Listen to What Chuck D Said...

Why Pay Over the Odds For Worthless Marketing BS? 

Right from the off, I wish to point out that I don’t make a habit of doing this, but I was idling watching daytime TV the other day. It was on at a client’s premises, making an annoying noise in the background, much like a dripping tap or wasp stuck in a jar. 

However an item came on BBC’s Watchdog Test House that both caught my eye and pricked up my ears. Now, from the short time I saw it, as far as I can tell this show goes to highlight how everyday home appliances are tested to ensure they are safe to use in the home, so if little Johnny rams the dishwasher with his replica JCB digger toy, said dishwasher will take the punishment and not erupt in a ball of fire.


The particular item that drew my attention was asking the question as to whether there was any difference in the transmission quality of a cheap HDMI lead versus one that cost over 22 times more.

As a consumer test, the Watchdog team had set up two identical Blue Ray players working into two identical TVs placed side by side and played a copy of the same DVD through each system. The only difference being the HDMI lead linking one system together cost £3.99 the other system have a lead costing £89.99. They then invited a local film club to sit, munch their way through popcorn, and vote which cable displayed a better picture and made a sharper sound.

I could have told them the answer form the off. But before the X Factor style reveal, Watchdog first consulted a handy nearby rocket scientist to show us what we may have missed. Frankly they could have got Dave the local satellite installer to explain it because, unfortunately for the rocket scientist his talents where wasted. You see, anyone with a modicum of sense can tell you the difference between the two leads has nothing to do with gold plated contacts, flexible “smooth electron flow” cable or even a funky redesign of the plastic bit that goes around an HDMI connector. No, the difference between the two cables has got everything to do with the wording, the colouring and the design of the packaging i.e. the marketing.

I've written about hype over substance in the headphones market in the past, you can read about it here.

The outcome for the viewing panel was that the majority thought el cheapo cable gave the best result followed by those who couldn’t tell the difference and lastly a minority voting for the lead where you needed more money than sense to buy.

Why couldn’t they tell the difference? Simply put, HDMI is as digital system and providing the material the signal passes through conducts, within reason it doesn’t matter if the connector is gold plated or the cable has got all its atoms aligned or whatever, the signal will get through and if there are any errors when it gets to the TV, then the error-correction software/hardware will sort it out – that’s what it's there for!


The rocket scientist demonstrated this fact by drawing so nice diagrams on a white board and then proceeded to cut the cable in half and join the broken ends together to complete the circuit using his wedding ring and a meat skewer! All to the same end, the signal got through and the viewer could not tell the difference

I guess the rocket scientist carried more gravitas than Dave the sat-dish installer but both could have equally explained that the consumer is just buying more BS than signal quality with the more expensive product.

So where has this got us? No further along the path really. I now know a little more about daytime TV and also re-affirmed my lot in life that I will never stop this tide of marketing BS that simply gets people to part with more of their cash than they need to.

You can see the programme in question here on BBC iPlayer until whenever they disconnect their (probably expensive) HDMI lead….

In closing, all I can do is echo the words of Public Enemy’s Chuck D and “Don’t Believe The Hype”.

You can see that video here, but be warned no amount of “co-axial electron flow” through an optimised HDMI cable will improve the VHS picture quality!


Iain Betson