You don't need new HDMI cables for Dolby Vision HDR
Despite claims to the contrary, your current HDMI cables will work with Dolby Vision, HDR10, and any other HDR. Probably. Here’s why.
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
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If you spent $180 on a new Apple TV, let alone $500 on the Dolby Vision-compatible Oppo UDP-203 4K Blu-ray player, an extra $23 might seem a small price to pay for a cable that claims to work perfectly with Dolby's format.
But you probably don't need a new cable for Dolby Vision, standard HDR or 4K. Here's why.
It's obvious when HDMI isn't working properly
There are lots of good and bad things about the HDMI connection, of which the cables are one part (your TV and a source are the two most common other parts). One of the better aspects is because of how HDMI works. If it works you get perfect picture or sound. If it doesn't work you don't get any picture or you get flickering, sparkles or other obvious visual degradation.
It's impossible for a "better" HDMI cable to make your video more colorful or more detailed. And you can't buy a "better" cable for improved sound quality. If it works, you get everything possible from the source. If not, it just doesn't work.
Any HDMI cable you've bought in the last few years is likely to be of the High Speed variety. This unfortunate name describes cables that can handle 1080p video and above. Chances are these cables will work for 4K and even 4K HDR. They are, essentially, a dumb pipe.
You don't need "special" HDMI cables to transmit HDR content. You just need a big enough pipe to handle the data. Over short distances, say six feet or around 2 meters, most cables will be fine. For longer distances the cable has to be a bit better made in order to work. But "better made" doesn't have to mean "expensive."
Here's the tricky part: There's no hard and fast rule about whether your particular High Speed cable will transmit 4K. It should work, but it it might not. Annoyingly, there's no way to tell just by looking at the cable. The only way is to test it with your TV and your 4K HDR source first.
What you do need for Dolby Vision
The first thing you'll require if you're upgrading to a TV with Dolby Vision capability is an Dolby Vision source. The easiest way to get this is via the apps built into your TV. They have the added advantage of not requiring any extra cables.
Many other Dolby Vision devices, including the new
Apple TV 4K
and 4K Blu-ray players like that Oppo, do require cables, as do any 4K switching devices like an AV receiver.
If you do buy this new gear, your current cables should work, and it's worth trying them first rather than letting a TV salesperson pressure you into getting a new one. The tradeoff, of course, is if that doesn't work you'll need to then either return to the place you bought them or buy them online. Saving money isn't always without risk.
Watch this: Apple TV 4K review: Sleek 4K HDR streaming for a premium price