What HiFi magazine Freeview HD review

ste66

Standard Member
Just thought I would mention that there is a group test of Freeview HD receivers (not recorders) in the current edition of What HiFi.

The Humax came out on top, closely followed by the Philips, and then (I think) Icecrypt, Grundig and Metrronic.

HD Picture quality seemed pretty similar on all of them, SD less so. There was no real mention of any reliability issues on any of them - bizzare, given these forums.

One thing that struck me was, while they did say for unspecified reasons, the sound quality was better on some than others, there was no mention whatsoever of the fact that its almost impossible to get proper surround sound on Freeview HD on any of the boxes because of the HE-AAC issue (although Philips will get an update).

(oh, and they did mention you could improve the picture by buying a £60 HDMI lead - so ignore everything they say).
 

brookheather

Distinguished Member
(oh, and they did mention you could improve the picture by buying a £60 HDMI lead - so ignore everything they say).

They just can't help themselves can they - if they worked for a PC magazine they would be telling you to buy a £60 USB cable because it transfers your data quicker!
 

nwhitfield

Well-known Member
Well, I suspect that when they had to do the tests, the whole issue of surround was not as live as it's become on the last month. For the 100 page Computer Active Ultimate Guide that comes out on the 1st of July, final pages have to be with the printer next Tuesday; that means most copy (had I not done it two weeks early for staffing reasons) would have had to be in by 24th May; maybe a little later if you have a big team, but you still then have to work backwards and allow time for testing. And that takes you firmly into the time before cages started being rattled very much about surround.

The deadlines on magazines can be a lot longer than people imagine.

And as for reliability: how long would you like things tested for, to determine that? I don't know what rates What HiFi pays, but I can tell you that something in the area of 200-250 per thousand words is typical for print media. A typical magazine will have 5-600 words per page, so you can work out the total a freelance would earn for a review, which includes the time writing up, and chasing products, as well as actual testing.

Put simply, the economics don't often stack up in terms of spending days testing kit; and unless you find a glaring and easily reproducible bug, and are sure it's not user error, slagging a product off as unreliable in print is a big risk.

Many people complain about reviews in print and other mainstream media; often they reckon things are done not to upset advertisers. I've never had that pressure at all, but the very real pressure is time and the need to make a living, if you're a professional writer. Spend a day on a product to write a half page review for £100 and you can get by. Spend two days on the same thing and you're only making minimum wage.

Things are a bit easier for staffers, but I'm sure they too are under considerable pressure to write a certain amount of words per week.

Of course reviews can give useful information, but I do think it's important that people understand the constraints on those who write them, too.
 
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Darth_terra

Distinguished Member
Well, I suspect that when they had to do the tests, the whole issue of surround was not as live as it's become on the last month. For the 100 page Computer Active Ultimate Guide that comes out on the 1st of July, final pages have to be with the printer next Tuesday; that means most copy (had I not done it two weeks early for staffing reasons) would have had to be in by 24th May; maybe a little later if you have a big team, but you still then have to work backwards and allow time for testing. And that takes you firmly into the time before cages started being rattled very much about surround.

The deadlines on magazines can be a lot longer than people imagine.

And as for reliability: how long would you like things tested for, to determine that? I don't know what rates What HiFi pays, but I can tell you that something in the area of 200-250 per thousand words is typical for print media. A typical magazine will have 5-600 words per page, so you can work out the total a freelance would earn for a review, which includes the time writing up, and chasing products, as well as actual testing.

Put simply, the economics don't often stack up in terms of spending days testing kit; and unless you find a glaring and easily reproducible bug, and are sure it's not user error, slagging a product off as unreliable in print is a big risk.

Many people complain about reviews in print and other mainstream media; often they reckon things are done not to upset advertisers. I've never had that pressure at all, but the very real pressure is time and the need to make a living, if you're a professional writer. Spend a day on a product to write a half page review for £100 and you can get by. Spend two days on the same thing and you're only making minimum wage.

Things are a bit easier for staffers, but I'm sure they too are under considerable pressure to write a certain amount of words per week.

Of course reviews can give useful information, but I do think it's important that people understand the constraints on those who write them, too.

limited time etc doesn't call for them to add buying a £60 HDMI lead would improve PQ that's a load of bull, It's just conning unsuspecting readers into buying something that a £5 or less HDMI cable can do perfectly fine, a review of the PVR's etc based on limited time with them and deadlines that magazines have to meet i can forgive them for, shameless BS on expensive HDMI cables i cannot.
 

professorhat

Active Member
Funny you guys all seem to think HDMI cables don't make any difference - I've seen and heard differences in the ones I've tested personally. I know all the arguments that digital is digital and I know why most of them are irrelevant when it comes to actually transferring digital information down a cable (work in IT and understand error correction, digital transport methods etc. required to ensure data is transmitted error free). Okay, the differences aren't night and day, but they're enough to warrant the extra spend IMHO.

I'm sure you guys all think either (a) I'm a mug or (b) I must be paid vast sums by cable manufacturers to say these things. Fair enough if you do. However, I'm just putting across what I've seen and heard with my own eyes and ears - which is good enough for me! :)
 
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charles bronson

Active Member
Funny you guys all seem to think HDMI cables don't make any difference - I've seen and heard differences in the ones I've tested personally. I know all the arguments that digital is digital and I know why most of them are irrelevant when it comes to actually transferring digital information down a cable (work in IT and understand error correction, digital transport methods etc. required to ensure data is transmitted error free). Okay, the differences aren't night and day, but they're enough to warrant the extra spend IMHO.

I'm sure you guys all think either (a) I'm a mug or (b) I must be paid vast sums by cable manufacturers to say these things. Fair enough if you do. However, I'm just putting across what I've seen and heard with my own eyes and ears - which is good enough for me! :)

If you're seeing a picture, you're seeing a picture. That means its working and it will be the same as £3 or £300.

I'm sure you can pay more for shielding the cable from aerial leads etc, but as far as picture quality goes, there's no difference.
 

brookheather

Distinguished Member
Funny you guys all seem to think HDMI cables don't make any difference - I've seen and heard differences in the ones I've tested personally. I know all the arguments that digital is digital and I know why most of them are irrelevant when it comes to actually transferring digital information down a cable (work in IT and understand error correction, digital transport methods etc. required to ensure data is transmitted error free). Okay, the differences aren't night and day, but they're enough to warrant the extra spend IMHO.

I'm sure you guys all think either (a) I'm a mug or (b) I must be paid vast sums by cable manufacturers to say these things. Fair enough if you do. However, I'm just putting across what I've seen and heard with my own eyes and ears - which is good enough for me! :)

I would love to hear an explanation of how an HDMI cable can change the picture or audio - I'm sure you're not suggesting that the cable can affect the digital bits being received by the TV which then decodes this to the picture that is displayed.
 

Darth_terra

Distinguished Member
Funny you guys all seem to think HDMI cables don't make any difference - I've seen and heard differences in the ones I've tested personally. I know all the arguments that digital is digital and I know why most of them are irrelevant when it comes to actually transferring digital information down a cable (work in IT and understand error correction, digital transport methods etc. required to ensure data is transmitted error free). Okay, the differences aren't night and day, but they're enough to warrant the extra spend IMHO.

I'm sure you guys all think either (a) I'm a mug or (b) I must be paid vast sums by cable manufacturers to say these things. Fair enough if you do. However, I'm just putting across what I've seen and heard with my own eyes and ears - which is good enough for me! :)

Over long distance i can agree with you as the signal does start to degrade, but not in a typical living room, bed room setup.

I have tested many HDMI cables from poundland to monster costing everything from £1 to over £100 and i found next to no difference in PQ from one cable to the next, that's not to say you can't get duff cables you can and build quality can play a little part of course you dont want it falling apart as soon as you contect it up to your equipment, but for a magazine to say PQ will be improved by getting a £60 cable is just wrong.

Don't think i'm saying your wrong either prof things can look different from one person to the next, if you can see a difference then that's fine as you have tested them yourself and found what was right for you. I just think mags shouldn't state things as if it were a general fact when it's not.
 

ste66

Standard Member
Funny you guys all seem to think HDMI cables don't make any difference - I've seen and heard differences in the ones I've tested personally. I know all the arguments that digital is digital and I know why most of them are irrelevant when it comes to actually transferring digital information down a cable (work in IT and understand error correction, digital transport methods etc. required to ensure data is transmitted error free). Okay, the differences aren't night and day, but they're enough to warrant the extra spend IMHO.

I'm sure you guys all think either (a) I'm a mug or (b) I must be paid vast sums by cable manufacturers to say these things. Fair enough if you do. However, I'm just putting across what I've seen and heard with my own eyes and ears - which is good enough for me! :)

Which magazine tested hdmi cables and concluded:
"our expert viewers saw no difference at all in the picture quality when using the £10 Tesco Value lead, the £20 John Lewis lead or the £100 Belkin lead, with our technical tests confirming identical performances. We passed data through all our HDMI leads at 6.2Gb per second - a data rate more demanding than Blu-Ray - without a single error occurring""

I have seen similar statements in PC magazines. Not one single error detected when transmitting data at 53,257,594,470 bits per second. But you can see a difference with the naked eye in the resulting moving image? I just can't understand that.
 

ste66

Standard Member
Well, I suspect that when they had to do the tests, the whole issue of surround was not as live as it's become on the last month. For the 100 page Computer Active Ultimate Guide that comes out on the 1st of July, final pages have to be with the printer next Tuesday; that means most copy (had I not done it two weeks early for staffing reasons) would have had to be in by 24th May; maybe a little later if you have a big team, but you still then have to work backwards and allow time for testing. And that takes you firmly into the time before cages started being rattled very much about surround.

The deadlines on magazines can be a lot longer than people imagine.

And as for reliability: how long would you like things tested for, to determine that? I don't know what rates What HiFi pays, but I can tell you that something in the area of 200-250 per thousand words is typical for print media. A typical magazine will have 5-600 words per page, so you can work out the total a freelance would earn for a review, which includes the time writing up, and chasing products, as well as actual testing.

Put simply, the economics don't often stack up in terms of spending days testing kit; and unless you find a glaring and easily reproducible bug, and are sure it's not user error, slagging a product off as unreliable in print is a big risk.

Many people complain about reviews in print and other mainstream media; often they reckon things are done not to upset advertisers. I've never had that pressure at all, but the very real pressure is time and the need to make a living, if you're a professional writer. Spend a day on a product to write a half page review for £100 and you can get by. Spend two days on the same thing and you're only making minimum wage.

Things are a bit easier for staffers, but I'm sure they too are under considerable pressure to write a certain amount of words per week.

Of course reviews can give useful information, but I do think it's important that people understand the constraints on those who write them, too.

I do understand your point. But perhaps I should have said I was surprised with the absence of any mention of quality issues, as opposed to reliability issues. I have just taken the plunge and bought the Philips HDT8520, because I'm sick of the poor SD quality on the football especially ITV.

It takes seconds to figure out there is a problem with the audio volume on the HD channels. I have to whack up the volume on my amp for these, and then if I change back to a normal channel...... From the EPG you can't get into the channel you have scrolled to, you need to exit and get there manually. And I've only just set it up. I know for example there are L-R audio channel problems with the Humax when changing channels.

Things like this are really, really basic errors which should never have gotten as far as the public. Any review which does not draw any attention to any of them isn't down to a lack of time (however there was time for them to talk about things like the rhythm and dynamism or other such waffle). It means they either haven't really looked at these boxes at all, or they have a policy of not wanting to appear critical. If you are a review magazine like that, then no matter what you pay your staff you are a joke.
 

JeffD

Well-known Member
I would love to hear an explanation of how an HDMI cable can change the picture or audio - I'm sure you're not suggesting that the cable can affect the digital bits being received by the TV which then decodes this to the picture that is displayed.
There is a minimum quality to the construction of the HDMI cable that must meet, however once that minimum quality is met then there can be no further improvement in picture quality.

For a Freeview STB most leads £3 or above should do.

For high bandwidths as used in Blu-Ray then a better quality lead is needed, however even if in this case no more than £10 need be spent.

I get all my leads from HDMI Cable, Mini-HDMI Cable, DVI Cable and DisplayPort Cable and have never had any problems at all with picture, sound or HDCP.

Having a reliable source is important as a £10 HDMI lead from ebay for example might still be poorly constructed and might not be much use for anything.
 

gmitchell

Standard Member
I would love to hear an explanation of how an HDMI cable can change the picture or audio - I'm sure you're not suggesting that the cable can affect the digital bits being received by the TV which then decodes this to the picture that is displayed.

Probably just psychological - it's like if you tell someone they are drinking an expensive wine they're likely to think it's better than they would if drinking the exact same wine at a lower price.

I believe it's about actively looking for the improvement and convincing yourself it exists, either to justify the extra expense or just because you believe it should be there. Human testimony is a notoriously subjective and unreliable thing, which is why the best AV tests, typically measuring very slight differences in ostensibly similar products (e.g. HD screens), rely on scientific/mechanical rather than human measurement.
 

daveh48

Well-known Member
Probably just psychological - it's like if you tell someone they are drinking an expensive wine they're likely to think it's better than they would if drinking the exact same wine at a lower price.

Many years ago in the Hi-Fi world a company started selling small black metallic labels that you were supposed to stick to the mains plugs of your equipment, they also advocated that you should score the metal pins as combined with the stickers this would improve the sound quality.

Believe it or not quite a few of the respected Hi-Fi magazines covered this in great detail some even confirming that things did sound better.
Of course it was all psychological but no doubt they made a good bit of money out of it and before you ask..........

yes, I do have little black stickers on my mains plugs :suicide:
 

PhilipL

Well-known Member
Hi

It is all in the mind. The human brain tricks us all the time and there are thousands of optical illusions to prove that. So if someone puts a thought into your head it will influence you.

Put it another way, if I send you a photo via email twice, once connecting to the router using a very cheap network cable, then send the same picture again but replace the cheap network cable with a very expensive one like this, will you be expecting the second photo to have better blacks, more saturated colours, and a slight increase in sharpness over the first one?

Any one who knows about the technology and has an ounce of common sense will tell you both pictures would be identical, and of course they will be.

The same applies to an HDMI cable or any other digital interconnect, it is the same principal as above.

Places like Comet and sales people who pray on those who don't know better and flog £60 HDMI cables (when the DVD player might be costing less than that or it is half the price of a Blu-ray player!) are no different to those sales people you see on watchdog that they secretly film making stupid claims about a product or lying about what repair is required to up the bill. It is obtaining money be deception.

Of course shops like Comet make a huge profit from selling such things, and I suspect the sales staff get bonus for pushing these accessories as well.

Many years ago in the Hi-Fi world a company started selling small black metallic labels that you were supposed to stick to the mains plugs of your equipment, they also advocated that you should score the metal pins as combined with the stickers this would improve the sound quality.

I remember the one in the Hi-Fi mags about aligning up all the screws in the mains plug so they all faced the same direction, that was suppose to improve sound quality!

Regards

Phil
 
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professorhat

Active Member
I have tested many HDMI cables from poundland to monster costing everything from £1 to over £100 and i found next to no difference in PQ from one cable to the next, that's not to say you can't get duff cables you can and build quality can play a little part of course you dont want it falling apart as soon as you contect it up to your equipment, but for a magazine to say PQ will be improved by getting a £60 cable is just wrong.

Don't forget, we're talking differences in audio as well as picture quality - for me this is one area where HDMI cables can more easily be differentiated. Picture Quality varies (in my experience), but in itself, I don't think the difference would be worth the amount my Chord Active cable cost for instance. However, when it comes to sound, it really does make quite a noticeable improvement over the freebie cable I was using before. Big enough at any rate that I can justify the cost of the cable.

Don't think i'm saying your wrong either prof things can look different from one person to the next, if you can see a difference then that's fine as you have tested them yourself and found what was right for you. I just think mags shouldn't state things as if it were a general fact when it's not.

Indeed, I'm a big believer of "try before you buy" and wouldn't have bought the more expensive cable if I hadn't the option of returning it if I could see no difference. From What Hi-Fi's perspective on reporting this though, if they're also seeing / hearing a difference like I am, isn't it their job to report it? I know What Hi-Fi do state quite clearly that people should always audition equipment before buying and not just follow their recommendations blindly. Do people listen? Probably not in quite a few cases, but the magazine can't really be held responsible for those people's laziness.

Probably just psychological - it's like if you tell someone they are drinking an expensive wine they're likely to think it's better than they would if drinking the exact same wine at a lower price.

I believe it's about actively looking for the improvement and convincing yourself it exists, either to justify the extra expense or just because you believe it should be there. Human testimony is a notoriously subjective and unreliable thing, which is why the best AV tests, typically measuring very slight differences in ostensibly similar products (e.g. HD screens), rely on scientific/mechanical rather than human measurement.

As I say earlier, I'm very much a "try before you buy" person, I'd always have an option to demo something before committing to the purchase. At one time I have also tried several different mains cables on my AV receiver to judge performance, one being at the higher end (£130), one in the budget range (£30) and the one that came with the amp. I couldn't detect any difference between the high end and the budget cable, so sent the high end cable back for a refund. So I'd like to think I'm immune to the psychology you mention above as I'd be more than happy to have my £130 back to spend on Blu-Rays, unless of course I notice a difference in performance. I've spent tens of thousands of pounds on my home cinema kit - it's my main hobby and I want to ensure I get the best investment out of it, hence why I try these things.

When I go to buy a TV, I go and look with my eyes and choose the one I think has the best picture. When I go to buy a stereo, I go and listen with my ears and choose the one I think sounds best. I don't look at graphs and decide from this information which one I think theoretically is going to sound better. I follow the same practice when auditioning cables.

Can I prove anything on HDMI cables? Nope, and nor am I remotely interested in doing so. This is my opinion and I made the choice on my own for my own personal benefit, no one else's. Maybe it all is in my head, I can't possibly prove it isn't. But at the same time, neither can anyone else prove it is. As long as I can see and hear the difference, that's all the evidence I need. I know others work differently, and that of course is their prerogative.
 
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professorhat

Active Member
Put it another way, if I send you a photo via email twice, once connecting to the router using a very cheap network cable, then send the same picture again but replace the cheap network cable with a very expensive one like this, will you be expecting the second photo to have better blacks, more saturated colours, and a slight increase in sharpness over the first one?

As I said earlier Phil, I come from an IT background and it's precisely this argument which is flawed because the way computers send data digitally is completely different to the way home cinema systems send data digitally - TCP/IP is the protocol used to send data from computer to computer and it has incredibly robust error control (it was designed for use in World War 3!). This ensures that an emailed photo is always exactly the same data as you sent it, no matter whether it crosses a 1ft Ethernet cable or 20,000 miles across the internet. This protocol is not (and cannot be) used in home cinema systems, so the argument falls apart.

Anyway, I've said enough on HDMI cables now, so will bow out the discussion at this point as it's always a subject which seems to inflame people's souls and no one ever wins apart from the God of time wastage :)
 

Gavtech

Administrator
This protocol is not (and cannot be) used in home cinema systems, so the argument falls apart.

Error correction is used across the HDMI interface.
 

PhilipL

Well-known Member
Hi

As I said earlier Phil, I come from an IT background and it's precisely this argument which is flawed because the way computers send data digitally is completely different to the way home cinema systems send data digitally - TCP/IP is the protocol used to send data from computer to computer and it has incredibly robust error control (it was designed for use in World War 3!). This ensures that an emailed photo is always exactly the same data as you sent it, no matter whether it crosses a 1ft Ethernet cable or 20,000 miles across the internet. This protocol is not (and cannot be) used in home cinema systems, so the argument falls apart.

Anyway, I've said enough on HDMI cables now, so will bow out the discussion at this point as it's always a subject which seems to inflame people's souls and no one ever wins apart from the God of time wastage :)

What you are saying is you see an improvement in picture quality with more expensive HDMI cables, you can't, that is just not possible.

Errors (bits flipping) on an HDMI cable, as already linked to, don't happen even on the cheapest HDMI cable, you seem to believe they will on cheaper cables. If errors occur they cause sparkling pixels, as a bit error would change significantly the value of a pixel it would be very obvious. What errors can't do is make colours less saturated or make the image less sharp or blacks less black to make one cable produce a better picture than another. It is all in your mind. :)

The brain is an amazing thing and it is tricking you, follow the link below and listen to some garbled sound then be told what that sound is, then listen again. This just shows how the human brain can make us perceive something completely differently if given the information to, i.e. this cable costs £60, so must give me a better picture.

MRC CBU, Cambridge » Matt Davis

Regards

Phil
 
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ste66

Standard Member
At one time I have also tried several different mains cables on my AV receiver to judge performance, one being at the higher end (£130), one in the budget range (£30) and the one that came with the amp. I couldn't detect any difference between the high end and the budget cable, so sent the high end cable back for a refund. So I'd like to think I'm immune to the psychology you mention above as I'd be more than happy to have my £130 back to spend on Blu-Rays, unless of course I notice a difference in performance. I've spent tens of thousands of pounds on my home cinema kit - it's my main hobby and I want to ensure I get the best investment out of it, hence why I try these things.

We are seriously off-topic now, and I guess that's my fault. But if you believe a £30 power cable is "budget" then I think your head has been turned and you are in no way immune to the psychology.

NB. Ben Goldacre may like to hear from you:
£30 power leads
 

professorhat

Active Member
It is all in your mind. :)

If you say so, Phil, then it must be true ;)

Oh, and £30 is most definitely budget when it comes to the cost of the rest of my equipment. As I say, home cinema is a very big hobby for me, I invest tens of thousands of pounds in it (I have over 200 Blu-Rays now) and ensuring I get the best out of my system is how I spend some of my free time.

Funnily enough, my other half is a clinical psychologist so I know a fair amount about the subject :D
 
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Sonic67

Banned
I remember the one in the Hi-Fi mags about aligning up all the screws in the mains plug so they all faced the same direction, that was suppose to improve sound quality!
Really? Wow! Next it will be that the CD player should be facing West as well.
 

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