The wonders of HDMI

Recently, we embarked upon an update of our 'media center' / 'home theater' setup. Our projector had reached the end of its 2000 hour bulb life, and since it was a cheap projector to start, a replacement bulb would've cost nearly as much as the projector itself did a couple of years ago. Also, it's become extremely unreliable - 9 times out of 10, pressing the power button results in a brief flash of light from the bulb, followed by nothing. Plus, we promised ourselves that when the bulb ran out, we'd buy an HD projector, as they ought to be affordable by then.

Well, that time has come, and we've done the upgrade. Since we were upgrading to HD, it seemed necessary to get an AV receiver that supports HDMI to replace our 2-channel amplifier and let us switch audio and video at the same time. And if we have that, we may as well get a blu-ray player, too - after all, they're pretty cheap now.

Here's our new setup:

Going by the letters, we have:

  1. Our HTPC media box (Existing)
  2. Netgear XAVB1004 powerline networking switch (Existing)
  3. Philips BD3000/05 Blu-ray player (New)
  4. Yamaha RX-V367 A/V Receiver (New)
  5. XBox 360 (Existing)
  6. Benq W1000 1080p HD Projector (New)

The point of all this, though, is not just to show off our new gear; it's because I wanted to write about how impressed I am by HDMI. Not the Copy-Prevention BS it supports, but rather the mere fact of combining, for the first time since SCART, both audio and video in a single cable, and doing it right.

Instead of anywhere from 1 to 4 wires for video, and another 2 to 6 wires for audio, a single connector does it all, digitally, and in a manner that is forward compatible enough to continue to work for the forseeable future. Wiring up all this new gear was a pleasure, and for the first time ever, we have a setup that isn't an embarrassing mess of spaghetti wiring. Here's the back of the unit:

Granted, it's not quite as tidy as some, but I'm pretty happy with it. The four HDMI cables you can see emerging from the AV switch (D) consist of all the connections I need - one to each of the AV devices we use, and one output one to the projector. Ethernet connections from the switch to those same three devices occupy most of the rest of the clutter, as well as power cables, which are all neatly trunked out-of-frame on the left. Our dining table, pictured in the background, is not nearly as neat!

Incidentally, if you're planning on setting up audio out over HDMI in linux, this page is very much your friend. Specifically, one single sentence under "Side Notes":

On some systems with e.g. an HDA Intel sound card, HDMI sound transmission only works if the video is also transmitted

This one had me troubleshooting, debugging, and scratching my head for a good couple of hours. All the obvious things - drivers, kernels, unmuting the audio output - are mentioned all over the web, but only there did anyone think to mention that, oh, by the way, this AV connector only does A if it's also doing V. Doh.


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