HDMI Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) is an all-digital audio/video interface capable of transmitting uncompressed streams. HDMI provides an interface between any compatible digital audio/video source, such as a set-top box, a DVD player, a PC, a video game console, or an AV receiver and a compatible digital audio and/or video monitor, such as a digital television (DTV).

It is still a relatively new interface compared to older analog interface like composite video, S-video and component video. HDMI is still not very well understood by many consumers and there is a great deal of confusion around. So here is a list of FAQ for HDMI.

1. Do I need HDMI?

Well, the answer is a bit more complex than a simple yes or no. So let’s break it down.

2. Do I need HDMI to get picture and sound?

The simple answer is no. Even with the latest high definition digital display and HD video format players like Blu-ray and HD DVD, they all have older video and audio inputs and outputs like component video, TOSLINK and SPDIF digital audio interfaces. So, you do not need HDMI to get a picture and sound.

However, for best quality video and sound, you may want to use the HDMI interface.

3. Do I need HDMI for high definition video or TV?

Again, the simple answer is no. Analog interface like component video is capable of transmitting high resolution video from 720p up to 1080p. So, you don’t need HDMI to enjoy high definition video.

However, some video players restrict video output on component interface to 1080i only and will only allow 1080p output on HDMI. So, if you absolutely must have 1080p instead of 1080i, then you may need HDMI.

4. Do I need HDMI for HD audio format like Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio and multichannel LPCM?

In general, if you are using a standalone Blu-ray or HD DVD player, you can enjoy at least one or all of these high resolution audio formats via the player’s multichannel analog output, provided that the players internal decoder can decode some or all of these formats. At the moment, most if not all Blu-ray players cannot decode DTS-HD Master Audio. However, all should be able to decide multichannel LPCM.

If you want to send the digital audio stream to an external AV amp or receiver for decoding, then you will need HDMI. Older digital audio interface like TOSLINK and SPDIF will transmit multichannel LPCM, but will downmix it to 2 channel audio. TOSLINK and SPDIF will not pass Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio streams. To pass these digital audio streams, you will need a player and decoder that supportts HDMI 1.3.

However, for players that can decode Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio internally, they can decode these streams to multichannel LPCM to be transmitted over older versions of HDMI, so you do not really need HDMI 1.3 to enjoy these audio formats.

5. Do I need HDMI for HD DVD or Blu-ray?

The short answer is no, but there are advantages for using HDMI and it all depends on your setup and requirement, read above answers for details.

6. Do I need HDMI 1.3?

I have previously written an article on this topic, You can read it here.

7. Do I need HDMI wih XBox 360?

The Elite version of XBox 360 has an HDMI output. This output supports transmission of both audio and video signals on a single cable. It is useful for decreasing cable clutter.

However, the HDMI output of the Elite does not really provide many advanatges over non-HDMI quipped XBox 360. Xbox 360 supports 1080p output on component and VGA output for games playback and 1080i on component for DVD and HD DVD playback and 1080p output on VGA for DVD and HD DVD.

The HDMI output on Elite cannot pass multichannel LPCM, Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD master Audio. It is is useless for HD audio.


24 thoughts on “HDMI Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. You don’t need even need older HDMI for truehd or dtsma if the player decodes them internally and has 8 discreet analog audio outputs. If your reciever has the same amount of analog inputs, you pass the audio over 8 analog cables.

  2. Hi Dan,

    You are absolutely right and I already mentioned that at the beginning of point 4.

    “4. Do I need HDMI for HD audio format like Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio and multichannel LPCM?

    In general, if you are using a standalone Blu-ray or HD DVD player, you can enjoy at least one or all of these high resolution audio formats via the player’s multichannel analog output, provided that the players internal decoder can decode some or all of these formats.”

  3. I used the 5.1 analog inputs on my panasonic blu ray player to my older receiver. I set everything to pcm in the dvd player setup menu. When watching the movie ‘300’ I switch back and forth between dolby truehd and standard dolby and i could not notice a difference in sound quality. Its the only movie I have.
    Am i doing something wrong?

  4. Hi Dave,

    Th Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player will not decode either Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio. Panasonic was siad to be working on a firmware upgrade to support internal decoding to Dolby TrueHD to LPCM. I am not sure if they have the firmware ready yet.

    Without the ability to decode Dobly TrueHD, it will only decode the core Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack when you select Dolbly TrueHD. that’s probably the reason why you couldn’t hear any difference between the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack and the regular Dobly Digital soundtrack.

  5. Hi , Roland

    I have the DMP-BD10A (second generation) with the Dolby Truehd decoder built in already and the player has the Dolby Truehd logo on the player. It just came out recently. I select PCM for Dolby truehd in the players setup menu then I select Dolby Truehd in the movie menu and still no difference when i compare it to regular dolby digital. I switch back and forth between the two dolbys while the movie is playing. My speakers are high quality. I just dont get it

  6. I just found out why they both sound the same. The movie I was watching was recorded in Dolby Truehd at 16bit/48k and not 24bit/96k which i was expecting it to be. The full potential of Dolby Truehd has not been delivered.

  7. Why is it the samsung BD-p1400 can decode DTS-HD High resoulution internally but not DTS-HD Master audio internally? Every new sound format can be sent via the analog cables to a regular A/V Receiver with DTS/DD except dts master. If you are playing a blu-ray disc which is mastered in DTS-HD master will the player downmix the signal to DTS-HD high resoulution or to the 1.5mb core? What is so difficult getting these players to decode everything internally ????

  8. Hi Frank,

    DTS-HD Master Audio is a lossless and more complex compression method than DTS-HD High Resoution, which is a lossy compression and carries a lot less data than DTS-HD Master Audio. So it requires a lot more computing power to decode DTS-HD Master Audio, and at present, no player on the market has the computing power (The Sony Playstation 3 is a possible exception) to decode DTS-HD master Audio internally.

    DTS-HD Master Audio when played back on devices which do not support the Master Audio extension, degrades to a 1.5 Mbit/s “core” track which is lossy.

  9. I have a Panasonic dmp-BD30. It can send the new HD audio formats only to a receiver capable of decoding them. My receiver, alas, is not capable. Is the a box that I can buy that will take the audio from the Panasonic and decode the audio and then send it out via the multiple, discrete audio channels to my receiver?

  10. Hi Arnie,

    I am afraid your only option is to upgrade to a new surround receiver that can decode the new HD audio formats such as Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio. There are no standalone HD audio decoder on the market and I doubt there will be one any time soon.

  11. Hi Roland,
    I have a PS3 with the newest firmware upgrades. When I watch a movie with DTS-HD Master Audio my PS3 passes the audio to my Sony STRG-810. The receiver will display “Protecting” and shut off. This only happens when listening to DTS Master, not DolbyHD. Why is that? Do I need to change a setting on my PS3 or on my receiver?
    Thank You,
    Alex Robbins

  12. Hi Alex,

    I am sorry I have no idea what was happening with your PS3 and Sony receiver. Theoretically, your PS3 should convert both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio to multichannel LPCM and transmit via HDMI to your Sony receiver the same way. So I really can’t see why it worked with receiving LPCM decoded from Dolby TrureHD and not DTS-HD Master Audio. maybe there’s a bug with the PS3 firmware. That’s my guess.

  13. Roland,
    I called Sony support and she had me unplug all the wires from my surround speakers from the receiver and then plug them back in and the receiver worked, until I turned the volume up. Then it went into protecting mode and shut off. Could it be that my receiver just cannot handle being too loud?
    Thanks Again,

  14. … I really do not understand the “Protecting” feature on my A/V and what it really is doing. Once again thanks for all the help.

  15. Pingback: HD Audio Encoding, Decoded « Code This

  16. I have a Denon 3803. It is not capable of True-HD. I pass true audio using the optical link. How do i detect multi-channel LPCM? MY audio source is from a PC.

    I use Creative Sound Blaster Fatality Titanium. WHen using SPDIF the hardware configuration shows 2 channel. The power DVD indicate 8 channel LPCM through the SPDIF.

    How do i detect multi-channel LPCM?



  17. Hi leon2006,

    You will need to use an AV amp/receiver with HDMI to pass multi-channel LPCM. Optical or coaxial will not support multi-channel LPCM, it will down-mix the multi-channel LPCM signal to 2 channels LPCM.

  18. Noob xbox hdmi question here. I run my xbox 360 to my samsung 226bw using hdmi > dvi. I also use this monitor for my main pc and just unplug the xbox when I want to use my pc. I’ve noticed though, that when I unplug the 360 even if i want to keep it doing downloads etc, it appears to shut off? When I plug it back into the monitor the xbox360 splash screen turns on and it resumes. How can I have 360 just stay on as normal even without it plugged into my monitor?


  19. Hi Xarn,

    I have no idea why your XBox 360 would shut down if you unplugged the hdmi connection. I am still using an XBox 360 without hdmi connection, so I can’t test it out. I guess it may have something to do with the XBox 360 firmware and required you to have an hdmi connection active to keep it from shutting down.

    Perhaps you can try connection via component cables or VGA to see if it will still shutdown if you disconnect the video.

  20. I only have a small question, I have the HDMI and it’s working great and everything is good. My question is How to change it back to normal definition.

    I tried on another t.v which is without any High definition, it’s with the 3 pluggins (yellow, red and white). So i really want to know how to change it back to normal!

    Thanks 🙂

    • Hi Adel,

      I don’t understand what you meant. What were you trying to connect to your TV? A Blu-ray player, DVD player or what? I need a bit more detail before I can answer your question.

  21. Hi Roland,

    A question before I take the plunge on a new home cinema receiver – the Arcam AVR-280. This has an older HDMI interface. Can I send the new high definition sound formats to it via HDMI if my Blu-ray player does the decoding? I’ve heard that some older HDMI amps won’t accept audio this way, only amps that are 1.3a. It’s just I don’t want to use the multi-channel inputs. Thanks in advance.

  22. a small question, when im using hdmi for my xbox360 on the computer monitor, whenever i switch back to the pc component and back to the xbox 360 hdmi, my xbox automatically restart. Can someone pleas help me!!!

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