First of all, let me say that all HDMI is not created equal. Frankly, I am very concerned about HDMI or the High-Definition Multimedia Interface. Why am I concerned? It's because that there are too many versions of this connector floating around starting with version 1.0. Different Digital TV and A/V products that have reached or will reach the market this year will all have different versions of HDMI, and one version may not work with other versions of HDMI. Potentially, I think that this can be a serious problem. Personally, I like the idea of HDMI as it's supposed to pass both digital video and digital audio via one cable. It a neat solution, and certainly cuts down on cable clutter.
It was much simpler with analog connections ranging from composite video to component video. You could connect any S-Video output to any S-Video input, and you could expect to get a signal. The same could be said for either digital coax or digital optical connectors. As long as you connected the same to same, you had no problem. It was a very simple proposition with no worries. However, HDMI is a different animal entirely.
While HDMI is also supposed to work with DVI, I recently heard of a DVI connector not working with HDMI, and both included HDCP. I suspect that the problem had to do with the particular version of HDMI on either the product or TV. Many Digital TV or HDTVs included version 1.0 of HDMI last year. This year's (2006) sets now include version 1.1, which will receive 1080p versus 1080i of previous versions. New Blu-ray Disc and HD DVDs will include version 1.1 with their initial offerings allowing them the possibility of passing true 1080p video signals. However, this will change next year as 2007 models will include version 1.3. Presumably, version 1.2 is being skipped entirely because it allows the capability to pass DVD-Audio and SACD, which are almost dead. Sadly, I happen to like multi-channel music, but it appears that they are going the way of the dodo bird, and, if you want to listen to them you'll have to use digital optical connectors, 1394, or analog connections.
HDMI version 1.3 allows for the passage of multi-channel Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD. Versions 1.1 or even 1.2 won't be able to pass these new multi-channel surround sound schemes. Version 1.1 will pass 2-channel DTS-HD, but it's not multi-channel. A new A/V Receiver that is enabled with HDMI (finally reaching the market this year) will only include wither versions 1.0 or 1.1. Hopefully, high-end brands like Denon or Marantz will include v. 1.1, but they won't be able to pass the new multi-channel surround sound formats or codecs.
Where does this leave us? In a state of confusion, of course. Clearly, an add-on HDMI switcher box will be needed by many folks to take advantage of the changes coming fast for furious for HDMI. Reportedly, Sony's PlayStation3, which now launches in November, will include version 1.3 and will presumably support next-generation audio codecs. Sadly, none of the TVs or A/V Receivers won't be able to receive and decode them. Incompatibility is a serious issue in Consumer Electronics and Digital TV. I don't have any easy answers here. I'm just making it public so people can think about it. Maybe Digital TV products with HDMI need to be labeled as to which version are included with the particular product so that the end-user will know how to purchase like products with the same version of HDMI. Just a thought. Stay tuned to Digital TV DesignLine.