1. What’s new at Tributaries?
At CEDIA 2007, we introduced 30 new products. So, when you ask whatÂ¹s new, I could spend a lot of time describing all our new products. However, I will just hit the high points. The changes are in three main categories; new cable names and constructions, HDMI electronics and the introduction of an AC Power Strip.
Concerning the cables, we have renamed our product lines from Alpha, Delta, Direct and Silver Series to Series 3, 5, 7 and 9. The new designations provide an easier understanding of the hierarchy. The Series 7 and Series 9 cables have all been redesigned, inside and out, improving the cableÂ¹s overall performance and cosmetics. Our Series 7 HDMI cables and Series 9 HDMI, composite and component video cables are now manufactured using a new construction called skin-foam-skin. This construction ensures a high level of consistency in maintaining the cableÂ¹s impedance, 75 ohm for video and 100 ohm for HDMI. For our audio cables, the construction of both the Series 7 and Series 9 now uses twisted pair technology with the signal conductor being solid-core and the return conductor stranded. The Series 9 cableÂ¹s return conductor is silver-plated.
On both series, the shield is not soldered on the receiving end providing a pseudo-balanced arrangement. Series 9 composite and component video cables center conductors are 2.5% silver-plated while the Series 7 cables are 1.25% silver-plated. For manufacturing consistency, the Series 9 and Series 7 HDMI connector bodies are die-cast. The cable jackets used are now Â½ metal and Â½ fabric, woven to form an attractive finish for these high performance products.
2. Are all HDMI cables basically the same?
Absolutely not! The HDMI digital technology is very unforgiving when used with poorly designed electronics or cables. This technology relies heavily on 4 low capacitance twisted-pair cables that have the same length for each pair from each connector contact on one end of the cable to each corresponding contact on the other end of the cable to a tolerance of about 20/1000″. If the red, green and blue signals donÂ¹t arrive at the same time, the 4th pair carrying the “clock” signal canÂ¹t sync the RGB signals resulting in a failure.
How many companies state the AWG (American Wire Gauge) of their HDMI cables? Tributaries is one of the few that specify the AWG very clearly on the packaging. This is one of the most important specs especially when using cables over 3 meters. Some of the “cheap cables” being sold over the internet and in some big box stores are 30AWG or less. When used, they may produce a picture, however upon close examination “sparkles” on-screen will become evident.
The integrity of the connector is another issue for HDMI cables. For many of the less expensive cables, the shielding in the connector and/or the cable is poorly done or non-existent allowing for noise intrusion. For long HDMI cables, we recommend 26AWG to 15 meters and 23AWG to 20 meters. The use of an outboard extender is excellent performance insurance for these long-run cables.
3. What’s the difference in using HDMI or component video?
Presently, if the customer is using 1080i or below, component video in most cases will be nearly identical to HDMI. This of course, is all dependent on the D to A in the source component and the A to D convertors in the display. A $39 DVD player may use a very inexpensive D to A convertor that does a poor job resulting in a low resolution signal. For 1080p, there is no standard yet from CEA for 1080p over component video. My understanding is that in Europe, component video from satellite is limited to 480p; 1080i requires HDMI. There has been discussion in the USA about down-converting all component video signals to 480p or 480i. This may occur because Hollywood fears that the component signal at 1080p can be recorded and therefore piracy of protected content is possible.
4. Is there a big difference in quality of HDMI cables on the market today?
Yes. See #2.
5. Tell us about your new line of HDMI electronics.
In the HDMI electronics category we have recently introduced a 4×1 HDMI 1.3 Switcher w/ enhancement (HX410), a 4×1 HDMI 1.3 + Digital Audio Switcher w/enhancement (HX410A). Both provide remote control using front panel buttons, IR or RS232. They can extend a 1080p signal to 25 meters when 26AWG HDMI cable is used. The HM420 was also introduced. This unit is an HDMI 1.2 Matrix Switcher accepting 4 HDMI inputs any of which can be directed to either of 2 HDMI outputs. Remote control is accomplished using front panel buttons, IR or RS232. The HC100 is an HDMI 1.2 signal convertor that accepts a component video input and converts it to an HDMI output. The HXC5 is an HDMI over Cat5 solution requiring 2 Cat 5/5E/6 cables. The system includes a powered transmitter and receiver, The HXC5 is HDMI 1.2 certified and will transmit 1080p on runs up to 50 meters
6. How far can an HDMI cable be before the quality of the signal drops out of acceptable range?
That depends upon the AWG and the quality of construction of the cable. For Tributaries products, which are all 1.3 certified, it is the following for 1080p performance:
* Series 3 Â 3 meter;
* Series 5 Â 6 meter;
* Series 7 Â 12 meter and
* Series 9 Â 15 meter (Series 9 will be 20 meter by Jan 1, 2008).
By the way, drop out is definitely a difficulty. But a less recognized problem with too long or poorly made HDMI cables is “sparkles” on-screen. This occurs in the black area of the picture and looks like firefly in the night.
7. Do you think HDMI is going to be THE STANDARD solution for many years to come or are improvements still to come?
ThatÂ¹s a good question. I believe it will continue to be the standard for at least the next 2 years. However, there are other technologies on the horizon that are open market, meaning they donÂ¹t require a licensing fee or agreements, and they have many of the same capabilities as HDMI. .
8. Tell us about your new line of powers strips and power conditioners.
We presently have a TX500 Power Manager that sells for $750 and is made in the USA, 15A 1800 Watt capacity, UL listed, has 10 outlets, programming for each outlet pair, 2pr of RF and 2 telco surge protected I/Os, a triggering system and uses Silicon Avalanche Diodes in place of the standard MOVs. Tributaries new T10 AC Power Strip has created a lot of excitement. This unit has 10 outlets, 5 of which rotate 90 degrees. This is a huge advantage when separate power supplies (wall-warts) are used. The T10 has 7 UL listings and a “Protected” LED that warns if the surge protection is inoperable and a 2nd LED for “Grounded” to alert the customer to a improperly wired outlet. The T10 also has RF and Telco surge protection.
9. Has power conditioning become as widely adopted as it should be or is there reluctance to spend $ on it?
I believe it is becoming more popular especially by the custom installation market. So many of the products used today in home theater systems use microprocessors. These devices are very susceptible to failure due to an overvoltage. Power conditioning also can reduce the amount of noise present on the AC home wiring which can wreak havoc with a microprocessor controlled device. It all comes down to the ability and willingness of the salesperson to present the product to the customer and show them the benefits that a power conditioner can provide to the proper long-term operation of a home A/V system.