S&V Q&A - November, 2006


Q. What benefits does the new HDMI 1.3 standard provide, and what's its value in making a new equipment purchase? Robb Lazarus Oakland, CA

A. Al Griffin says: The new HDMI version 1.3 claims a list of advances over version 1.2 - all of them designed to keep step with future developments in TVs and home theater audio gear. On the video side, 1.3's increased bandwidth (more than double version 1.2's 165 MHz) would permit transmitting video signals with resolutions beyond 1080p, should such become available. And while the older versions of HDMI max out at 24-bit color depth, the new specification also supports 30-, 36-, and 48-bit depths. Color space - the range of possible colors a TV can display - gets a boost in version 1.3 too, with support for an "xvYCC" color space that's capable of showing almost twice as many colors as existing HDTV technology. None of these advances can be exploited by current HD video formats, however.

On the audio side, HDMI 1.3 differs from earlier versions in that it can convey the new "lossless" Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio bitstreams on HD DVD and Blu-ray Discs for decoding in an outboard processor or receiver. Also, a new Lip Sync feature allows connected audio and video devices to automatically march in lockstep to avoid lags between sound and image in the program you're watching.

Are these benefits valuable? Yes - potentially. We're likely to see audio gear with built-in Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding show up within a year. More important - for now, at least - forthcoming products with HDMI 1.3 are backward-compatible with earlier products featuring previous versions of HDMI.

Cool Sounds

Q. My audio system is in very tight quarters, and I'm trying to figure out the best way to keep it cool without spending a lot of money. Is it better to blow cool air over (or into) a component or to draw hot air out of it? And would a small fan either on top of the unit or close to it cause any appreciable noise? Michael Macey Annapolis, MD

A. Ian G. Masters says: If the aim is to remove the hot air, blowing it and sucking it work equally well as long as there's an open space for the hot air to dissipate. Over time, blowing air onto the gear may carry dust with it, which can build up and make heat problems worse, while drawing the hot air off should carry dust away as well. As for noise, there are very quiet fans out there. Or you could use plastic ducting to position the fan where it can't be heard - just make sure there's enough power to overcome the distance and any bends in the tubing.

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