Info and Answers
My HDMI Conundrum
HDMI cable
March 23, 2007 | by John Caldwell
Columnist John Caldwell says HDMI is great in theory, but the technology isn’t where it needs to be.
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Posted by OverByte  on  03/20  at  11:57 AM

The problem you had splitting the HDMI signal through a Gefen box is frustrating.  However, I’ve ordered and returned numerous splitters, distribution amps and switchers from these “cottage industry” suppliers and found that the break in the chain is often the switch.  At one time, these companies were selling these devices not knowing the way HDCP works.  I recall in one instance being told that a 1:2 splitter device was “HDCP Compliant” but couldn’t support both TVs at the same time (so it was a 1:2 switch in fact… not a splitter at all!).

Overall, I agree that HDMI has some trials ahead of it to make sure that its feature set matches the expectations of consumers as much as possible.  But I also know that buying high-tech from small supplier is generally hazardous especially if it’s a perform-or-die situation..

Posted by John Caldwell  on  03/21  at  02:22 PM

I’m sure there has to be some reliable spitting devices for HDMI out there somewhere. I’m just feeling particularly snake bit these days. The last three times out I’ve had problems. I also hear similar complaints (horror stories) in my practice from installers every day.

IMHO, some supplier needs to break though all the noise and clutter and come out and state unequivocally—“we are the HDMI experts. We guarantee a solution to your routing, splitting and distribution issues.”

I await that supplier with open arms….

Posted by Matt Bernath  on  03/21  at  08:54 PM

I agree with your comments and share your pain on a regular basis.  It seems as if the promise of great things is on the horizon, but in the meantime we have clients to service.  As you mentioned, it is our job as professional integration companies to keep up with the latest offerings and issues to deliver the best solution today, while planning for the future.  Based on a great training class held by Matt Good from Denon, it would seem that the big issues come from the “handshake” that needs to take place between components.  One would think that these “cottage industry” companies have a full understanding of this technology, but alas, problems still exist.  My recent experience with a very promising HDMI over Cat5 solution, showed to me that even these companies understand they don’t possess the technology to guarantee a seamless implementation.  Every time I switched sources, it would take 15-60 seconds to re-sync the transmit and receive baluns, and the company explained that this was typical.  Sure that is acceptable for a static display device, but we need faster sync for home entertainment systems.  In the meantime, I insist that professionals continue to provide constructive criticism with proactive solutions, so we can keep the manufacturers working to market the truth and help us to offer the best technologies.

Posted by Les Moss  on  03/22  at  03:58 PM

Another problem: No TVs support DD5.1 via HDMI audio. Why, when they do good things (like SRS) with DD5.1 via their internal tuner?

Ideally, the TV would act as the central switch to allow the individual inputs to be calibrated differently and simplify wiring and control. But without multi channel audio support on HDMI and audio pass thru to the digital audio output this can’t be done.  I have been waiting for a couple of years for this feature to appear.

Posted by Mac  on  03/23  at  02:34 PM

Here’s a comment from Mark S. Goldman, President of Sound Components, Inc.

“As a dealer, we also make sure we run sufficient backup cables in case the HDMI is incompatible or has a problem. We also make sure we run at least 2 component cables as well as the HDMI to any display device.”

Posted by Mac Slocum  on  03/23  at  02:38 PM

Comment from Thomas Moss, President, One Connection, Inc:

“Yes there are some horror stories with HDMI that still need to be shaken out. Although I believe part of this goes to the electronics manufacturers of the equipment also. Ours is a fast paced world and there will always be some catch up. The best thing I can say to anyone out there is if you have not tried it and it works in the office/lab then the customer should not be the guinea pig. As far as sending signals to multiple screens using HDMI the Key Digital Matrix switchers do a great job.”

Posted by Eric Harber  on  03/23  at  03:08 PM

The content providers don’t give a darn about the end user anymore.  They don’t care what problems you have as long as they get paid.  The solution is not better A/V equipment, the solution is not buying any content until they realize that the customer is king.  Who implements a half baked copy protection system that doens’t work right?  People that are making to much money thats who.  I am not buying any content that is copy protected, until that protection no longer degrades my experience.
Have prices decreased since copy protection schemes have been implemented?  Not that I have noticed.

Posted by Andy Delle  on  03/23  at  07:10 PM

Why HDMI in the first place? The broadcast industry has a reliable single coaxial cable standard called SMPTE 292 or “HDSDI” This single coaxial cable can also carry sixteen channels of digital audio along. It uses standardd BNC connectors! Now the HDMI proponents will claim it’s too expensine an interface for the consumer market. However the circuit level hardware is actually simpler than HDMI / DVI and with the manufacturing economics of consumer electronics it would actually be cheaper - for both the consumer and the professional user.

HDSDI is also a true single bit stream transmission technology. Both DVI and HDMI are quasi serial interfaces in that they send parallel streams of RGB plus a clock signal. This invites timing errors between the signals and is the principal cause of HDMI / DVI enxtesion problems. HDSDI can travel over 300 feet on RG6 cable! Try that with HDMI!

Now there is a hitch. HDSDI is a one way link. It is not bidirectional. So you could not do handshaking but then isn’t scrambling the bit stream enough? If not the Digital Cinema specification uses HDSDI but also a simple CAT5 ethernet link for handshake. I can see the need to protect first run cinema grade digital content but any consumer copy protection scheme that requires handshaking is doomed to problems throughout it’s life.

My point is the broadcast industry has had a highly reliable digital HD distribution system for many years. It is also a SMPTE standard. Why can’t the consumer electronics industry heed the expereince of the professionals instead of the “NIH” approach. What’s really silly is that most broadcast equipment manufactures are also the largest consumer electronics manufactures - Sony, Panasonic, JVC, Thomsom (RCA), etc.

Posted by phaet2112  on  03/23  at  09:13 PM

Image Constraint Tokens are another reason to avoid Blu Ray and HDDVD and just get a proper external scaler.

Posted by Eric0116  on  03/24  at  05:54 PM

I picked up a new receiver after my old one was damaged in repair. A new Harman Kardon with HDMI. I hooked it up to my TV’s DVI input and it only works about 1/4 of the time because, as far as I can tell, the handshake for HDCP kills the video. So I can’t use the upscalerthat I payed extra for in the first place. I refuse to buy a brand new TV just to get a new connector that passes the exact same info the DVI does. What a rip-off.

Posted by Henry  on  03/26  at  10:01 AM

Well… While HDMI does still have it’s quirks, I can’t see how a player putting out one resolution is the cables fault.  You can’t put out a 1080p source to a 720p display.  It won’t display it.

Posted by John Caldwell  on  03/26  at  11:04 AM

“You can’t put out a 1080p source to a 720p display.  It won’t display it. ” Errr—It’s done all the time via the use of a scaler—either internal or external to the display device.

Posted by Jason  on  03/26  at  09:42 PM

I agree HDMI is not ready. “Bleeding Edge”
I have a Yamaha RX-V2700 Amp and a new Samsung LN-T4665 and they do not sync via HDMI.  So far no HDCP 1.1 Firmware updates from Samsung or Yamaha.

Posted by Ryan Akins  on  03/27  at  02:41 AM

I have a friend with a Yamaha RX-V2700 and he too had problems with HDMI on his first receiver. I’ve heard of more instances than I’d like to admit to involving this (and believe me - many others) receiver. You just can’t trust HDMI - that’s why I don’t use it.

Posted by Seth Schnaible  on  03/27  at  12:04 PM

I have been using a ton of these 2700’s from Yamaha, it’s the only receiver that I will use because it is the only one that seems to always work.  I have used this receiver with just about evey HDMI equipped source device with no problems, and I am almost always connecting to a Samsung display.  The only time I have ever had a problem is when I try to use a source device that is DVI and I am using a DVI to HDMI cable.  This doesn’t work because DVI source devices will usually not allow for switching devices in the signal path.  As far as trying to use a Gefen splitter, I can’t get it to work, and I have not heard back from them in months, they just left me high and dry with a worthless product.  Overall, I agree with John, this has been a big PIA.

Posted by mac  on  03/27  at  07:09 PM

Here’s a comment from Mike Ruger, co-founder of Art and Automation Inc.:

“My main complaints about HDMI cables and the
“standards” include:

1 The hdmi cable is not field-terminable
2 The hdmi cable does not have a locking mechanism
3 The hdmi standard does not allow distribution flexibility
4 The hdmi cable is not well suited for long distances
5 It seems that a number of products are HDMI compliant, but in reality are not suitable for reliable operation
6 the hdmi standards are well intended, but software issues are confusing everyone
7 The hdmi standards/cables add unnecessary expense to a system

I have used HD-SDI for video; too bad it is not more widely accepted.”

Posted by Henry Unger  on  03/27  at  09:00 PM

For over five years I have enjoyed hassle-free single-cable HD connectivity between a number of HD sources and my 65” Sony HDTV. How? Using FireWire/IEEE 1394/i.LINK. It supports daisy chaining. It even supports inter-component control. What a concept!

Over 40 years ago IBM invented a serial point to point data communication protocol called bisync. Over 20 years ago data communication started migrating to IP routers and Ethernet switches to eliminate all of the point to point connections. I find it shocking that consumer electronics is still stuck in that earlier paradigm.

Posted by John Caldwell  on  03/27  at  09:21 PM

I’m a huge fan of FireWire/IEEE 1394/i.LINK.

Not only does it work well, but thanks to Apple, it works well over long distances AND it has a proven copy guard system that was built into the spec . One that should have made Jack Valenti and his growing number of politicians who are in Hollywood’s pocket very happy.

Posted by Steve Stambaugh  on  03/28  at  03:36 AM

How will fiber optic and CAT5 effect HDCP when it finally is enforced?

Posted by Linda Morgan  on  03/28  at  05:48 AM

This response is from the tech guys at Gefen:

The situation can be simply explained as a resolution mismatch. An HDMI Splitter takes one resolution (say 720P) and splits it two ways.  Both outputs get the same 720P resolution.

Since one display was set at 1080P, it could not be viewed, because only the resolution that matches the source (720P) can be displayed.

If you reverse the process, you would get two 1080P signals that match the 1080P source but not the 720P display.

To split one HDMI signal to two different native resolutions as required for this test, you would need to use an HDMI splitter and in addition a scaler which can be adjusted up or down in multiple HD resolutions.

Gefen offers a Home Theater Scaler (EXT-HOMETS) that can be used for this purpose. Check the website for updates at

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