Lord Justice Goldring told families of the victims at a hearing in London on Thursday that he would not await the outcomes of criminal and Independent Police Complaints Commission investigations before holding a fresh inquest into the 1989 disaster.
But he has yet to decide on a venue, after hearing passionate submissions from relatives in favour of holding the inquiry in either the capital or the North West.
"The inquests will not await the outcome of the investigations," Lord Justice Goldring said.
"I don't think it would be sensible or indeed be a kindness to anyone to set
an unrealistic date as to when they start. I will simply say they will start in early 2014.
"As far as the venue is concerned I want to think about it. I will hand down my decision next week."
A new inquest was ordered in December when the High Court quashed the original accidental death verdicts.
The Liverpool fans died following a crush during the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium.
But a damning report last September, compiled by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, laid bare a cover-up which attempted to shift the blame for the tragedy on to its victims.
The report also found that almost half of the victims could potentially have been saved had they received earlier treatment.
Families of the 96 have always challenged the original inquest, which concluded their relatives were dead or brain dead 15 minutes after the game against Nottingham Forest had kicked off.