Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tributaries 4K UHDMI Cable Review - Part 1

I have been very busy voicing my system over the past eight months and have not had a lot of time to dedicate to this blog. But that is changing now that the voicing is pretty much done (is anything like this ever REALLY done?). Anyway, it is safe to say that I am once again fairly happy about the sound emanating from my system, something I could not say as recently as last week. But "happy" is a relative term and those of us cursed/blessed with golden ears know that happiness is a moving target (solve one problem, uncover another). And so now that the rig is ready, on to the show!

My experience with HDMI cables after obtaining my Samsung F8000 65" 1080p HDTV as noted earlier in my blog, it became clear to me (pun intended) that as it is with audio cables, video cables can or cannot be properly designed and produced. For those of you who started out in high-end video - like me - and assumed that the video band did not suffer from the same issues the audio band did, we were both greatly surprised when swapping out these seemingly inert pieces of wire. But the truth of the matter is that - as there are audible differences in audio cables - there are visual differences in HDMI cables.

One of the things that drove me crazy about the Monster Cables HDMI I started out with were their huge favoring of the color red. Even their "then top-of-the-line model" was woefully inadequate at preventing simple issues like blooming, bleeding, and other nastiness in what should be distinct and individual color characteristics. Remember folks, HDMI is a digital signal within this cable and supposed to be totally immune from the effects encountered by their analog signals predecessors. Apparently, NOT!

It is unfortunate that theory and reality rarely coincide; if you doubt my words, ask/observe any professional weather forecaster. There are so many variables when creating mathematical models that it is difficult to account for them all in a single model. It is the variables (or assumptions) that are not accounted for that can create errors (i.e., what goes in is not the same as what comes out). Even when many of these errors or assumptions are addressed, there are additional complications beyond the theoretical design created during the manufacturing process (cold solder joints, ground loops, poor or broken shielding, etc.). In other words, a really good design can be totally destroyed by sloppy manufacturing or cheap parts. From the consumer's perspective, sloppy manufacturing is usually perceived as a non-functioning piece of gear but in cables and interconnects it can show up as audible or visual anomalies.

And while we are on the topic of assumptions, I decided to retest the video section of my rig and yes, I found other errors built-into the television receiver itself that I assumed I had already resolved. These errors were introduced at some point over the past year in one of the software upgrades from Samsung and this error escaped my attention until now. You can retest your own display with a standard 1080p test image or a 4K test image (NOTE: these are high-quality PNG-format pictures, not videos) to assure that all is well with your own rig and what I like about the 1080p image in particular is that it cures about 90% of problems for 1080p-format TVs without having to resort to hiring a calibration technician. So with my video system confirmed to be operating properly (test the tester), I could now proceed with the evaluation.

One last note of change in my system that I wish to point out: I moved all of the equipment 7" further away from the front wall so that cable swaps would be easier to perform. Moving the TV and equipment into the room also pushed my speakers this same distance into the room. This minor repositioning had major effects: it opened up the soundstage (L/R size) and greatly increased its depth. (See also the Rule of Thirds.)

In Part 2 of this review, I will cover another breed of HDMI cable whose design addresses issues with higher frequencies required in the 4K video format manufactured by Tributaries. But for now, I highly recommend that you re-check/tweak/re-tweak your own TV with either a 1080p test image or a 4K test image and you can eliminate another assumption that could lead to your own built-in errors.
And without giving away the show, in Part 2 of this review I prove that there is a measurable visual difference between HDMI cables and show you how you can do this same proof yourself.

Yours for higher fidelity,

Philip Rastocny

I do not use ads in this blog to help support my efforts. If you like what you are reading, please remember to reciprocate by purchasing one of my eBooks or through a PayPal donation, My newest title is called Where, oh Where did the Star of Bethlehem Go? It’s an astronomer’s look at what this celestial object may have been, who the "Wise Men" were, and where they came from. Written in an investigative journalism style (like that of the Discovery Channel), it targets one star that has never been considered before and builds a solid case for its candidacy.

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