HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface and is used for transferring both uncompressed audio and video sources from one device to another with a specialized port on the device providing both sources.
Usually, devices that are HDMI-compatible are multimedia devices such as display monitors, video cameras, desktop computers, gaming consoles, some select audio devices, and home theater systems. There are also additional devices that can support HDMI output, although they will be needing a specialized HDMI Adapter Plug to be able to do so.
The majority of home theater system brands offer both audio and video playback where a user can either choose which one to use (either audio-only, video-only, or audio-video playback) as its feature. Hence, many users of such devices have opted to use the device for listening to audio such as music, drama CDs, and even audiobooks.
This is where many suggest using an HDMI audio extractor to fully enjoy the best audio quality from their chosen device. But not many are familiar with such a tool and are confused as to why they need to have it in their system in the first place. Therefore, we are going to look into what exactly HDMI audio extractor is, its uses, and why it is important to have one for your audio listening experience.
HDMI Audio Extractor: What Is It?
An HDMI audio extractor is a device that is used to split the HDMI input signal that it receives into two separate inputs, namely an audio output and a normal HDMI output. Usually, it is built as a small black box with an HDMI male plug cable dangling from its rear compartment but there are other designs that exist in the market today.
The main use of an HDMI audio extractor is for splitting the audio and video source that it receives from the main HDMI source. As the name of the device suggests, it will prioritize the handling and extraction of the audio source so that it can be successfully sent as a 2-channel stereo analog source or a digital audio source that supports the usage of an optical S/PDIF jack.
That specific usage of such a jack can support the usage of 7.1 Dolby digital surround sound.
And as for the video source, it is simply whisked away by the extractor to the output location it needs to be in without any modifications whatsoever. See our best rated HDMI Audio Extractors round-up article.
HDMI Audio Extractor: How Does It Work?
For an HDMI audio extractor to properly work. It must first isolate the audio signal source that it will be receiving from the main device. Once intercepted, the audio extractor will then decrypt and recode the received audio signal into a different type of signal (i.e. from digital to analog and vice-versa).
It usually recodes the audio signal to an analog signal, but there are some instances that it can also recode the signal to a different type, like digital for example. However, simply put, an HDMI audio extractor is essential if you want to convert HDMI audio signals to analog signals for your chosen audio device.
Do take note that by default that an HDMI audio extractor will transmit a digital signal and thus won’t produce either a viable audio or video signal when left untouched. This is especially true when playing an audio or video source from an HDMI to RCA connection, wherein RCA connections are purely analog.
This is where both audio (HDMI audio extractors) and video extractors (audio-video capture cards or HDMI video capture) come into play in order to be able to use RCA as an output.
HDMI Trivia #1
An HDMI cable has 19 pins inside it that are designed to transmit high-definition signals and other types of signals as well. Some other signals an HDMI cable can transit are remote control commands and device information. There are even specific HDMI cables called directional HDMI cables that are just made to transmit signals further and faster than a standard HDMI cable.
Why Should You Use an HDMI Audio Extractor?
The simple answer to that question would be for instances that you need to convert any HDMI input source to an audio-only output source, such as listening to music or audiobooks. Additionally, you will be needing it when you are going to use an analog output for your audio listening needs. Ironically, you will be also using it as well for your video viewing needs too.
Instances Where You Need an HDMI Audio Extractor
Although not an everyday scenario for sure, there will be some instances in your life when you will be needing to use an HDMI audio extractor. Some of those instances would be the following:
1. Routing an audio source signal from an HDMI-only device to an RCA-only output device. Remember that you are basically converting a digital-only audio source to an analog-only audio output, wherein a specialized device is needed for that to successfully work. Furthermore, this will also apply in reverse, especially when you are going to watch multimedia files such as movies.
2. Most homeowners with their own home theater room will most likely use that system for their audio listening experience. In order to fully experience the best when it comes to audio listening, it is highly advised that a secondary audio system be used instead for high-quality audio listening.
You can use an HDMI audio extractor to direct the audio signal source from your home theater system to your secondary audio system.
3. If you are using an older RCA-only device or an older analog receiver and want to connect it to a modern HDMI-compatible device, the usage of an HDMI splitter is required. An HDMI splitter is essentially the predecessor of the modern HDMI audio extractor but for video instead.
An HDMI splitter duplicates a single HDMI signal and its output several times to its output sources. In this case, you will be using the HDMI splitter for video output in tandem with an HDMI audio extractor for audio output.
4. Another instance of needing an HDMI audio extractor would be if your system uses a wireless HDMI transmitter.
HDMI Trivia #2
HDMI connections are primarily used for transferring uncompressed high-quality audio and video signals from an HDMI-compatible device to a connected output source. The majority of those uncompressed audio and video signals are large when it comes to total memory size. Additionally, HDMI is becoming the standard for both audio and video transmission as it can outperform its predecessors, namely VGA and audio jack cables.
Is There Degradation in Sound Quality When Using an HDMI Audio Extractor?
That question isn’t true as an HDMI audio extractor won’t degrade the sound quality of the audio signal being passed through it. Remember that it usually receives digital audio signals, which won’t be easily degraded. It will be only degraded if the audio device acting as the audio input source has issues, or the quality of the HDMI cable is lower than of standard quality (i.e. illegitimate brands of HDMI cables).
Furthermore, the sound quality will only degrade if using other devices that may interfere with the audio extractor, such as an HDMI coupler. Other things that can potentially affect the sound quality would be the sample rate of the HDMI audio extractor not meeting the required rate, the version of HDMI that your chosen device supports, the length of the HDMI cable used, etc.
Do remember that in order to keep the best sound quality from an audio source as much as possible, the key factor to that is the sample rate. The sample rate is the basis of how an audio signal is received; the higher the sample rate, the better sound quality comes out as smooth analog output.
However, if the sample rate is lower than what your device requires, expect two things to happen as a result. The first thing that would happen is that the production of higher frequencies becomes nigh impossible, thus resulting in little to no sound being heard at all.
Second, the timbres in the sound quality will be dulled, but you don’t need to worry about it if you are just an average consumer. But if you’re a hardcore audiophile or a sound engineer, that would be very bad news for you, as your listening experience is ruined.
HDMI Trivia #3
When it comes to consumer laws, HDMI uses the Consumer Electronics Association/Electronic Industries Alliance 861 standards (EIA/CEA-861). That standard both implement and define video formats at the same time, the handling and transport of both compressed and uncompressed LPCM (Linear Pulse Code Modulation) audio, and the implementation of EDID (Extended Display Identification Data).
LPCM audio is a digital method for encoding uncompressed audio information, while EDID is the global AV (Audio-Video) standard being used for the majority of multimedia-capable devices to automatically communicate with your AV sources such as display monitors, Smart TVs, and even projectors.
Choosing the Right HDMI Audio Extractor
When it comes to choosing the correct HDMI audio extractor for your chosen device, it is important to check first the input device’s specifications. There are some devices that would only need a specific length of HDMI audio cable to achieve the highest quality output, while there are some that need a specific version of the HDMI for it to work properly and without issues.
What To Look Out For
Keep in mind that when looking for a new or replacement HDMI audio extractor is that it should come with the newer HDMI 2.0 support and ports, as using the older HDMI support and ports will significantly affect the output quality. As of November 2017, the latest HDMI version support available in the market is version 2.1.
Models and Brands Do Matter
The basic models and brands of an HDMI audio extractor will only support the basic stereo sound output. If you are looking for an audio extractor that can support 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound for your home theater or audio system of choice, then you will be needing to prepare a bigger budget for buying one that can support either or both.
Spending Budget for Your Audio Extractor
However, the good thing is that most 5.1 and 7.1-compatible audio extractors in the market today are still in double digits and rarely there are models and/or brands that are triple digits and above.
Audio Extractors with Additional Features
Additionally, there are some audio extractors that support various types of output such as RCA (analog), 3.5 mm (and some 6.35 mm), digital optical, and of course HDMI. There are also other devices with their own integrated HDMI audio extractor that can function similarly to a standalone version, with some additional features such as audio source and output switching.
Remember Format Compatibility
Do remember when choosing an HDMI audio extractor that you need a compatible output format for it. Regardless of the model and/or brand, if you don’t have a compatible output format, your HDMI audio extractor would be useless in the end. Both RCA and 3.5 mm input signals are convertible to analog audio signals, while both digital optical and HDMI signals aren’t convertible without the proper hardware/software to decrypt those into analog signals.
As we have seen from the instances above, you will be needing an HDMI audio extractor for your audio listening needs, and to a degree, for your multimedia-consuming experience (i.e. watching movies). Having such a device will help you attain the best audio and video output quality that you can fully experience from either your home theater or audio system.
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