How To Connect HDMI Over Long Distances

Wired and Wireless Solutions for Extending HDMI Connectivity Distance

Gofanco - HDMI to Cat-5e High Speed Extender - Connection Sample
Gofanco - HDMI to Cat-5e High Speed Extender - Connection Sample. Image courtesy of

Love it or hate it - HDMI is now the default standard for connecting home theater components.

HDMI - A Blessing and a Curse

One great thing about HDMI is that you can pass both audio and video from a source (such as Blu-ray Disc player) to a destination (such as a home theater receiver or TV) using a single cable. However, HDMI does have its issues, such as occasional problems arising from its "handshake" requirements and the fact that there several HDMI versions that determine which features can be accessed, as well as differences on what manufacturers decide to provide or not provide a specific version.

However, one additional problem with HDMI is that it is not always effective over long distances. It is recommended that HDMI source and destination devices be no farther than 15 feet apart for the best result, but there are HDMI cables that are available that can extend this reliably to about 30 feet - also, if well constructed (and I don't necessarily mean ultra expensive), there are some HDMI cables that can extend signal integrity up to 50 feet.

However, this can be tricky as you may start seeing an effect known as the "sparkles" and you may also encounter increased handshake problems. On the other hand, you may still encounter those issues even with short HDMI cable lengths.

So, what do you do if you want to extend that distance to beyond 50 feet or as far out as 100-to-300 feet, or even wire your entire house so that HDMI devices can be sourced and destined in multiple locations?

HDMI Over Cat

One solution is to actually use Ethernet cables as part of the solution. The same type of Ethernet Cat5, 5e, 6, and Cat7 cables that are normally used to connect devices to an internet router or home/office network can also be used to transfer the audio/video signals used in a home theater setup.

The way this is done using ethernet cables is by using an HDMI-to-Cat5 (5e,6,7) converter. To find out more about this HDMI connection solution, read two previous reviews I have written of two specific HDMI-to-Cat converter products from Accell and Atlona that provide examples of one type of product that can be used for connecting longer HDMI cable runs.

In addition to the option of converting HDMI to Cat5e, 6, or 7 for transmitting signals over long distances, other solutions include HDMI over Fiber and HDMI over Coax. The physical layout is the same, the HDMI source is connected to a "transmitter, which converts the HDMI signal to Fiber or Coax, which, in turn, is connected to a "receiver" that converts the signal coming in over Fiber or Coax back to HDMI.

Wireless Solutions - HDMI With No Cables

Another way to connect HDMI devices together is doing it wirelessly. Although this option is not a robust or can handle extremely long distances - it can definitely eliminate the need for a long HDMI cable within a large room, usually at a distance of 30-to-60 feet, but some units may provide up to 100-foot coverage.

The way wireless HDMI connectivity works is that you connect a short HDMI cable to the HDMI output of a source device (Blu-ray Player, Media Streamer, Cable/Satellite Box) to an external transmitter that sends the audio/video signal wirelessly to a receiver, that, in turn, is connected to a TV or video projector using a short HDMI cable.

There are two competing "wireless HDMI" format, each supporting their own group of products: WHDI and Wireless HD (WiHD).

Both of these options are intended to make it more convenient to connect HDMI sources and displays without an unsightly cable (especially if your TV or video projector is across the room).

However, just as with traditional wired HDMI connectivity, there can be "quirks" such as distance, line-of-site issues, and interference of located near a wireless router or similar device (depending on whether you are using WHDI or WiHD).

Also, there are differences on how both methods may be implemented on a brand and model level, such as whether some surround sound formats and 3D can be accommodated, and, most "wireless HDMI" transmitters/receivers are not 4K compatible, but, starting in 2015, 4K has been implemented in select units. If you need 4K compatibility, definitely check product features and specs to make sure it is provided.

Examples of Wireless HDMI connection solutions include:

The Bottom Line

Like it or not, HDMI is the main component connection standard used in home theater, and it is not going away anytime soon.

On the positive side of things, HDMI provides the ability to transfer HD (and now 4K) video, as well as required audio formats from source components to home theater receivers and video displays. Even the PC world has come on board with HDMI connectivity now a standard feature on both desktops and laptops.

However, despite its widespread adoption, HDMI isn't trouble free and one of its weaknesses is its inability to transfer video signals over long distances without additional support.

Wired-based options are the most stable, whether using HDMI in combination with Ethernet, Fiber or Coax. However, wireless can be sufficient under some conditions.

If you are setting up a home theater system where there is a long distance between your HDMI connected components, and you find that they just aren't working, definitely consider the options discussed above as possible solutions.