16 October 2012

So, you got yourself a nice set of speakers, a good home theater amplifier, a fancy blu-ray player, and a giant flatscreen. Now you just want to hook it all together and enjoy the lovely 7.1 channel sound. Piece of cake, right?

No.

In fact, it is relatively easy to connect everything together and make it “work”, but it is downright mind-numbing to figure out if you are getting the full experience. Or, one thing may work, but other things do not.

For example, maybe Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks play nicely in surround sound, but 7.1 channel sound like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio do not.

And sometimes, nothing works at all.

Don’t worry, though: you are not alone. Do a simple search on Google, and you will find tons of posts on multiple forums with people who are just as confused as you are.

Frankly, I’m not surprised. There are so many standards and little technical details involved, you darn near need a PhD in electrical engineering just to enjoy a movie with HD sound.

And so, I present my quasi-guide to Home Theater Setup!

You’ve already completed Step #1: Buy stuff.

Good job. Now the fun begins…

First of all, in order to help you out a bit, here are some nice pictures of the types of cables you need to know about:

HDMI cable, male-male, standard Type A connectors – Carries high-definition audio & video from/to your amplifier
HDMI jack
Optical (S/PDIF) Cable – carries only digital audio from your blu-ray player to your amplifier
Digital Coaxial (S/PDIF) Cable – same as optical cable in that it carries only digital audio from blu-ray/dvd to amplifier
Optical and Coaxial digital audio jacks (also known as S/PDIF jacks)

Right. With that out of the way, you know what you are looking for.

Next, you will need to know the following information:

  1. Does your blu-ray player have an HDMI output?
  2. Does your amplifier have an HDMI input? If it does, it most likely has an HDMI output to connect to your TV.
  3. Does your blu-ray player have an optical or coaxial digital output?
  4. Does your amplifier have an optical or coaxial digital input?
  5. Do you want 3D high-def TV, or just normal hi-def? If you want 3D, you may need newer HDMI cables.
  6. Does any of your equipment connect to the internet? If so, does it use Ethernet-over-HDMI? If it does, you will need HDMI version 1.4 cables!
  7. Do you have a cup of coffee or tea? If not, go get some, because this will get hairy…

Now, you may have noticed that your amplifier supports 7.1 channel audio, and it has HDMI jacks, but it only has 5.1 channels in terms of analog speaker outputs. This is normal, unless you purchased a very high-end amplifier. For the rest of us, 5.1 speakers is more than enough.

If you only have 5.1 speakers, your amplifier will “convert” the high-definition 7.1 channel audio into 5.1 channels for listening through your speakers. But, there are several “gotchas” to be aware of.

I want the best HD audio possible!

Great. In that case, you CANNOT use an Optical or Coaxial cable for your audio. Well, you can, but you won’t be getting the full HD bitstream. Or, you might – kind of.

Basically, no one knows exactly, because it depends on your equipment and (apparently) the standard implemented for your S/PDIF jacks in your blu-ray player and amplifier.

What we do know is that the bandwidth for S/PDIF Optical and Coax cables is not nearly as high as that of an HDMI cable, and thus if you want the best possible quality, ditch your optical and coax cables for transporting digital audio from your blu-ray player to your amplifier.

Instead, you must use an HDMI cable for the audio connection between the blu-ray and the amp for 7.1 HD audio.

Some audiophiles actually buy special blu-ray players that have 7.1 channel analog outputs. They then take those analog outputs, feed them into the 7.1 analog inputs on their fancy amplifier, and that’s how they get 7.1 channel sound.

That’s a bit too fancy and cable-intensive for my tastes, though!

I only have 5.1 speakers!

In my own case, my old 5.1 amplifier could NOT handle a normal bitstream output from the blu-ray player when a 7.1 channel movie was playing. The new 7.1 amplifier (with 5.1 speaker outputs) does handle the normal bitstream output via Optical cable, AND it also supports the blu-ray player’s “Bistream – Audiophile” output setting. In both cases, the new amp identifies the input data stream from the blu-ray player as “Dolby Digital”.

And here is where it gets hairy: Sometimes, even if your amplifier IS getting the full, 7.1 channel bitstream from the blu-ray player via HDMI, it will still report that it’s “only” using Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS. In other words, it’s reporting what it has “down-converted” the sound to, not the actual input bitstream format.

Or, is that what’s actually happening? Who knows! Probably only the engineers who designed the damn thing…

Are you confused yet?

The good news is that if you use an HDMI cable to connect your blu-ray player to your amp, everything should “just work” in terms of bitstreams and 7.1 HD audio and all that jazz.

If you know that the digital audio getting to your amp is uncompressed, full 7.1 HD, then the only impediment to great sound is the quality of your amplifier itself!

What kind of HDMI cable do I need?

Also, to save yourself any potential headaches, go out and buy some HDMI 1.4 or 1.4a cables, sometimes known as “high speed HDMI”, or “high speed HDMI with ethernet”.

HDMI 1.3 cables fully support 7.1 channel Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, but they do not officially support 3D video.

HDMI 1.4 and above also officially supports: 3D video, ethernet over HDMI, ARC (see below), and 4k x 2k ultra-high resolution (which isn’t really available yet).

You can check out a comparison of the different HDMI versions here.

I can’t use my TV speakers any more!

You are not crazy. When using HDMI, usually the setup works like so:

  • Blu-ray -> Amplifier with HDMI cable
  • Amplifier -> TV with HDMI cable

That makes sense, right? The blu-ray player sends the video and audio data to the amp. The amp processes the audio, and sends at least the video to the TV.

The one benefit of this setup is that if your amplifier has on-screen menus, it can display them on the TV. Or, if your amp plays music from a USB stick, you can use the amp’s onscreen TV menu to browse for files on your USB stick.

In any case, sometimes the amplifier has a setting for also sending the audio stream to the TV; sometimes, it doesn’t send the audio to the TV at all. Yet other times, your amplifier will be extra-fancy, and it will have a “Standby-Passthru” mode where, when the amplifier is turned off, it will keep sending the video/audio through to the TV.

In my case, once the amplifier is turned off, there is no sound OR picture on the TV. Lame!

A typical powered HDMI splitter

There is a very simple way to solve this problem, however. Run over to your local electronics superstore or hop on the net to Amazon and search for “HDMI splitter”. You will want to find one that is powered, as powered splitters contain an amplifier to prevent signal degradation and to help support longer HDMI cables.

HDMI splitters simply take 1 input stream and split/amplify it into 2 output streams. This allows you to connect things like so:

  • Blu-ray -> Splitter
  • Splitter -> Amplifier
  • Splitter -> TV

Voila! Now, when you want Big Sound, you turn on your amp, turn down the volume on your TV, and you’re rockin’ and rollin’.

When you want to just use the TV speakers, turn off your amp, and turn up the volume on your TV.

Problem solved.

One little note: it seems that if you want 3D video, using a splitter will generally cause problems…

There is also something called ARC, or Audio Return Channel. This is part of HDMI that allows you to use a single cable between the TV and amplifier to either output video/audio to the TV, or input TV audio to the amplifier. In any case, this doesn’t solve the problem of not wanting to have your amplifier on when you only want to use the TV speakers!

My Amplifier / TV / Blu-ray player are turning on and off when I use a different remote!

This is due to something called “HDMI Control”. HDMI Control allows you to operate external devices via HDMI. For example, if you connect a TV and amplifier that both support HDMI Control, you can control the amp’s power and volume with the TV remote control. You can also control other devices, depending on what’s connected to your amp and what devices support HDMI Control.

Usually there is also a setting called something like “Standby Mode” or “Standby Control” that uses HDMI Control to turn your amplifier on and off, for example, when your TV is turned on and off.

If you don’t like this automatic behavior, find the appropriate HDMI Control setting in your amplifier, TV, or other device’s Setup menus and disable it.

I’m using Coaxial – is optical better?

Yes and no. The fact is, both optical and coax cables use the same protocol to transmit data.

While it is true that coax is not immune to electrical interference like optical cable, the simple fact of the matter is that coax cable by its very nature is highly immune to noise already. Plus, if you step on a coax cable, you probably won’t damage it. If you step on an optical cable, bend it too much, or smush it accidentally under a piece of furniture, you may have to buy a new optical cable.

In any case, don’t listen to marketing hype about “gold-plated monster wires” and all that. It’s BS designed to get you to part with as much money as possible. The only thing “gold-plating” helps with is corrosion, and by the time your coax is corroded, you will have long since thrown it away and switched to HDMI – or whatever comes next!

Anything else?

Well, there is a lot more one could write… For example, calibrating the speakers on your amplifier is usually a semi-painful process for those who are less technically inclined. Some amplifiers have an auto-calibration feature, and the amplifier comes with a special microphone for this purpose.

If your amplifier doesn’t have this function, I still highly recommend calibrating all your speakers manually (refer to your amp’s user’s manual). Yeah, I know, that’s not the answer you were looking for, but in the end, it’s worth it. Each room is different acoustically speaking, so you might as well suffer a bit to get maximum enjoyment from your new toys!

Also, there is a big difference between 2.1 and 5.1 channel setups, especially due to 2.1 setups’ lack of a center channel speaker. Get yourself a high-quality, more full-range (read: bigger) center channel speaker, as well as 2 large full-range Left and Right speakers. The two surround speakers can be smaller. The center channel is where all the dialog in movies is fed thru, so don’t skimp on that particular speaker. You’ll be quite happy with the result in the end!

So, there you have it. I hope this helps somebody out there. I know I was darn near pulling my hair out just trying to find information on whether or not I needed to use HDMI, an optical cable, or what for 7.1 HD sound…

Have fun!

Get Scottie Stuff!
HD Home Theater Setup: HDMI vs Optical, 5.1 vs 7.1, and everything else
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123 thoughts on “HD Home Theater Setup: HDMI vs Optical, 5.1 vs 7.1, and everything else

  • 15 November 2012 at 00:41
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    WOW! Thanks, awesome info! I was looking for the differences between optical and coax and now i got it clear!

    Cheers!

    Vivi.

    Reply
  • 26 December 2012 at 11:32
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    Thank you, your info is very useful for someone like me who has just been starting to put together a new home theatre system.

    Reply
  • 28 December 2012 at 02:39
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    Very clear. Thank you.
    Peter, Adelaide, Australia

    Reply
  • 3 January 2013 at 20:59
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    Hi guys! On another website article, http://www.hometheater.com/content/how-connect-blu-ray-player#comment-502348 ,
    It is suggested that if your blu ray player has only one HDMI out, then you should buy an HDMI splitter, then one cable to your receiver, other to tv.

    But according to your article, the setup can simply be:
    •Blu-ray -> Amplifier with HDMI cable
    •Amplifier -> TV with HDMI cable

    Is the splitter ONLY beneficial to stop audio coming out of your tv speakers when watching a movie? I really don’t want to bother paying or using an HDMI splitter if I dont have to….

    Reply
    • 4 January 2013 at 13:20
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      Pretty much, yeah. In my case, if I do Blu-ray -> Amp, Amp -> TV, (IOW daisychained) I must have the amp on in order to have sound from a Blu-ray movie on the TV speakers only. Your amp may support the whole “stand-by passthru”, in which case the audio would be passed thru to your TV even when the amp is off.

      But if you really don’t care about having your amp on while using the TV speakers, you can just mute the sound from the amp and turn up the volume on the TV speakers. Or, if you never intend to use your TV speakers, there’s no need for a splitter.

      If your amp has an HDMI input from Blu-ray, but there is NOT an HDMI output for the TV, then you’d need a splitter.

      And, in any case, you can always mute the TV speakers when using your amp for surround sound. I think most amps, if daisychained together as outlined above, will actually cut the audio going to the TV when you are doing surround sound. This is what my amp does normally, and there is a setting where I can actually choose if I want to output the audio to the TV, or use the amp for surround sound.

      I seriously look forward to the day when there is some kind of standard where you just plug one cable between everything, and everything just works beautifully, no matter what TV or Blu-ray player or amp you buy… But I’m not holding my breath!

      Reply
  • 26 July 2013 at 21:07
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    just one question. My blu ray player says Audio Decoding Output to be a 7.1 ch, does that mean 2.1 conversion to 5.1/7.1 on the fly?
    if i play a source of 2 channel stereo audio in my blu ray player then will i be able to get 5.1 surround effect in my HT?

    Reply
  • 26 July 2013 at 23:04
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    @varun gupta

    If your blu-ray player has an actual built-in decoder, then it would probably have individual outputs (probably line-level) for the various speaker channels. But normally, it just means that it will send the 7.1 channel audio to the HT via HDMI or S/PDIF (coax or optical).

    For my blu-ray player and HT, both will do “downconversion” from more channels to fewer channels, and only the HT will do “virtual surround” from a stereo input.

    Reply
  • 23 September 2013 at 09:27
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    Hi, i have this Sony control center, my dad bought it way back. So it doesnt have hdmi in it, but it has optical spdif, im sorry im not good at these terms, anyway. Our tv, an LED one does have hdmi but doesnt have optical. So my question is what do i do with it, do i need the hdmi splitter your talking about? Please help! 🙁

    Reply
  • 23 September 2013 at 10:01
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    @Maricon Ordiales

    Well, if the Sony box has an optical input, and you’d like to use it with a blu-ray player, then you need to connect the optical output of the blu-ray player (or DVD player) to the Sony receiver. Then you’d need to connect the video output to the TV (this could be HDMI, or component video, or worst case a yellow RCA cable – BAD!). If you are using a blu-ray player, you must connect the blu-ray player to the TV with an HDMI cable for a FullHD picture.

    The video and audio can be separate though, so you can do:

    1. HDMI from blu-ray -> TV for video
    2. Optical from blu-ray -> Receiver for sound

    In this case, since your receiver is older, you won’t get the latest and greatest surround sound formats (not a big deal, really). But you may need to go into the settings of your blu-ray player and change the “PCM/bitstream output” or whatever they call it to a different setting until the receiver “understands” the audio bitstream coming over the optical cable.

    Hope this helps!

    Reply
  • 1 October 2013 at 12:49
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    Hi thank u for the reply. So i did what you said, now my player is working. But when i try to play a movie from my HDD, the surround doesnt work. The audio is coming from the tv itself so im not happy with it. Can you help me how to make the surround work with the HDD? Thanks

    Reply
  • 8 December 2013 at 08:27
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    I have a onida dvd player in which the manual says the player has “dts digital out”. I have 5.1 multimedia iball speaker system. When I play a dts 5.1 audio cd, no sound is heard. The cd manufacturer said if the player got dts out it does not work, because it does’nt have the capacity to play dts audio & that I need a blue ray player. On scrutiny of the back panel of the dvd player, I find a set of connection female socket marked “Digital audio Bitstream LCPM under which two sockets one “co axial”, the other “optical”. My 5.1 speaker system has got 6 ports for dvd, 2 ports for aux to receive inputs.Can you suggest a method to connect the available systems to play dts 5.1 cd?

    Reply
    • 8 December 2013 at 21:13
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      I’m not familiar with the iBall systems, but if I understand things correctly, you have 1 primary possibility: connect the coax or optical port of the DVD player to the iBall system. In this case, both the DVD player and the speaker system must support the DTS 5.1 format. If the iBall speaker system doesn’t have an optical or coax digital input, then the inputs are most likely analog (6 inputs for 5 channels + 0.1 channels (subwoofer)). In that case, you need some kind of intermediate amplifier – or something – to convert the 5.1 channel digital audio to analog outputs.

      Reply
  • 23 April 2014 at 20:46
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    I have a sony 3d player, but my sony sound bar is not capable of handling 3d, will a hdmi splitter solve this problem where I can use my sound system again,thanks

    Reply
  • 24 May 2014 at 10:42
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    I have Bluray Player with Digital /Optical port also i have a Sony LCD TV 32″HD Reddy but the Optical Port not Available in LCD also Available in 2 port of HDMI.which is all readdy connect with blueray player but i have require the Blueray Player atch with LCD TV Via Optical Vable this is Possible if any Covertor available in marlet to Digit Cable to HDMI , hens we get best result

    Pl. advise me
    Regards

    Reply
    • 24 May 2014 at 11:18
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      If I understand your problem correctly, this gizmo should work.

      It converts an HDMI Input to HDMI Output + optical digital output + RCA stereo output.

      Reply
  • 29 May 2014 at 20:46
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    Hi I can’t seem to get picture or sound on my ps4 through my home cinema system I can get other things to work through hdmi but I think it seems to sound different I think it’s pcm? Don’t seem to be on the screen and I’m sure it did before and when I do connect the ps4 it seems to be trying to connect? The multi channel pcm goes across the screen and goes to unlock and pcm goes across the screen a few times??? 🙂 🙂

    Reply
    • 30 May 2014 at 21:34
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      I’ve never even seen a PS4 in real life, so I don’t even know where to start in terms of debugging. But, I would assume that whatever the bitstream output of the PS4 is, the HCS doesn’t “understand” it. So, I would see if I could change any settings in the HCS or PS4, if possible… If you get no picture or sound, then there are lots of possibilities. Some HCS systems pass video through, while others don’t even really do that. And then, there are various levels of HDMI support, cable revisions, etc.

      Reply
  • 2 June 2014 at 05:46
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    Hi, i have a Harman Kardon HS 300 which is a combination of amplifier and player. when i connect my TV with a HDMI cable i don’t see the amp setting on the TV. Why is that??? HDMI cable takes care of audio and Video both isn’t it? Do i have to use an Optical wire for sound even through i have connected using a HDMI Cable?

    Reply
    • 2 June 2014 at 09:56
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      Yup, it should work. The HS 300 apparently also includes video upscaling from 720p (DVD) -> FullHD. But: There are usually HDMI settings in the amp and in the TV. If it doesn’t “just work”, you have to look through all the TV settings, and then poke around in the amp settings, and basically just figure it out. You’d think that with HDMI and everything being digital, it would make life easier. Nope! 😉

      Reply
  • 11 June 2014 at 12:07
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    Hi, we’re planning on purchasing an HDTV + Pioneer AV Receiver + Pioneer Speakers for our home theater, we plan on downloading blu-ray files and play them via the hdtv using a thumb drive, will the 5.1 audio pass through HDMI ARC and play through the hdtv->receiver->5.1 speakers?or do i have to purchase a blu-ray player(with usb slot) or a media player that can handle dolby true hd?or..do i just need to purchase an hdtv that can play HD mkv files?

    Reply
    • 11 June 2014 at 21:38
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      Theoretically, if the TV has a USB port, and it will play video files, then it should at least pass the audio out to the receiver. But, it really depends on the TV. I would visit the HDTV’s manufacturer’s site and see about getting a PDF manual download to check it out.

      Reply
  • 24 July 2014 at 19:45
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    I have a Sony receiver 7.2 using direct tv but I can not get sound from just the tv I want to be able to hear surround sound from my tv because it has netflix on it. Do I need to split the direct tv hdmi to connection that’s marked tv on my receiver because my tv has one input from my tv to receiver its hooked up right but the only thing I can’t get sound from netflix from my receiver. Everything else is great. thanks

    Reply
    • 24 July 2014 at 20:28
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      I’m not sure I exactly understand your setup, but I think your TV and receiver would need to support ARC (audio return channel). Otherwise, the TV can’t output sound back to the receiver, and you’d need to use an SPDIF cable (out from TV and into receiver), if possible.

      Check this out: http://www.ap.com/kb/show/322#sound

      Reply
  • 1 August 2014 at 00:14
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    I recently got tired of having to select different options on my home theater system when I was switching from UVerse to Roku to Blu-Ray (all surround), so I changed the cables so that now all three devices run HDMI to the TV, and then the TV sends Optical to the amp. That way, the amp can always be set just to “TV”, and the TV passes through the surround signals. But I’ve noticed it does sound different, particularly in Blu-Ray — a bit thinner perhaps. It’s still surround sound from all three signals, but it sounds different. I’m wondering if it’s because the TV is being sent a high quality, presumably uncompressed signal that’s then being somewhat compressed or reinterpreted on its way back down through the optical audio cable to the receiver.

    Any opinions on whether this is actually what’s happening? And/or, would it still be worth my while to at least send the Blu-Ray audio through HDMI instead of letting the TV pass it back into the receiver via optical?

    Reply
    • 1 August 2014 at 13:18
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      Personally, I can’t usually tell the difference between “HD audio” and standard 5.1. The one thing that would be different is that optical cables will only do 5.1/DTS sound. So, if your HDMI input is 8-channel HD audio, the TV would then be decoding/converting and generally futzing around with the audio to convert it into 5.1/DTS. Depending on how well it does this conversion, that could definitely cause a difference in quality.

      I actually have a setup where it’s possible to pick either DTS (over optical) or HD audio (over HDMI) when watching a blu-ray. Sometimes there is no difference, but sometimes there’s a big difference. In this case, the blu-ray player is actually converting the HD audio into DTS (if there is no DTS track to play, and/or I didn’t choose it in the setup).

      Generally, I don’t like all this “conversion” stuff that goes on, so I try to get the audio output to the speakers with the least amount of screwing around by any of the gizmos involved.

      Reply
  • 7 August 2014 at 06:30
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    Hi I own 7.1 channel supported home theater with dvd player(vinverth vght8200r)
    As the amplifier is inbuilt in dvd player, commonly all home theaters having amplifier in woofer itself but in my ht even subwoofer including all 7 spkrs are connected directly through dvd player
    ports available to my player are usb, sd card & mic (2) female jacks
    1.aux(1)&(2)
    2.optical&svideo output
    3.vga output
    4.3rca (video& r&l spkrs analogue output)
    5.p/yr etc
    My player doesnt have “HDMI” input
    so present I connected my player in aux unfortunately it was not
    deliverying 7.1 output which I got while playing 5.1 dvd disc or usb
    please help me out how can I enjoy same 7.1 sound through my ht system
    and plz aware of it my dvd doesnt hd mkv files that was the major problem

    Reply
  • 7 August 2014 at 06:36
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    Continution of my comment
    See if my dvd player supports any video files of any resolutions like
    .mkv hd files that will not be a problem at all
    and it could be btr if my dvd has 5.1 channel analogue output so as I
    may use hdmi to 5.1 decoder

    Reply
  • 22 September 2014 at 23:17
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    Hi
    I have a sony 7.1 receiver which has pass through hdmi I believe. No audio is sent via hdmi. I have a sharp hd television (with arc). I am using hdmi from tele to bluray and optical cable from tv to reciever. Am I stuck with this or is there a way to mod my amp for full bluray hd sound?

    Reply
    • 23 September 2014 at 13:10
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      If the receiver doesn’t support it, you’re stuck. That is the the “joy” of home theater systems… They never stick to any kind of standard long enough, so you always have to buy new stuff. Ideally, you’d want HDMI from the blu-ray to the receiver, and HDMI from blu-ray to TV. That’s where pass-thru comes in, because then blu-ray sends audio + video to the receiver, and the receiver passes video (and sometimes audio) on to the TV. In most cases, this won’t work they way you want it to, hence the HDMI splitter. The splitter sends audio + video from the blu-ray to the TV and to the receiver. You can then also have optical from blu-ray to receiver, and config the receiver to use either HDMI audio or optical audio from the blu-ray player.

      But, it gets even MORE fun… Because sometimes, even if you have HDMI from blu-ray to receiver, the blu-ray HD audio will come out as stereo. In these cases, you want the optical cable because then the blu-ray player will convert the HD audio into DTS or whatever over optical. The only alternative is to buy a new receiver.

      Reply
  • 23 September 2014 at 16:09
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    Hi I have a sony 32 lcd which does not have optical out.But my philips hometheater has got optical out. How can i connect the tv with the philips dvd player.Is there any need for convertor..please helpS

    Reply
    • 27 September 2014 at 13:14
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      You need to connect your home theater receiver via either optical or coax cable to the DVD player (for audio only). Then, the video out of the DVD player will go to the TV – using analog (yellow RCA plug), component video (multiple colored RCA plugs), or whatever.

      Reply
  • 20 October 2014 at 19:05
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    Thank you so much for this mate. Really helped. I had so many troubles and ARC and i now think I will get a HDMI spitter. U have humour too haha

    Reply
  • 23 October 2014 at 07:33
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    Hello,
    First let me tell you about the stuff i have got
    I have a new Samsung plasma 51f5500 that has got a optical out but no aux out.Alongwith that it has got a hdmi arc out.I have got a dishtv set top box for channel viewing,connected to the plasma through hdmi(stb) and through other labelled as hdmi(arc) i have got a philips home theatre htd3510g.
    Now i want to transmit dolby digital sound from my hard disk movies and through stb channels using hdmi arc to my philips hts.
    But i can’t do so.
    Earlier i was able to transmit the signal from pendrive connected to tv in philips hts,but after fidgeting with some menus i can’t do so now,i can’t revert it back.
    Can you plwase guide me through this as you told using optical i won’t be able to get best of sound.
    Any help would be highly appreciated.

    Reply
    • 23 October 2014 at 12:05
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      Hmm… So, if you were able to get sound from pendrive -> TV -> HDMI(ARC) -> Receiver, then you know it’s possible. That’s good! As to why the HDD connected to the TV does not pass the audio through, there are 2 main possibilities I’d check out.

      The first is the audio content of the files you are playing from the pendrive or HDD. Were you playing the same exact file from both the pendrive and HDD? That might be a good test. The reason is that I’m wondering if the file on the pendrive had some kind of audio format (5.1, 7.1, stereo, whatever) that the TV could pass through okay… But then maybe the file played from the HDD was some format the TV couldn’t decode/recode to send over the HDMI. I’ve run into this problem before, and the only way to figure it out is to dig into the file formats, and the TV manual.

      The second option is simply that you changed some setting in the TV config. In this case, it might be something related to “downsampling” or “upsampling” the audio stream that’s output to the receiver. Unfortunately, each TV and receiver and other gizmo is different, so I can’t give you an easy answer in that case.

      Well, a few things to try, anyway!

      Reply
  • 1 November 2014 at 03:45
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    Hello,

    I enjoyed your article, but I have a question that I need answered. I am building a new HTPC computer (or possibly buying one) to replace one that I built around 6-7 years ago. My old HTPC has optical out that I thought was required to get 5.1 from all sources. I am now finding it hard to find either a motherboard for a home build or a purchased PC that has optical out along with HDMI. Are you saying that all I need anymore is the HDMI connection on the motherboard (or PC) that I use for my HTPC? I run everything through a Sony STR-DN1030 receiver. Hopefully you can answer this quickly since I am searching for parts this weekend and I have already passed up some good deals because they did not have the optical out along with the HDMI.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • 1 November 2014 at 11:57
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      Yeah, that should do it, I think. But, your receiver and HTPC must support sending the audio over HDMI. For example, for integrated Intel graphics, you usually need to make sure you have the “Intel Display Audio” driver installed and configured (see here). Then your receiver must be able to “understand” the audio being sent. It probably will, as it looks pretty modern. It just might require some futzing with settings on both the HTPC and receiver.

      Reply
  • 1 November 2014 at 22:43
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    Just wondering if the optical and coaxial are incapable of producing 5.1 and a HDMI will produce it would my TV have to have ARC? Or would HDMI in receiver connecting to TV without ARC be sufficent

    Reply
    • 2 November 2014 at 12:13
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      Well, first of all, it depends on where the audio is coming from. If your TV is the source of the audio, many TVs only support 2.0 channel sound over ARC (see here). Then there is the question of what your receiver actually supports. Some HDMI plugs on the receiver may support ARC, some may not. Also, apparently ARC does NOT support HD audio – only 5.1 channel maximum. Isn’t this fun? 😉

      Reply
  • 2 November 2014 at 13:16
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    Audio coming from blu ray player ( which is a home cinema, speakers connect into blu ray player, its 5.1

    Reply
    • 2 November 2014 at 14:19
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      In that case, ARC in the TV shouldn’t be necessary. The video would go from blu-ray/receiver HDMI -> TV HDMI, and the audio would be output from the blu-ray/receiver gizmo to the speakers. Of course, if the blu-ray/receiver only is a 5.1 system, then it will probably convert HD audio from the blu-ray player down to 5.1… Or it may only work with the DTS or Dolby Digital tracks on blu-ray discs. It depends on the blu-ray/receiver gizmo.

      Reply
  • 2 November 2014 at 15:26
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    So HDMI into blu ray is that into input or output port?

    Reply
  • 2 November 2014 at 18:25
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    Sound will not come out that way, would changing to PCM or bitstream make a difference?

    Reply
    • 12 November 2014 at 20:07
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      It might. This is where it gets fun: You just have to screw around with all the settings. So much for “plug and play”!

      Reply
  • 12 November 2014 at 19:10
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    Hi i am considering buying the Sony HTST7 HD Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer, it has 3 hdmi ins and one out. I want to use the 3 hdmi inputs for xbox blu ray etc and then the hdmi out (the out is ARC) to the tv but the tv is not ARC im wondering would it work without it? I am aware the optical ports dont provide the true hd sound that HDMI does?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • 12 November 2014 at 20:06
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      As far as I know, ARC must be supported by both. But, that’s only relevant in the case where you want the TV to send audio back to the Sound Bar – like if your TV does YouTube or something and you want to play the audio from the Sound Bar.

      In the other direction (i.e. from Blu-ray -> TV), the TV should play the audio fed to it via HDMI if you just want to use the TV speakers sometimes. But that’s not a hard and fast rule, unfortunately. In this case, you might have to tell the Sound Bar to feed Stereo Only to the TV.

      Reply
  • 12 November 2014 at 20:30
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    im looking to send hdmi out from soundbar to tv hdmi in and then sound to come from sounbar?

    Reply
    • 12 November 2014 at 20:43
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      Then you should be fine. Everything should work nicely!

      Reply
  • 12 November 2014 at 20:32
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    blu ray and xbox would be going to soundbar input ports and then one hdmi from soundbar outport to tv input?

    Reply
  • 19 November 2014 at 06:43
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    i have 5.1 analog home theater speakers.To use this with my Airtel HD setup box and sony 3d blue ray player, i purchased a decoder from HDMI to HSMI+5.1 analog audio output. After setup all things with HDMI cables i observed that my decoder’s analog output is only 2.1 means the output sound is only in three output points. Rest all things working fine hdmi in to hdmi out. i changed the decoder, replaced with new but no change in status. now both decoders cant be faulty.
    What could be the reason. please help me out early.

    Reply
    • 19 November 2014 at 10:01
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      Hmm, hard to say… Assuming the decoders are working properly, you might have to configure the blu-ray and Airtel gizmos to output a different bitstream. HDMI can be used to transmit 8.1 channels of audio all the way down to 2 channels (or none!). So, first I’d check somehow that what is being sent to the decoder is what it expects to receive. That seems like the best place to start, anyway!

      Reply
  • 28 November 2014 at 21:24
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    This has been a very interesting read. And so far, I am in agreement with everything Scottie has stated. ( I only mention that because this might be the first time that has happened at a web based info site ). Now, I have a Panasonic viera Plasma 3D tv, a Pioneer elite SC-05 AVR, connected through the AVR to the TV are an xbox 360 with 5.1 output, a bluray with up to 7.1 DTS-HD MSTR output, a Dishnetworks dvr that I imagine is 5.1, but that may just be an upconversion going on (if so, it is fairly accurate ) Now, my dilemma… the Pioneer elite will not process, or pass a 3D signal. I was thinking of changing the cables to run all signals into the TV and use the digital optical to run sound to the AVR. After reading here I think this might cause the loss of true 7.1 Would it? Now I am considering going with the splitter for my Blu Ray only so I can run a 3D signal to the TV and the 7.1 sound to the receiver, So, am I on the right track here? or would you suggest a different route ? in advance, Thanks for all the info here
    Mike

    Reply
    • 28 November 2014 at 22:03
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      Yup, you will only get 5.1 over the usual optical link.

      Reply
  • 16 December 2014 at 01:22
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    Hi there. I have just bought a PANASONIC SC-BTT465EBK 5.1 Smart 4k 3D Blu-ray Home Cinema System.
    I have a Freesat Sagencom TV box, and a rather oldish Goodmans TV.
    The TV only has one HDMI input. The Freesat box only has 1 HDMI output, and the Panasonic Home Cinema, only has 1 HDMI output.
    Please can you tell me the best way to connect the three together? Is a two way splitter requied to feed the 2 sources into the TV?
    Hope you can help.
    Many thanks
    Regards
    John

    Reply
    • 16 December 2014 at 12:44
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      Yep, a splitter should do it. Well, it’s not really a “splitter”, but rather an “input switcher”. So, you connect the Freesat box and Panasonic HC to the switcher/splitter, and the output of the switcher to the TV.

      Reply
  • 17 December 2014 at 19:01
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    I recently upgraded to a new Sony receiver (STRDH550) since my old one was extremely outdated. I assumed setup would be a breeze since everything is HDMI capable, but I was sorely mistaken. I am at a complete loss at what else to try. The receiver’s output is ARC compatible, but my TV is not. I have the TV connected via HDMI and digital optical cable to the receiver. The problem comes into play when I attempt to connect the blu-ray player. When connecting via HDMI from blu-ray to receiver, I get picture but no sound. I have also tried connecting via HDMI plus digital coax cable and then I get sound but no picture. Could these problems be stemming from the TV HDMI not being ARC compatible? I am beyond frustrated and am quickly regretting my decision to upgrade. Any suggestions you have will be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • 17 December 2014 at 21:10
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      I don’t think ARC is the problem. ARC just means that if your TV is generating sound (like from an internal tuner, or if it has Netflix, YouTube, etc. built in to the TV), then the TV will send the sound to the receiver down the same HDMI cable that is normally used to pass video IN to the TV (from receiver, blu-ray, etc.).

      If you have HDMI connections set up like this: blu-ray -> receiver -> TV, then first you make sure you’re using the correct HDMI ports on the receiver. Sometimes there are HDMI inputs, outputs, and “other weird” HDMI ports on the receiver. The receiver may have some settings that need to be changed to route the video to the TV when a certain input is selected, and that kind of thing.

      Audio and video between the blu-ray player and the receiver SHOULD be straight forward, but often it’s not. Sometimes the blu-ray player is “converting” your audio stream or video stream in some way, when what you really want is to just dump it all straight to the receiver.

      In short, it’s hard to say… I’d play around with the receiver settings first, and blu-ray settings second. If necessary, keep a large bottle of whiskey at the ready. 😉

      Reply
  • 24 December 2014 at 16:47
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    I have pioneer Blu-Ray DVD player and Denon AVR 2100W – 7.1 Receiver. I tested connections for all 7 speakers and subwoofer for setup. However, When I play FROZEN bluray disc with 7.1 channels, i don’t hear any sound from Rear speakers.

    Reply
    • 29 December 2014 at 23:12
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      I have the same problem. I had to connect blu-ray -> receiver with both HDMI and optical. When the blu-ray/receiver don’t like speaking 7.1 channel to each other, I switch to the optical and use 5.1/DTS. The problem seems to be something to do with my blu-ray player’s support of the different 7.1 channel formats, because my receiver supports everything.

      Reply
  • 3 January 2015 at 18:46
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    can someone help please??
    I have purchased a Toshiba L3453DB TV with a spdif coax socket, and a Panasonic sc btt405 blu ray home theatre system with a spdif optical socket. Can you purchase a lead that joins the two? I also have a sky HD box with an optical socket. I have HDMI between TV and sky, and HDMI between TV and blue ray, but no sound output to surround when watching sky or freeview. A optical cable between sky and surround works, but not for free view, and takes a lot of button pressing to setup surround to pickup optical input each time I turn on. If I can buy a cable that connects TV and surround, and remove optical from sky, should that do the trick? Thank you.

    Reply
    • 3 January 2015 at 22:16
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      I think I once looked for an optical -> coax converter, and I couldn’t find one. Let’s see… AHA!

      http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cable-Mountain-Optical-TOSlink-Converter/dp/B001U7ERU6/

      That will convert the optical output of the Sky box to coax input on the TV.

      Since your TV doesn’t have ARC, that option’s out. And I can’t see any other way to connect everything based on the Panasonic’s manual.

      Well, but hang on a minute… Connecting the coax of your TV to the optical on the Panasonic won’t get you what you want – unless the TV routes HDMI (audio) input from Sky -> coax output, which I doubt.

      I think you might be stuck with button-pushing, unless I’m missing something…

      Reply
  • 4 January 2015 at 08:59
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    Thanks for your help. I have managed to get the TV talking to surround for both TV and sky using the side av to aux phono input on surround, not brilliant, but gives sound more depth for everyday viewing, then push the buttons to get sky/surround talking with the optical when watching movies etc.

    Why have they made it so difficult? I have just replaced my old toshiba that I have had for 20+ years, which was one of the original surrounds with everything built in. All I had to do was connect speakers and then sky through scart and all worked fine and simple. Only changed it cos the wife wanted something looking a little more modern!!!

    Thanks again

    Reply
  • 5 January 2015 at 13:26
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    Hi I’m amazed by your dedication! I hope you can answer this question. Since the early 2000’s high end receivers (Onkyo, Marantz ETC) have had 24/192 DAC’s but I can’t find any info on whether they will take stereo (2 channel) 24/192 in over coax or optical.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • 5 January 2015 at 13:55
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      As far as I know, S/PDIF is 20bit/48Khz or 20bit/96kHz typically. It seems that 24-bit resolution is actually possible, but it depends on what the top 4 bits are actually used for in the implementation, which totally depends on what the manufacturer did. As for the 192kHz sample rate, it is apparently possible. But it would depend on your hardware. The problem is that quite often manufacturers (of especially mid and low-end systems) give you the glorious internal specs, but they don’t bother to mention that everything is downsampled before being sent out over S/PDIF, for example. Many DVD players have a setting where the default is to downsample, but you can manually kick it up to a higher rate… and then you get to see if your receiver supports it, or not! Hours of fun for the whole family.

      Reply
  • 6 January 2015 at 16:40
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    Hi. I’m having trouble with an HDMI splitter. I put a splitter between my TIVO and my Onkyo receiver so I could also send the TIVO output to a TV in another room. All works fine when the receiver is off, but when I turn it on, the audio on the remote TV stops. How can a receiver downstream from the splitter effect its function? The same problem occurs if I put the splitter on the receiver output. The only way I can get consistent sound to the remote is to set the receiver to output sound to the TV it’s connected to (which has no speakers), which puts it into stereo-only output mode all the time!
    Thanks

    Reply
    • 6 January 2015 at 16:58
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      Are you sure it’s a splitter? There are HDMI splitters, and then there are HDMI “de-splitters”, or switches. I have one that’s 4 HDMI IN -> 1 HDMI OUT. I use it to feed all the various HDMI inputs into my receiver, which only has 1 usable HDMI input port. Depending on which HDMI input is on, the HDMI switch will automatically select that input – or it comes with a little remote that lets me pick the input to be send to the receiver for Big Sound. The remote is useful, because if 2 or more HDMI inputs are on, the switch tends to get confused… Well, that’s the first idea that comes to mind, anyway…

      Reply
  • 6 January 2015 at 18:00
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    No, it’s definitely a splitter

    OREI HD-102 1×2 1 Port HDMI Powered Splitter Ver 1.3 Certified for Full HD 1080P & 3D Support (One Input To Two Outputs)

    Tried all sorts of combinations and can’t get it to work as expected. Really has me scratching my head!

    Reply
  • 23 January 2015 at 05:50
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    Hi! There. I have 1) FHD LED TV with 2 HDMI INPUT. But no HDMI ARC.
    2) Satelite HD STB with 1 HDMI OUTPUT and also SPDIF TOSLINK OUTPUT.
    3) 5.1 CH. 3D BLURAY DVD PLAYER cum AMPLIFIER with HDMI(ARC)OUTPUT and OPTICAL INPUT.

    Please help me how to connect all the THREE to get best output. Thanks.

    Reply
    • 23 January 2015 at 18:33
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      Since your blu-ray/amp is only 5.1, then even if it supports HD audio formats (7.1), it will “downconvert” it to 5.1. So, to keep things nice and simple, I’d just connect:

      Sat –> TV (with HDMI)
      Sat –> 5.1/blu-ray (with optical)
      5.1/blu-ray –> TV (with HDMI)

      That will give you FullHD picture for both blu-ray and Satellite, and 5.1 sound for both Sat and blu-ray.

      Reply
  • 27 January 2015 at 15:25
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    I have a sony blu-ray dvd ,explora decode
    Sony soundbar and sony bravia 55″ I bought
    2010 all of them they have hdmi slots
    And I have extra hdmi cable.I need
    Someone to help me with the connection
    Because the connection that I made , I
    Can’t play my music cd while watch any program
    On tv. Is one thing @ the time. Please help

    Reply
    • 31 January 2015 at 14:24
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      Hmm, not sure which Sony Soundbar you have, but even the low-end one has 3 HDMI in, and 1 HDMI out (with ARC). I will assume that your TV supports ARC, and that you have TV -> Soundbar and Blu-ray -> Soundbar via HDMI. In that case, if you are watching TV, it will send audio back to the Soundbar via ARC and possibly override the audio coming from your music CD in the Blu-ray player.

      To stop this, I would first check the Soundbar docs to see if there’s a way to manually select an HDMI input (to choose blu-ray for audio only). I’m kind of doubtful that will work, so the next thing I’d try is going into the TV settings and seeing if I could disable ARC in the TV.

      Reply
  • 29 January 2015 at 18:50
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    Good article. I have a question. Can we get audio out from HDMI ARC port? I wanted to check whether if I connect a HDMI cable into ARC port in TV and the other end into 5.1 Home Theatre speakers, will this setup gives me audio output from the TV? (TV HDMI ARC-> HDMI Decoder-> 5.1 HT Speakers).

    Reply
    • 29 January 2015 at 19:25
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      That’s exactly what ARC is supposed to do: 1 HDMI cable sends video to your TV, and it also will receive audio back from your TV if you’re using the tuner. Practically, whether or not it works depends on if both the TV and receiver both support ARC – and probably some configuration!

      Reply
  • 3 February 2015 at 06:11
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    Hey, quick question an we use DVD player as converter? I mean I use bluray SPDIF optical as output and connect it to DVD player SPDIF and connect my speakers to DVD which has analog output?

    Reply
    • 3 February 2015 at 12:55
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      You’d have to try it to be sure, but it depends on if the optical connection on the DVD is an input or output. If your DVD player is a DVD + amp/receiver all in one, it might be possible. But if it’s just a DVD player with optical out and analog out, then no.

      Reply
  • Pingback: Make Your DVD or Blu-ray Player Region-Free | Scottie’s Tech.Info

  • 24 March 2015 at 12:29
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    I have connected my DVD Player and LED TV through HDMI Cable provided by Sony. Now once the Suing Machine motor starts the HDMI signal gets on / off (Screen gets blank and again it shows the picture).

    Reply
    • 24 March 2015 at 14:51
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      Can you actually watch a movie okay? Sometimes DVD or Blu-ray players do weird things with HDMI signals, but this problem is new to me!

      Reply
  • 3 April 2015 at 16:53
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    here’s the problem I am having I have comcast hd cable box I have a Samsung home theater system HDMI cable is running from cable box into theater system then output to TV on my hdchannels everything works fine but non HD channels all I get is sound also my on demand has no pictureI’m pulling my hair outcan you please help

    Reply
    • 3 April 2015 at 18:33
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      Hmm… I would check the theater system and TV settings. Sometimes there’s some setting for video scaling, or video upsampling, or something like that. Well, technically, the theater system should just pass the video on through without touching it. So, if audio is getting through, but pic isn’t, then it might also be an issue with the comcast box settings, but I kinda doubt it.

      I’m not sure that was terribly helpful, but it’s hard to know where to look without actually having the equipment in front of me.

      Reply
  • 5 April 2015 at 03:39
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    Here I am having fun trying to watch Interstellar Blu-Ray on my Sony Blu-Ray player through my Elektrek HDMI splitter so I can use my speakers. Naturally the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio won’t play properly but every other audio track plays fine including Dolby 5.1 in Spanish, French and English with audio commentary. Why the Hell do they not include more than one type of audio track for regular English? This is more of a complaint than anything but this Blu-Ray disk is crap because it they didn’t include the track that will play.

    Reply
    • 5 April 2015 at 10:19
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      Oh yeah, that sounds familiar! The HD audio track on many blu-ray discs doesn’t work with my receiver, even tho it’s relatively new and supports all the latest HD audio formats. I have to revert to 5-channel, and when there isn’t a 5-channel track, much growling and swearing ensues. And then I send it back to Amazon!

      Reply
  • 8 April 2015 at 18:42
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    Really it’s very useful information about home theater. I have Pioneer RS 33,& I got many questions about installation. B,coz Pioneer still not arrange their technical representatives for me,after about 8 days.
    But above information give me the proper guidance of everything….
    Thanks for useful….. post. With regards.
    Dr.Nitin

    Reply

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