Sound Advice: Try switch box for Blu-ray on older HDTV

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 28, 2011 - 3:36 PM

Also: Cheap HDMI cables are just fine.

Q I have an older Marantz projection HDTV and a Denon surround receiver. I have tried to add a Blu-ray player to my system but have not been able to get a picture. Because the TV does not have HDMI inputs, I'm using component (red, green, blue) video cables. I have no problem with my regular DVD player or with my HD DVR cable box, which are connected in a similar manner. I have tried two Blu-ray players. In each case, I get a scrambled image on the screen.

A Some older HDTVs have only one set of component inputs that work with HDTV signals. The other component inputs work only with progressive-scan DVD players or Wii game consoles, which do not deliver a high-definition signal.

Disconnect the HD DVR from the TV and connect the Blu-ray component outputs directly to the same input. I am confident that you will now see a high-def picture with no scrambling. Once you have confirmed that it will work, use your receiver to switch the video signals or get a passive switch box, which can be purchased online or in stores for less than $35. It has several inputs for component video with audio and one output to the TV. Digital audio connections will stay connected directly to the receiver, as they are now.

Your question brings up an important reminder for readers with older HDTVs that lack HDMI inputs: The "analog sunset" has begun. New Blu-ray players will no longer have high-def component outputs, only HDMI outputs. If you want to get a Blu-ray player to use with your older HDTV, the time to buy is now, before players with component outputs are all gone.

All Blu-ray players have HDMI, so you can use the component outputs with your current TV and the HDMI output with your future one, so the player will be usable indefinitely.

Cheap HDMI cable fine

Q Is there a way to tell whether one HDMI cable is better than another? Is the audio-video quality degraded significantly and perceptibly with a cheap HDMI cable? The inexpensive cables I've gotten all seem to work fine, but since I'm new to high-def video, I am curious if I am missing out on some of the image or audio quality and don't even know it.

A HDMI is digital. It either works, or it doesn't.

Think of HDMI like a USB cable going from your computer to your printer. Your inkjet won't print sharper text with a pricier USB cable. Likewise, your TV won't have a sharper picture with a pricier HDMI cable.

If you move the cables or equipment around a lot, you might want to get cables that are stouter than the least expensive ones. Of course, through an online retailer such as Monoprice (www.monoprice.com) that would be only a $2 to $3 difference -- meaning $7, instead of $4, for a 6-foot HDMI cable.

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