DTS-HD Master Audio 4.1 Track and My Onkyo 605...Please Assist

Kaskade1309

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I picked up the Scream Factory Collector's Edition Blu-ray of John Carpenter's The Thing yesterday at a local buy-and-sell shop (the disc was actually new) to replace the non-anamorphic Region 1 Universal DVD I owned, and if any of you are familiar with Scream's Blu-ray of this title, there is a unique DTS-HD Master Audio 4.1 track in addition to the 5.1 and some other choices, like original mono and stereo, I believe; this 4.1 track was supposedly taken from the original stereo soundtrack of the film and prepared specifically for Scream's debut release of The Thing, but when I tried playing that audio option back through my system last night, an odd thing happened.

I'm still rocking a first-generation Onkyo TX-SR605 surround receiver, which has not quit on me once in all these years I'm running her (she was bought new at the dawn of the high definition era, circa 2008, and was the first of her kind to debut on the market with decoding for the new lossless formats), and while it pretty much does everything we need it to do in our system, there are some small shortcomings due to its ranking within Onkyo's hierarchy of AVRs (it was part of the more affordable "6-Series" receivers, as they became known). One of those shortcomings is being able to take a bitstreamed DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (two-channel) signal and use Pro Logic circuitry, as with regular DVDs with stereo soundtracks, to spread the signal into a surround track. So, whenever I play Blu-rays with either 2.0 stereo or 2.0 mono audio tracks encoded as DTS-HD MA (mainly Scream Factory or Kino Lorber releases), the Onkyo goes into "Stereo" mode and plays the tracks back through the front left and right mains (in my case, these are Polk Audio RTi12 towers).

When I tried to choose the 4.1 audio option from The Thing Blu-ray's menu, the Onkyo stayed in this "Stereo" mode, which I didn't understand -- I went back into the menu and selected the 5.1 DTS-HD MA option so I could get the surround track experience, but why did the receiver see the 4.1 mix as some kind of two-channel signal? Are these 4.1 or 4.0 tracks really two-channel mixes of some kind, just encoded differently?

What would have made my receiver kick into Stereo mode with this 4.1 track, when, in the past, it only did that (as I explained above) with 2.0 DTS-HD MA signals?
 

Type A

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It probably doesnt recognize such an obscure format. It sees one channel missing and assumes if it aint at least 5 it must be 2. Luckily most folks will want 5 over 4 anyway...
 
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Kaskade1309

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It probably doesnt recognize such an obscure format. It sees one channel missing and assumes if it aint at least 5 it must be 2. Luckily most folks will want 5 over 4 anyway...
Thanks for your response, A.

But why would it consider it "obscure"? I understand why the AVR sees a Master Audio 2.0 signal as "stereo" (because it doesn't have the processing power to turn that into psuedo-surround via a Pro Logic or DTS NEO system) but why would it see a four-channel mix as such?
 

Kaskade1309

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Obscure meaning how many of these movies have you come across mixed in a 4.1 format?
Ah, understood.

Must be what you say; that the AVR's processor is seeing it as something OTHER than 5.1, so it defaults back to stereo...

In any case, I'm going to watch the disc going forward running the 5.1 Master Audio track anyway, but I was just curious as to what this mix sounded like because, according to nearly all reviews of this Blu-ray title from Scream Factory, it's the "preferred" sound mix (as it supposedly stays as close to the stereo theatrical presentation).
 

JohnRice

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This actually should be a pretty basic thing. Most likely, the receiver is simply defaulting to Stereo for that audio format. Possibly because it's never been presented with a 4.1 soundtrack before. The solution should be to cycle through the surround modes using the "Listening Mode" buttons on either the front of the receiver or the remote. One of them should play back the 4.1 as 5.1. The receiver should remember that setting and the next time it sees a 4.1 soundtrack, it'll play it back at 5.1 again. This is a fundamental way that basically all surround receivers work.

I've never heard of a surround receiver that can't process a two channel soundtrack to DPL surround, whether it's HD or not.
 

Lord Dalek

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Ah, understood.

Must be what you say; that the AVR's processor is seeing it as something OTHER than 5.1, so it defaults back to stereo...

In any case, I'm going to watch the disc going forward running the 5.1 Master Audio track anyway, but I was just curious as to what this mix sounded like because, according to nearly all reviews of this Blu-ray title from Scream Factory, it's the "preferred" sound mix (as it supposedly stays as close to the stereo theatrical presentation).
There's little difference between the 4.1 and 5.1 tracks. The 5.1 was actually created from that earlier 70mm mix for the laserdisc back in the late 90s and adds some stereo panning effects to the rear but that's it pretty much.

Also you haven't stated what your player is, that might be part of the problem.

EDIT: Turn on Direct on your Listening Modes.
 
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Kaskade1309

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There's little difference between the 4.1 and 5.1 tracks. The 5.1 was actually created from that earlier 70mm mix for the laserdisc back in the late 90s and adds some stereo panning effects to the rear but that's it pretty much.

Also you haven't stated what your player is, that might be part of the problem.

EDIT: Turn on Direct on your Listening Modes.
I'm using a Panasonic DP-UB9000, connected via HDMI directly to the receiver (the second HDMI out of the player is going directly to my display), with everything set for bitstreamed audio out.

Thanks for the heads up about the track differences; indeed, I was aware of the 5.1 mix's origins, as I have Universal's original non-anamorphic Collector's Edition DVD, which boasted the reworked surround track in a Dolby Digital configuration. From what I understand, that mix was the basis for all the subsequent releases on optical media, including Universal's own Blu-ray and HD DVD.

I can try turning on Direct as the listening mode; I didn't think of that...but, honestly, if the differences aren't that great, I don't have to go out of my way to play the 4.1 mix back. I merely stated that I originally wanted to hear it and that it was supposedly the "preferred" audio option because that's what every review tends to say.

For whatever reason, my AVR is seeing this four-channel signal as stereo, and goes into DTS-HD MA Stereo mode upon playback. As I said, though, my receiver doesn't have the processing chops to take a two-channel DTS-HD Master Audio signal and engage Pro Logic or DTS-NEO processing to fold it out into psuedo-surround (when the signal is bitstreamed from the player)...so when I play Blu-rays with, say, 2.0 mono or 2.0 stereo tracks, the AVR plays the tracks back through my front left and right mains (defaulting to Stereo mode). I don't mind it with these older titles, though, such as Nighthawks, Prison, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Tales From the Hood, et al.
 

Josh Steinberg

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I have an older Onkyo that also has difficulty handling decoding 2.0 surround modes when it’s within a DTS-HD MA container. It defaults to “DTS-HD MA” mode and then plays it as straight whatever it is, and can’t be forced into Dolby Pro Logic or DTS X Neo. It only happens specifically with DTS-HD MA tracks. If it’s Dolby Digital 2.0 or regular DTS 2.0, no problem, but something in the receiver’s programming is set to not allow any sort of interpretation when it’s DTS-HD MA.
 

Kaskade1309

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I have an older Onkyo that also has difficulty handling decoding 2.0 surround modes when it’s within a DTS-HD MA container. It defaults to “DTS-HD MA” mode and then plays it as straight whatever it is, and can’t be forced into Dolby Pro Logic or DTS X Neo. It only happens specifically with DTS-HD MA tracks. If it’s Dolby Digital 2.0 or regular DTS 2.0, no problem, but something in the receiver’s programming is set to not allow any sort of interpretation when it’s DTS-HD MA.
Yes, Josh -- that's PRECISELY what my 605 does, as well.

From what I understand, this is a limitation of the processor's power, being that my particular model was the first on the market (of those that decoded the lossless formats) and that it wasn't a top-of-the-line unit. But this only happens with DTS-HD Master Audio bitstreamed signals of two-channel configuration -- if I watch a Blu-ray with a 5.1 (or bigger) Master Audio track, the receiver decodes it just fine. And, like you said, two-channel signals in LOSSY Dolby Digital or DTS are no problem; they are played back via the Pro Logic II Movie mode.
 
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Josh Steinberg

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My solution admittedly won’t work for everyone, but in the past year I’ve built a HTPC/Plex server with lossless rips of everything. But my AppleTV playback client decodes the audio from DTS-HD MA to PCM, and the receiver can figure out the 2.0 surround out of the PCM. That’ll hold me over until I replace the receiver with something more modern.
 
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Kaskade1309

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My solution admittedly won’t work for everyone, but in the past year I’ve built a HTPC/Plex server with lossless rips of everything. But my AppleTV playback client decodes the audio from DTS-HD MA to PCM, and the receiver can figure out the 2.0 surround out of the PCM. That’ll hold me over until I replace the receiver with something more modern.
Interesting; yeah, I wouldn't need to go through all that for the few titles I own with these two-channel lossless soundtracks. I will eventually upgrade, as you said, to something more up to date with decoding for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, etc.
 

Josh Steinberg

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My Onkyo doesn’t support 4K so it definitely needs replacement for that alone. But since most of my viewing is HD content on an HD projector, it’s not a top priority. Plus: I’m broke! :D
 

Kaskade1309

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My Onkyo doesn’t support 4K so it definitely needs replacement for that alone. But since most of my viewing is HD content on an HD projector, it’s not a top priority. Plus: I’m broke! :D
I totally hear ya on the broke thing; we are a single-income family right now, with only me and my freelance writing projects sustaining us.

I'm not so hell-bent on getting a new receiver just for something like 4K video passthrough, as I think it's actually better to separate the audio and video chains from the source device (in my case, a Panasonic UHD disc player), but I'd be more interested in, down the line, exploring the extended formats like Atmos and X; I'm just not that interested in adding all the extra speakers they require (as it stands, I'm STILL running a classic 5.1 setup, with the surround channels in the ceiling).

This is the primary reason why I was originally looking into those "modules" for the extended sound formats that sit atop the main speakers...but I'm told they're really kind of useless.

99-percent of our viewing is also standard DVD and 1080p Blu-ray, so it's not an emergency for us (though we do own quite a few regular Blu-rays with Atmos and DTS:X tracks).
 

JohnRice

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I'm surprised Onkyo released such a flawed receiver. I suspect it's a firmware problem and could be easily fixed if receivers back then had easy firmware updates. Of course, it seems to me that Onkyo did release a number of glitchy models in those days. I assume they've gotten more reliable. Last year I replaced a Marantz SR5004 in my living room, which I think was their first HD capable receiver, and there were no weird problems like that.
 

Lord Dalek

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I'm surprised Onkyo released such a flawed receiver. I suspect it's a firmware problem and could be easily fixed if receivers back then had easy firmware updates. Of course, it seems to me that Onkyo did release a number of glitchy models in those days. I assume they've gotten more reliable. Last year I replaced a Marantz SR5004 in my living room, which I think was their first HD capable receiver, and there were no weird problems like that.
From what I understand, Onkyos have gotten worse actually since they've started cutting corners on their system boards leading to chronic failures and replacements. I am so happy I found my Yamaha V383 for what I paid for it. Screw Atmos.
 

Kaskade1309

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The first generation Onkyos weren't "flawed" per se; as I said, from what I understand, this was a limitation of the chipset/processor (that it couldn't handle matrixing two-channel lossless signals being bitstreamed or process multichannel 5.1 tracks into more than that), an acceptable omission IMO given the price point of the particular model I bought (the TX-SR605).

I believe the models above this one had no such issues with signal processing (the 705, 805, et al).
 

Kaskade1309

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From what I understand, Onkyos have gotten worse actually since they've started cutting corners on their system boards leading to chronic failures and replacements. I am so happy I found my Yamaha V383 for what I paid for it. Screw Atmos.
This used to be my all-time favorite electronics brand, hands down, especially for receivers. I still own a TX-SR600 AVR (from circa 2002 or so), my first surround receiver purchase, and it powers a little music system in our gym room. Through cross-country moves and a lot of abuse (it even got a large dent in the side of it from mishandling during cross-country shipping), it STILL pumps out power like it's brand new; in fact, on Halloween night, we blast sound effects and music from the Haunted Mansion (Disney) score from the ride at the park, and it fills up the whole block with sound (and this is an 80 watts x 6 amp, running in stereo mode).

My TX-SR605 NEVER broke down ONCE and we have used it EVERY night pretty much since we got it (that AVR went through a move, too).

I also own a TX-8555 stereo receiver, which powers my two-channel rig in a loft area, and this thing is a proverbial TANK...built like a brick shithouse with an ultra-thick aluminum faceplate and volume knob. It sounds like a good integrated amp that happens to have a tuner built in.

I have heard, though, that the quality has gone down the proverbial toilet over the past few years, but I also heard that it kind of stepped back up after the merger with Pioneer (not sure how true that is). Of course, now, I don't even know if the company is in business, given the lack of any product on any retailer's site (Crutchfield, Amazon, J&R, etc.).

It's like they vanished...
 

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