Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tributaries 4K UHDMI Cable Review - Part 3

In Part 1 of this series, we tested the tester to assure that what I assumed about my system was true and it was NOT. Rest assured that now all is now well with my system and, BTW, if you haven't rechecked your own calibration settings in a while you should probably do so.
In Part 2, we saw how a NULL test reveals any differences in photographs and that photographic images of the same images revealed visual differences between HDMI cables. This evidence debunks the debunkers, something most of us already knew but could not prove - no more! I hope that the word finally gets out, that the folks who believe that wire is wire read Part 2, and for anyone to try that experiment for themselves. It is a simple to confirm by even the most casual photographer with a modest camera - but it must be done at night so the ambient light level remains the same. I would love to have a better camera that did not compress the video data so that I could see more differences.
Here in Part 3, I will try to subjectively assign visual differences between these cables. And based on a recommendation from a good friend at EnjoyTheMusic.com, I will refer to these cables by simpler, less confusing names rather than their product numbers. So to refresh your memory, there are four cables under test:
  • UHD HDMI (UHD-010b) I shall call the BASIC cable
  • UHD Slim (UHDS-010b) I shall call the SLIM cable
  • UHD Slim Active (UHDS-020b) I shall call the SLIM-A cable
  • UHD Pro (UHDP-010b) I shall call the PRO cable
The Cables Under Test
The comparisons will all be made against my trusty 1080p SERIES 8 cable. Are you with me? Good. Let's get to it.
Now choosing a video sequence worthy of repetition is a challenge since I must do this all during one setting otherwise my video memory fades and I am unable to make fair comparisons. So for this test, I chose the already well-regarded and well-reviewed movie Avatar 3-D version. I chose to watch the scene where Jake and Neytiri cross a log (scene 11, time: 40:30-41:50) and seeds float down from above. This scene segment is where Jake asks, “What are they?” and Neytiri responds, "Seeds of the Sacred Tree...very pure spirits" (aka the Tree of Souls). The Seeds magically settle on Jake's body and then drift away.
Most mystifying about this particular scene is not only the floating and spinning of these Seeds themselves but also the various camera angles from which this scene is simulated. Even distortions from simulated camera-lens swaps (shorter-focal length and lower f-stop versus longer-focal length and higher f-stop) are faithfully reproduced at the outset of this scene giving you a feeling of looking at a background in the shape of a “curved sphere” rather than the more-frequently-used “flat field.”
With a fresh set of batteries in the glasses and a bookmark (OPPO's AB Replay function) noting the start/end of that scene, I am ready and will make progressive comparisons to two cables. BTW, to assist myself in complete attention to the video, I decided to mute the audio during their review. And to eliminate influences from changes in ambient room lighting, I performed this part of the evaluation at 3:00 AM.
Series 8-to-Basic
This was a tough one. Although I preferred the Basic over the Series 8, I have a difficult time sorting out how to tell you why. These two cables are strikingly similar both revealing full rich colors and fantastic contrast. But the Basic cable edged out the Series 8 in what I may call video fatigue: things just looked a bit more spatial. Specifically, small improvements in detail to the bottom two “arms” of the seed were noticed with the Basic and less defined in the Series 8. And the sense of the size of the forest felt “different” meaning the 3-D perception was a little better. There is not much more I can say other than these two cables are remarkable with only minor differences.
Series 8-to-Slim
Here is where things start to get exciting. With the Slim cable, the blood on Jake’s right upper arm is much better defined and perceived in greater contrast than with the Series 8. Also better defined are the blood vessels in Neytiri’s sclera (the white area of the eyeball) along with the radial lines of the iris (limbus, stroma, and colorette). The animation art of making inanimate things look real by the addition of lighting and shadow can better be appreciated with the Slim cable.

Neytiri’s Eye Detail
Additional detail in both the upper and lower arms of the Seeds is evident with the Slim cable over the Series 8. Background images believed to be blurry in the Series 8 are now clearer with greater-perceived three-dimensionality. The luminous moss on the background logs now hints at some edge detail where with the Series 8 this level of information is completely lost. Jake’s brow wrinkles show depth and convey emotion veiled until now. The dark pigment lines in Naytiri’s face show they are just below the top layer (epidermis) of her skin rather than on its surface.
Series 8-to-Slim-A
OK, now this is getting a little tougher again. The differences noted with the SLIM cable over the Series 8 are also present in the SLIM-A cable. The only additional perceived difference is in thin lines such as the top “arms” of the Seeds at their edges. From inside to tip, the arms widen, then taper to a point, then widen again finally tapering to a single tip. As the seed spins, you can see how thin this line is between the upper and lower parts. Also, the green glowing specs on both Jake’s and Neytiri’s faces are brighter than in the Series 8.

Greater Thin-line Detail
Series 8-to-Pro
It is obvious that the full quality of the Pro cable is beyond the ability of my 1080P playback system to reproduce. The only differences I noticed in addition to the aforementioned improvements were the in Neytiri’s eye lashes. With the Series 8 (or any of the other cables), her eye lashes were blurs or completely unresolved. Some additional contrast was also noticed in the folds of the clothes in Jake’s pants and in Neytiri’s loin cloth. Beyond this, it is difficult to detect any additional improvements with my 1080P system.
Follow-up Observations
After this 3:00 AM evaluation, I forgot to swap the Pro cable out of my system and went back to bed. A few hours later, I transcribed the notes from this review into meaningful and coherent grammar. The entire day passed without watching any television until that evening when my wife put on the latest Survivor episode. I am glad she did.
Because of the limitation in the number of colors used in the Avatar scene, a full appreciation of the Pro cable was overlooked. Once watching other material with the Pro cable, colors – especially the greens – took on a new level of accuracy. When watching the few seconds of introductory scenes to Survivor of the Nicaraguan coast with its already enhanced and over-saturated colors, additional contrast improvements were obviously observed with the Pro cable over the Series 8. There is richness that rivals good plasma television sets (note that I am not comparing LEDs as an equivalent to a plasma screen, just another movement in the “right” direction).

Deliberately Enhanced Green Colors in “Survivor” Episodes
Further observations of other program material show skin tones reproduced more faithfully with greatly enhanced contrast especially in low-light situations. Over the next few days, I really began to appreciate what I was missing with the Series 8 cables. The Pro model outperformed the Series 8 in just about every way you can imagine. It was like buying a new television set where even the commercials became more enjoyable to watch (well, not really “watching” the commercials as much as enjoying the striking improvement in video quality).
For me, this was a revealing adventure in appreciating (and demonstrating) the technological advancements in interconnecting wires. In other words, it is evident that all HDMI cables are not created equal especially given the measured results in Part 2 of this series. HDMI cables indeed are different but which is best? That is for you to decide.
The Series 8 cable was pretty darned good for its time but as it goes with inevitable technological improvements, any of these four new cables from Tributaries would be a welcomed addition to your own system. The level of diminishing returns applies to HDMI cables as it does for any other piece of audio/video gear. Personally, the best bang for the buck came from the SLIM model and additional, more subtle improvements came with the SLIM-A and PRO models. If my video system were 4K-capable, I am certain that even more differences would be noted.
The old saying of “garbage in – garbage out” applies to every link in the audio/video chain. Cables are a “low-hanging fruit” way to improve your existing system. Unlike springing hundreds if not thousands of dollars for a new Blu-ray player, a modest investment in cables can provide more enjoyment at a far more reasonable price point. Determining which cable is best for you is part of the fun of this hobby.
Buying an expensive cable and installing it in your system may or may not give you the results you expect. Much like learning how to listen to music to appreciate its plethora of intricate nuances, you must be similarly skilled in video nuances to appreciate minor changes in color accuracy, clarity, contrast, and dynamic range. Like hearing a floor-standing speaker compared to a sub-compact bookshelf model, some video differences are striking but others can be overlooked.
I do not consider investing in a cable and then finding another more to my liking as a waste of money but rather an investment in education. Without taking the time to personally observe that cable X is visually different from cable Y, how would you know for sure? How would you develop your visual acuity? Reading reviews such as mine can give you an idea where to begin and what to look for but the final call comes down to your system and what you prefer. My wife prefers a lot of bass to “feel” the impact of an explosion in an action/adventure movie; I do not. Being an artist, she is also far pickier about color accuracy than I am. Your taste in video performance is similar where specifications can guide you to a choice but your eyes must weed out the “sheep from the goats.” Know that any of the Tributaries HDMI cables will definitely be in the “sheep” category.
The Tributaries line of audio/video cables are high quality products providing vast improvements to your video enjoyment compared to those supplied with your equipment or available at those “big box” stores. Any of these four reasonably-priced HDMI cables also gives you far more entertainment value than reaching for the esoteric sky. Remember this: When looking to upgrade your system, think of your cables first as a possible weak link in the “source-to-destination chain.” Swap out your cables and then sit back, put on your favorite movie, and enjoy things you may have never noticed before. Any of these four cables are truly “eye candy!”
If your local dealer does not handle these fine Tributaries HDMI cables, you can purchase them directly from the manufacturer in various lengths at Tributaries Cable, 6448 Pinecastle Blvd., Suite 101, Orlando, FL 32809; Phone: (888) 554-2514. See their web site at www.tributariescable.com for information about all of their audio/video cables and any of their other fine products.
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.
My other titles include:






No comments:

Post a Comment

To comment on this blog, you must first be a member. All comments are moderated.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.