The right connections can have a major impact on the quality of your home theater experience. High-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) connections can deliver superior clarity of picture and sound for you and your family. Because these cables carry audio and video signals through one simple interface, they are currently the industry standard for most HD televisions and component connections. Understanding the various types of HDMI connections can help you make the right choices regarding every part of your home theater setup. Here is a brief overview of the latest and greatest in the field of audio and video hookups for your home.
HDMI: The Established Industry Standard
Despite its high-tech credentials, HDMI has actually been around for a while. The interface was first invented in 2002 and was implemented almost immediately as a direct competitor for DVI and FireWire connections already in use for home theaters, computers and other devices. Over time, these competing products decreased in popularity and availability. The convenience and high-definition performance of the HDMI connections, however, ensured its longevity in the consumer marketplace. HDMI offers the following advantages:
- Capable of delivering 3-D video from components to televisions capable of displaying it.
- Exceptional picture quality and as many as eight channels of high-quality, high-speed audio.
- True digital transfer of signal that avoids degradation issues that occur during analog-to-digital conversion processes.
- Ability to transfer low-voltage current and, for version 1.4 and later, Internet connectivity.
HDMI also supports digital content protection for copyrighted materials. This is something of a mixed bag for consumers, however; errors in encoding can sometimes result in degraded signals or failure to play content at all. This is generally attributable to older connections on the home theater component rather than a fault of the HDMI cable itself.
Selecting HDMI Cables for Your Home Theater System
While some very low-end HDMI cables may not produce the necessary quality, most fall into a comfortable midrange that delivers solid performance for your HDTV. HDMI cables and connectors are available in six basic configurations, most of which are fully compatible with previous and newer versions:
- HDMI 1.0 — HMDI 1.0 is the original 2002 version of this connector and accommodates only two audio channels.
- HDMI 1.1 — The release of HDMI 1.1 in 2004 provided support for 5.1 channels, allowing end users to enjoy the full effect of DVD audio.
- HDMI 1.2 — Connectivity with personal computers was the primary addition for version 1.2 of HDMI. Version 1.2a provided standards for remote controls, cable lengths and inspections and testing for HDMI cables.
- HDMI 1.3 — Color display was significantly expanded in HDMI 1.3 with the adoption of Deep Color standards that allowed for more than a billion colors. Lossless digital audio capability was another important addition in this release.
- HDMI 1.4 — The primary useful addition in HDMI 1.4 was the audio return channel, which allows users to recapture audio streams from their HDTV tuner for output through an audio receiver.
- HDMI 2.0 — HDMI 2.0 was released in 2013 and can support Ultra High Definition 4K video available on high-end televisions now.
By choosing the right HDMI cables for your home theater system, you can ensure the best quality sound and playback for all your movies and musical entertainment options.
Knowing a few tricks of the trade can help you get the most from your home theater setup:
- To play 3-D content, all components in use must be compatible with this format.
- Ultra HD video signals can typically be delivered via any good-quality HDMI cable that has been rated as high speed by the manufacturer.
- For most modern home theater setups, choosing HDMI 1.4 cables or above can prevent a number of playback and interoperability issues.
- Closed captioning is not supported by most HDMI cables. Component video connections may remedy this problem but could result in a lower-quality picture in some cases. Alternatively, subtitles can be used. They are compatible with HDMI and typically offer much of the same information for viewers.
Enlisting the help of a company that specializes in home theater installation and design can help you choose the best HDMI cables and other components for your particular set of needs. These knowledgeable professionals can deliver customized solutions that ensure the highest audio and video playback quality for every item in your home entertainment library.