This is an excellent forum - happy to join in. Sorry for the long response, but I have owned the Cary Cinema 11a for years and have learned a lot about the challenges of HDMI and the pros and cons of the Cary.
FYI, the primary components in my HT and 2 channel system consist of (3) Merlin TSM-mmm's for L, C, R, (1) REL Stentor III Subwoofer, (2) Morel Soundspots (Merlins use Morel drivers), (2) BEL 1001 MK V in mono for L & R, (1) BEL 1001 MK II in mono for C, (1) BEL MK II in stereo for SR & SL, Cary Cinema 11a, Oppo BDP 105, HK T65C Turntable, Grado Starement Sonata Cartridge, Sutherland PhD Phono, and most important to this forum, the new Genie DVR from DirecTV (HR 34?).
The most surprising thing I recently learned is that the HDMI handshake is just that - it requires both components to integrate well together. The Cinema 11a never had any pops with DirecTV's HR22, but always popped after I rewinded or fast-forwarded the HR24 - very frustrating!
I was do for a free upgrade from DTV and got their excellent Genie HR34 receiver (5 tuners, PIP, and 1TB) and connected it to the system in same way as the HR22 and HR24, but there are no pops at all. I believe this is the reason that some owners of Cinema 11a and 12's have pops with HDMI and some do not - it depends on the component connected to the Cary.
Large Japanese companies spend a LOT of time correcting handshake issues, but I would prefer to use DirecTVs best DVR (free upgrade) and get the SQ of the Cary. Once I confirmed that there were no pops, I connected my DVR's HDMI output to the Oppo's input, so I am watching TV via the Oppo's video section and using their DAC to output 7.1 to the Cary. I am aldo using its' balanced outputs to the Cary, as well.
The other point I wanted to discuss is the DAC in the 11a - Cary did not use the same HQ DAC design in their Cinema 11a as their high end SACD and CD players. Believe it or not, but the Oppo's have an outstanding transport, and the Oppo 95 and 105 have better sounding DACs than thd Cinema 11a.
Cary must have realized this, so the main improvements in the Cinema 12 were in the DAC section. They also added more HDMI inputs which are now HDMI 1.4a, but according to Cary, the primary improvement in the Cinema 12 was in the digital section but the analog section is identical to the 11a.