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Re-Defining HDMI Performance

What can be done to cure connectivity issues? The solution is very simple.


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Wire and cable products are the lifeblood between electronic devices. There is a true engineering science behind wire and cable, and without its advancements new technologies could never exist. In today’s products, multiple types of wires are necessary to carry multiple types of signals. This not only includes analog and digital signals, but also AC/DC power supply voltages and grounding methodologies.

Poor performance within the analog ecosystem can be caused by distortions, poor signal levels, crosstalk and more. But the same holds true for digital signaling, except that there is one very big difference: defining digital performance.

Case in point: You can talk about HDMI cable performance until you are blue in the face, yet never answer the most obvious question of how do they differ? Many believe “digital is digital,” and that no matter how you slice it, if enough HDMI data arrives to each device, the picture quality will look the same. So what are the cables’ differences? This is where the so-called experts fail to report on an obvious answer.

Mention HDMI to almost any person in the CE pro community, and usually you will get a negative response, like “plug and pray.” The ire has nothing to do with the way the picture looks! On the very rare occasions at DPL Labs that we might hear about a picture quality issue, it does not concern the cable.

There has not been any distinction between performance in quality vs. performance in reliability. It is the reliability that has so many integrators upset, not the quality. Yet both always seem to be lumped into the same category of performance.

Are there differences in HDMI cables? You bet. DPL Labs has examined countless cable designs and has found through exhaustive testing why some work and why some don’t. But we don’t justify the outcome by watching video on a TV set and assume it qualifies as a test standard - how absurd and barbaric. How many times have you installed systems that fail to operate, and by just swapping out the display or the source for a different device the problem corrects itself?

So how can anyone justify characterizing a testing sequence by using a television! Oh, I can see us now, writing an engineering report using sparkles as a unit of measurement. Maybe it could go something like, “Unit has 62 sparkles, DPL thinks that’s good.” That would go over like a lead balloon.

If one were to examine just the video alone, its operating range has only a 900mv window, about 10dB. Breach that window and you’re in trouble. Those that are low in that window do not necessary complement other products with similar integrity. It’s the matchup that can kill you.

Why is it that some systems work with one set of products while others don’t? You can mix and match these all day long and they will work somewhere, but not necessarily everywhere.

The cure to all this from a wire and cable perspective is very simple. Manufacturers have to adhere to the rules in the science behind cable transmission lines. Whether it is video, software, voltage or timing, if a manufacturer will just keep its performance meter no less than 50 percent, then everyone will have a “plug and play” day.




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Article Topics

News · Product News · Wire and Cable · HDMI · All topics

About the Author

Jeff Boccaccio, President, DPL Labs
Jeff Boccaccio, president of DPL Labs, can be reached at jeff@dpllabs.com.

5 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Steve  on  09/16  at  08:08 AM

Just once, I’d love to read a Jeff Boccaccio article with some actual useable info.  In every CEPro I’ve come across, he starts off with an interesting premise, then follows with a couple of paragraphs of generalities.  Without naming brands, and associated test results (which clearly he has access to), I finish the article no more knowledgeable than when I started.  How about some actual data?

Posted by Fred  on  09/16  at  12:46 PM

I agree. This article is useless.

Posted by John  on  09/17  at  07:13 AM

For the past three years I have been using hdmi cables by key digital from 1.5th to 75ft and I have yet run into an issue of cables not working
Mike Tsinberg has like 40 patents and I think he is more qualified to speak about hdmi than anyone in the industry

Posted by David  on  09/18  at  07:09 PM

Well said Steve.  Every single article I read from Jeff is like a tease for the 10 OClock news.  By the end of the article he’s said nothing.

Posted by Jason Knott  on  09/21  at  12:12 PM

Comment from Joe Perfito, president of Tributaries: “This article, as Yogi Berra once said, is ‘déjà-vu all over again.’

Once again Mr. Boccaccio attempts to denigrate those manufacturers and resellers of HDMI cables that don’t subscribe to his “Pay to Play” DPL service. In his column he states, “…we don’t justify the outcome by watching video on a TV set and assume it qualifies as a test standard – how absurd and barbaric.”

Name calling seems to be part of Mr. Boccaccio’s strategy when dealing with companies that don’t follow his line of thinking. It is truly unfortunate that he takes the low road. Since the introduction of HDMI cables, Tributaries has made a point of openly advertising and publishing e-newsletters telling its dealers that we test each and every cable and HDMI electronics using a Pioneer Blu-ray player and a Sony 1080p screen.

We have never made any claim that it “qualifies as a test standard.” It is done to assure basic operation; 1080p performance, no sparkles, proper color.

So, what do other companies do to assure their customers that their HDMI cables will work under basic operating conditions? Some test a sampling of every shipment using test equipment. Others do no testing; they simply transfer cables from incoming shipments to customer order cartons and ship them. Some send Mr. Boccaccio 4 or 5 cables to do a DPL test. That’s fine for those cables but what about the thousands from the same shipment that are not tested? Or is Mr Boccaccio telling his DPL customers that testing 4 or 5 will magically ensure proper operation in all cables?

Another example of Mr. Boccaccio’s “mud-slinging” and taking aim at non-DPL submitters – is in an article he wrote that appeared in Widescreen Review, Volume 16, Number 11, Issue 126, December 2007, entitled “A Few Brave Men”, Mr Boccaccio inferred that the only “brave men” are those that submit their HDMI cables to his company for DPL testing.

Assuming that means “brave companies”; those are the ones who will pay Mr. Boccaccio’s company to submit to his “DPL proposition.” From his assertion, I suppose companies like Tributaries, AudioQuest, Straight Wire, WireWorld, Kimber Kable, etc, are all cowards; afraid to have their cables tested. I don’t know how my colleagues at the aforementioned companies feel about it, but I believe that the whole paragraph is an editorial “cheap-shot” and disrespectful to those companies who have established a creditable reputation in the marketplace but who have not agreed to pay Mr. Boccaccio to have him validate what they have been doing for many years; producing high quality cable products that perform up to and exceed customer’s expectations and then, standing behind those products.

I can’t speak for the other companies, nor would I presume to, however, our customers buy Tributaries because they trust us to provide top-of-the-line products to them. We, in turn, purchase our cable products from reputable and responsible manufacturers who excel at providing the highest quality products. We also insist on a thorough 100% testing of all products not only during manufacturing but also before packaging at our factory in Orlando.

Will a cable tested in this fashion work with any setup? Not necessarily. As Mr. Boccaccio points out, the match-up with electronics can cause difficulties. I suggest that Mr. Boccaccio stick to selling his DPL service and educating integrators about the HDMI technology and refrain from attempting to stigmatize other companies. As the famous sales trainer Zig Ziglar once said, ”When you throw dirt, the only thing you do is lose ground!”

Joseph C. Perfito
President

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