Almost every modern device used in a home theater makes use of an HDMI cable with the exception of an IR repeater which we explored more in our other guide. High-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) cables have become the new standard for electronic equipment. Everything from SoundBars and televisions to game consoles and computers make use of the capabilities made possible via HDMI technology. However, most people assume all HDMI cables are the same. This is not true. Below, I explain what directional HDMI cables are and when they are most likely to be used.
So what are directional HDMI cables? Directional HDMI cables are more advanced than regular HDMI cables. This is because they include built-in equalizers, amplification, and filtering. Directional HDMI cables are designed to help carry signals over longer distances. Directional HDMI, however, relay signals in only one direction.
Directional HDMI cables, typically manufactured to meet high-speed cable standards, are one of four types of HDMI cables available today. Determining whether you need to invest in a directional HDMI cable is an individual choice; however, as with any investment, it helps to have the facts before making a decision.
Does The Direction Of An HDMI Cable Matter?
Yes, only if it is a directional HDMI cable. Directional HDMI cables may carry signals over a longer distance; however, they do this in only one direction. This is due to the types of wires used to relay signals over a distance. Proper installation is absolutely necessary in order for directional HDMI cables to work.
Directional HDMI cables need to be properly installed in order to work. One end should be inserted into the source device, like your Blu-ray player, stereo or PlayStation 4. The other end should then been connected to your display, such as your television or computer monitor, or speaker. If these ends are mixed up, the result will be a blank screen as the signals are being relayed in the wrong order.
It is important you install these cables correctly when running them behind walls. No one wants to run a cable behind their drywall only to find out they have done so in the wrong direction! If this occurs, the cable will not function correctly and will need to be removed and reinstalled.
How Can You Tell If An HDMI Cable if Directional or Not?
Most directional HDMI cable manufacturers include an arrow icon directly printed on the cable itself. In fact, listing the full capabilities on the cable itself is considered an industry standard. However, this is optional so make sure you check the specifications before you purchase any HDMI cable.
With that, let me clarify one thing: HDMI packaging is required to list the capabilities. Actual capabilities printed on the cabling itself, however, is optional. Most major companies will now print capabilities on their cables. Older HDMI cables, on the other hand, likely will not include any identifying marks.
That being said, the little arrow icons are not the only way to distinguish these cables. In order to successfully carry those high definition signals over a distance, directional HDMI cables use different wires. This makes directional HDMI cables thinner than your standard short models.
Unlabeled cables are a bit harder to figure out when it comes to directional HDMI cables. If your HDMI cable does not include directional indicators, or you cannot tell if it is thinner than other versions, I highly recommend you test the connectivity order prior to installing it. (Adding a label can also help you quickly identify the correct end from there on out.)
While you should always test your cables anyway, installing it behind drywall and having to reinstall it is not the time to test connectivity. Save yourself some frustration and test your HDMI cables and identify the ends before installing them.
What Is An Active HDMI Cable?
Active HDMI cables are those that have an “active” digital equalizer built directly into the cable. Often indicated by a bulge in the wire itself, these equalizers help to strengthen the signal flowing through the HDMI cable and enhance capabilities.
Improvements in technology means your HDMI cable is able to handle more than it has previously. RedMere technology is just one example of the enhancements companies have made to the standard HDMI cables we use today.
Ultra-slim, RedMere technology enables stronger signals to flow through your HDMI cable, making it possible to reach farther distances. It also allows for less copper wiring to be used, making the cables themselves thinner and lighter.
You should note, however, that the RedMere chip that is built into your HDMI cable does pull some power from your signal source. While this is mostly negligent, it is still something you should be made aware of.
Are You Able to Reverse a Directional HDMI Cable?
So you’ve just accidentally ran a directional HDMI cable through the wall, and both the source and display ends are in the wrong locations. So you’re wondering, can you reverse a directional HDMI cable?
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to reverse a directional HDMI cable if it is already run through a wall or conduit. The best solution is to simply run another HDMI cable in the correct direction. The easiest way to run a new cable is to:
- Triple check your new HDMI cable and make sure it is going to run in the correct direction, if necessary.
- Tape one end of the new HDMI cable to the end of the old HDMI cable.
- Pull the old cable out of the wall while simultaneously pulling the new cable through the wall.
- Remove the tape, and your new HDMI cable is now installed without any headache.
Why Do People Use Directional HDMI Cables?
Most people opt for a directional HDMI cable because they are spanning a distance of more than ten feet. In fact, thanks to enhancements, like RedMere technology, you can span up to 60 feet or more without issues!
Most people opt for using a directional HDMI cable because they are spanning a large distance. In fact, if you are looking to connect devices over ten feet apart, a directional HDMI cable is likely your best choice. Depending on the manufacturer as well as the included features, however, some directional HDMI cables may require the use of a repeater to reach extreme distances.
Directional HDMI cables still support Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) functionality, as well as high-bandwidth digital copy protection (HDCP). That is because they are built to meet very specific requirements.
In fact, all HDMI cables are built to meet a specification. The HDMI Licensing Administrator, Inc. publishes these standards and recognizes the manufacturers who do meet these specifications. This group, which represents stakeholders from several major industry giants, such as Toshiba Corporation, Sony Corporation, and Panasonic Corporation, strives to ensure all consumer electronics meet the standards that keep each of our devices compatible. After all, without standardization, connections would be even more chaotic than they already are!
With an HDMI cable, there will be no dip in picture quality. That means you will not experience color fading, grainy quality, or pictures that flicker in and out with HDMI cables that are properly connected. However, when you have exceeded the capabilities of your current HDMI cable, you simply will not have a picture at all.
Are There Other Types Of HDMI Cables?
Yes. There are currently four main types of HDMI cables for use with your home theater. These include high-speed with Ethernet; high-speed without Ethernet; standard-speed with Ethernet; and standard-speed without Ethernet.
Directional HDMI cables tend to fall in the high-speed categories. (At this point, most people will opt for high-speed vice the standard-speed versions.) Ethernet is a personal choice for many, although the majority of users will never need this feature.
The real difference here is what these cables support. Standard-speed cables can support up to 1080i. High-speed cables, on the other hand, can support 1080p and 4K technologies. Both can support technologies that go below these limits, which is why most people opt for the high-speed versions.
You should note, however, that the next generation of HDMI cables are being announced. That includes models that are considered ultra-high-speed. While not yet being sold, the capabilities are supposed to be even more advanced than those available today. Known as HDMI 2.1, these cables will support faster signal speeds in keeping with ever-increasing bandwidth needs.