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On The Outside Looking In With HDMI

Sometimes we say as much by not reviewing one component as we do by reviewing another. There are some components, often made by smaller, high-end manufacturers, that lag behind with technologies that become so essential that lacking them precludes a recommendation for that component by this publication. When we know a recommendation is precluded from the get-go based on a lack of essential technology, there is no point in acquiring the product for review.

At this point in time, HDMI switching that can handle 1080p/24 and 1080p/60 and hi-res multichannel PCM is such an essential feature. To get the most out of Blu-ray and HD DVD, both of which offer high-definition picture and sound, HDMI, while far from perfect, is essential. The highest resolution audio and video signals travel only over HDMI. On the audio side, while the multichannel analog outs often offer high resolution audio, bass management and processing is often less sophisticated. The best case scenario is that the signal passes through the AVR or pre/pro in the analog domain with as little manipulation as possible, meaning the full suite of processing you already paid for and want to be using is sitting idle.

A surprising number of components shown at CEDIA 2007, some very expensive, from well known high-end manufacturers, lack HDMI switching entirely or the critical abilities spoken of here. Like so many we've passed on before, we won't be reviewing these components because we simply can't, in good conscience, recommend them for purchase at this point in time. As far as we're concerned, the apps are here, and this is now the critical feature for AVRs and pre/pros.

And keep this in mind- everyone who doesn't yet have it is working on it. So take a huge chunk o' the proverbial salt with the salesman's claims that you don't need it, or that all the other high-speed, low-drag circuitry obviates it. No amount of high-end processing or circuitry will make lossy Dolby Digital compare to lossless Dolby TrueHD or uncompressed PCM. Period.

So, for some of these well known rigs out there, if you don't see them here, take a look at the spec sheet and you can figure out why.

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