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My two dollar HDMI cables

by | Dec 14, 2012 | Blog, MAARTECH

I recently discovered that I can buy a two metre HDMI cable at Dollarama for two dollars. I bought three. They all work fine. Saved about $54, as I’d been paying about $20 for the same cable at Tiger Direct. Could have saved $444, if I’d been inclined to buy $150 HDMI cables.

I also just completed a story for the Star with some recommendations about Boxing Day TV shopping. I closed the story with the recommendation to buy HDMI cables at the dollar store. The last paragraph reads:

“My final tip will save you about $48. If you need HDMI cables, head for the dollar store. HDMI cables carry digital signals, so they either work or they don’t. I paid $2. for a two-meter cable. Paying more will not get you a better quality image.”

And as I wrote that I prepared myself for a backlash from readers who have likely spent much more on HDMI cables and are anxious to justify their belief that their $60 or $150 cables are better. At first I thought I’d add some rationale for my recommendation to the story, maybe links to online references, but decided to keep my word count down.

So what’s my reply when a reader sends me an email? Here’s a draft for your review:

Dear Reader
Thanks so much for the kind words. I appreciate your taking the time to respond to my article. I love hearing from readers, as it keeps me in touch with what the real issues and concerns are. I understand your passion for the cables you’ve purchased, but I don’t understand the rationale.

So first, I’d suggest you try the dollar store cable. At two bucks, it’s not a big investment. I understand that you won’t be able to put two identically configured sets side-by-side to make a direct comparison, so you’ll be watching something, switching cables and watching it again. I don’t imagine that you will see a difference, but it’s possible that your perceptions will reveal some minor differences between the two. In that case, I suggest you buy the most expensive cables you can find.

But here’s the thing. An HDMI cable carries a digital signal. It consists of bits. Unlike the infinite range of analog signals, a digital signal either works or it doesn’t. It’s not like speaker wire or audio interconnect cables.

Monoprice, the recommended online vendor for inexpensive cables, offers HDMI cables at low prices. Here’s their explanation of why their cables are the same as more expensive ones. It’s an excellent technical article covering all the issues.

You don’t have to take their word for it. Try a Google search for “HDMI cable quality”. You find links like:

The results of PC World’s tests. (It’s number 4 on their list of myths)

PC Magazine’s Lab Tests


The Absolute Proof – very funny British version at Expert Reviews

I could post more links, but you get the idea.

Let me also say that I’m not here to debunk analog issues – I’ve heard the subjective, perceptual differences between turntable cartridges, speakers, DACs, even amplifiers. That’s not my dispute. HDMI cables are.

If you have alternate information, I’d love to read it. However, please make sure it’s not from a company that sells expensive HDMI cables, their public/media relations teams, or publications that rely on advertising from those companies.

So … any thoughts or suggestions?

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