t took me five hours, but I’m finally done rewiring my home theater. A little issue with a hot water heater on the floor above necessitated the installation of new carpet, and BAM — I had to clear all my worldly possessions from the living room. With a system spanning a decade’s worth of technologies, just about every flavor of interconnect was represented. And while I used to question the need to upgrade a number of my old component video connections to HDMI, the hours I just spent crawling around behind my television may have changed my mind.
Component video cables: there's nothing elegant about them.For all who somehow managed to skip the “glory days” of analog video transmission, let me quickly get you up to speed. It used to be that if you wanted to enjoy high-definition video, you needed to rely on a cumbersome trifecta of copper cables, each of which was responsible for a different segment of the video signal. Easily mistaken for combination composite video/stereo audio cables, these component monstrosities were required to enjoy 480p, 720p and 1080i video. Audio was then carried separately, either on another set of analog connections or some variety of digital interconnect.
In 2006, all this suddenly changed. While HDMI had already been around in some shape or form for nearly five years, this was the year that saw the release of the standard’s 1.3 revision, allowing for the transmission of bitstream audio alongside high-definition video. All of a sudden, consumers could connect their components to their home theater receivers and televisions using a single cable instead of the medusa-like bunch that used to be required. Besides being convenient, HDMI 1.3 solved a problem that had plagued home theater aficionados for years — lip-sync issues, long the bane of digital audio/analog video users, all but disappeared overnight.
While the HDMI “standard” suffered a few setbacks in its early days (anything prior to the 1.3 revision hardly seemed standardized at all), it’s since succeeded at simplifying and demystifying the hook-up of consumer electronic devices, and in turn, empowered users to experience more of what their gear has to offer. HDMI may not necessarily improve the quality of your system’s video or sound, but it will keep you from pulling out your hair the next time you’re forced to rewire. When one cable can do the job of four (or more), everyone’s a winner. Well, maybe not the folks at Geek Squad, but certainly everyone else.