Time was when TV, set-top box and other Audio Visual (AV) equipment were confined to the same piece of furniture. We now live in an era which we have a lot of lightweight setups hanging on walls while some others are spread feet apart on the floor.
A clean installation of the setups demands that there should be a bit of in-wall and underfloor wirings that could be feet apart. In a world which HDMI cables are important components for signal transmission between AV equipment, does the length of an HDMI cable affect audio and video quality? The answer is YES!
Why The Length of HDMI Cables Matter
Did you know that most manufacturers generally don’t recommend cables that are more than 20 feet long? More so, the existence of options for preserving signal quality when cable lengths are extended (which we are going to discuss here) speaks volume of the fact that HDMI cables length matter!
As a rule of thumb, the shorter a cable is, the less signal changes as it travels. In other words, signal degradation occurs more in longer cables due to the time of travel. Thus, the shorter a cable is, the less noticeable the degradation. This begs the question of what cable length is neither too long nor too short?
What Is the Standard or Optimal Length for HDMI Cables?
To start with, it is important to note that HDMI cables have no limits. The cable will keep working no matter how long it is. In fact, manufacturers can create a cable that is longer than 50 feet. But we sure know that the drop in signal quality on the other end wouldn’t go unnoticed by any user who chose to use such useless cable.
The Good news is manufacturers know just the max optimal length of HDMI cable. The consensus among them on the subject matter is that 20 feet is the maximum length of HDMI cable that can retain the quality of audio and video. As such, you too should think of 20 feet as the max optimal length. But what is the fate of users who need more than 20 feet of cable length but still don’t want to ruin their own viewing and listening experience?
How to Improve Signal Quality When Using Long HDMI Cables
So, we know HDMI cables that are over 20 feet are bad especially when used as stand-alone. If you need such long cable and quality is an issue then consider using some powered solutions. They are simply HDMI kits that retain signal quality by boosting it or converting it to another format entirely. Prominent among converters is the balun kit. There are also options of going fully wireless or cutting the cable out altogether. Not to worry, we’d be walking you through the aforestated options beginning with HDMI Balun Kits.
HDMI Balun Kits – Easy Way to Extend the Length of HDMI Cables Without Loss
An HDMI balun kit is a category of HDMI cable extender. What it does is to convert HDMI signal in ways that it becomes adaptable to flow via a CAT 5 cable that has no length limitation. When the signal reaches the other end of the CAT 5 cable it gets converted back to HDMI.
Since CAT 5 cables have no length restriction you can get up to a “maximum” length of 100 meters or 328 feet. Thus, you have all to gain from using an HDMI balun kit in terms of length coverage but ensure that you don’t settle for a cheap one as you could end up running into what you’re avoiding from using an extremely long HDMI cable.
Wireless HDMI Kits – Another Option Worth Considering for HDMI Cable Length Issues
If you don’t fancy the idea of having cables around then the wireless HDMI kit should come handy. However, this option does have its downsides. To begin with what should be the most worrisome concern, it is super expensive if you need to send 4k video! However, it is quite accomodating if you want it for a 1080p setup. Other limitations which shouldn’t come off as surprising are lapses in refresh rate and lag. As such it wouldn’t be your best option for gaming.
Best HDMI Cables to Use for Long Distance Runs
For many who just want to use just long cables without going through the trouble of trying out wireless HDMI Kits and converter units, there are quality cables which deliver clear signals. Yes, the prices aren’t cheap but they are not bank-breaking as most of them fall under $100. A good example is the BJC Series-FE Bonded-Pair HDMI Cable (on Amazon) which sports a 25-foot length for around $75. We must add that you ought to patronize sellers who indicate that their cable is “Certified (Category 1)”.
If you have concerns that the quality of the BJC series might be more than you really need then there is no harm in settling for its cheaper alternative like this BlueRigger High-Speed HDMI Cable (on Amazon). It gives 50 feet of length for just $28. You can even go ahead to order both to test them side by side. If you don’t spot a difference then return the expensive one back.
More Notes on What You Should Look Out For When Buying HDMI Cables
You must have noticed that the description of cables by sellers on Amazon and any other e-commerce sites are not technical. They are rather ‘buzzwording’ like “high speed”, “advanced”, “gold connectors” or “braided cords”; which sellers chose to employ in trying and make their product stand out.
Neither should you fall for the “HD” label which manufacturers often use because all HDMI cables are HD…it’s in their name! you should rather lookout for “4k” tags, (if that’s what you need). In addition, any cable that spots “shielded” on its label should be worth your consideration. Shielded cables perform better than their unshielded ‘counterparts’. Don’t get confused, all cables are technically shielded. The difference is that some manufacturers choose to add extra shielding.
Endnote: Does the HDMI quality even matter?
HDMI cable quality should not be a thing of concern for users who only want a simple HDMI cable hookup. It is a known fact that the signal will be degraded but it won’t be a big deal if you’re streaming from Netflix or running a 720p or 1080p video.
However, if you plan using the HDMI cable for a 4k projector then it is really important that you get the full measure of video quality that can get to it. In a nutshell, the answer to whether HDMI quality matter lies in how you plan to use your system. Above all, remember that there are expensive options that can guarantee you a higher quality. Before committing to any of them, do well to pause and ask yourself whether you really need it.