

    and for those that really think the cable size, construction, materials used, etc.. Doesn’t make a difference.. Then I would just ask and say, I hope if your house is ever on fire the fire dept. shows up with a standard lawn hose and not the one used on the truck.. I mean, its just a hose, right? They both just carry water, no differences at all…. GOODLUCK WITH THAT!! and on a real note, I challenge anyone to hook up 3D components not using a High Speed / Rated cable.. and you will be at the store complaining just like the previous tons of customers with complaints I had to correct this for.. but its ok, I mean.. I guess everyone on here as actually seen a speed/data transfer test ran on cable.. Next week can we discuss on the web is just the web.. I mean, its the same web, I guess lets all switch make to dial up…

  • JC

    I work for a TV retailer and I’m honest to customers about HDMI cables and the differences in performance (our company sells Monster Cables btw) and geuss what, my hours get cut because I’m not selling enough Monster Cables. My co-worker lies through the teeth and sells a $60 DVD player with a $200 Monster HDMI cable and he gets a pat in the back and more hours.

    My reward for being honest = less hours and constant talking to’s (or ‘consultations’).

    I do like Monster Cables because of their build quality and lifetime guarantee, but my point is that the industry has changed and most stores can’t or won’t higher honest salesman because often honest salesman aren’t the best money makers.

    I’ve worked in the industry for over 15 years and I can tell you that the top percentile of sales people I have ever worked are the ‘slick’ care-salesman type people who lie and aren’t upfront with their customers. Unfortunately that’s just the way the world works so get over it….

    One thing I am thankful for is that at least with the HDMI spec there are transparent cable standards so those of us who have researched this stuff know we don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on cables for the performance we expect out of our gear…

  • John Smith

    Quote:
    “but it’s not criminal for others to believe differently”.

    This is the way our society operates: deception and lying are mostly leagal, just like Wall St.

    In other countries consumer protection agencies would step in and fine the companies. But not our FCC.

    They really bad news is that former American manufactures have virtually no role left except as sham artists.

  • Reason

    I’m a sales person for a small family owned appliance/electronics chain based in NY, NJ and CT and it kills me to sell these rip off cables. Selling a Monster 1000 HDMI, gets me an aditional $15, so even though I hate to do it, I need to make a living so I suck it up and smile. All the sales guys working there know it’s bullshit.

  • Bill Delpilar

    My daughter asked me what was the difference between a $3.00 HDMI sold on Amazon and a $40.00
    HDMI sold through high end retails shops. My answer to her was: $37.00!!!…She purchased from
    Amazon!

  • William Low

    Component cables could carry 1080p if HDCP, the copy-code protection, would allow it. Component cables are allowed to handle 1080i and 720p, including broadcast 3D … but not the higher resolutions.

  • sYgnal

    “To view Blu-ray, Full HD 3D content and any other source at the highest (1080p) resolution you need HDMI cables.”

    Actually, you could still use Component Video cables (Component handles 1080p). It’s just you would need audio cable(s) because component only runs video.

  • William Low

    Mr. Merson’s HD Guru article about HDMI Cable Makers makes me smile and makes me wince.

    The smile part is that I’m delighted to see deception and purposefully confusing claims taken to task, and I’m proud of how carefully I balanced responding to market pressure by only telling the truth. And, I wince at the less than perfect muckraking which is unfairly tarnishing AudioQuest.

    In the real world, people are confused. The world of this month’s video buzz word comes from the hardware side. “LED” is being used to describe LCD monitors with LED backlighting. These are not LED TVs! LCD monitor manufacturers are shouting about their 120Hz, 240Hz and 480Hz refresh rates, often implying frame rates of 120, 240 and 480 … it’s downright difficult to figure out if a given TV with a 240Hz refresh rate is displaying a frame rate of 24, 30, 60, 120 or 240. “Refresh rate” and “frame rate” are being purposefully jumbled up by some hardware suppliers.

    As HD Guru points out, there are no monitors which need to be fed more than a 60p signal for 2D video, though 3D does require the equivalent of 120p (60p x 2), no matter what the monitor’s refresh rate, and no matter whether the set includes the computational ability to create (through interpolation) frame rates of 120 or 240. As for the 480Hz or 600Hz “refresh” rate of a plasma set, that’s usually only a claim equivalent to an amplifier’s or a cable modem’s bandwidth. It’s a type of possibility and not necessarily a claim that any signal direction is taking place at that rate. Plasmas have vastly superior response time (ability to change quickly) compared to LCD, but how often the picture is refreshed by the combination of electronics and display is not necessarily the same number.

    When a 24fps film is displayed in a movie theater, the same frame is flashed 2 or 3 times. This makes the refresh rate 48 or 72, while the frame rate is still 24. A Pioneer plasma display with a 72Hz refresh rate “flashes” the same frame 3 times per 1/24 of a second. An LCD display with a 120Hz refresh rate, flashes each frame 5 times per 1/24 of a second. While LCDs are improving fast, in the past it was remarkably obvious that a refresh rate of 72Hz on a fast-response plasma, yielded much smoother motion than 120Hz in a slower response time LCD.

    There is a particular relevance in the 600Hz claim for some plasma displays; the lowest response-per-second time which would accurately display 24fps film, 25fps PAL/SECAM video, 30fps NTSC video, and 30 and 60Hz HD video is 24Hz x 25Hz = 600Hz.

    So, there are really 3 levels of rating to the display-speed issue: response time, refresh rate, and frame rate … and HDMI cable has next to nothing to do with any of them.

    Because of the confusion in the general market about refresh rates and frame rates, because salespeople are also sometimes confused, because no warrior wants to go into battle unarmed … AudioQuest received great pressure to put 120/240/600Hz on our boxes, or risk losing business. Being who I am, my first reaction was “no way!” Then, with more pressure, and more time to think about how to balance the need and the truth, I came up with the line quoted in the article, and shown on the photo of the AQ Cinnamon HDMI box in the HD Guru piece. I chose the words very very carefully:

    “Delivers 100% of the data required for 120Hz, 240Hz and 600Hz displays”

    Who can read that and call it a lie? I carefully use the refresh rates as adjectives modifying “displays.” The cable “delivers 100% of the data required” totally true, not a shred of BS. If someone thinks this is misleading advertising, rather than simply harmless self-defense, then take a look at laundry soap commercials, much less diet plans.

    And, every model of AudioQuest HDMI cable, starting at $25/1m carries the same statement. We don’t down-rate some models in order to make a more expensive model falsely appear to be more desirable. AQ makes 8 quality levels of HDMI cable, and all carry the same phrase about supplying data to a monitor.

    We also don’t play a numbers game. All AQ HDMI models up to 8m are High-Speed … and that’s all that anyone needs to know. However, there is a major flaw in HDMI LLC’s Standard-Speed rating because Standard-Speed only guarantees a 1080i performance level, whereas much of the world is actually in-between. For example a 16m AQ cable carries 1080p and Deep Color, and yet because of HDMI LLC’s guidelines (which AQ follows to the letter), the customer is actually misled into believing that the cable is less capable than is actually the case. Wanna hit me for under-claiming the cable’s ability?

    It’s easy to make … well, it’s easy for a really good high-speed data cable manufacturer to make a 10m High-Speed HDMI cable (of HDMI’s many conductors, the 4 pair used for audio and video are essentially standard data cables). AQ doesn’t make 10m HDMI cables, we jump from 8m to 12m … and because 12m doesn’t pass the eye-pattern test for High-Speed, we rate it as Standard-Speed, even though it’s good for Blu-Ray 3D (broadcast 3D is only the equivalent of 1080i).

    There’s another numbers game which HD Guru refers to; the shenanigans about data rate or “speed rating.” I’m mocking the game, but I would also defend that there’s no lie in claiming a particular data rate for a particular cable of a particular length. Because length is the enemy of data rate, 1m cable and 2m cable using the same construction have different data rates, when you see 1m and 2m cables with the same construction having the same rating, you know there’s a game going on. So, what’s to be gained from bragging that a cable exceeds the bandwidth required in order to qualify as a High-Speed or Standard-Speed HDMI cable?

    For exceeding HDMI’s High-Speed rating, there’s the implication that more capability will result in better performance within the bandwidth required. This is often true for other products; the faster response time of a plasma display is an advantage, driving a car in the same manner with more horsepower on-hand is a different experience, and amplifiers should have bandwidth way beyond the 20-20,000Hz that is consider the audio band. Our experience at AQ is that past a point, past not much more than HDMI’s High-Speed requirement, higher bandwidth has no effect on audio or video performance … but it’s not criminal for others to believe differently.

    I would also defend other cable manufacturers’ claims about 4K. The HDMI LLC 1.4 specification includes 4K. Yes, I agree that 4K doesn’t exist in the consumer marketplace … but whether it ever will or not isn’t the point, the spec exists and all High-Speed HDMI cables meet the 4K spec.

    However, we disagree a lot more strongly with other cable brands about scaring people into thinking that higher data rates are necessary in order to future-proof their system. We don’t know, but for now we do believe, that if and when data rates greater than the current HDMI spec are required, the plug and cable will change. Higher bandwidth dual-link HDMI already exists, with a different plug for the additional pins required, but this isn’t used in the consumer marketplace. In a parallel example, USB 3.0 is a dual-link system (as is 9-pin FireWire 800), which even manages to use a backwards compatible plug, but it has to have more conductors and more pins that a USB 2.0 cable. A probably impossible magical faster USB 2.0 cable wouldn’t make any difference because the hardware will require USB 3.0 connections.

    I’ve waited until far down in this too long piece, after most people would got bored and move on, to bring up something more self-serving … justifying multiple models, who’s prices go up to $895 for an AQ 1m Diamond HDMI cable. AudioQuest makes no claim, in our sales material or on the box, to differences in video performance between our $25 cable and $895 cable. I am very respectful of the physical and physics reality that HDMI video is quite robust. The combination of minimal signal degradation and error-correction circuitry, is that AQ “accepts” the baseline that all HDMI cables make the same picture. On the other hand, we marvel at how often there is a real difference in video performance … I don’t mean the “sparklies” that show up when pixels are lost, or the black screen which is usually the result of lack of copy-code authorization. I mean what is most often seen as a lack of contrast, perceived color density, and of black-black. Considering that there’s a pretty narrow window between works-perfectly and doesn’t-work, it is surprising that any cable should fall in the small band of over-the-cliff, but hasn’t-crashed … and given that thanks to error-correction, the HDMI system can make 100K errors per second look “perfect,” it is surprising that a cable with zero errors can be better or worse than another cable with zero errors. There’s always more going on than humans yet understand, though I suspect that deep in the labs, there are people who know perfectly well that nothing is “perfect,” that it’s a matter of presumed thresholds of perception, etc.

    So, I’m essentially agreeing with the closing paragraph in the HD Guru article, to not pay more for an HDMI cable because one expects a better picture. However, depending on the particular hardware (source drive capability, input circuit capability, error correction ability) and the particular cable, it’s an area worth investigating for those so inclined. I’m pleased that this buyer-beware statement is about picture quality, because …

    Audio quality, good old fashioned audio quality is why AudioQuest makes so many models of HDMI cable. The very same added-expense ingredients which create higher performance in AQ’s digital coax, balanced digital, and USB cables, are used to great effect in the HDMI series: better metal (increasing use of silver up to pure PSS silver), and AQ’s patented Dielectric-Bias System (DBS), make the some wonderful obvious slap-in-the-ears differences with HDMI audio as with the other also surprisingly fragile methods of moving audio around. Video requires a lot more pieces of data, but audio’s lower data rate is vulnerable in many ways that video is not. The point here is that cables which cost more to build, and which sell for higher prices, offer very real improvement in performance, in audio performance.

    Those of a certain mindset find it difficult to believe that digital audio isn’t all perfect. While I can describe some of the ways in which a wire cable or a fiber-optic cable introduces jitter, the “argument” is not won in the intellectual domain. The fact is that when people listen, they hear. If they care, they buy at the level that makes sense for them, just like choosing the quality of loudspeaker or car that makes sense for the individual.

    It’s an interesting irony that after decades of controversy about whether all amplifiers sound the same, all cables sound the same, whatever, that the “subjective” claim that one piece of audio is or is not better than another, is less onerous than misleading with actual numbers. Hmmm, maybe that $119 shelf-system with hundreds of watts and 30-20KHz performance, and LCD TVs claiming to be LED TVs (I have an OLED set, a entirely different class of product), and cables claiming to pass 480fps are all manifestations of a permanent phenomenon … death taxes and deception will always be with us.

    Sincerely, Bill

    William E. Low
    CEO/Designer
    AudioQuest

  • Zarro

    Deceptive advertising, generally, is the method a seller uses to confuse or sway the customer into buying more than he needs, especially when the seller hides the product’s specifications.

    I’m reminded of an analogy to ethernet cable ratings. You can always use a higher rated cable on a slower network, but you generally won’t gain quality or performance but be out a little more money. With ethernet at least, you will have a numerical value for the bitrates involved and not have the issue clouded by advertising ploys like “higher performance”, “high speed”, “maximum speed”, etc.

  • Foom

    LOL, I meant to type, “That’s NOT..”

  • Foom

    Allow me to reiterate my point. Any display rated for 1080p at 120Hz with a native resolution of 1920×1080 (with the assumption that it’s working properly) will give you a picture that is 1080p at 120Hz.

    THAT’S not the same as saying “ALL displays rated at 1080p at 120Hz will give you the SAME picture, or the SAME experience.”

  • Michel

    Thanks for explaining and posting this for the world to read!

  • Andrew Madigan

    In re the two different types of cable. Yes, it’s all binary data, but 1080p requires more data (higher data rate). You do need a higher grade cable for that (just as ordinary Cat 5 network cable can’t carry 10 Gigabit ethernet). However, any high-speed rated cable will do. There will be no difference in quality between a properly working $4 cable and a $200 Monster cable. It doesn’t matter how much you spent on your TV, the $4 cable will still work perfectly. Remember, Best Buy still charges $20-30 for a USB printer cable.

  • Foom

    Okay, the refresh rate on those packages are misleading. The refresh rate is affected by the source and the display, not the cable connecting the two.

    That being said, the rest of this article is BS. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this article is saying that there are only two kinds of HDMI cables: standard and high speed and any cable categorized as such give you the same results (as far as the picture). And HDMI cable being a digital cable, either send the signal or don’t, so again, there’s no difference in the quality of the picture.

    @Mark
    Your claiming that, “the only real difference in digital cables is whether or not they pass the signal from end to end.” This article disagrees with you. Your comment would suggest that all properly working HDMI cables are the same, this article is saying that there are differences and there are TWO different types.
    You also claim that the differences come from “how long they are.” HDMI cables do need a repeater/extender/booster (whatever you want to call it) after about 75ft. If the only difference in HDMI cables is whether it passes a picture or not, why do HDMI cables need the signal amplified after 75ft? Because there ARE other factors. There’s loss of signal, pick up interference…etc. So there are differences in HDMI cables. Another factor is the material it’s made of: type of metals used, how much insullation it has, etc.

    @author of the article
    According to your logic, there is only one type of HDTV; as long as a display can process a 720p or higher resolution signal is categorized as an HDTV, regardless of the native resolution. Just as an example, let’s take a TV whose native resolution is 800×450, but can process a 720p source and put it on the display, it’s still technically a HDTV. According to the article’s logic, another TV with a native resolution of 1920×1080 is no different than the aforementioned display. Samsung just announced their PN65C8000 high end 3D PDP and a PN42C490 (I forgot the exact model) 720p 3D TV. So since they are both HD 3D TV, they’re the same, right? No differences at all, besides the size?

    All of that being said, I’m not saying more you pay for a cable, better quality you’re getting. I’m just saying there are differences besides the extra features, such as audio return and ethernet passthru. I’m in retail; I know the mark up on those cables some times are in the thousands of percents. Those companies are out to make money.

    @UniversalCode
    Even if this article is 100% accurate, what do you have against those companies? You’re doing the same thing. You’re advertising what you think will make you the most amount of money. Those companies are getting that money from the consumers, you’re getting your money from the company you work for (I’m assuming you make commission).

  • Jason

    If you are reading this article then you have no excuse at all for buying a $50+ hdmi cable…or any cable for that matter.

    If you are savvy enough to be reading this page then you should be savvy enough to research before you buy and you should have already known that for $5 you can get hdmi cables and that Best Buy and the like are total ripoffs. Why anyone buys anything other than laptops and tv’s from best buy is beyond me.

  • Mark

    Monster and others made names for themselves by selling high-quality ANALOG cables for speakers and stereo components. And those cables, which had lo resistence and were really thick would pass more of the audio signal and you could hear the difference.

    I would not hesitate to but Monster speaker cables, which pass analog DC signals At specified impedance to speakers.

    But they sully their reputation by selling digital cables that do anything more than pass the spec digital signal. And the HDMI specs are clearly published and do not specify different cables for different resolutions or frame rates.

    The only real difference in digital cables is whether or not they pass the signal from end to end and how long they are. That’s it.

  • UniversalCode

    @THX Maniac

    You’re wrong. It’s all ones and zeros. You either get a picture or you don’t. I’m in home theater sales and I (quietly) tell my customers to save their money on HDMI cables and spend it elsewhere. I become their advocate, they refer friends to me, I make more money.

    Also, who is looking at your cables, really? If you have enough money to spend on useless expensive cables, why wouldn’t you spend some on concealing your wires and making your setup look nice?

  • Eric

    Long ago I used to spend hundreds, actually more likely thousands, on monster cable and other such brands. So I understand the need for some people to convince themselves that their expensive cables are worth the money they paid. Now I use cables strictly from monoprice.com and am much happier for it.

    The guy above said it, he’d “…rather people admire the Monster Cables I have compared to some cheap thin cables for $3.00″ So that sounds to me like saying you are paying for an image or brand name vs actual performance or quality. Because that is the only thing you are paying for when buying those expensive digital cables.

    The only cable other than theirs that I have found worth anything is the locking cable from better cables. One of my cable runs was tight and twisty so every other cable wouldn’t stay in straight but with the locking feature it worked well.

  • Jobst Compression Socks

    Nice article. Honest, unbiased.Want to have some fun? Play dumb and go into Best Buy and ask the sales clerk why you need the $200 cable for your tv and watch him talk out his a$$ to get you to buy it.
    Keep it up. Keep up the good work.

  • aaron

    I have a friend that purchased a sony tv & bluray player with an hdmi cable that cost almost as much as the bluray player. He could never get them to work properly together. He would get signal dropouts and green screen. I installed a $9 Tartan cable and he’s never had a problem except the ones incountered trying to get his money back for the “super special” hdmi cable.

  • THX Maniac

    This article is very misleading, when you have high end products (TV’s, Receivers, Blu-Ray Player, etc) you can see a big difference. When you compare it to an entry level TV with 1080p than yes, it probably doesn’t make a difference. I’ve bought the $3.00 dollar HDMI cable and can see a difference in noise on television and also lack of quality in the material itself.

    Monster is like Louis Vuitton, you can argue all day long that a purse is a purse and it fits the same amount of items inside. But the quality and workmanship of the item is top notch, and has a LIFETIME Warranty. I had to replace on of my cables and no questions asked, shipped next day air. You are also paying for premium service. Me personally, I’d rather people admire the nice Monster Cables I have compared to some cheap thin cables for $3.00.

  • Mike

    There are a number of TV’s that support ARC currently o that part of the article if false. Most of the new samsungs and a few sony’s if not some other manufacturers as well support Audio Return Channel.

    The information regarding audio return channel on TVs was provided by HDMI LLC. We will double check with the set makers you mention and update the article if confirmed.

    Regardless, ARC within select TVs has no bearing on cable makers misleading consumers.

    HD Guru

  • Marcus

    Try http://www.bluejeanscable.com for high quality; yet inexpensive cables. They did an incredible job for me.

  • Garydj10

    Refreshing to see it in print. Wish Best Buy and all the other retailers would show the same concern for the consumer, alas profits rule for them.

  • Mark

    If we just had a Federal Trade Commission that cared, or a Best Buy that was ethical.

  • brian

    What a great article. Knowledge is power. Thanks for posting.

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