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What Retailers Don’t Want You To Know About HDMI Cables

November 23rd, 2006 · 120 Comments · Uncategorized

If you’re planning to buy a upconverting DVD player, PlayStation 3 or high def tuner for your HDTV this holiday, expect the salesman to say you’ll need an HDMI cable to make the connection. The upconverting DVD player will cost as little as $70, but the six to eight foot HDMI cable he’ll be pushing will cost around $100 to $120. Why is the cable so expensive? So the retailer can make a greater profit on the sale. The fact is, you can purchase an HDMI cable for less than one tenth the price and get the same great picture. Here’s what you need to know.

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) is generally the best connection between a source component and a high definition display. The cable carries digital audio and video with a copy protection. These wires are available in lengths from one and a half feet to over fifty feet. What the store salesmen will not tell you: no matter how much or how little you pay for a cable, you can only see one of two types of pictures: Perfect or Bad.

Perfect means no artifacts such as sparkles. Bad means artifacts or no image. Electronics store salesmen will tout you on gold plated connectors, thicker shielding, heavy-duty construction, name brands and so on, but it really wouldn’t make an iota of difference in picture or sound quality. It’s that simple. The signal running through an HDMI is digital, just a series of ones and zeros. No matter what anyone tells you, getting all the ones and zeros from one end of the cable to the other is all an HDMI cable is supposed to do. No matter how expensive and fancy the HDMI cable, the image can’t improve! The cable can only be good or bad.

So how much should you pay for an HDMI cable? As little as you can. A quick search of online retailers, found the lowest price at monoprice.com where a 6 foot HDMI cables start at $9.29 including shipping and handling, in single lot quantities. (This is informational only we have not sampled their cables). Wal-mart sells a 6ft. Philips HDMI cable in-store for $26.85. Monoprice and other retailers also sell heavier duty cables with thicker gauge wires, though as stated above, an HDMI cable either works perfectly or doesn’t. Paying more will not provide any improvement, if your present HDMI cable functions properly. Save your money for more important things, like HD movie discs and video games.

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120 Comments so far ↓

  • Audio Plus

    C’mon, this is a 2006 article. Everyone knows there are huge margins in cables and acxcessories. Just be aware that the current standard is HDMI v1.4, and by the time this article is removed from publication there might be a v1.6?

  • Pete

    I never have seen a performance issue with various HDMI cables and agree that cheap cables work just fine. That said, I bought a new HX750 Sony and and hooked it up with a Sony BDP-850S 3D player. Since they no longer specify what generation of HDMI cables to use, I tried my older 1.3A HDMI cables. The picture was fine in 2D but the TV did not recognize the 3D signal in auto. I researched that and bought 3D cables from Best Buy. Same result. No 3D recognized. I went to the Sony website and Sony stated their cables would work for all their players. I bought a 6′ Sony HDMI cable for $27.00 at Walmart. Bingo, works perfectly. When I turn the player on, it switches the TV to that input and the TV instantly detects the the 3D signal. 3D ready on cables does not mean they have all the aux wires to let the TV talk to the player and vice versa. Please keep that in mind when you make the switch.

  • Frank Leitao

    Well I have used Monster Cables for long time now and they work well At least for me they improved the picture that I was getting from my Fios box. Now does it mean you should pay more for Monster HDMI cables? I guess it depends on your point of view. I did use a cheaper cable just to see and at least for me the picture was not as clear or sharp or colorful. I checked my TV settings just to make sure they were correct.

  • t2smith

    You can buy HDMI cables at Five Below for $5 and they work just fine.

    Amazon offers a great Hi-Speed HDMI Cable that sells for $7.49 for 3 meters or $5.49 for 2 meters with free shipping. (Hi-Speed is the designation for HDMI cables that are capable of handling all HDTV signals including Blu-ray 3D.)

    HD Guru

  • Maverick

    The HDMI cables if constructed well but priced low will perform as good as the big oversized ones that cost a fortune. It is all sales talk. I have a degree in electronics and I say it is BS. Now there are places where a sufficient size wire will improve sound quality but that usually with speaker wire which is a different animal. Some times the older RCA type plug wires were sometimes a bit skimpy but Monster size is way overkill. Do people really believe the wire ‘knows’ what frequency is going through it? LOL I would say amperage is the main concern since 110 volts is the norm in the USA. It’s just like the old trick of peak-peak rather then RMS.

  • Rick

    Unfortunately, most of the video problems people have with HDMI are a problem with the HDMI format itself. Its a heavily encrypted signal and its pretty flaky. Some boxes have problems decoding what another box encoded, and when you add up long cable runs you may introduce a few dropped bits that would not be a problem if the signal was in the clear.
    HDMI was just a big GIMME to the content producers, paranoid that their precious media was being stolen by mysterious entities bent on destroying their empires. Yes, lack of copy protection destroys industries, like how the xerox destroyed print, the cassette destroyed music, the player piano destroyed live performances, and VHS tape destroyed movies….oh wait….nevermind.

    As for cheap cables, I buy mine at Big Lots, where the price is generally half of retail and you get name brands.

    People who buy Monster Cable are the same fools that buy Bose.

  • MAC

    I actually work for one of these stores. Non commission by the way so to say it is pushed on you by the salesmen is not always true. You are right to a certain extent. But you are also very wrong. It is all digital, so the length of the cable will not effect the picture but the quality of the cable will. By having better shielding and gold plating it will give you a much better conncection. Therefor better picture. You also didnt touch on the transfer speed which if the highest speed isnt purchased, you will experience a slight delay from the audio vs. video. Another subject you chose to leave out is the refresh rate. If you send these nice people out to buy a $9 cable, and they have just purchased a 120 hz TV they will be very upset when they get home and they see tons of pixelation on their screen. If you put a 60hz cable on a 120 hz TV you will see pixelation on anything moving..

    Moral of the story, you get what you pay for. Don’t be cheap. Buy the good cables.

  • Sharon

    I just got my HDTV and wanted to use it as my monitor at times for music videos or movies. My graphics card (GeForce GTX 295) has a HDMI slot, so we bought a 35foot HDMI to HDMI Cable and connected it from my computer to my HDTV. After a few size screen adjustments, my HDTV was now acting as my monitor. However, when we wanted to play a music video full screen thru iTunes or YouTube, the screen freezes but the music plays. What can I do to fix this?

  • Jld

    We just bought a Blue Ray DVD player and the HDMI cable but our television (Mitsubishi HD 1080 rear projection big screen) does not have a hookup. Is there some type of adapter we can buy?

  • AJ BIGIT

    HDMI is great for 1080P only. But I
    notice no change with video
    images when I use my Blu-Ray to
    upconvert and utilize dubbing
    cables in lieu of component cables.
    How do the mfg’s of component cables
    instruct those inflicted with “color blindness” to make the connection?

  • Luke

    I just received a new HD cable box from Time Warner and I changed from component cables to HDMI. I purchased a 65′ HDMI cable with a repeater to get from my Plasma to my media room where the Cable box is located. Unfortunately, none of my HD channels work now, but all regular channels do. What could be the problem?

  • bowtrain

    I realize that this article and comments post has been dormant for some time, but I have to chime in. Although I have not read every response here, I have seen enough to get the idea that people are only looking for certain benefits with their cables. I am a long time audio enthusiast, and can verify without a doubt, that cables most certainly do make a difference. Maybe video cables are different. Maybe most people aren’t as concerned about getting the absolute last drop of performance for their expensive electronics. I do know that even digital audio cables do not all sound the same. People that state otherwise may not have the equipment to fully realize this fact. Maybe they are not as discriminating as they think they are. For me, it took some years in the audio hobby to fully hear all of the different aspects of a complete sound experience as well as the sometimes subtle differences between products. Without having a more developed taste, it is hard to realize the capability of the items that we search long and hard to purchase.

    As far as the HDMI cables are concerned, I am sure that there are differences in sound reproduction even if the naked eye cannot differentiate picture differences. Also, are there not anomolies in lower quality cables in reference to length as well (over 3 meters or so)? This has kind of reminded me of where the doubters of audio cable benefits first started. The true issue is knowing which cables are worth the extra money and which ones are merely mark up products.

  • Frost

    An untutored question: If I play a 1080p res. BlueRay disk on a Sony 32″ LCD rated at 720p, how compromised would the image be on screen? What are the consequences, or should I be restricted to 720p sources?

  • mark

    I just bought a samsung LN-T4061F LCD. I have it hooked up to an HD DVR cable box. I also have it hooked up to a Toshiba HD-A20 HD DVD player. Both the cable box and dvd player are connected to my LCD via Monster Cable Ultra 1000 HDMI (1.3 and 1080p true signal).

    There is no way that a $10 cable will perform better than a $130 cable. NO WAY! Do your research and look at how the cables are constructed.
    Already answered. Thanks for your feedback. Everyones opinion is important.

    The HD Guru 

  • Andy B

    Hello everyone.

    HDMI is a new venture for me having stuck with analogue up to now. I have over the years played with many cables in my hifi, but have kept this witin reason and have never spent really silly money in fact, ihave often bought second hand. have i noticed differences, often yes, better, well Only I can say that as you would have a different opinion depending on what you like. I see HDMI to be less critical in its demands for quality of cable, however i still ensured i had prchased a cable of decent construction and with effective shielding. Did it costs a fortune, no, nor was it dirt cheap either. I am happy that I have bought a decent cable it works very well and I am sure it will have a long service life. I am not sure that the dirt cheap cable would do the same and give peace of mind, also I am sure, that spending 20 times as much would not give 20 times more picture quality or last any longer.

    But I am happy with what I have bought and may be that is all that matters at the end of the day…………..

    I have considered computer networks as a source of reasoning in this debate,

    My office network uses very high quality heavily shielded cable, for very good reason, this would not be needed in my home and a waste of money. Why would I need different cables in these applications if they are doing the same job after all they are sending only ‘1’ and ‘0’ too…….

  • Beau

    What would we do without you?
    Keep up the reviews on new products.

  • Chad G

    I am the assistant manager of a small town Radio Shack, and even though I sell Monster Cables and the Radio Shack brand of HDMI cables, I agree to the fullest extent. Our cost for these cables are less than half of what we are selling them for. I always try to point my customers in the direction of the cheaper cables; yet you always have those “yuppies” that think the more you spend the better. I’ll tell you from many years of experience in the consumer electronics buisness, the most expensive is not always the best, as a matter of fact, very rarely is that a true statement. Our In-Store brand is just as good as any MONSTER CABLE out there. Thanks for finally letting people know this.

  • Schuff

    Great article on HDMI cables. My question is, I want to be able to watch dvd’s without *always* having to turn on my audio receiver for surround sound (for example Thomas the Train). I would rather just use the tv speakers instead. Well I though I could HDMI from the DVD player TO the Tv, then Optical Audio from the TV TO the Audio Receiver.

    My problem is I have to change the setting on the dvd player to PCM to output it to the tv and then the receiver only picks it up in sterio “Linear PCM” instead of 5 channel Dolby Digital. So is it not possible to use the TV as a second chain in the digital audio stream? I already saw where the Guru said the HDMI cable carries multichannel, but then what am I missing thats only accepting stereo as it passed through the tv?

    As I have it now I have digital audio from the dvd straight to receiver, and digital audio from the cable box straight to the receiver. As you can see it would be nice just to use HDMI on both components straight to the TV, and then digital audio out from TV to receiver. I then wouldn’t have to change inputs on the receiver to match what I am watching, and I also could watch dvd’s without a receiver at all. I know this may not get answered, worth a shot. =/

    Thanks,
    Schuff

  • kEVIN

    Although I agree most parts of a cable won’t make one iota of a difference, what the wire is made of can. and if you spending top dollard for your components it make sense to get the best signal you can.

  • Jay

    To the guy that has S-video hook-up instead of HDMI fix it now. Directv people are morons. The HDMI cable can not support 480i so you have to change the Res on the Box right on the front you and change the Res to 480p or higher. Then go into setting dor the HDDVR and uncheck the 480i al together.

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