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Setting up a home theater is both an enjoyable and time-consuming process, and it’s often easy to overlook things like HDMI cables. I have many people asking me how many HDMI cables do you need for a home theater, so I decided to explain the process.
For your home theater, you will need at least ONE HDMI cable to join your TV to a media device. If you’re using an AV receiver, then you’ll also possibly need a HDMI cable for each HD media device you connect to your setup. Therefore, the bigger your setup, the more HDMI cables you’ll need.
Also check out my article “The 9 Cables You Need For Home Theater Installations“.
I think it’s definitely important to plan this kind of thing before you start building your home theater because it means you won’t be delayed. In this article I look a bit deeper into how many HDMI cables you’ll need for your home theater, along with some information on your options.
Choosing your HDMI cables
HDMI cables are an obvious yet overlooked component of any home theater. They’ve been the staple of almost every TV system for years now, so it can be easy to forget about them. They’re largely affordable, but it can be worth paying out that bit extra for top quality. But how many do you need for your home theater system?
While there are other cables you can use, it’s generally standard to use a HDMI cable to connect your TV to at least one media device. This could be an AV receiver, a DVD player, a Blu-Ray Player, or a streaming device like Apple TV. If you’re thinking of HDMI cables in a home theater setup then it’s likely you’ll be hooking your TV up to an AV receiver.
If this is the case then you’ll need at least one more HDMI cable to connect your devices to the AV receiver. It’s entirely possible to have one HDMI and multiple devices, but this will mean constantly switching the cable, which could lead to damage. It’s much better to have multiple cables to avoid doing this.
I would recommend having one HDMI cable for every HD compatible device. If you’re working in 4K then the same is true, as this still uses HDMI cables. Simply connect the 4K devices using the relevant type of cable, and all HD devices using standard HDMI cables.
In a decent home theater setup, you might find 5 or 6 HDMI cables depending on the number of devices. If you need to buy multiple cables for your setup, I’d recommend doing some research and buying one to test it out. After all, you don’t want to waste your money buying 6 HDMI cables only to find out they’re nowhere near as good as you thought.
Choosing the right number of HDMI cables for your home theater setup might seem easy, but it’s definitely worth putting some thought into. You don’t want to invest money into good equipment only to be restricted by the quality of your HDMI cables. Think of your wiring as one of the most fundamental components of your home theater, rather than as the final step.
Also read: How to do wiring for home theater
What kind of HDMI cable should I buy?
You might think that buying HDMI cables is simple, but getting the right one can take plenty of thought. Here is a breakdown of the different types of HDMI cable available. Remember that many of these features affect audio and picture quality, so choose a cable in line with your setup.
There are 4 general types of HDMI cable, which are:
- Standard HDMI cable. As you can tell by the name, this is the basic type. It can support up to 1080i and has a bandwidth capacity of 5Gbps. Consider this the entry-level model.
- High-speed HDMI cable. A high-speed HDMI cable supports 1080p, 4K, and is capable of 3D output. It has a bandwidth capacity of up to 10Gbps and is definitely worth the upgrade from standard.
- Premium high-speed HDMI cable. A premium cable is standardized at 4K/ultra-HD output and is capable of deeper and richer colors that the other cables. It has a bandwidth capacity of 18Gbps.
- Ultra high-speed HDMI cable. An ultra high-speed cable is capable of supporting 8K video, making it essentially future proof. It has a bandwidth capacity of 48Gbps and isn’t affected by EMF interference from wireless devices.
Which type of cable you choose will obviously depend on your setup, and on your budget. If you’re building an entry-level setup with a HD TV and AV receiver, then I would recommend starting with a high-speed HDMI cable. I see very little point in choosing a standard cable, as this technology is effectively dying out.
However, if you’re investing a bit more money and choosing 4K as your go-to resolution, then start with a premium HDMI cable. Sure they cost a bit more money, but it’s worth it if you’re going for a better setup.
Passive or active HDMI cables?
Passive or active is usually something you hear associated with speakers, but it can also be true of HDMI cables. The same thinking applies in that passive HDMI cables don’t need power or amplification, whereas active cables do.
Passive HDMI cables will be suitable in most situations, but if you need a HDMI cable over 15ft then it would be better to choose an active one. An active HDMI cable will boost the signal over greater distances, meaning there will be no less of quality.
Plated HDMI cables
If you’ve been shopping for HDMI cables before, you might have noticed gold plated HDMI cables for sale. Although this sounds expensive, they’re generally quite affordable. But are gold plated HDMI cables worth the extra money?
Gold is an excellent conductor, and can be used in wiring for better signal transfer. It has very little resistance, meaning that signals are a higher quality than in standard cables. While the wires inside the cable are still copper, the gold plating is enough to keep a high quality signal.
The gold plating also increases the cable’s bandwidth, which is no bad thing. For example, a gold-plated high-speed HDMI cable has a bandwidth capacity of 18Gbps instead of 10.
I think it’s definitely worth paying a bit extra for a gold plated HDMI cable, and it’s entirely possible to buy one and remain in your original price range. Gold plated cables are more durable and provide better audio and video quality.
Price is probably the biggest deciding factor in choosing a HDMI cable. If you’re on a budget then you might think you’ll be restricted as to quality. However, the most expensive HDMI cables aren’t necessarily the best, which is true of almost any type of electronic device.
When it comes to expensive cables, much of what you’re paying for is the brand. It’s not difficult to find a good HDMI cable for around $25, and I’ve never bothered spending more than $50. Finding a lower price model also means you can splash out on a gold-plated cable.
Pay attention to user reviews and technical specs. I really don’t think it’s necessary to spend loads of money on a cable, especially if you’ve got to buy several. Do your homework and you should be able to take advantage of some pretty amazing deals.
Tips for buying the right HDMI cable
Now that you’ve got some information on the types of HDMI cables, it’s almost time to get shopping. However, before you go out and buy several HDMI cables, consider these tips.
Get some length
The worst thing you can do is buy a cable that’s too short, so go the opposite way. The longest cable will likely connect your TV to your AV receiver, but all the others can probably be reasonably short. Remember, if you need longer than 15ft; consider active HDMI cables.
I really can’t stress this enough: don’t spend more than you need to. Your maximum budget for a single cable doesn’t need to be more than $50, and it’d take quite a lot to justify that price. Shop around, and don’t underestimate the savings you can make online.
Make sure your cables match your device output
If you’re using 4K devices, then make sure your HDMI cables are premium or above. One of the worst things you can do is compromise video quality by not buying the right cable. In fact, it’s usually worth going one level higher than what you need, as this will compensate for you upgrading devices in the future.
Some final thoughts
I think it can be easy to overlook the importance of HDMI cables. However, they’re an integral part of your home theater setup, so it’s definitely worth investing some time and research into choosing the right one.
When it comes to how many HDMI cables you’ll need for your home theater, this will entirely depend on how many devices you have. Whatever the number, work this out in advance so you won’t be held up.
Also read: Optical vs HDMI cables