Do HDMI Cables Carry Both Audio & Video? (Explained)

Keeping up with what cables you need for all of your devices can seem like traipsing through a thick jungle of plastic-coated vines, but you may well have heard of one cable that stands out from the tangle – the HDMI cable.

In this article, we look at exactly what HDMI cables are used for and whether or not they can handle both audio and video simultaneously.

Here’s if HDMI Cables Both Audio & Visual:

HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface and the cables have the ability to transmit both video and audio. Uncompressed video signals are sent through the cable. Uncompressed and compressed audio is sent through this cable.

Hand holding Mini DisplayPort and DisplayPort cables with main focus to the cable connections - tilt-shift lens used

HMDI cables are plugged into HDMI ports and can then receive and transfer the audio signals. 

HDMI cable allows users to connect their TVs or home cinemas to source devices for high-definition multimedia entertainment. 

Can All HDMI Cables Carry Audio?

When we plug in our HDMI cable we’re expecting it to carry an audio signal to our TV.

Let’s face it, our favorite show or game wouldn’t be complete without sound.

Audio matters tremendously and so it stands to reason that an HDMI cable should transmit audio.

Thankfully, all HDMI cables have the ability to ensure your media will be accompanied by all the sounds you’d expect.

HDMI cables will, as the folks at rightly point out:

“(…) effectively carry digital audio (compressed or uncompressed) through the same cable. “

Basically, what this means is that an HDMI cable will be able to transmit any audio file out there and have it blaring out of your TV or home cinema.

If you’re experiencing sound issues it is unlikely to do with your HDMI cable.

Why Won’t My HDMI Send A Sound Signal?

So as we’ve seen, the problem of a lack of sound whilst using an HDMI cable will never be that the cable you are using cannot transmit the audio signal.

Instead, the issue will be related to the device you are using.

If you’ve been experiencing audio problems whilst using an HDMI cable then take a look at how to troubleshoot the issue.

Fixing Sound Problems Whilst Using An HDMI Cable & A Windows Laptop/PC

So you want to stream something from your Windows machine to an HDMI device such as a TV or home cinema, but for some reason, you’re not hearing any sound.

Follow these steps to resolve the issue fast by ensuring that you have ‘HDMI’ set as the default audio device:

  1. Open ‘Run‘ in windows by hitting the Windows button and ‘R‘ on your keyboard.
  2. Now type in ‘mmsys.cpl‘ and hit return.
  3. Ensure that you have ‘Playback‘ tab open.
  4. Ensure that your HMDI cable is plugged into both your Windows machine and the other HDMI device.
  5. Select Speaker and Headphones.
  6. Select ‘Set Default‘ and then choose ‘HDMI‘ as your output device.
  7. Click ‘Set Default‘ and then confirm by clicking ‘OK‘.
    • Sometimes devices may not appear in the list of available sound devices.
    • By right-clicking on the list window you can choose to both ‘Show Disabled Devices‘ and ‘Show Disconnected Devices‘.

If the steps above don’t bring you any joy then it may be worth giving the Windows sound troubleshooter a go:

How To Run The Windows Sound Troubleshooter To Fix Audio Whilst Using An HDMI Cable

To open up your Windows sound troubleshooter follow these steps:

  1. Hit the Windows button and the ‘S‘ key simultaneously.
  2. Type out the word – ‘Troubleshoot‘.
  3. Open up the troubleshoot settings and find ‘Playing Audio‘ in the right-hand-side list.
  4. With ‘Playing Audio’ selected you now need to click the ‘Run the troubleshooter‘.
  5. Windows Troubleshooter will analyze and detect any problems it encounters and will advise you on how to solve them. With a little luck, you’ll have audio running through your HDMI cable momentarily.
    • Common issues such as the need to enable your audio controllers, update drivers, or reinstall audio controllers may be the fix you need.

Your HDMI Is Plugged Into Your TV, But You Have No Sound

So your HDMI cable is plugged into your TV and yet there’s not a sound to be heard.

As frustrating as this is, it’s unlikely to be the cable at fault. Take a look at our troubleshooting guide for TVs and HDMI cables to fix your audio issues.

First and foremost, you can always try plugging your HMDI cable into a different TV to test whether or not it is the TV that’s at fault.

Troubleshooting HDMI Audio Issues With A TV

When it comes to Android TVs it’s important to check your settings are configured correctly for an HDMI signal.

  1. Open up ‘Settings‘ from the Home menu on your TV.
    • The following steps will differ depending on the exact model of your TV, but will follow roughly the same procedure:
  2. ‘Watching TV’ > ‘External Inputs’ > ‘HDMI Signal Format’.
  3. At this point, you need to choose ‘HDMI 1-4‘ followed by ‘Standard Format‘.

After ensuring that your HDMI cable is snuggly connected to both your TV and the source device it’s time to confirm that you have your TV set to HDMI:

  1. Press the ‘Source Input‘ button on your remote control.
  2. From the list of options, ensure that ‘HDMI‘ is selected.
  3. If this doesn’t work then it may be worth resetting your TV (refer to your TV’s user manual).

Your Source Device’s Audio Settings Are Preventing Your HDMI Cable From Transmitting Sounds

This is usually a classic situation of just turning up the volume on your source device.

If you’re using a cable box / set-top box for your TV viewing then it may be that you need to use the remote controller for that device and ensure that the volume is up and it’s not muted.

It’s a simple solution to a simple problem, but it’s easy to forget about when you’re pulling out your hair in audio issue hell.

However, sometimes investigating your set-top box’s menu will reveal the answer to your problem.

  • Always ensure that your set-top box is set to HDMI in its audio settings.
  • Remember, you may need to update your set-top box to ensure that you don’t have any HDMI connection problems.

Do HDMI Cables Deliver High-Quality Sound?

With all the talk about high-definition and superior picture quality, it’s easy to forget about sound quality, but we’re here to tell you that those HDMI cables will ensure that you get the sound you deserve.

Now, HDMI cables cannot improve the sound quality on their own, but they do support the best of what’s on offer:

  • HDMI cables can deliver DTS HD
  • HDMI cables can deliver Dolby True HD
  • They support Stereo 3D and Surround Sound
  • HMDI cables can ensure that you experience the optimal sound quality that your equipment can produce (allowing for 7.1 surround sound via a total of eight channels).
  • Audio and visuals should stay perfectly in sync.
  • Remember, older cables, such as HDMI 1.0 will not allow you to get the best out of your high-end devices.

Can All HDMI Cables Carry Video?

HDMI cables wouldn’t be HDMI cables if they couldn’t carry video to our screens.

It’s what they are designed to do.

The HDMI cable provides the interface for your high-definition media (your videos and audio) to be sent to where you want it (what you have it plugged into).

If you’ve not got an image on your screen whilst using your HDMI cable, then either the cable is kaput, or you need to take a look at the devices you are using and check they’re configured correctly.

Do HDMI Cables Make A Difference In Picture Quality?

HDMI cables have different capabilities when it comes to supporting video resolution, so yes, your picture quality could be different depending on which one you use with what source device.

There are four main types of HDMI cables:

  1. Standard HDMI cables
  2. High-Speed HDMI cables
  3. Premium High-Speed HDMI cables
  4. Ultra High-Speed HDMI cables

The proper specifications for these cables are covered in more detail later on in this article, but for the best picture quality, you should opt for an Ultra High-Speed HDMI cable.

However, it’s worth noting you cannot simply improve the quality of your picture by using a more advanced cable, your device will still have to support this quality.

For example, if you have a TV that only supports 4K, you cannot use an Ultra High-Speed HDMI cable in hopes of achieving 8K picture quality.

So to summarise, the quality of the picture displayed will only be as good as the quality that the device connected can support.

Do HDMI Cables Make A Difference In Sound Quality?

HDMI cables are known for their superior video quality transmissions, but they also allow for the transmission of audio data in the same cable.

Similarly to picture quality, the more advanced the HDMI cable is, the sharper and more in-sync the audio quality will be. Since the invention of HDMI 2.0 and 2.1, we are now able to transmit not just 8 audio channels, but up to 32 channels.

If you are using an HDMI cable that offers fewer capabilities than the device you have connected to it, you will receive a lower audio quality than is achievable.

That is why it’s imperative to note what audio quality your device is capable of so you can pair it with the most appropriate HDMI cable; ensuring you achieve the highest quality audio possible.

After all, who wouldn’t want to get the best out of their devices?

What Other Cables Can Transmit Both Audio & Video?

HDMI cables are not the only cables that have the ability to support both audio and video data.

Here are some other types of cables that can transmit both audio and video:

  1. Coaxial Video Cables
    • They were once the one and only option for connecting and transmitting both video and audio.
    • The cable relied on a ‘stinger‘ which has just one pin to connect to your devices.
    • This ‘stinger’ needed to be pushed or screwed in. You may remember connecting the original NES to your TV using this cable.
  2. SCART Cables
    • These chunky connectors have 21-pins and were synonymous with old tech (think Playstation 1 and Sega Saturn), with the ability to only display standard definition.
    • These cables could transmit both audio and visual signals and were mainly used in Europe.
  3. FireWire / IEEE 1394
    • These cables can support MPEG-2 and digital audio and are commonly used with connecting video cameras directly to HDTVs or home theatres.
  4. RCA Cables
    • Yellow, red, and white connectors allow both audio and video to be sent from devices such as VCRs and DVD players to your TV.
    • The yellow connector is for video, whilst the red and white send right and left stereo respectively.

How Do You Know If Your HDMI Is Broken?

Like many things, as brilliant as HDMI cables are, they are also susceptible to breakages either by accident or with improper use.

HDMI cables do not last forever and are prone to wear and tear.

Here are the most obvious indicators to watch out for when assessing whether your HDMI cable is functioning correctly:

  • No visible picture
  • No sound
  • Intermittent audio or picture quality
  • Out-of-focus visuals
  • Crackling in the audio
  • Abnormal colors

If you begin to notice any of these symptoms then it could be a sign of a broken HDMI cable, and therefore it is best that you replace it as soon as possible.

Here are 3 tips and tricks to help improve the longevity of your HDMI cable:

  1. Always ensure you carefully remove the HDMI cable from its port on your device.
    • A cable that is handled forcefully is more susceptible to damage and can create a loose connector.
  2. Never bend your HDMI cable too far.
    • Although the cable casing is flexible, over time this can cause the outer plastic to crack or tear, exposing the wire beneath.
  3. Make sure you store your HDMI cable safely so it is not exposed to unnecessary wear and tear. 

Read our blog here about do USB extension cables affect performance?

Do You Need Special HDMI Cables For High-Resolution Video?

There have been many advances in the types of HDMI cables over the years to cope with the ever-increasing enhancements of video resolution.

Unfortunately, standard HDMI cables will not be able to support HD resolution video; you will need to use a certain type of cable designed for this purpose.

A standard HDMI cable only supports up to 720p and 1080i.

Below are the types of HDMI cables you will need to purchase in order to successfully support an HD video resolution of 1080p upwards.

High-Speed HDMI Cable

These cables are designed to carry:

  • Up to 4K at 30Hz
  • 1080p resolution
  • 3D technology

High-Speed cables have a bandwidth of up to 10.2Gbps and are designed for HDMI 1.3 to 1.4a.

They may be less advanced than the cables to follow, but they are a solid choice when it comes to watching high-resolution video.

You can also get High-Speed Ethernet HDMI cables which have all the same features as a High-Speed cable but they have their own dedicated Ethernet channel.

Premium High-Speed

These cables have more advanced bandwidth capabilities, offering bandwidth up to 18Gbps. They are designed to support HDMI versions 2.0, 2.0a and 2.0b.

Premium High-Speed cables can transmit:

  • 4K at 60Hz
  • HDR
  • 4:4:4 chroma sampling
  • BT:2020

These impressive specifications make this type of HDMI cable a great choice for gaming, design software, and other high-resolution video outputs.

Another added bonus is you can purchase this cable with both Type A and D connectors, meaning they are better designed to suit all your needs.

Ultra High-Speed HDMI Cable

This is the last type of cable on this list and boasts an impressive ability to support both uncompressed 8K resolution at 60Hz and 4K at a whopping 120Hz.

  • It has the highest bandwidth of up to 48Gbps and could potentially reach 240Hz and display 10K when combined with an HDR TV.
  • Not only is this cable compatible with earlier versions of HDMI as well as supporting HDMI 2.1a, but it also has impressive new abilities such as Enhanced Audio Return Channels and Variable Refresh Rates.

Read our blog here about do HDMI cables carry different speeds?


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