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HDMI cables buying guide

How to choose the right cables to connect your gear

In this article: We'll cover some of the basic features of HDMI cables. And we'll talk about different HDMI versions you might encounter, including the most recent one, HDMI 2.1.

We'll also provide shopping tips and answers to these common questions:

1) Do I need a special HDMI cable for 4K?

2) How long should my HDMI cable be?

3) Does it matter which brand of cable I use?

And we'll look at some real-world HDMI hookup issues, along with solutions and workarounds.

HDMI is the best way to connect the latest HD and UHD TVs and projectors to home theater sound systems and other AV components. Blu-ray players, media streamers, game consoles, and satellite and cable TV set-top boxes all use HDMI.

One cable for high-quality audio and video

HDMI supports high-resolution video and multi-channel audio through a single-cable connection. Newer versions of HDMI have more advanced capabilities than older versions. But you can still connect newer TVs to older AV components and vice versa.

The most recent HDMI versions support 4K UHD video resolution and up to 32 channels of audio. HDMI 2.1 is the latest version. It allows streaming of advanced surround sound formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X and supports 8K video.

Austere VII Series 8K HDMI Cable UHD Premium High Speed HDMI cable with Ethernet

Austere's VII Series 8K HDMI cables use innovative technologies and materials to ensure maximum speed, reliability, and compatibility.

4K vs 8K

4K is still the highest resolution for Blu-ray and streaming video content. And until recently, it was also the highest resolution supported by TVs and other AV components.

As of late 2020, there are more HDMI 2.1 TVs and home theater receivers with support for 8K. But it will be at least a couple years before native 8K video content is available. The new PS5 and Xbox Series X game consoles will also support 8K. But don't expect to see native 8K games any time soon.

What is HDMI ARC?

Most TVs, receivers, and sound bars manufactured in the past ten years support HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel). ARC lets you get video and sound through a single HDMI cable. If you have an older receiver or sound bar, you might need to use an optical digital cable to get audio from your TV, even if your TV supports ARC.

The input panel on an LG TV, showing the HDMi input with eARC.

Be sure to use the right TV input for ARC. This TV's input panel has two HDMI inputs, but only one is compatible with ARC/eARC.

eARC adds major improvements for streaming audio

eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel) is a newer, more advanced version of ARC. It provides much greater audio bandwidth and can handle multi-channel Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio signals via streaming.

eARC is compatible with TVs and components that support the latest HDMI 2.1 spec — mostly those released from 2019 on. It can sometimes be added via firmware update to components that didn't come with support for HDMI 2.1. Both your TV and your sound bar or receiver must be compatible with eARC for it to work.

HDMI versions and compatibility

Each new HDMI version is backward-compatible with older versions, so you don't have to worry much about compatibility issues.

Older and newer HDMI equipped components can still work together, but their capabilities will be limited to the oldest supported HDMI version. So if you're working with a TV or component that uses HDMI 2.1 and want to take advantage of its features, you'll need to upgrade your other components to 2.1.

Here is a brief rundown of the most recent versions of HDMI leading up to 2.1, and the important features they support.

HDMI 1.4 — this 2009 release introduced ARC capabilities and support for 4K at up to 30Hz.

HDMI 2.0 — this 2013 release introduced the ability to pass 4K resolution video at 60Hz.

HDMI 2.0a — this 2015 update added support for HDR video.

HDMI 2.0b — this 2016 update added support for the HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) HDR format.

HDMI 2.1 — this 2017 update introduced a huge increase in bandwidth capability to support higher video resolutions and refresh rates, including 8K at 60Hz and 4K at 120Hz. It also adds eARC capabilities.

TVs and components manufactured before the release of HDMI 1.4 will not support ARC, 4K or HDR. But they do support video resolutions up to Full HD 1080p, which is still widely used.

Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable and official HDMI labeling

Ultra high speed HDMI cables let you take advantage of all the features of HDMI 2.1, including 8K video, eARC, and faster refresh rates.

What's new with HDMI 2.1?

The HDMI 2.1 spec is geared toward the eventual release of 8K UHD video content. But it offers some features you can take advantage of now if you have compatible gear, like the ability to stream high-resolution multi-channel audio formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, and faster refresh rates for 4K video.

TVs and components that support HDMI 2.1 are also backward-compatible with earlier versions of HDMI. So if you have a brand new 8K TV hooked up to a receiver or other component that only supports 4K, you'll be able to enjoy up to 4K resolution video on your screen.

A Crutchfield HDMI cable

Crutchfield's premium high speed HDMI cables are certified to handle 4K UHD video and HDR. They are also CL2-rated for safe in-wall installation. Using multiple cables? Cable labels help you keep track of your connections.

Quick tips for choosing HDMI cables

Some AV components include an HDMI cable in the box, but most don't, so you should plan on buying one. Not sure where to start? We'll answer some of the most important questions you might have below.

Do I need a special HDMI cable for 4K?

Depending on how old — and how fast — your current HDMI cables are, you may not need to upgrade to get a 4K picture on your TV.

4K UHD video signals require a faster HDMI cable than HD or Standard-definition signals. High-speed HDMI cables are also necessary for taking advantage of the HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology built into 4K TVs and Blu-ray players.

Higher speed HDMI cables also allow for quicker refresh rates at different video resolutions. 60Hz is an adequate refresh rate for 4K TV viewing, but gamers may prefer even faster refresh rates for a smoother on-screen experience.

The easiest way to figure out if an HDMI cable is 4K compatible is to check its speed rating or its maximum bandwidth.

Cable speed Maximum bandwidth Supported resolutions, refresh rates, and HDR formats
Standard Speed 10.2 Gbps
  • Up to Full HD 1080p resolution at up to 60Hz
High Speed 18 Gbps
  • Up to 4K UHD resolution at up to 60Hz
  • Static HDR formats (HDR10 and HLG)
Ultra High Speed 48 Gbps
  • Up to 4K UHD resolution at up to 120Hz
  • Up to 8K UHD resolution at up to 60Hz
  • Dynamic HDR formats (HDR10+, Dolby Vision, and Advanced HDR)

A cable rated at 18 Gbps maximum bandwidth is fast enough to give you 4K video. If your HDMI cable is labeled “high speed,” it should be able to pass a 4K signal at lengths of up to three meters.

As mentioned above, 8K TVs are still less common than 4K, but if you're a gamer, ultra high speed HDMI cables will give you the quickest refresh rates with the latest game consoles, even if 4K is the maximum resolution your TV will allow.

And if you do happen to be using an 8K screen with one of the new game consoles, ultra high speed HDMI cables also let you take advantage of new HDMI 2.1 features like Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) for a lag-free gaming experience.

Illustration showing the comparative bandwidth of standard, high speed, and ultra high speed cables.

HDMI 2.1 features require much greater bandwidth than previous versions of HDMI.

How long should my HDMI cable be?

As a rule, you'll want to use the shortest HDMI cable you can manage to keep audio and video signals from having to travel a long distance. Most hookups are easy to do with cables that are under six feet in length.

Longer HDMI cable lengths can cause issues, depending on the quality of the cable and how you have it routed. Any sharp bends can cause problems, and if you're running a cable for a distance of over 20 feet, it's wise not to skimp on quality.

And what if you need to run your cable over an extra long distance, like to connect a projector, for example? You have a few options.

For distances of 12 feet or more, we recommend active HDMI cables. These specialized cables include a processing chip to ensure that your signals travel from your video components to your screen with no loss or interruption.

Look for HDMI cables that are in-wall rated if you want to run them through your walls or ceiling.

High-tech fiber optic HDMI cables deliver outstanding picture and sound quality at distances up to 1,000 feet. With these cables, there's no signal loss over long runs. And they're immune to interference from appliances, wireless devices, and computers. Fiber optic cables are very delicate, so installation is best left to a professional.

Active hybrid HDMI cables offer most of the benefits of fiber optic cables in a more rugged and stable package that's much more DIY-friendly. These slim, flexible cables are a good choice for pre-wiring new homes.

Metra Install Bay® Active Hybrid HDMI Cable

An active HDMI cable is a great way to go when you have a long cable run between a 4K source and your 4K TV

Does it matter which brand of cable I use?

When it comes to transmitting high-quality audio and video signals, nearly all HDMI cables of decent quality are up for the job, especially when they only have to go a short distance. Most of us won't notice subtle differences in audio or video quality between different brands. If something about the cable is off, you simply won't have a picture on your screen.

One caveat here is that not all of the HDMI cables in the world are of great quality. Our Tech Support director Phil says that many cables are advertised and packaged so they seem to be of high quality but are not. Still, you don't have to break the bank to get a good cable — there are lots of reasonably priced options from reputable manufacturers.

Some HDMI cables use higher-quality materials, which ensures they'll stand up to long-term use. If you’ve invested in high-end components, a better cable can give you the best audio and video quality. For longer cables, or cables you want to run through a wall or ceiling, it makes sense to step up to a more expensive option so you won't have to worry about replacing it anytime soon.

Troubleshooting HDMI connection problems

Using components with different HDMI versions may cause some interoperability issues. For example, you won't be able to take advantage of HDMI 2.1 features with non-2.1 gear and/or lower-speed cables. And if you're using an AV receiver, you may encounter "handshake" problems when powering on your system.

HDMI "handshake" issues: what to do when there's no picture on your screen

HDMI handshake problems usually happen when the multiple components in your system fail to "talk to" one another.

If you are getting a blank screen when you go to watch a movie or play a video game, it could be because one component in your system failed to complete the HDCP authentication process. It could also be due to a faulty connection. So the first thing you'll want to do is to check that your cable isn't bent, and that both ends are firmly plugged in to your TV and Blu-ray player or game console.

AudioQuest directional cable with arrows indicating signal flow.

Most directional cables, like the ones made by AudioQuest, have arrows printed on either end to show you how to plug them in.

Are you using a directional HDMI cable? Directional HDMI cables send signals in only one direction, so if the ends are reversed, you won’t have an image on your screen.

If your connection is solid, try powering off your system and powering it back on, switching on your components in a different order than you normally do. If you usually turn the TV on first, try switching on the receiver before you do that. Sometimes that's all it takes. If that doesn't work, you can try using a different input on your TV or receiver.

If you still aren't getting a picture after trying the tips above, check online to find out if there's a firmware update available for your TV or receiver. Occasionally, HDMI handshake problems are caused by a fault in manufacturing.

HDMI ARC issues: what to do when there's no sound

To get both audio and video from an HDMI connection, you'll need to make sure that your TV and receiver or sound bar have ARC capabilities. They should support HDMI version 1.4 or higher, and have connections labeled "ARC." You will also need a high-speed HDMI cable that supports HDMI 1.4 or higher.

Illustration of 3 HDMI inputs, 1 labeled ARC

Use the TV input labeled "ARC" to enable the audio return channel feature.

Make sure to connect the cable from the HDMI output of your sound bar or receiver to the input labeled "ARC" on your TV. Most TVs only have one input that's compatible with ARC. A lot of the time, if there's no sound, it's because the HDMI cable is plugged into one of the other TV inputs.

HDMI Control — also known as HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) — must also be activated on your TV and sound bar or receiver for ARC to work.

Different manufacturers use different names for HDMI Control. Sony calls it Bravia Sync, Samsung calls it Anynet+, and LG calls it Simplink. Here are some links to guide you through the process of activating HDMI Control for these three brands:

Sony (Bravia Sync)

Samsung (Anynet+)

LG (Simplink)

If your receiver or sound bar isn't switching to the TV or audio input on its own when you go to watch something, it means that HDMI Control isn't activated on one or possibly both devices and needs to be turned on. If you’re using an AV receiver, you’ll have to activate HDMI Control manually, but some sound bars have it on by default.

If you have to turn on HDMI Control on any of your devices, our Tech Support team recommends that you power all of them off and then turn them back on and try playing something on the TV.

If your receiver or sound bar is switching to the TV input but no sound is coming out, it means that HDMI Control is already activated on both devices. So either there is a problem with the cable, or it is plugged into the wrong port on the TV.

Double-check that your cable is plugged into the input labled "ARC" on the TV. And don't forget you need a high-speed HDMI cable to take advantage of ARC. If you are using a high-speed cable and things still aren't right, it's possible you have a bad cable. You can always try a different cable and see if that works.

Sometimes ARC just won't work. Once you've verified your cable and connections are right, and that HDMI Control is on, then it's time to move on and use an optical digital cable for your audio connection.

HDMI lip-sync issues: what to do when audio and video don't match

It's pretty annoying when you're watching your favorite show and the audio is out of sync with the video. HDMI lip-sync problems are often a result of audio information being processed more quickly than HD and 4K UHD video information.

If you’re experiencing lip-sync issues while watching a specific channel or program, check to see if you have the same problem with other content. If not, the problem probably doesn’t have anything to do with your TV or other equipment. If the lip-sync problem doesn’t resolve, contact the content provider for help.

If you're having lip-sync problems with a single source component, like your Blu-ray player or streaming device, you may be able to fix the problem via settings on the component that is giving you trouble.

Your TV, receiver, or other components might have settings that let you correct lip-sync issues. Look for settings with names like “Lip Sync” or “Audio Delay.” Adjusting these settings can slow down the audio signal so it comes through at the same time as the corresponding video.

If your TV and AV receiver or sound bar support HDMI 2.1 and eARC, lip-sync is supposed to happen automatically. If it doesn't, you may need a firmware update. Or you may need to activate eARC through the settings menu on one or both devices. You should be using a high speed or ultra high speed HDMI cable for eARC to work.

If you still have lip sync problems once you’ve confirmed firmware is up to date and eARC is activated on your TV and sound bar or receiver, try powering off your system and powering it back on. Unplugging the HDMI cable while everything is on then plugging it back in can also fix lip-sync issues.

Get personalized advice from our team of experts

Still have questions about which HDMI cable would work best in your system? We know these products inside and out. Feel free to leave us a comment below, or get in touch with one of our expert Advisors.

Free lifetime tech support is included with every Crutchfield purchase.

Last updated 12/9/2020
  • John Rogers from North Bellmore New

    Posted on 7/11/2021

    I am buying the LG OLED C1 the Sonos ARC bundle and a 4k ultra DVD player from Panasonic more than likely from Crutchfeld love all that great Info on your website how many HDMI cables do I need Thank you John Rogers

    Commenter image

    Deia Z. from Crutchfield

    on 7/12/2021

    Hi John, Congrats on your new system! You'll need two HDMI cables: one to connect the TV to the sound bar, and another one to connect your Blu-ray player.
  • John volpe from New Orleans, La

    Posted on 1/31/2021

    I have a Sony Z9D tv and a Sony Ht-G-700 sound bar connected and while the Tv has ARC the soundbar has an EARC port . Is it not possible to decode DTS:X ? I'm using a high speed Ethernet hdmi.

    Commenter image

    Deia Z. from Crutchfield

    on 2/3/2021

    Hi John. Your HT-G700 sound bar does have support for DTS:X, so you would be able to get it from a Blu-ray encoded with DTS:X, but without eARC on your TV, you won't be able to get it via streaming. I hope that helps!
  • THOMAS DUPREE from WHITEFISH

    Posted on 1/16/2021

    which HDMI cable is best for PS3 blue ray connected to Marantz AV8003reciever with Marantz MM8003 amp. connected to Sony Bravia 1080p TV. also Spectrum cable box thru Marantz gear. Will up grade TV and blue ray in near future. all HDMI connected.

    Commenter image

    Deia Z. from Crutchfield

    on 1/18/2021

    Hi Thomas. A high-speed HDMI cable will work for your system, even when you upgrade your TV and Blu-ray player. Since your receiver has an earlier version of HDMI, you'll be limited to that feature set. I hope that helps. Feel free to get back in touch if we can be of further assistance to you.
  • kent julnes from vuku

    Posted on 6/14/2018

    I need an 8m hdmi cable that can carry 4k signal from amp to projector... Help please I tried everything here now.. Hope that is the solution. I use an10m cable now... Goes well with bluray and dvd but not 4k

  • David from Chesterfield

    Posted on 12/7/2017

    From the customer perspective I would think that the number one thing we all have in common are HDMI cables; and then which one to buy; that is if the run from source to TV is 10 feet or less. Those that have followed the HDMI cable development, and focused on the issue of cable quality; are all very likely to have read about the pros and cons and even "myths" regarding brands such as Monster Cables. I read through the entire article, and the main thing I was waiting for but never was covered, was this issue of very expensive cables verses moderately priced cables. Obviously companies like AudioQuest are providing a legitimate reason for customers to spend 10 fold or more for an HDMI Cable. Please tell all of us whether or not, for the short run of 10 feet or less; is their support for anyone to purchase AudioQuest Yukon HDMI Cables if someone wants the most accurate and full picture and sound reproduction possible, or will a $20 Cable Matters HDMI Cable perform just as well? I know this is a difficult question to deal with when stores are offering both the high end and the moderately priced cables. I hope you are able to settle this issue for many customers without undermining your own business! I just purchased a pair of AQ 1/2 meter cables for $170; but they are XLR cables that are carrying an analog signal from the DAC in the OPPO 205 to an OPPO HA-1 headphone amplifier. Can the support for these cables; absent of 1's & 0'S be applied to HDMI cables?

  • JOE from BURLESON

    Posted on 10/29/2017

    Disregarding length, the AudioQuest HDMI cables you offer seem to different only by the amount of silver coating. More silver translates to more cost. Does picture and sound quality improve much from say a silver coating of 1.25% (Cinnamon) to say 2.5% (Carbon) used with a 4K HDR OLED?

  • Julie Blackham from Palatine

    Posted on 10/22/2017

    We have a Samsung UN55D6000sf TV. The HDMI cables seem to be heavy so the connections aren't consistently or firmly attached. We end up draping the cables around a lamp after trying duck taping the cords to the back of the TV. Is there a better support for these cables?

  • Judith Brazier from Shawneetown,illinois

    Posted on 8/26/2017

    steve, WHY DOES MY ,,,NEW,,,4 K ,,,,,LG ,,,,,TV ,,,,,occasionally go off for Several hours? Have ,,,alll new cables and second reveiver! Told signal is strong, MOST OF THE TIME IT GOES OFF AROUND MIDNITE TILL 9 am,?

  • Kevin Perkins

    Posted on 8/14/2017

    Need to run 80' of hdmi to outdoor tv. Local guys say I should use a pair of balun boxes with cat 6 for a true 4K signal. Is there any other options?

  • Steve Douglas from la mesa

    Posted on 4/30/2017

    I'd like to read a similar article on the use of XLR cables in home theater. I recently upgraded to a McIntosh 7 channel amp and AVM 60 processor driving all Audio Acoustics speakers. I used 6 six foot XLR cables for the hooking up but these were XLR cables I would generally use in my band that I happened to have. They were all brand new.