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HDMI Receivers of the Future

I found out yesterday that my TV only does 1080i, not 1080p, and was somewhat disappointed. Eh, no big deal - I'll ditch it in five years and get a new 60" HDTV capable of 1080p. By then, it should cost only $1.5k or so. I'll also get a new DVD player (when either Blu-Ray or HD DVD wins the format war) and, naturally, a new receiver. By then I may even own a PS3.

My current receiver is pretty old, and I've done all I can to maximize the quality of my various inputs. It has no component input, so my Wii and DVD player hook into the TV. I get local channels via an antenna (but Erie has no real HD) and Pittsburgh locals via the DirecTV TiVo. Then I have a VCR plugged into one of the receiver's S-Video slots. So, watching true local channels, regular TV, playing the Wii, and watching DVDs are all on separate channels.

It's a pain in the butt to keep switching inputs on the TV. It feels so 2001 (the year I bought my current receiver). I looked at several newer receivers, and found that the Sony STR-DG1000 will convert s-video, component, and HDMI singles to HDMI and send them out via the "HDMI Out" port. I could keep my current DVD player (component), my current TiVo (S-Video) or get a new DirecTV HD DVR (

But, alas, this receiver costs $750 and only does 1080i. I wouldn't be gaining anything by switching except the convenience of not having the TV using four separate inputs, and I'd likely have to buy a new receiver when 1080p receivers were available (or in five years per the above).

The back of the Sony STR-DG1000 looks like this:

Receiver Of Today
The modern receiver: composite video, HDMI, optical audio, s-video. A mess.

It has assignable optical audio inputs, two HDMI-in, a few S-Video and component inputs, etc. It has output for 7.1 speakers on A and B channels, several stereo input for things like phonographs and CD players and whatnot. It's quite nice, really.

But HDMI does it all, and it seems to me that the receiver of the future will be much simpler. In fact, it may have a row of HDMI inputs, one HDMI output (to the TV), a series of posts to connect your 7.1 speakers, electrical plugs, and some stereo plugs for your ancient equipment (CD players, my iTunes-powered AirPort Express, etc.). Perhaps the receiver will have some optical audio ports for some newer audio-only equipment.

I sketched all this up and came up with this:

Receiver Of The Future
The receiver of the future: thinner with streamlined input and output.

This mockup features five HDMI inputs, five optical audio inputs, four stereo inputs, three additional (with room for more) AC outlets, 7.1-channel speaker output, FM/AM plugs, plenty of room for an XM satellite plug.

Your typical home may have two game systems, an HD signal, a DVD player, and some random audio things (like AirPort Express). That's four HDMI input and some audio input. Imagine the simplicity of running one cable from each device your receiver and only one cable from your receiver to your TV. Your TV would remain on one input and everything would play through your surround-sound setup.

If you've dealt with the mess of cables that results from a modern setup, the simplicity seen here likely speaks for itself.

I just have one question: is this the way things are headed? Are we moving towards receivers that feature only HDMI input? Except for the Wii (and somewhat the XBox 360), everything is available via HDMI. Perhaps VHS players will be left behind, but so what? Good DVD players with HDMI cost only $199. HDMI-capable TVs cost very little.

Is this the direction things are headed? I hope so, and from what I can tell, it looks like they are.

9 Responses to "HDMI Receivers of the Future"

  1. Wouldn't the studios love that. Only one output - to the TV.

    Today, there are several outputs, allowing one to record what is being played through the receiver.

    But you're probably right - isn't HDMI a protected interface? 🙁

    Ah well, I only have SD today anyway, and don't see spending the money for HD anytime soon. My 27" Sony Trinitron has only composite and S-video input (no component), and my receiver is the same, so it doesn't really matter.

  2. Daniel said on November 18, 2006:

    Wouldn't the studios love that. Only one output - to the TV. Today, there are several outputs, allowing one to record what is being played through the receiver.

    And, like today, you could either put your recording device between the source and the receiver or select a device that offers multiple outputs. In fact, I don't know of many people that record "out" from the receiver. Most people I know record the output of one of their devices. I've recorded from my TiVo onto my computer (via a DV camera) by using the second output on the TiVo, for example. If you really want to record out from your receiver, add another output. There's certainly plenty of room.

    The point is: one-cable (two with power) and a standardized AV format will greatly simplify things. I'm looking forward to it.

  3. Erik J. Barzeski said on November 18, 2006:

    And, like today, you could either put your recording device between the source and the receiver or select a device that offers multiple outputs.

    HDCP will prevent that from happening though, won't it?

  4. Chris Ridd said on November 18, 2006:

    HDCP will prevent that from happening though, won't it?

    Clearly it cannot if your device offers multiple outputs (and one is either unprotected HDMI or is s-video, component video, etc. or if your device or content doesn't employ HDCP into play.

    I'm as "anti-whatever-you-wanna-call-it" (anti-MPAA, anti-RIAA, anti-Big Brother) as anyone else, but I also don't see much need to move media around left and right.

  5. I hate receivers. Not receivers in general but that no one receiver does everything that I want. It will have on-screen menus, but only on certain outputs or not enough of a certain type of input.

    If everything were HDMI it'd be nice and it appears that we're definitely headed in that direction. I wouldn't be able to switch to an HDMI on receiver though, we have too many legacy items (Gamecube, PS2) that we still use.

    There are just a couple things I would add to the all HDMI receiver. The first would be to add a USB port to control the receiver from a computer. The second would be to have Apple design the user interface and remote control. Our current receiver has 69 buttons on the remote control and is a PITA to do anything but change the source input and volume. The third thing would be add a a second HDMI output (for the projector). Finally, as part of ability to control it with a computer, the receiver should be able to modify the current frame-buffer and audio. I've used MythTicker and seen the possibilities for it (popping up storm warnings while you're watching a DVD, displaying caller-id information) and I want it (and since the industry obviously doesn't want _me_ doing it (ala HDCP) the equipment should be able to do it).

    Does HDMI do it all? No, in fact I'm surprised by what I consider a large oversight - command and control. If I plug my DVD player into my receiver, the receiver should be able to control it. I propose that a standard "consumer entertainment protocol" be developed. The receiver should be aware of devices attached to it. I should be able to immediately throw away all remote controls other than one for the receiver. If you click the a button on your receiver remote, the receiver should then instruct the currently selected input to do the appropriate action (ie - next song in iTunes or next chapter for a DVD player, etc).

  6. A primary public consideration here is we have too many Big Brothers. And believe me all of them are out to screw the public. At 66 years old I've seen such happen time and again. HDMI will without a doubt be the next connection standard for TV's, DVD Players, etc. And those Hollywood Movie people want to control what you can and can't see, and certainly restrict anything that might be illegal. This HDMI Standard is already too big to stop, so all had best start preparing or buying extra current day DVD players, and other devices to use for the next few years. Because after that, once HDMI is standard on all devices, we will all be restricted to watching only what they want us to view. Don't fool yourself, it's coming, and I for one think it stinks! I already have my China-Asian Channels open for purchasing what you won't be able to buy in the states. Enough said. Tears are staining my shirt!

  7. [...] HDMI and All Active Output The HR20 has an HDMI port, which is nice. One cable connects to my TV or stereo receiver and carries both digital video and audio. Some day, all receivers may be HDMI. I use not only the HDMI port but the digital optical audio (as my current receiver have no HDMI ports). That gets at one of the nice features of the HR20 - all the audio (HDMI, optical, and stereo) and video (HDMI, component, s-video, and composite) are all active, all the time. I can send video and audio to several different components (like, say, my DV camera, a computer, a DVD recorder, etc.), all at the same time. [...]

  8. if we all stop buying into this, we can regain control of the audio/video market. Instead, we do buy into it and we get mad at them yet we did it to ourselves. We should stand up for ourselves.

    Aside, I would like to see a receiver that does all the upconversion with control over other attached devices. USB will recognize the device, yet you may need a driver to 'communicate' with it. In a sense, this is how home audio should work. No systems should come with remotes, instead you buy a universal remote that you can control all your devices with. The receiver will 'host' all the drivers/communication with the other players. THis will reduce the complication of everything.

  9. [...] involved plugging the audio from each device into the receiver and the video into the TV. The "HDMI Receivers of the Future" aren't here yet, so I went back and forth a few times (including buying and returning another Sony [...]

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