There’s nothing like ‘smart’ consumer electronics technology for reminding us all that the robot revolution is, thankfully, still some years away. Now that we’re all using HDMI and DVI monitors and televisions, each display has what’s known as Extended Display Identification Data or EDID. This information is sent down the video cable between devices so that, in theory, each device knows the capabilities of the other device and can configure itself accordingly. Such systems can be a big time saver, but of course things often go wrong. The more complex your setup becomes, the more likely that an EDID is wrongly detected. Perhaps you use a HDMI video splitter to send the signal to two or more devices? Often these splitters will incorrectly reproduce the EDID information or send their own EDID which isn’t the same as the source device. Perhaps you were simply unlucky enough to buy a device that has an error in its EDID information. Most devices have a manual override of course, allowing the user to set the output mode regardless of what the EDID advises, but that’s not always the case. One of the most problematic devices is the common Windows PC. Thanks to Microsoft’s design decisions, there’s no easy way to override the EDID supplied settings in Windows. While most graphics card software drivers allow custom screen resolutions to be added, there’s no easy way to do this for audio devices. If your PC thinks your fancy new AV receiver is only capable of stereo sound, then stereo sound is what you are stuck with.
There are several EDID emulators and repeaters on the market that aim to solve this problem. These devices work either by copying an EDID from an existing device or by using a generic EDID with no restrictions on resolution or audio. Gefen’s DVI Detective Plus is one such device that could store an EDID and essentially ‘trick’ a connecting device into thinking it was plugged into something different. At $129.00 though, it isn’t exactly cheap. At $99 the Dr HDMI unit is not only cheaper but more flexible too, incorporating a HDMI repeater and signal booster as well as components to help with HDMI handshaking issues.
Our Dr HDMI unit came swiftly via next day delivery courtesy of the official UK distributors at 3DFury.co.uk. At £49 plus shipping, the unit was half the typical price of the Gefen DVI Detective unit. The Doctor HDMI unit ships in a simple blister pack, with plain black packaging, with the promise that it can “Solve most HDMI issues”. On the unit itself there’s a HDMI input and output port and a row of eight LEDs. These LED’s represent the currently active EDID. Push buttons in the middle of the device will allow you to select between the available memory banks. The first five banks are pre-programmed to various common standards such as 1080p with or without 3D, 720p only, etc. Surprisingly the pre-programmed banks do not include the extended information to enable surround sound audio. Luckily, the big button in the middle of the unit will copy the EDID from any device and store it. This EDID information is stored in bank 8, but using the supplied USB cable and a simple software download, it can be copied to your PC then assigned to either bank 6 or 7. Although you don’t need to do this, it’s recommended since it’s easy to push the button on the unit and overwrite the captured EDID. With the PC software you can capture and store unlimited EDID’s, making the Dr HDMI a powerful tool for installers and videophiles. The USB input also doubles as a power connector, in some instances you may need to connect a power supply to the device (a PSU is not supplied with the unit) but for the majority of applications the power supplied by the HDMI cable is sufficient.
Is this the cure for the HDMI blues?
As a EDID emulator the Dr HDMI worked flawlessly with my gaming PC. By adding a simple, cheap HDMI to DVI adapter, the Dr HDMI will work as a DVI device too (though only for digital connections of course). I’m not fortunate enough to be able to dedicate a PC entirely to gaming, so my main desktop PC has its video output split between a monitor and a AV receiver and TV setup. Of course, this resulted in the EDID being incorrectly detected and the PC refusing to output surround sound to the receiver. Using the Dr HDMI, it was trivial to capture the EDID from the AV receiver, then by connecting the Dr HDMI to the PC, the PC was convinced it was permanently connected to the surround sound system and selecting 7.1 surround sound was no longer a problem.
The Dr HDMI is also a HDMI repeater and booster and can help with handshaking problems too. Typically you might use the device to keep a connection alive, even when a device is turned off. In my setup I don’t use the video output of my AV receiver since I have a separate video processor. However, the AV receiver has an on-screen configuration menu that is occasionally useful to access. The receiver is connected to the second HDMI input on my TV and the video processor to the first. By switching the TV to the first HDMI input, the receiver would become confused as to why it couldn’t properly handshake with the TV, and in doing so it would stop processing the audio signal. Putting the Dr HDMI between the receiver and the TV solved this issue.
Of course, no device can solve every problem you might encounter with HDMI, but if the problem is EDID or handshaking then the Dr HDMI has a pretty good chance of curing the problem. If you need an EDID emulator for any application, the Dr HDMI is the logical choice, being cheaper than the competition. Despite being cheaper though, it offers far more features and is a great deal more flexible. With the Dr HDMI, HDFury have delivered a superbly useful gadget for home theatre enthusiasts, installers and professionals. If you’re having problems with HDMI connections, this is just what the doctor ordered. Find out more about the Dr HDMI by visiting this link.