How to extend HDMI with Minimal Pain

Monoprice's HDMI Extenders
The Monoprice HDMI extender is a great, inexpensive way to extend your HDMI signal. Some models will extend the signal up to 328 feet.

HDMI is conceptually beautiful: a single cable that takes the place of eight and passes pristine audio and spectacular video. That mirage quickly passes, however, once you start using HDMI in any extensive way. Instead of conceptual beauty you get practical reality.

I won’t go into the myriad of issues that can creep up that include handshaking issues to easily bent pins in the cable.  Instead, I want to focus on one particular limitation of HDMI that can become frustrating: cable length.  As a rule of thumb, all your HDMI cables should be 6 foot cables (about 2 meters).  That’s the optimal length.

However, that’s just not a realistic.  You often need 10, 15, 30, 50 or even 100 foot lengths.  Most cables will have maddening problems at those lengths or just won’t work.  If you need to run any HDMI cable for long runs up to about 25 feet you need to make sure that you have an amplified or directional cable, which will tend to support those lengths better.

For anything longer than that, I strongly recommend that you consider using an HDMI extender. In practical terms, an extender takes a computer data cable (CAT5 or CAT6) and uses it to send the HDMI signal without corruption for up to 300 feet.

In my house, I had to run an HDMI signal 93 feet from the main cabinet where I have all my digital sources to a remote room where I had the TV. The only solution was to use a balun and send the HDMI signal over a pair of CAT6 cables.

When I looked at HDMI extenders, I was floored at the costs! Some cost up to $600. So I headed over to and picked out an HDMI balun. I don’t like to have extra power bricks so I picked a model that would use the power passed by the HDMI cable itself. That was a big mistake. It simply didn’t work reliably and gave me all sorts of problems.

Some of the problems were of my own doing and some were the fault of the unit. Here are the lessons I learned that can hopefully help you:

  1. Use CAT6 cabling. It doesn’t cost much more and will future proof you.
  2. Do not terminate the CAT6 cable! Do not terminate it on a wall port or terminate it on a patch panel. It will not work. I had initially terminated all my cabling to a patch panel so that I could ideally patch all my AV in the house to any room. That was a mistake. It will not work!
  3. Ideally use pre-terminated cabling since you need the two cables to be exactly the same length.
  4. Use a powered HDMI balun. The non-powered versions are not good for longer lengths.
  5. Run an extra pair of CAT6 cables in case the one or both of the other pair of cables sets damaged.
  6. Number or color code the cables before you run them so that you don’t plug them into the HDMI balun in the wrong order.

After almost 2 years, I’ve been happily using an HDMI extender. The solution works and works well. If you have a long HDMI run (or even a shorter one like 15-30 feet) then and HDMI extender may be a perfect solution for you.

If you are curious as to which unit I ultimately got, it was this one from monoprice. It was the perfect unit in terms of price and stability.
For under $50 this is the perfect solution.

It appears as though Monoprice has come out with an additional unit here:
Though more expensive, this unit adds status lights that can apparently help diagnose signal connections and support runs up to 328 feet.

The great news for anyone tackling such projects is that there are now more options and they are very affordable.

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