3 Myths About HDMI Cables for New Electric Fireplaces Media Center

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The high definition race is well upon us, especially since the FCC mandated the conversion of over-the-air signals from analogue to digital.

Are you getting a new HDTV to go with that snazzy electric fireplaces media center for the holidays? Looking forward to an extra blu-ray player or fancy game console? One of the biggest frustrations with new equipment is getting the right cables for the job. Until recently, many different cable connectors were available and were difficult, if not impossible, to adapt to other formats. Largely gone are the days where a menagerie of RCA, S-Video, Component, VGA cables cluttered television stands.

Since 2003, HDMI started to become the new standard for connectivity and today can be found in cell phones, computers, cameras, game consoles, cable boxes and more. HDMI stands for High Definition Media Interface and transmits both multi-channel audio as well as uncompressed high-definition video. Although greatly simplified in many ways, confusion still abounds regarding version number, quality, signal noise, you name it. Here we will discuss some popular misconceptions to save you time, money and frustration when it comes to acquiring HDMI cables. For those seeking very thorough information, it can be found here.

It All Comes Down to Price

The primary issue really surrounds HDMI cables and their price. The biggest fallacy is that expensive cables are better. Not so! Moderately priced or even down-right cheap cables are absolutely capable and comparable to expensive, brand-name products. Let's break down different selling points and therefore myths used for expensive name-brand cables.

Signal Preservation and Noise Reduction

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Until recently, traditional media formats such as terrestrial radio, 8-Track, VHS, Betamax, compact cassettes, vinyl records all transmitted their information with an analogue signal. HDMI however is 100% digital. What does that mean? Analogue signals are affected by many different factors which all contribute to degradation.

Two of the most common factors that affect interference are poor shielding and the length of the cable. Shielding is very important for analogue because it is highly susceptible to disruption from external electromagnetic radiation like radio and microwaves. It therefore needs to be protected against those external influences to preserve the original signal. Cable length is a factor because the longer a signal travels, the more energy it loses. Less energy means that more information is lost in the trip it takes before it gets to where it needs to be.

When it comes to HDMI and its digital signal, a number of redundancies are built into the specification to which all cables must adhere. It is exceptionally difficult for a digital signal to degrade in most circumstances. Transmissions are more dependably received because they are less impacted by stray signals and require less shielding. In regards to cable length, premium cables may more reliably transmit information over long distances but in anything under something like 50 feet, nearly all brands are equal.

Video Transmission

The popular motto for HDMI cables is that "It works or it doesn't." So when it comes down to it, any cable will transmit all information or none of it. There is no detectable difference in quality because the information is the same from one cable to the next. When cables fail, a vast majority of the time no image whatsoever is displayed. In that instance, get another cable. Even if it is a bargain product, you may still want to give it another shot depending on how affordable it is.

Sometimes even when a cable fails an image still gets through where it develops what are popularly called "sparkles." This is a rare occurrence that can result from any cable regardless of expense.. What happens is that the digital information is not being transmitted in a completely usable form. Enough of the information comes across to create most of an image and the sparkles are lost bits of information. Sometimes the effect is very subtle only occurring in a few displayed pixels. Other times however it renders video almost entirely useless.

Cable Types

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At the moment, there are four varieties of cable with essentially only two differences. The types are: Standard Speed, High Speed, Standard Speed with Ethernet and High Speed with Ethernet. Ignoring Ethernet which sends an Internet connection between devices, High Speed cables have been certified and therefore guaranteed to handle more data up to 10.2Gbps at a distance of about 23 feet. This isn't to say that standard cables are incapable of transmitting that much information, they just are not certified to do so. Interestingly enough, brand-name manufacturers try to market cables to specific categories like gaming, computer and theater. Aside from filling shelves and bearing different names, none of those categories performs anything unique making all of those cables effectively the same.

In Conclusion

Quality does not equate to expense. Some expensive cords can be poorly constructed where they are too heavy and therefore put too much strain on connectors and ports. Conversely, inexpensive cables can be exceedingly durable and the connector can be properly sized. Depending on the use, unless a cord is being routed under carpets, furniture, high traffic areas, it does not necessarily need to be overly robust. Often times cables only span a distance of a few feet and benefit from being smaller and more flexible. There are plenty of gimmicks about gold plating, wire-weaving, etc. that have virtually no impact on performance. All cables are certified to meet the already high standards that HDMI has set. With a little hunting, quality cables can be found for only a few dollars for nearly any use be they professional or consumer centric. Instead, take that money and invest it something else for your electric fireplaces media center - like a stereo or some new movies.

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