No. Our testing found no statistically significant variations in score either for picture or sound. Although the results were slightly in favour of the more expensive brand for longer lengths, the differences were not enough to conclude any brand delivers a significantly better result.
Results for the digital audio cable were even more conclusive, with no advantage to be gained through the use of more expensive cables for better performance. See the table for prices.
The High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI), a recent introduction to the home entertainment landscape, is a trademarked standard that combines audio and video in a digital format.
Aside from vision and audio, an HDMI cable can also identify other connected devices making it easier to integrate your home theatre system. Unlike analog cables such as SCART, component, composite and so on, HDMI cables can recognise copy protection information as well.
The price variation for HDMI cable is astonishing, with short-run cables of up to three metres selling for anything from $30 to more than $300. In an effort to justify such exorbitant prices, performance claims on the packaging attempt to make the purchaser feel better about the investment.
One company claims its product "eliminates digital-to-analog conversion between your video source and display for the most accurate high definition picture" – in other words, it’s an HDMI cable that does what it’s designed to do.
Toslink (TOShiba LINK) is a much older technology than HDMI, introduced as a computer connection in the early 1980s.
The optical cable allows for digital audio (both left and right channels or multi-channel sound) to be transported between components using light as the carrier.
In contrast to the more robust construction of an HDMI cable, a Toslink cable is arguably more easily damaged.
However, based on our test results, you should still be able to get a good quality, short-length Toslink cable for about $30, even though you can spend $200 or more on a cable that performs the same task.
If you require a short HDMI cable of anything less than four metres, you should be able to find many good cable options between $40 and $60. Spending $300 on a short length of cable is pointless; the money could be put to better use on a better set of speakers or upgraded DVD or Blu-ray player.
For longer cables over 10 metres, differences in performance may possibly be an issue if there is significant interference between the video source and display, but we did not find any difference until lengths were combined to form lengths more than 33 metres.