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Next Gen, HDMI 1.3 Receivers Slow To Market � Do You Really Need Them? Print E-mail
Friday, 18 April 2008
ImageWith a few exceptions, the latest generation of AV receivers, complete with HDMI 1.3 switching, have been slow to reach the market. First to store shelves were the Onkyo and Integra products (both receivers and AV preamps) who bucked the traditional chip makers and went with a configuration of three Texas Instruments audio DSP engines for the needed processing. While there are reported problems with lip sync issues by some users, this has been the one and only HDMI 1.3 solution on the market for some time now. A number of AVRev.com’s editorial staff have upgraded from far more expensive AV preamps to the Integra for its switching power for systems running multiple HD sources. One notable receiver manufacturer tells AVRev.com that they were promised “production quantities” of the most popular Cirrus Logic chips in April of 2007 but didn’t receive them until March of 2008. The all-important firmware was reportedly “99 percent done” which can easily be translated into, "not-ready-for-prime-time at this date". There are advantages to the Cirrus chipsets, as well as those from Analog Devices, as they can do in one chip what others need multiple processors to complete. Among many of those benefits, includes lower cost to the consumer and more ease of use.

Consumers want HDMI 1.3 and explain it with the salience of Nigel Tufnell from Spinal Tap explaining his Marshall Amp is better because “this one goes to 11”. HDMI 1.3 can deliver native HD audio sources such as DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD as bitstream. However, most if not all receivers convert that signal to PCM as soon as it gets into the receiver no matter if it comes via HDMI cable or even analog cable. Home theater enthusiasts will not be surprised to find that the analog cable is the most reliable and the difference is inaudible between the two formats as the only difference is whether your Blu-ray player decodes the audio to PCM or your preamp/receiver does the task. While the more-is-better war isn’t ever going to be won, many insiders suggest that HDMI 1.2 is all you would ever need for today’s best sounding audio and video. The downside of going analog versus an HDMI connection is that it likely bypasses cool and important features like bass management and room correction, and thus HDMI is the preferred way to fly, despite the associated headaches that can come with this format.

Industry analysts suggest that while more and more receivers will hit store shelves in the coming months, it will be August of 2008 before a full complement of “next gen receivers” will be available for purchase. The question today is: what is the advantage of waiting when HDMI 1.2 does everything you need to be on the cutting edge of both audio and video playback technology?

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