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View Full Version : OT: HDMI Cables



Sportandmiah
08-10-2010, 09:10 AM
Normally I oppose posting OT threads on this site, but I feel I must post this as a large part of our population is being ripped off every day buying HDMI cables from stores.

Most of us know when it comes to Digital technology and TV's, that the picture is either on or off, unlike analog which could be fine tuned. I read countless articles and studies (avsforum is fabulous) and found that a 6ft HDMI cable costing $5.00US performed equal to a $50.00 Monster brand HDMI cable. Like I said, it's either on or off, no snow with digital. The $50 cable performs no better than it's counterpart. That is proven.

A few years ago when I purchased my flat panel LCD and entertainment system, the last step was the cables. I priced HDMI, speaker, and a few other cables from Best Buy. The price came to almost $600US. Having nearly **** my pants, I went home and researched prices. I found a website called www.monoprice.com and bought my original planned lot of wires for $100US, back in 2007. And they are very high quality cables. Bluejeans cable is anoter great site for cables. Both sites specifically sell wires for AV.

Yesterday was the final straw. I went to Best buy yesterday to buy a 3 foot mini HDMI to HDMI cable for my camcorder, and the price was $50.00. I went home and bought it on monoprice for $6.50 shipped. For that is why I posted this here.

Any comments, please keep to the topic at hand, this was merely meant to help hard working people like me and you. I'm not affiliated with bluejeans or monoprice, but must spread the wealth.

lazlo
08-10-2010, 09:36 AM
Very true, for the most part - the gold plated HDMI and DVI cables are amusing :)

But although the HDMI transport is digital, it is a high-speed transmission line, and there's a minimum quality level to maintain the signal integrity, especially on the longer cables.
You can read about HDMI signal integrity and inter-pair skew here:

http://www.cable360.net/ct/operations/bestpractices/23213.html

I bought a 3 M HDMI cable from DealXtreme (a Chinese factory that drop-ships direct), and it was atrocious. It was abnormally thin for an HDMI cable, but oddly stiff. The strain relief on both ends was sloppy and the shell on one separated after 4 or 5 insertions. It worked fine on a PS3 for 3 months, then the screen started glitching, and finally the cable stopped working entirely. I'd imagine that one of the pins separated inside the cable.

I ended up finding another cheap Chinese HDMI cable at Altek (a local electrical supply) for $6, but the quality was quite good. I've been using it for 6 months, with no problems at all.

Sportandmiah
08-10-2010, 10:06 AM
Very true, for the most part - the gold plated HDMI and DVI cables are amusing :)

But although the HDMI transport is digital, it is a high-speed transmission line, and there's a minimum quality level to maintain the signal integrity, especially on the longer cables.
You can read about HDMI signal integrity and inter-pair skew here:

http://www.cable360.net/ct/operations/bestpractices/23213.html

I bought a 3 M HDMI cable from DealXtreme (a Chinese factory that drop-ships direct), and it was atrocious. It was abnormally thin for an HDMI cable, but oddly stiff. The strain relief on both ends was sloppy and the shell on one separated after 4 or 5 insertions. It worked fine on a PS3 for 3 months, then the screen started glitching, and finally the cable stopped working entirely. I'd imagine that one of the pins separated inside the cable.

I ended up finding another cheap Chinese HDMI cable at Altek (a local electrical supply) for $6, but the quality was quite good. I've been using it for 6 months, with no problems at all.

Try monprice next time. Very high quality stuff. I was surprised.

MaxHeadRoom
08-10-2010, 10:16 AM
+1 For Monoprice, I have picked up a few cables from them, very reasonably priced and good quality.
The other money maker of entertainment stores is power bars, I have seen them as high as $350.00!!
Max.

SGW
08-10-2010, 10:22 AM
Thanks for the post. I looked at an HDMI cable at RatShack (or maybe it was Staples), but the price they wanted for a 6' cable seemed totally insane. They turn out that cable by the mile -- no way those high prices are justified.

lazlo
08-10-2010, 10:24 AM
Try monprice next time. Very high quality stuff. I was surprised.

Thanks :)

I see that they have three quality grades: "Standard", "Premium" and "Professional". For each quality grade, they have "Standard Speed" and "High Speed", the latter I presume uses better materials. I just bought a couple of "Premium", "High Speed" HDMI cables from them.

BTW, I've bought a couple of LCD/plasma mounts from Monoprice, and was very pleased with the quality.

dp
08-10-2010, 10:32 AM
I think I paid $12 for my cable, and the quality of programming flowing through it did not improve one bit. I'm pretty sure technology won't solve the problem of worthless content :).

MotorradMike
08-10-2010, 10:36 AM
I too was astounded by the ridiculous prices at Best buy for HDMI cables, so much so, that I went home with no way to connect my new BlueRay player.

Got cables from Bluejeans and they work fine.

Yes, it's a high speed interface and the fact that it's digital doesn't preclude the need for impedance matching, twisted pairs and shielding.
If the manufacturer tries even just a little, to respect those requirements, then a 2 meter cable will work just fine. 10 meter, not so sure.

I believe that 90% of Monster cables shtick is BS marketing. They've been at it for years in the Audio industry.

Now there's a guy trying to sell "special" line cords for guitar amps. He claims one can hear the difference.
Gimme a break.

MaxHeadRoom
08-10-2010, 10:48 AM
I have a relative that is an agent for Samsung, he told me one of his highest money maker is cables.
Say no more!
Max.

rockrat
08-10-2010, 11:19 AM
There must be really good margins on communication cables now days. Even Harbor Freight is getting in on the game. Cable at HF (http://www.harborfreight.com/6-ft-hdmi-cable-98021.html)

My thought is that since all this new technology is being sold now days and the margin on some of the big dollar stuff is low, stores make it up by increasing the margin on the accessories that you have to have in order to make the equipment work.

Just my 2 worth

rock~

gellfex
08-10-2010, 11:22 AM
This accessory ripoff is out of control.

I wanted an input adapter for my older car CD that had no faceplate jack for an MP3. Bestbuy: $40, Ebay (shipped from HK):$3

I once needed a plain USB cable for my mom when visiting and went to BB. the cheapest were $40!! You can get them at the dollar stores around where I live. They even just started carrying wall plug USB chargers for $3, another item I believe Apple charges $40 for.

Deja Vu
08-10-2010, 11:23 AM
A few years ago when I purchased my flat panel LCD and entertainment system, the last step was the cables. I priced HDMI, speaker, and a few other cables from Best Buy. The price came to almost $600US. Having nearly **** my pants, I went home and researched prices.

My experience at Best? Buy was a little different. I went in looking for a simple 15" Sata cable for the hard drive I just got from Ebay. I went to the racks where the extremely fancy packaging was containing all the various cabling. there it was! $19.96. i thought WTF?
So I went to the service department and asked if they might have a SATA cable laying around in the back from their repairs and installations.....I knew there was probably a box full of them from new HDD installations(they all come with one).
We talked a bit and I related how I had just gotten a decent Hdrive(used) but didn't get a SATA cable with it. I hinted at the ridiculous prices. He couldn't help he stated at first, so I went back to the rack of brightly inked bubble packages containing cables. ...not intending to buy, but rather to awe at the display.
While there the guy I had spoke with came up and handed me a cable, knowing that I knew the game.
I thanked him and said, "Well, I'll have to buy something here now to show my appreciation".
He said, "That's not necessary, I understand".;)

edit in...I might add that this guy was ,shall we say, "seasoned" and may have been nearing retirement.

McNeillMachine
08-10-2010, 11:52 AM
I read a pretty comprehensive review about this cable debate on Gizmodo, I believe. More expensive cables were only better on truly long runs (something like 50-100 feet). IIRC the folks at Monster Cable even invited him to their testing facility.

here's a link to a section of the testing. a little more digging will get you to the rest of it.

http://gizmodo.com/282725/the-truth-about-monster-cable-+-grand-finale-part-iii

Of course, none of this matters at 7:30 PM when you realize you need an HDMI cable to make the TV work and your girlfriend is giving you the stinkeye and "casually" reminding you about her show at 8. :)

gellfex
08-10-2010, 11:58 AM
My experience at Best? Buy was a little different.

Social engineering don't count!:p

I think what we're all astonished by is the balls to mark things up 1000%. You want to do business with a honest entity, and there's traditional reasonable markups, depending on the products whether food, clothing or hardware. 50-200% markup is not unusual. But when I pay $2 at a convenience store for a bottle of water I could buy at Costco in a 24 pack for $6, that's an 8X markup from what may even be higher than what they pay. I call that predatory.

whitis
08-10-2010, 03:09 PM
The $5 cable you can be pretty sure is substandard. It might work today in a less than demanding application but don't count on it working 6 months from now or hooked up to a higher pixel rate source.

Quality of the cable matters up to a point, then it is mostly wasted money. Where that point is, depends on your application. The longer the cable is, the more it matters. The higher the resolution of your display and your refresh rate, the more it matters. The more bits per pixel, the more it matters.

I have been up to my eyeballs in transmission line theory and signal integrity recently.

HDMI cables are carrying very high frequency digital signals. Sure, it is digital and it either makes it or doesn't. But you might be surprised how close it could be to "doesn't make it". Even a sharp bend or kink in the cable can compromise signal integrity at those data rates (and you don't necessarily get it all back when you unbend).

At 1920x1080x60 you are looking at a data rate of 1.35Gbps on each wire pair and at higher resolutions or refresh rates, it could be 3.4Gbps and on lower resolutions it could be as little as 0.25Gbps. Even if you are running slow, though, your video card on a PC may be generating edge rates appropriate to the fastest data rate it can handle which means that you have many of the problems of running fast even when you aren't.

Assuming the cable isn't so badly made it falls apart, the things that can make a difference are pretty subtle and aren't likely to be visible without an x-ray machine, a time domain reflectometer, a serial data analyzer, or an extremely high speed oscilloscope and signal generator. In other words $50,000 worth of equipment. Is the wire the right characteristic impedance? What is the attenuation per unit length? Are the different wire pairs in the cable twisted at slightly different twists/inch so they don't couple. Is the wire untwisted the absolute minimum required to connect to the pins? Does it use a braid (best), spiral wrap, or foil shield (worst and also deteriorates with bending). How is the shield connected? And so on.

There are two offical grades of cables: Category 1 "standard" and Category 2 "high speed". Cat 1 is only rated for 1080i - it isn't even rated for 1080/60p.

If you need a long cable, expect to pay more for length and more for quality.

Your average reviewer is not going to be qualified and doesn't have the expensive test equipment to compare cable quality. They can only tell you whether or not the cable worked under their specific circumstances. "Blind side by side tests" are pointless. If they don't show you pictures of eye diagrams or test the cables to failure, they aren't doing serious testing.

For average use with short cables and 1080/60P maximum, most cat 2 HDMI cables found in retail will probably work fine, whether you pay $15 or $300. $5, though, and you are taking your chances. If you are trying to run 2560x1600P60 or 1920x1200P60/48bit/pixel over 50feet, you better pay attention to cable quality - even very high quality cables are likely to be running close to the edge under those circumstances.

Gold plating on contacts (including the shield connection) is a good thing - it really does make for more reliable connections. But there are also crappy cables with gold. Gold plating on the finger grip is just cosmetic.

Not that you want to buy Monster brand, in any case. Monster cable has a reputation for filiing, or threating to file, frivolous lawsuits to run their smaller competitors out of business:
http://www.audioholics.com/news/industry-news/blue-jeans-strikes-back
And for claiming trademark infringement against anyone who uses "monster" no matter how unrelated it is to their business category - including going after the makers of the film "Monsters, Inc" for using the word in their title to refer to actual (if virtual) monsters. And, of course, they fleece audiophools.

Blue jeans has an article on HDMI cables that actually shows eye diagrams:
http://www.bluejeanscable.com/articles/belden-hdmi-update.htm
And another vendor:


Don't waste your money on more, or less, quality than you need or buying cables that have inflated prices that aren't commensurate with the actual quality. Be suspicious of top dollar or bottom dollar prices.

Here is a $6 HDMI cable at newegg with 211 customer reviews. Notable because there are enough reviews to have some statistical significance. 87% were happy. Others reported it didn't work at all, that there was visible degradation of picture quality, lack of specifications, that it was thin and stiff (like lazlo's), that they had to wiggle it, or in one case the customer thought it fried the video port on his Xbox (coincidence, physically broke the PCB connector loose by heavy handed use, or short circuit?).
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductReview.aspx?Item=N82E16812189054
I.E. the quality of the cable appears to leave something to be desired but it worked ok for most people, at least in the short term. Probably did not actually meet HDMI specs, at least not consistently. The exact same construction in a longer length would probably have dismal results.

DX sku 22501, 6 foot, $5.40
- 2 happy at unspecifed video mode
- 1 appaears to be happy but not in english
- 1 works at 1080p, bought 3 but only reports results for 1
- 1 works at 1080i and 1080p
- 1 works at 720p, fails at 1080i and 1080p, with multiple displays and video sources.
- 1 apparently had 3 cables and they all failed after about 6 months
- 1 (in comments) red lines and terrible audio at 1080p
That is basically a 50% failure rate and the non-failures might not stand the test of time.

As for it works or doesn't work, no snow: snow might be exactly what you get when you push the cable to the edge. If a data line fails first, some bits make it through, others don't. The result is snow on a protocol like HDMI without error checking. Push it a little further past the edge, and you may not get video at all because there isn't enough signal or because HDCP fails. However, the signal that is likely to fail first is the clock and that could cause the monitor/TV to reject the signal or produce tearing.

Some of blue jeans' analog audio/video cable prices are a bit high compared to others with similar plating and shielding, but their HDMI prices seem reasonable.

sidneyt
08-10-2010, 04:56 PM
The $5 cable you can be pretty sure is substandard....

Wow, you spent some time typing all of that.

I'm a believer in the $5 HDMI cables myself, however, I have splurged on the $8.99 variety at HF. In the 2 plus years using both kinds I have not been able to see any difference on my 42" LED monitor/TV. Of course I know an audiophile who insists the $500 phono cables he uses to connect his turntable give much better sound than the $10 set I use. I honestly can not tell the difference. Maybe it's there and I just can't hear it. Perhaps this is the same with $50+ HDMI cables. It's there and I just can't see it. If I can get 2 years out of the $5 cables that's not bad. Sort of like buying the $12.99 (or whatever) HF electronic calipers vs more expensive varieties.

gellfex
08-10-2010, 05:07 PM
Sort of like buying the $12.99 (or whatever) HF electronic calipers vs more expensive varieties.

And sometimes that HF caliper will last forever working fine, like the one I've had as a quill DRO on my mill/drill for 18 years. Like starting looking for a parking spot just AFTER passing the destination, I'd rather start cheap and see if it works out. most of the time it seems to, but maybe I'm easy to please. A friend of mine won't buy any cordless tools but Festool. I can't rationalize a $500 12v drill any more than $100+ cables.

oldbikerdude37
08-10-2010, 05:25 PM
When I went to Kmart they had $40 8 foot cables. I asked the kid there and he sold me a kit for the sony playstation 3 that had an 8 foot cable for $9 plus all this extra stuff.

Behind my tv is the typical cable city and have the blue ray the surround sound and the HD direct tv dvr, the Wii for the kids. over all the cables dont get pulled in and out so all cables work fine and Im sure as hell not paying 8 bucks a foot.

My point is you can use cheap cables even if you have HDMI 1.5 and a 3D TV. dont throw more money then needed at that .

RB211
08-10-2010, 09:26 PM
Best Buy employees get a really nice discount, ESPECIALLY on cables. The markup is INSANE.
Should be called Worst Buy.