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Get the best audio video cable for your HDTV

Updated on April 21, 2010

AV connectors

Make sure you have the right connector for your setup.
Make sure you have the right connector for your setup.

Get connected!

A recent survey of HDTV owners in the UK showed that half of people who believed they were watching High Definition pictures on their screen were in fact watching standard definition pictures. They either didn't actually have an HD source (Blu-ray, Sky HD box etc) or didn't have the right cables. In days gone by, when you bought a new TV, a nice man from the shop would come round and set it up for you. Now, however, even though it is much more difficult to set up a new TV, you're usually left to your own devices. And as the survey shows, many people don't have the necessary devices.

So, what do you need? Well, obviously an HD ready TV to start with; most flat-screen TVs in stores now are HD ready, but be sure to ask. You also need a source of HD signals; either a Blu-ray disc player for watching DVDs or a satellite/cable provider's HD box for watching TV. And finally - an HDMI cable to connect everything together.

The HDMI standard (High Definition Multimedia Interface) was developed in 2002 to make connection of digital consumer devices easier for the user. It was designed to replace composite cables - separate audio-video cables that carry sound and pictures from the source to the display. You're probably familiar with connecting red, yellow and white phono plugs to your TV - well, with HDMI there's no need for any of that. The HDMI cable carries unconverted and uncompressed digital signals direct to the display which means that, with no analogue-digital conversion step, the opportunities for errors in the signal are minimised. Also, quite simply, without an HDMI cable you're not going to see HD television pictures. In terms of audio, instead of needing a separate audio cable the HDMI cable can carry up to 8 channels of digital audio, enough to feed a 7.1 surround-sound system. Of course, the downside of flat-screen TVs is that they are designed to be very slim and so the speakers are usually poor. You will almost certainly want to use a separate sound source to complete that surround-sound home cinema setup.

I suspect the main reason why people don't buy HDMI cables when they buy an HDTV is the ridiculous price of cables in stores - I've seen them priced at anything up to £300 in shops - and of course, your sales assistant would be failing in their duty if they didn't try to sell you one, right?

Anyway, perhaps because of the percieved hard-sell, many consumers come to the conclusion that the HDMI cable is a nice-to-have rather than the must-have it actually is. Of course, the ideal situation would be that the cable was included in the price of the TV, which I firmly believe it should be. Meanwhile, back n the real world, it isn't. So you'll have to buy one. But don't buy it at the store! Get on the internet, where you'll find many cables available at a fraction of the cost in stores. Don't worry to much about quality - as long as your needs are no more than a 3m hdmi cable you should be fine.

High Definition TV is the current Next Big Thing, and if you want to be part of it you need to make sure you're properly equipped. The connector may seem like a trivial issue, but as we've seen it is crucial to getting your entertainment center set up correctly. Go and check your setup now!


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