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HDMI vs. DVI on pre-pros & receivers - Outlaw Audio was right a couple of years ago


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#1 of 46 RAF

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Posted August 14 2006 - 04:01 AM

With the current proliferation and upcoming introduction of a lot of HDMI sources more and more people (including myself) are looking toward upgrading our equipment to eventually take advantage of all the new audio formats and provide some switching capabilities for multiple video and audio sources. Unfortunately, HDMI is an evolving standard and with the recently introduced 1.3 version will finally address some of the audio issues as well as increase the capabilities of the video side of things (which probably won't impact the picture as much as the sound.) And even with the introduction of HDMI 1.3 that doesn't mean that source material will automatically provide all the new sound modes (TrueHD, etc. etc.) right out of the box. I'm guessing that it will be probably 3Q 2007 before a lot of this sorts out and the pre-pros and receivers I see at CEDIA 2006 will only be the first wave of evolving standards.

A couple of years ago, when Outlaw Audio was getting ready to introduce its new 990 pre-pro, Peter Tribeman of Outlaw took a lot of flack for sticking with DVI switching for this updated model of the Outlaw 950. I personally saw him defending the choice to eschew HDMI circa 2004 in favor of DVI (video only) digital input and output for the 990. I can still hear his words at the NY Home Theater Expo:
Quote:
HDMI is an evolving standard. If we had implemented HDMI in the 990 it would be out of date within a year or two. We chose to keep the audio and video streams separate to allow for maximum flexibility. And since DVI is a well-established digital video standard we chose to stick with that.

(Note: at the time, HDMI 1.1 was just being introduced). A couple of people in the crowded demo room snickered a bit and considered this some sort of rationalization for the Outlaw product not being "cutting edge." Guess what - As the title of this thread says - Peter was right! And some people are finding this out the hard way with HDMI equipped processors/receivers that won't handle all the new audio formats that are promised on HD-DVD and Blu-ray.

Before I go any further I just want to point out that I don't work for Outlaw. I was the first beta tester for their 950 pre/pro over four years ago but I moved on to a Lexicon MC-8 in order to provide some additional audio flexibility. I still use Outlaw amps, but that isn't germane to the current discussion. What I'm trying to say is that this isn't necessarily an endorsement for Outlaw products but just an acknowledgement of their position on the state of HDMI at the time. In my opinion they were spot on.

With the evolution of HDMI standards and the introduction of 1.3 and some of the new HD audio sources I'm once again looking to upgrade my Lexicon MC-8 to something that will allow me to eventually use the new HD audio processing (when it's finally introduced.) Unfortunately, at this time Lexicon has entered the HDMI a/v world with their megabucks MC-12 HD and, for my needs it is woefully lacking. For one thing it's currently HDMI 1.1 compliant. Just as importantly, it won't handle 1080p, just 1080i. So much for trying to stay a bit ahead of the A/V curve. I'm better off, for the moment, sticking with external HDMI video switching and scaling (my DVDO VP30 HD serves me well at the moment for the video end of things) and using the Lexicon to process the audio end of things. I realize that this limits my use of some of the newer HD audio streams (when they become actual product on a large scale) but since the MC-8 can handle 5.1 audio inputs it can still pass through the new audio formats that can be delivered that way for now.

Naturally, this will all work a lot better (and involve simpler connectivity) once the multiple input HDMI 1.3 receivers and pre/pros reach the market and are reviewed. However, since a lot of this depends on either the player or the pre/pro decoding the HD audio stream there are bound to be some false starts and the inevitable bumps in the road. I'm fairly certain I'll see a lot of HDMI 1.3 "capable" boxes at CEDIA 2006 but that's only part of the story for the reasons cited above.

In a perfect world my next pre/pro would not only have HDMI 1.3 A/V switching and processing capabilities but it would also allow for HW upgrades via a modular chassis and also be "firmware Friendly." But that's probably too much to ask for both cost considerations and the need to be able to sell us the next "latest/greatest" box. (Tongue loosely planted in cheek with that last remark.)

But I've got to hand it to Peter Tribeman and Outlaw. Recent history has proven that their position was the prudent one. And I'm not quick to hand out complements to people in the industry - especially Red Sox fans!

Posted Image Posted Image

(just kidding)

RAF
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#2 of 46 Seth=L

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Posted August 14 2006 - 06:05 AM

I am quite aggrevated by the Lack of 1.3 on current pre/pro or receiver devices. My question is; will the current processors have firmware and/or hardware upgrades for the up and coming 1.3? If not, it could and likely will upset many consumers that make investment in these so called new HDMI pre/pro or receivers that could cost anywhere between $1000-$20,000. If upgrades aren't available what will the consumer do? just accept their loss in a seriously depreciated high-end piece of equipment. How much would such a upgrade cost?

My feeling is that the format war caused this surge of players, though limited, to be pushed into the market before the rest of the world could catch up. This is of course my understanding of the situation.

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#3 of 46 Jim Prillaman

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Posted August 14 2006 - 07:02 AM

Your aggravation is just the sort of thing that many of us have been expecting consumers to express (and I suspect part of the reason for RAF's eloquent comments here - which as a contented owner of an Outlaw Model 990 I find myself agreeing with). I do not expect firmware updates to be able to make HDMI v1.1 units v1.3 compatible. In fact, what I've read about the arrival of HDMI v1.3 suggests that the chipsets necessary for HDMI v1.3 are not even in production yet, and that it's likely that much of the initial push will be focused on providing HDMI v1.3 support for the PS3 this November. If you had an HDMI v1.1 receiver or processor (and SSP's with true HDMI v1.1 support remain extremely rare), you could ask for a hardware upgrade, but the likelihood of such hardware upgrades being made available is very slim.

I think your feeling about the format war is very accurate - HD-DVD and Blu-ray were pushed into the marketplace as quickly as possible, and it's likely to be a year or even two before we see hardware for both the player and receiver/processor that can truly make full use of the capabilities of these formats.
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#4 of 46 LanceJ

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Posted August 14 2006 - 08:52 AM

Honest question: are there plans on the horizon for HDMI version 1.4?

Because after seeing how HDMI has been so incompetently executed so far, I wouldn't be surprised in the least that another "new & improved" version is in the works.

#5 of 46 RAF

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Posted August 14 2006 - 01:07 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by LanceJ
Honest question: are there plans on the horizon for HDMI version 1.4?

Because after seeing how HDMI has been so incompetently executed so far, I wouldn't be surprised in the least that another "new & improved" version is in the works.


Excellent question, Lance!

As a regular user of HDMI (with two digital displays in my HT, an HDMI equipped scaler, several HDMI switches and a host of HDMI sources) I can personally attest to the fact that HDMI presents the user with a host of new (and sometimes frustrating) experiences. A lot of this comes from the fact that it is a "handshake" protocol which relies heavily on two-way communication between all the HDMI sources and displays. But not every manufacturer has been consistent in the HDMI implementation so there are many, many cases of idiosyncracies or incompatibility. Very often a proper video signal locking in depends not only on the order in which the various components are turned on, but also on the time between each event. This can become an absolute nightmare for someone programming universal remote macros until HDMI matures a bit.

To give you just one example that I became aware of relatively recent and which shows some of the extent of the problem - I found out that my Toshiba HD-DVD player (the XA1) evidentally does a continuous handshake between itself and the display. While this might not normally be considered a problem here's what happens. If, while playing a DVD on the Toshiba, you happen to switch your display to a different HDMI source the Toshiba actually stops playing after a couple of seconds! I discovered this by accident one day while watching a DVD movie and briefly switching to catch a baseball score on ESPN-HD via my Dish Network HDMI HD DVR. Even though I paused the movie before switching, the player stopped when it "lost" the signal. This is something completely different from the "normal" DVD player experience and can be quite a nuisance when going back to the movie unless you first create a bookmark, etc. etc. etc. My point here is that HDMI, even when it works properly, presents a whole new paradigm for the HT experience and this is bound to cause massive confusion as more people begin to experience this.

Ironically, the "one wire" solution is still, in my estimation, not quite yet ready for prime time - especially for the audio end of things. It's going to take quite some time for the HDMI 1.3 standard to be implemented and since we have already gone through at least 4 versions (1.0, 1.1, 1.2 and now 1.3) can you blame manufacturers for being a bit wary about 1.3 being the "final" version? Yes, HDMI has the potential of making A/V connectivity better in the long run, but it's not really there just now.

Incidently, a real expert in this HDMI arena is my friend Rodolfo La Maestra who is in the process of writing an excellent series of articles on the whole HDMI scenario. I strongly recommend that people who want to learn more about the field read these articles because Rodolfo has the ability to cut through the Electronic Tower of Babble to get to the core of the matter. The articles appear at the HDTV Magazine Articles site HERE and can be very informative. So far Rodolfo has posted six articles there with more to follow. I believe that even non-members of HDTV Magazine can access the articles (I'm a member so I get right through) so if you click on the link I provided above you should be all set. Let me know if this isn't the case and I'll see to it that the articles are posted over here. A person reading through all of the HDMI articles in the series (as well as a wealth of other information over there) will probably be better equipped to enter the HDMI Age.

Here's to the day when HDMI finally is working as it should. But we are in for a bit of a bumpy road until all players get on the same page and, in the interim DVI (or just the video side of HDMI) with a separate audio path might be a less frustrating way to go (handshaking issues aside.)
RAF
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#6 of 46 Seth=L

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Posted August 14 2006 - 01:52 PM

HDMI seems to have developed much faster than any digital interface before it. USB, Firewire, SPDIF these were all slow in the making and of course all had a laundry list of issues when they started. HDMI is evolving to fast in my opinion. Why didn't the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD players have DVI as an alternate video out with firewire for audio? They are just running into battle with no armor.

As for firmware/hardware updates for current processors and receiver discourages me from purchasing a new one in the near future. They will likely be ridiculously expensive. Realistically if most of the consumers were aware of a possible rip off when they buy a new processor with 1.1 and can't upgrade someone is going to lose out. I would suspect that the demand for new receivers/processors with 1.3 will be low because of cost and aggrevated consumers. It might not be a big deal, but one cannot predict these things, we consumers are do strange things.

These companies responded to consumer demand to put these things on the market it a hurry, we did it to ourselves, we made them do it.

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#7 of 46 RAF

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Posted August 14 2006 - 02:09 PM

You bring up some very valid points, Seth, and I intend to try to get some answers at CEDIA 2006 next month. Right now it seems wise to keep the video and audio signal paths separate until HDMI 1.3 (or whatever comes next) gets its act together. Since HDMI 1.1 (or maybe even 1.0 - I'm not sure but I bet Rodolfo's articles cover this) there has been no problem using HDMI for video (other than the handshaking issues I mentioned in a previous post). You can even mix and match DVI and HDMI via cables or adapters as long as you are only interested in video. It's when you throw audio into the HDMI mix that you begin to run into problems. Right now you can get most of the benefit of the few HD audio sources using either toslink/coaxial or, better still, 5.1 audio from those sources that offer it. But when TrueHD and some of the other audio formats that will be using HDMI 1.3 hit the market then the situation will be a little more complex.

That's why it's called the "bleeding edge."

Posted Image
RAF
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#8 of 46 Seth=L

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Posted August 14 2006 - 02:19 PM

The development of technology doesn't stop for anyone, it just accelerates. It will do so untill the end of existance. It knows no bounds and cannot be constrained. We might get what we want eventually, but we will never be satisfied.

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#9 of 46 Phil A

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Posted August 15 2006 - 03:27 AM

Let's not forget that HDMI had verison 1.2a as well. The only positive thing for me is that I do not have any HDMI devices at the moment and it makes it easier to sit on the sidelines for a yr. or two more while HDMI gets ready to be a real prime time player.

#10 of 46 RAF

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Posted August 15 2006 - 09:43 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil A
Let's not forget that HDMI had verison 1.2a as well. The only positive thing for me is that I do not have any HDMI devices at the moment and it makes it easier to sit on the sidelines for a yr. or two more while HDMI gets ready to be a real prime time player.

Ah, yes! I had forgotten about the "alphabet soup" intermediaries.

Posted Image

The main point is that HDMI still remains a work in progress so it becomes a difficult task for manufacturers to try to lock in on an evolving standard without building in obsolescence to their equipment. Of course, for some manufacturers, that's a "feature."

Posted Image Posted Image
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#11 of 46 Seth=L

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Posted August 15 2006 - 09:54 AM

We are going to lose out more and more as the developement of technology increases. Home audio and video is becoming more like computers, as soon as you buy it, it's outdated and something better has come to replace it. Of course there are those select few who have a good phono system that will never go out of date (unless digital can top the audio of records)

Buy the way, nice prompt kill of the spammer, he was ridiculous (earn easy money) They are just like the BOSE guys, they never learn.

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#12 of 46 Garrett Lundy

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Posted August 15 2006 - 12:02 PM

Another simple question: When a new product has HDMI v.1.3, how will we know?
"Did you know that more people are murdered at 92 degrees Fahrenheit than any other temperature? I read an article once. Lower temperatures, people are easy-going, over 92 and it's too hot to move, but just 92, people get irritable."

#13 of 46 Doug_

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Posted August 15 2006 - 03:03 PM

I recently upgraded to the Anthem AVM30 and in doing so decided I would sit on the fence for a while on HDMI. Right now I only have one source with digital video (Oppo971 with a DVI out) which is connected directly to my Infocus SP4805 via the M1 connection.

I take comfort in the fact that Anthem is working on an upgrade for the AVM30 to accomodate HDMI, but it just isn't really a big concern to me at this point. I am interested in finding out more about HDMI though as I will make a decision to upgrade the AVM30 within the next year or so.

Can someone explain or list the basic differences between HDMI 1.0, 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3? Just asking for lamens terms here or possibly even what each new generation adds to the mix, not a full-fledged white paper or anything.
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#14 of 46 RAF

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Posted August 15 2006 - 04:35 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug_
I recently upgraded to the Anthem AVM30 and in doing so decided I would sit on the fence for a while on HDMI. Right now I only have one source with digital video (Oppo971 with a DVI out) which is connected directly to my Infocus SP4805 via the M1 connection.

I take comfort in the fact that Anthem is working on an upgrade for the AVM30 to accomodate HDMI, but it just isn't really a big concern to me at this point. I am interested in finding out more about HDMI though as I will make a decision to upgrade the AVM30 within the next year or so.

Can someone explain or list the basic differences between HDMI 1.0, 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3? Just asking for lamens terms here or possibly even what each new generation adds to the mix, not a full-fledged white paper or anything.

If you look at my link in Message #5 of this thread you will find several articles by Rodolfo La Maestra that address the various flavors of HDMI. It's written basically in layman's language and, hopefully, will provide some of the information you desire. Hope this helps.
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#15 of 46 LanceJ

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Posted August 15 2006 - 06:03 PM

Thanks Robert for that detailed answer. BTW: I am able to pull up those HDMI articles you linked to.

As far as the handshaking issue, if it operates so inconsistantly is there a way to deactivate it? Or is it part of HDMI's anti-copying system (i.e. then it definitely cannot be deactivated)? I was wondering because 2-way multi-component control systems have been around for years: JVC's "Compulink", Pioneer's system control (no particular name for it) are very common examples, and even Sherwood has one. Admittedly these are all made for the same brand of gear but still.....

#16 of 46 RAF

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Posted August 16 2006 - 03:08 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by LanceJ
Thanks Robert for that detailed answer. BTW: I am able to pull up those HDMI articles you linked to.

As far as the handshaking issue, if it operates so inconsistantly is there a way to deactivate it? Or is it part of HDMI's anti-copying system (i.e. then it definitely cannot be deactivated)? I was wondering because 2-way multi-component control systems have been around for years: JVC's "Compulink", Pioneer's system control (no particular name for it) are very common examples, and even Sherwood has one. Admittedly these are all made for the same brand of gear but still.....

Good to hear that the HDMI articles by La Maestra are available to all. Rodolfo really keeps up with the evolving HDMI scene and it's a good place to get some concrete answers rather than rumors.

Regarding the HDMI "handshake" parameter, as best as I can tell, this is part of the HDMI system although I'm not sure that anti-piracy is the main reason for it. As such, I doubt that it is something that can be deactivated, although that's my opinion and not based on any first hand information. I do know that different manufacturers appear to use it in different ways. For example the Toshiba XA1 HD-DVD player (and I assume the lower priced model as well) uses what I would call a continuous handshake, i.e it constantly polls to see if it is actively attached to an HDMI device. Whenever the signal is dropped (like when I change from using the HD-DVD HDMI input on my scaler to, say, using the Dish HD-DVR HDMI input on my scaler the Toshiba stops playing when it senses that its signal is no longer being displayed. As far as I know (via reports from others) this is not a common occurence with other DVD players using their HDMI output.

What this all boils down to is that with so many variations regarding how various manufacturers use the HDMI inputs and outputs in their equipment, there are bound to be certain inconsistencies in how the whole system behaves. Whether this will be corrected by the industry agreeing to use the same parameters I don't know. But it certainly makes using HDMI, for all its advantages, require a bit of a learning curve. Sometimes it's "plug and play" and sometimes its "plug and pray."

In my opinion, once HDMI become more common in a lot of equipment the resultant confusion and unpredictable behavior of components connected to each other will probably cause the industry to police itself a bit to make sure that most if not all HDMI equipment is compatable with minimal quirks. I seem to recall that Rodolfo once told me that there is already an organization that has set up a system to "certify" HDMI equipped devices to avoid some of the potential problems I've mentioned here. However, I don't know if this is a mandatory service or optional so I don't know how wide spread this certification will be at the onset.

We live in interesting times. It will eventually sort itself out.
RAF
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#17 of 46 FeisalK

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Posted August 16 2006 - 07:21 PM

Quote:
There is a lot to talk about HDMI for one article, so I will cover the subject in 10 articles

holy cr*p. whatever happened to "simplifying connections"
>
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#18 of 46 JeremyErwin

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Posted August 16 2006 - 07:47 PM

Quote:
HDMI seems to have developed much faster than any digital interface before it. USB, Firewire, SPDIF these were all slow in the making and of course all had a laundry list of issues when they started. HDMI is evolving to fast in my opinion. Why didn't the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD players have DVI as an alternate video out with firewire for audio? They are just running into battle with no armor.

Plug a Sonica USB into a MacOSX machine, and the machine will recognize it as a generic USB dongle. Install the driver, and it becomes a half decent spdif/DAC.
I'm guessing that when you installed your hd-dvd player, you didn't have to download additional drivers into your display.

Sure, when the USB consortium wanted to fix electrical bugs, or improve speed, a new revision was necessary. Most of the HDMI improvements just add new software.

Now, there is a flaw in hdcp key exchange. Legal niceties prevent a fuller discussion.

#19 of 46 LanceJ

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Posted August 17 2006 - 04:24 PM

Quote:
holy cr*p. whatever happened to "simplifying connections"
Ya ever wonder if it's this kind of thing that keeps more and more people from owning an HT system? Posted Image

#20 of 46 MandyHan

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Posted August 18 2006 - 03:38 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Garrett Lundy
Another simple question: When a new product has HDMI v.1.3, how will we know?

I would expect it. After a few more months, they'll probably be able to identify more loopholes in preventing piracy and what not (which is fair). I'm waiting until at least after I get my PS3 to buy HDMI cables for this reason


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