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Connecting Blu-ray players

Q. I have an older Marantz PV5580 projection HDTV and a Denon AV surround receiver AVR-3802. I have tried to add a Blu-ray player to my system but have not been able to get a picture. Because the TV does not have HDMI inputs, I am using component (red, green, blue) video cables. I have no problem with my regular DVD player or with my HD DVR cable box, which are connected in a similar manner. I have tried two different Blu-ray players and in each case, I get a scrambled image on the screen.

A. Your question brings up important news for readers with older HDTVs lacking HDMI inputs. The "analog sunset" has begun and Blu-ray players introduced from now on will not have high-def component outputs, only HDMI outputs. If you want to get a Blu-ray player to use with your older HDTV the time to buy is now, before players with component outputs are all gone. All Blu-ray players have HDMI, so you can use the component outputs with your current TV and the HDMI output with your future one, so the player will be usable indefinitely.

Some older HDTVs only have one set of component inputs that work with HDTV signals. The other component inputs only work with progressive scan DVD players or Wii game consoles, which do not deliver a high-definition signal. My first HDTV was this way and I had to get a component video passive switchbox in order to watch HD discs, since the high-def component input was already in use with my Dish Network satellite box. The passive switchbox provided three high-def component inputs where once there was only one.

Disconnect the HD DVR from the TV and connect the Blu-ray component outputs directly to the same input. I am confident you will now see a high-def picture with no scrambling. Once you have confirmed it will work, use your receiver to switch the video signals or get a passive switchbox. A passive switchbox can be purchased online or in stores for under $35. It has several inputs for component video with audio, and one output to the TV. Digital audio connections will stay connected directly to the receiver, as they are now.

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Q. Is there a way to tell whether one HDMI cable is better than another, and is the audio/video quality degraded significantly and perceptibly with an "inferior/cheap" HDMI cable? Or, do HDMI cables either work or not? The inexpensive cables I've gotten all seem to be working fine, but since I'm very new to hi-def video I am curious if I am missing out on some of the image or audio quality and don't even know it.

A. HDMI is digital and either works or it doesn't. Think of HDMI like a USB cable going from your computer to your printer. Your inkjet won't print sharper text with a pricier USB cable, and your TV won't have a sharper picture with a pricier HDMI cable.

If you move the cables or equipment around a lot you may want to get cables that are a bit stouter than the least expensive ones. Of course, on a site like monprice.com that would only be a $2 to $3 difference, meaning $7 instead of $4 for a 6-foot HDMI cable.

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