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Sounds great playing CDs, terrible playing BR/DVD's. Wading thru all the sound format stuff, need help setting up audio.


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#1 of 4 OFFLINE   kvining

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Posted December 26 2012 - 06:47 AM

I have an "open concept" house, which means I have a very large living room (20x40). I've had to set up a pretty complex sound system to get the music quality I desired, with a mix of older equipment and newer stuff added for the Blu-ray/HDTV. I've managed to set up an awesome music system using this four power amps/equalizers I've acquired over the years, at the center is a Harman Kardon AVR 145 (non-HDMI) receiver, which I use essentially as a 6.1 channel pre amp which I output to separate Carver and Onkyo power amps for front, mid surround, rear surround and center. Music wise, it is the envy of anyone who hears it. It works fantastic when I play CDs on the Harman DVD/CD player using Dolby PII encoding - I get a great multi-channel music experience, with clear vocals and "center stage" ambiance from the center channel and a simply fantastic stereo separation to front, surrounds and rears, but I have been disappointed by essentially sub-par surround-sound from my Blu ray disks, the worst of which is terrible center speaker performance, with muffled and unintelligible dialog. I am using a Klipsch Synergy C-3 mounted under the wall-mounted HDTV as the center speaker, and the rear speakers are JBL E-10s, and I have eliminated them as the cause because they sound fantastic when used on the CD channel and I have substituted other speakers and no change. I've even tried a different AVR receivers, and still the same crummy sound from the center and poor surround. This week end, decided to get radical and add a separate pre-amp/amp for the center channel only using a Carver PA amp, too which I added two Klipsch F-1 towers on either side of the C-3 to see if that would fix the problem, which made my music sound go from awesome to like, incredibly awesome because now I can balance voice precisely in the system to an absolutely mind-blowing level of perfection, but sure enough, as soon as I followed The Dixie Chicks with "Master and Commander" I couldn't understand half of what Russell Crowe had to say, although previously it had sounded like Natalie Maines was singing to me in my living room like she was singing in the shower back home. It's maddening. After going through this, process-of-elimination, changing speakers and amps and center channel settings on the AVR 145, I've finally reached the point where I have decided the problem has something to do with my poor understanding of the various encoding formats and how I am piping it all through the Samsung BD-D5300 Blu Ray, into the Samsung TV, and then out to the AVR-145. I simply assumed everything would just set itself to some sort of 5.1 format automatically and then output a center channel signal properly, but now I think the root of my problem is that I am outputting 2 ch sound from the Blu Ray to my AVR 145 (which would explain the terrible center channel performance and the lack of a full "surround" experience), as is shown on page 29 of the user manual, and as a result I am simply not getting an accurate center channel signal into the receiver in the first place: http://downloadcente...D5300-ZA-BM.pdf So I am going to get out my Bluray manual, and my HDTV manual, and go through the sound set ups on these devices, because I think my problem is in there. My first question is, given that my AVR is not HDMI enabled, would I be better off hooking the Blu Ray audio output to the AVR directly via the optical port ? Currently I have the Blu ray cabled into the Samsung PN58B860 HDTV via HDMI, and then I use the optical output of the as the input of to the AVR 145. When I go thru the various sound formats available on the AVR 145 for this hookup, I get the best sound when I choose "Dolby PLII Movie" as the format, but now I am beginning to think the real reason that sounds the best is because that format simulates a two channel input as a surround format, and what I am getting is a simulation instead of a true multi-channel input, so my next question is, what is the music format I need to choose as I manually go through the setup screens for the Blu Ray and the TV, and then finally, to the AVR-145 to get the best multi channel signal to the receiver? Thanks for your help!

#2 of 4 OFFLINE   Jason Charlton

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Posted December 27 2012 - 05:01 AM

Originally Posted by kvining 

Currently I have the Blu ray cabled into the Samsung PN58B860 HDTV via HDMI, and then I use the optical output of the as the input of to the AVR 145. When I go thru the various sound formats available on the AVR 145 for this hookup, I get the best sound when I choose "Dolby PLII Movie" as the format, but now I am beginning to think the real reason that sounds the best is because that format simulates a two channel input as a surround format, and what I am getting is a simulation instead of a true multi-channel input


Yes to all of the above.


The first thing you need to do is connect everything the right way to preserve the digital audio format all the way into your receiver.  Since your receiver lacks HDMI, digital optical (or coaxial) is the next best option.  It won't carry the newer lossless audio formats found on Blu-ray (Dolby HD and DTS-MA) but it will carry high quality Dolby Digital and DTS multichannel audio formats.


Secondly, in terms of "listening modes" or "music format" - most of us prefer to listen to both movies and music in their intended format.  Usually, the mode is referred to as "Direct" or "Pure" or something similar.  This will produce a 1:1 correspondence between the source material and the speaker setup - i.e. CDs are recorded in stereo and are therefore 2.0 and will be played via the main speakers (and subwoofer if you have one and the receiver is set up correctly), Blu-rays and DVDs will be in various formats up to 5.1/6.1.


First things first - change the connection and go through the setup process for your receiver and see how things sound.  Once that's done, we can fine tune from there.


Are you new to the Home Theater Forum? Stop by the New Member Introductions area and introduce yourself! See you there!


#3 of 4 OFFLINE   kvining

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Posted December 27 2012 - 08:08 AM

Well, I seemed to have fixed it. The set up screen of the Blu Ray had a Dolby, DTS and then two "Bitstream" options, one of which had the title "Bitstream Audiophile". A little Googling revealed that what that option does is send the input stream un-encoded so the receiver does the encode. I was surprised when I set it up and the Harmon Receiver (which is a 230, not a 145, my mistake, I forgot that I had upgraded somewhere along the way to add pre-outs, which the 145 did not have, otherwise they are similiar) automatically switched over to display "Dolby EX" which again a little Googling revealed will not be shown as a format unless the unit detects it, which is why it was not shown using the BD's default settins. I set this option and viola! Avatar's sound track kicked in in all it's glory. Not only is the center channel clear as a bell, the entire surround experience is tremendously improved, and the Surround Rear channel has revealed itself as well! I am very pleased. I have tried the 2 channel formats as you described for music, but it just doesn't sound as well as the Dolby PII does, I had always assumed this was due to the room acoustics, as I mentioned, I have the "open concept" floor plan, the kitchen, dining room and living room all are wide open to each other, making the living area a large cavern, giving me a large noticeable "hole" in the middle when I just play the system two channel for older CD's, which disappears when I switch it into Dolby II mode and the center speaker then fills the "hole". Any suggestions here are appreciated! Looking at my CD collection, I also note that a lot of them, especially the Duestche Grammaphone classical recordings, state that they are Dolby encoded, while a great many of my older dinosaur rock CD's are not labeled that way, is this what should be my guide? After the movie, I put on a DG Mozart's Clarinet and Orchestra Concerto in Dolby PII mode, and it was simply fantastic, nuanced with incredible depth. I tried it in NEO 6:Music mode, 7 Channel Mode and the Dolby PII still outshone them all. Also, what is "Dolby EX" ? Is it a forerunner of the Dolby TrueHD of some sort? The difference between that format and Dolby PII or any of the other "Logic 7" or "Vmax" formats was striking. I am assuming now that I am sending the input stream un-encoded, the reciever should now automatically switch to the correct format as it detects it on the Blu Ray, I will be confirming that this evening with a go round with "Mad Max" to see if it automatically switches to an older format. Thanks for your help!

#4 of 4 OFFLINE   schan1269

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Posted December 27 2012 - 08:18 AM

"Also, what is "Dolby EX" ? Is it a forerunner of the Dolby TrueHD of some sort?" No, all EX is for is to create 6.1/7.1 from 5.1.




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