John Falcone April 6, 2009
HDTV: check. High-def DVR: check. Surround-sound speaker system: check. Upscaling DVD player: check. You're fully stocked with a formidable lineup of bleeding-edge components but lacking the one that ties them all together: an A/V receiver. But any old receiver won't do; you need one that can maximize the high-definition digital power of your system. For the past couple of years, the Holy Grail of the home theater has been an A/V receiver with support for the HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) connection standard. In theory, there's a lot to like about HDMI: it's all digital, it has the capability to carry multichannel audio and high-definition video signals on a single cable, and it's small, with a plug that is roughly the same size as USB. Toss in an inexpensive cable or adapter, and HDMI is even backward compatible with its digital video predecessor, DVI. Unfortunately, the first couple of generations of HDMI-compatible receivers seemed to be hobbled with one compromise or another: incompatibilities, glitches, and feature deficits. But 2006 has seen quite a few HDMI receivers with a good mix of solid features, good performance, and--happily--falling prices. So what's the catch? We won't see receivers compatible with the newer HDMI 1.3 specification until the spring of 2007. For anyone who's not in a rush, that's an upgrade that may be well worth waiting for.
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