AVS Forum Special Member
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Bethesda, MD USA
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Truth be told distributing HDMI is a clusterf--- of major proportion. Honestly, it's probably worth avoid, for now.
One big reason is how handshaking is determined. The source wants to know the audio format to send the target device. As in, can the output device handle just plain 2-channel stereo or higher-end formats? Well, when you've got multiple target devices a lot of switchers dumb the source down to the least-common denominator. Doesn't matter if you've got 3 devices that can handle 5.1 (or better) it's the low-end 2-channel TV hanging off one output that causes the source to be told to dumb down to just 2-channel audio. Making a switch that's capable of blocking this isn't easy. In theory it would be possible to have the switch detect whether the target device actually needs the signal, but not all TVs properly tell the source whether they're actually USING the HDMI input, most just signal that they're turned on. So the switch can't know whether or not the TV actually 'needs' the source or not, just that it's active. The solution, of course, is to have a receiver at each and every location, and all of them have to be capable of the highest audio quality you expect to need. So all of your TVs, everywhere, have to have the highest your theater room supports. Trouble is not all the rooms will even have room for a receiver!
I don't know for certain, but I believe HDMI only supports one audio bitstream on the wire at a given time. If it supported both 2-channel and 'something else' then things would be less of a mess. But then you'd be dependent on the sources being capable of providing both bitstreams. I could see where many wouldn't both with this. It'd be trivial for them to do so, but cost-cutting trips up a lot of simple things...
And this has nothing to do with the HDCP copy-protection, which is it's own additional clusterf----. There things just get even worse.
So for rooms that' don't "need" what HDMI might offer you'd probably be better served sending them a component signal instead. Then just reserve the HDMI output from your sources for the theater room(s). But here you run into trouble making sure to get source devices that can send both component AND HDMI. This is becoming rarer as source vendors are moving to HDMI-only outputs. Get your component output Blu-ray players NOW before they cease to exist.
My plan is to wire each TV location with everything. Two RG6 for cable (or whatever), then a 5-conductor mini-coax for component and then 3 CAT6 (one for ethernet, the other two for HDMI). This way I can feed the set with whatever is best suited for the device AND for the sources.