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Question: Monster Power & Cables

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#1 of 6 OFFLINE   AntonyRossi



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Posted November 24 2010 - 10:07 AM

I'm helping my dad with his next Home Theater purchase and I want to know what people recommend when buying from Monster Power. The last home theater he bought was in 2003 (just around the time when Steve Bartman caught the foul ball which probably cost the Cubs the National Championship League Series). Back then along with our HDTV we bought a Monster Power box and several high-end cables from Monster Cable including fiber optic cables and THX cables. Anyway my dad is buying a new 55" Samsung LED HDTV and I need advice on the Monster Power box and cables to purchase. I'm uninformed about what we should be buying and I want your recommendations. I know for certain that we're getting a good price because of my dad's store membership. He's already buying a HDTV and a Blu-Ray player w/ Internet capability (built-in Wifi). We have an Ethernet port which we may or may not use as well as our already existing AT&T U-Verse box. What Monster Power box do you recommend and what high-quality cables should we be looking for? EDIT: He also plans to purchase a surround sound system sometime in the future. Costs aren't a huge deal because of his membership.

#2 of 6 OFFLINE   Robert_J


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Posted November 24 2010 - 10:29 AM

We don't recommend any Monster products.  Cables from Monoprice. Any reason you need a power conditioner?  Are you not getting a 60hz sine wave from the power company?

#3 of 6 OFFLINE   AntonyRossi



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Posted November 24 2010 - 10:38 AM

Well, like I said, the last home theater purchase was over 7 years ago. I'm somewhat uninformed about home theater systems today. The Monster Power box/surge-protector was definitely more necessary last time because the television was a DLP Projector. Some of the Monster products have some Green mode that shuts off the television automatically if its in stand-by, but that seems so unnecessary since we don't leave the TV on and because its an LED which is already more energy efficient. Anyway, I don't know, give me your recommendations. Also we're getting really good deals on Monster products because of his store membership so if your concern about Monster products is their price, well, then that wouldn't be an issue.

#4 of 6 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted November 24 2010 - 11:12 AM

Check out monoprice.com for cables. Even with a "deal" on monster, I'll bet that monoprice is cheaper.

#5 of 6 OFFLINE   AntonyRossi



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Posted November 24 2010 - 12:32 PM

Ok, I'll check monoprice, but could we get back to the Monster Power box/surge-protector? Also, apparently HDMI is lossless, so any HDMI cable has the same quality. However, what's the difference between HDMI 1.4 and previous versions? Also HDMI cables have transfer speeds ranging from ~10.9 Gbps to ~21 Gbps; how important is it?

#6 of 6 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted November 24 2010 - 02:10 PM

Originally Posted by AntonyRossi 

Ok, I'll check monoprice, but could we get back to the Monster Power box/surge-protector?

Also, apparently HDMI is lossless, so any HDMI cable has the same quality. However, what's the difference between HDMI 1.4 and previous versions? Also HDMI cables have transfer speeds ranging from ~10.9 Gbps to ~21 Gbps; how important is it?

I think power filtering is overrated unless you have a lot of brownouts, but a high quality surge protector is a good thing.  Personally I prefer Panamax/Furman, but if you get great deals on Monster Power products, getting one of their power bars for surge purposes wouldn't be a bad idea.

HDMI 1.4 is the current version of the HDMI spec.  It adds the ability for 3D, Ethernet and an audio return channel.  Monster is the only one using speed ratings.  A lot of members swear by monoprice, I swear by http://Bluejeanscable.com Their prices are very competitive with monoprice, but I like the fact that you can call and talk to the owner, and they know a lot about cable.  They have a great section on their site that discusses HDMI in depth including this bit about speed rating:

  The one set of "speed-ratings" we know of, promoted by a prominent rebrander/reseller of Chinese-made HDMI cables found in almost every big-box retail store, fails these most basic standards.

First, the vendor does not say what each "speed" tier in the ratings means. A bitrate is given, and that's it. But what does that mean? What standard does the cable have to meet at that bitrate to earn the rating? Without that information, it's impossible to know what the meaning of the rating is, and it's impossible to take a sample of this vendor's product and test it against the standard.

Second, and quite telling: the vendor does not tie these speed ratings to length. Rather, in each case a particular model is tied to a particular speed rating, regardless of length. On the vendor's site, the highest-rated cable model is advertised with the same rating at lengths ranging from one meter to 75 feet. This is a logical impossibility, in a world where the losses in any cable are tightly tied to its length. The answer to how this can be is buried in a footnote, which reads:

    "Gbps results are based on testing of 2-meter cable lengths under unequalized, worst case conditions. Actual Gbps rates may vary."1

So the rating has no relation to length; if it has any meaning, it has a meaning only at a length of 2 meters (we cannot, of course, know what that meaning is, because the testing criteria are not published), and this tells us nothing about cable performance at other lengths. All we know is that the cable will perform better at shorter, and worse at longer, distances (which, of course, is what we know about ANY cable, by the nature of cable).

The representations tied to the rating get worse than this, though. In addition to the "speed rating" claims, this vendor implies that certain resolutions, refresh rates and features are unavailable on the "lower-speed" cables, by use of little tags which label cables as being for "60 Hz" or "120 Hz" displays (or with no tag, which presumably is intended to suggest no support for 60 Hz refresh rates); similar tags which reference either 8-bit color or 12-bit color; and tags referencing x.v.color and surround sound, which are attached only to the most expensive lines of cable. Let's look at these issues.

First, one thing needs to be clear: ALL HDMI cables, regardless of spec version or origin, have the same pinout and basic physical structure. What this means is that all HDMI cables are, at least in terms of being correctly wired and having all necessary parts, compatible with all HDMI features and protocols. There is no basic difference between a cable for 60 Hz or 30 Hz; no difference between a cable for RGB, Y/Pb/Pr, or x.v.color colorspace; no difference between a cable for 8-bit color and a cable for 12-bit or 16-bit color.

The type of signal being carried from device to device is relevant to the cable only in one sense: bitrate. Anything which affects bitrate bears on the cable's suitability for the application, because cables built to tighter tolerances will perform better2 at higher bitrates and longer lengths than cables which are poorly built; anything which does not affect bitrate does not affect the choice of cable. So, let's go through these items:

  • 60 Hz versus 120 Hz refresh rates: This is absolutely not a cable issue. The relevant refresh rate is the frame rate of the signal going through the cable, not the display's internal refresh rate. No home theater devices now on the market support 120 frame-per-second video through the HDMI interface; the highest frame rate is 60, for 1080p/60 and 720p/60 video sources. To say that one cable is suitable for a display with a 60 Hz refresh rate while another is suitable for a 120 Hz refresh rate is utter nonsense, because in both cases the signal running through the cable will be running at the same bitrate.
  • x.v.color (xvYCC), RGB, Y/Pb/Pr: Here again, this is absolutely not a cable issue. The choice of colorspace has nothing to do with bitrate. If you have two devices and a cable running RGB-colorspace HDMI signals, and you switch to xvYCC-colorspace under HDMI 1.3, the cable will handle that colorspace exactly as well as it handled the RGB. To say that one cable is suitable for one colorspace while another is suited for a different colorspace is hogwash. The cable does not know what the bits it carries mean, and the choice of colorspace does not affect bitrate.
  • 8-bit, 12-bit, 16-bit color: This is a true bitrate issue. The "speed" of the data, given a fixed resolution and frame rate, is proportional to the color depth in bits, so 16-bit color runs twice as fast as 8-bit color. As we have noted, for any given cable design, the higher the bitrate, the shorter the run of cable that will pass signal quality testing. But at two meters--the ONLY length for which this vendor asserts that the bitrates have been tested--almost any cable, including most very cheap cables, will pass all HDMI-supported bitrates just fine. And, of course, one cannot even determine the bitrate from the color depth alone; it is also necessary to know the resolution and frame rate. A cable which will handle 1080p at 8-bit color will handle 1080i at 16-bit color; we know this because the bitrate in these two cases is exactly the same. The cable does not know what the color depth is; the only thing which has a bearing on the cable's performance attributes is the total bitrate, regardless of which of the many possible combinations of color depth, resolution and frame rate that bitrate represents.
  • In sum, this notion of "speed-rating" cables, as it is being sold, belongs in the realm of sales pitch, not engineering.

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