Remember the days when the only connections available on TV’s were stereo audio and composite video (the red, white and yellow inputs) and it only took about a minute to hook up components? Well those days are over and things have gotten a little more complex. For those of you who have never owned a high def or flat panel TV , you might be a little intimidated by the back panel the first time you look at it. High Definition TV’s these days can have over 10 inputs with many different kinds of connections available. A person who isn’t used to dealing with home theater systems will probably have no clue what to do with them or what they are even for, and even some tech savvy people might get confused. The cable guy isn’t necessarily your best option either. Some know exactly what their doing while others could take the easy way out just to get the job done. Hopefully I can explain what these inputs are used for and which cables you should consider when connecting components to your new HDTV in order to get the best possible picture and sound.
There are a lot of people out there who think that anything connected to a High Definition Television will play in High Definition. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, just because your TV can show an HD picture doesn’t mean that it will. Now don’t go throwing your new TV in the trash-because the TV is not the problem. Before you spend a lot of money on components for your TV you need to make sure that they are able to produce a High Definition signal. You also need to make sure that any components you currently own are capable of handling High Definition if you are planning to use them for High Definition viewing. Older components like VCR’s will not handle HD because the technology was not available when they were produced. Having the wrong components can cause you a lot of wasted time and frustration in the HD process.
A component is probably HD compatible if somewhere on the box it says:
- HD Compatible
- Capable of 720p, 1080i or 1080p Resolutions
The next thing to keep in mind is that not all high definition televisions are created equal. You need to look at the specifications of an HDTV before you buy it. Some HDTV’s can not accept every High Definition resolution available. If the TV you are buying only has a native resolution of 720p, you may not get to see images in 1080i and won’t see them in 1080p because the TV simply can’t do it. If I were in the market for a new HDTV, I would buy one that gave me the option of using every connection and resolution available for High Definition so I could use it in any way I wanted. This is a big investment, don’t sell yourself short by getting a cheaper TV that limits your options.
High Definition Connections
Probably one of the most overlooked parts of the HD process is the connections. You need to have the right cables in order to pass a High Definition signal from one component to the next.
There are 3 types of video cable that will carry a high definition signal:
These are the only three cables that will give you a high definition signal! To figure out which ones you can use for your system, you need to check what connections are available on both your HDTV and your components. For example Blu-Ray Disc or HD DVD players require HDMI cables for full 1080p but also have component connections, regular DVD players can come with both component video connections, HDMI connections or both.
A few more things to consider before making expensive High Definition purchases
- The Right Connections – Be sure that the home theater receiver, HDTV and components you are connecting have the connections that you need for High Definition. After you are sure of your connections, get the cables that are compatible with them.
- Number of HD Connections – Make sure that you know how many High Definition connections your TV and/or receiver have. Most HDTV’s and receivers have only two HDMI inputs. If you only have 2 HDMI inputs, pick which two devices you want to run on HDMI and use Component Video for the rest.
- Look for the SimplayHD Logo - When looking for High Def components, we suggest looking for products that contain the Simplay HD logo on them. This assures you that the product is compatible with all fromats of HDMI and has been regulated by Simplay Labs the leader in HD testing. Monster HDMI cables and Yamaha Receivers are examples of Simplay HD certified products.
- Get Enough Cables - If you are going to run components from a home theater receiver to your HDTV, make sure you get an extra HDMI and/or Component Video Cable for the receiver’s output to the TV. Example: If you are hooking up a Blu-Ray Disc Player and a High Def cable box with HDMI, you will need 3 HDMI cables. One for the Blu-Ray to the receiver, one for the cable box to the receiver and one for the receivers output to the HDTV.
- Keep it in the Family - Consider buying the same kinds of cable. Example: don’t buy one expensive HDMI cable for the cable box to the receiver and one cheap one from the receiver to the TV. This is not a must but can help save you from compatibility problems.
- Don’t Forget About Sound - If you are going with component video or HDMI to DVI cables you will also need audio cables to get sound. HDMI cables carry both video and audio in one cable. NOTE: Some receivers will not repeat the audio signal through HDMI, if you are getting no sound but are getting a picture this is probably the case . We suggest using a fiber optic audio or digital coaxial connection if available, but analog audio will work just fine if not, it just won’t be as good as a digital connection.
This is a lot to take in but if you do your research and plan out exactly what you will need, this whole process will be a lot easier. If you have any questions or want suggestions from us, post a reply to this article and we will try to answer your questions as best we can. Part II of this article will involve the actual connection of your High Definition components to your home theater system and which connections will maximize your HD experience.