1080p HDMI and Yes Cables Matter! (or Do They)

Have you wondered why there are $100 1080p HDMI + ethernet cables and $200 4K HDMI cables at Best Buy and $19 1080p HDMI + 3d cables online.  Or why they give you a free HDMI cable with just about everything?  Well  let me tell you my story and why spending money on a high quality HDMI 180p cable could be money well spent.  Before you read this slightly embarrassing tale, (all true) I have to admit that I am a THX Level II Home Theater Installer, and formerly a CEDIA certified installer and designer.  That means I (should) know my stuff.

Last year I bought a Denon AVR-X2000 receiver and hooked it up to my 40″ Toshiba TV.  All the wires where hanging out of the wall and everything was working just fine.  It was a simple system with a speaker bar.  My neighbors laughed, but it worked and kept my wife happy and then…

Early last year, my AppleTV got an upgrade and it quit working.  It just wouldn’t sync with the TV.  I blamed in on the AppleTV.  Then I bought a Denon AVR-X1000 online and realized it didn’t have a zone 2 amplifier so I couldn’t buy speakers for my yard.  When I went to the store to pick it up I asked if I could upgrade to the AVR-X2000 so I didn’t have to buy a separate amp for zone 2.  They agreed.

When I got it home and all plugged in, everything worked ok. I had a ReQuest plugged into the DVD HDMI and an HDMI Extender plugged in to the CBL/SAT port and that was it.  For whatever reason I never plugged in the blu-ray.  When I did decide to use the blu-ray, I got a “pop” and the picture went blank.

I plugged the Blu-ray directly into the TV and got nothing.  More on this later.  I figured the TV went out.  Two years and one week after I bought it at Costco, I wandered in and the return lines were huge.  Figuring on the worst I walked the TV section and found a 65″ for the same price that I had paid for the 40″ two years earlier.  I measured the box and it fit in my wife car.  Forget the return line, I just bought a new TV!

After getting home, hanging it and plugging in the system, only the HDMI extender had a picture and after 15 minutes it died.  I took the 40″ into my office and plugged in my mac.  Nothing.  I called Toshiba and did an HDMI reset and it worked fine.  Somehow an electronic key was “stuck”. I just got a new 1080p super sized mac monitor.  It isn’t bad, but now I want a 4K.

Back to the living room, I plugged everything into the TV and it all worked fine, the Denon had gone bad?  After calling Denon support, and fessing up about the “stuck key” they also had me to a soft HDMI reset and later a “hard” HDMI reset.  The system would work for 5-10 minutes, pop and no picture.  It really was bad.

Fortunately I live quite close to a Denon authorized repair center.  After dropping the AVR-X2000 off for repair it was confirmed that “the board was bad”.  It was sent to Denon for refurb and returned to me within 10 days!  Awesome service.

Side Note: I owned two Denon authorized businesses for over 10 years, this was the only the second time I had seen a Denon fail, and their service was great.

The problem is I had 10 days left home alone with my thoughts, tools and wires hanging out of the walls.  I had just got home from Dr. Goldbergs home and was feeling a little jealous of his system.  Watching a 1080p Blu-Ray was stunning on his system.  The sound was awesome and we had the same Denon amp-receivers.

Sitting alone with my thoughts looking at my pathetic little speaker bar on my mantel, I ordered some Atlantic Technologies Speakers to go with my new TV.  As soon as I clicked “pay”, I  started cutting up the walls.

Up to this point I had been a little skeptical of high priced HDMI cables so I found a “HDMI certified” 15 foot cable on eBay and ordered it.  When it arrived, I cut and drilled a dozen holes so the wires would properly be in the wall.

Before closing up the holes, I tested.  I plugged in the new Denon and watched Verizon over the HDMI extender and a DVD.  I plugged the DVD into each port on the Denon and tested it.  Every port worked.  My Sony Blu-Ray player wouldn’t do squat so I figured whatever killed the Denon killed it.

My sheetrock guy arrived and started patching and I started painting.  The room was looking good and I was pretty happy.  My neighbor brought over a blu-ray for his kids, and I had a new player in the box so I hooked it up and when I pressed play, the video was all choppy, and the screen had half black and white squares all over it.  Here is the video:


When I plugged the Blu-Ray player directly into the TV it was better but covered in little white specs still.  So I got a high quality (read $55) 8 foot cable I had laying around, and plugged in outside of the wall directly to the JVC TV.  Perfect picture.

It was the cable in the wall.  Fortunately I drilled smooth enough holes I was able to spend $100 on a good cable and some cable lube and pull a new one through the holes without cutting up the walls again.  1080p really needs some high quality signal and cheap cables just can’t cut it.

Well sort of….

It turns out there are only four kinds of HDMI cables, with the best being “High Speed HDMI with Ethernet”.  That is the cable you want, and I have found those from reputable dealers for under $20 online.  What I bought was a HDMI with Ethernet which is technically “standard speed”.  The question is how do you know if you really got the right cable? And what if you plan on going to 4k?  A “High Speed HDMI with Ethernet” cable is supposed to do 4k, and several sources say it works fine.

My mistake was testing the system with a 720p source, not 1080p. This I should have known. I was so frustrated with the system changes and the failed receiver that I skipped this critical step.

A little research online found “high speed 1080p with ethernet” as low as $4.99 plus $5.00 shipping.  I chose a retailer I trusted and it cost me $44.74 total, money well spent.

HDMI 1080p In Wall Cables

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