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HDMI or Optical (1 Viewer)

Cloud

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Jeff
I'm upgrading my home theater setup, and I'm wondering the sound difference between using the HDMI for sound or Optical output for sound. My current receiver (jvc rx-f10) doesn't have hdmi input and I don't know if I want to upgrade to a HDMI capable receiver for video reasons. Whats the sound difference between running the HDMI into a receiver versus running the HDMI into my tv and then running the optical out to the receiver? Mostly concerned with the Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players.
 

Lew Crippen

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Both HDMI & optical are digital, so all things being equal there will be difference in sound. However all things are not equal, as receivers that have only optical (or digital coax) outputs also only decode the older DVD audio formats. If you wish to reproduce the newer audio formats you will need a receiver that decodes them (an exception to this is if both your Blu-Ray player and receiver have analog ports and the BD player decodes the new formats).

Personally I don’t see much difference between video over HDMI or component connections, but others claim to be able to detect some difference (of course analog can degrade if being run though receivers etc.)

Audio over HDMI or optical or digital coax is all carried in digital format. It won’t make any difference how you pass it from one component to another.
 

Cloud

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Just so I understand this, if I upgrade my receiver to a newer model that can decode the new audio formats from my Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players it won't matter if I run the HDMI into the receiver then to the tv or if I run it to the tv first then use the digital coax out on the tv to run it to the receiver?
 

Lew Crippen

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No, it will not matter. 1s and 0s don’t degrade and if some get dropped, error detection and correction takes care of that.

You did not ask, but if I were getting a new receiver, I’d get one with multiple HDMI inputs, so I could use the receiver to do all of my switching. But whatever works for you.
 

Diallo B

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not to thread jack but do the 'newer' sound formats really sound that much better?
 

Bluzman

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First you need to figure out what your Blu-ray and HD-DVD players will do. Will they decode TrueHD and/or DTS-MA to lossless multichannel PCM? If they will, then you (a) don't need a receiver that decodes, and (b) just about any receiver that has HDMI 1.1 or higher properly implemented will take in the lossless PCM from an HDMI connection and play it. If your players won't do this, you need a receiver with built-in TrueHD and DTS-MA decoders. In any event, you simply want to connect the players to the receiver via an HDMI cable and then connect the receiver to the TV with an HDMI cable. PERIOD

In either of these cases, you do not want to use the TVs optical output nor do you want to connect the Blu-ray and/or HD-DVD player to the receiver using a digital audio connection. Neither optical or digital coax has enough bandwidth to pass either the lossless PCM signals or the high bitrate TrueHD and DTS-MA bitstreams. Again, you simply want to connect the players to the receiver via an HDMI cable and then connect the receiver to the TV with an HDMI cable.

EDIT: I noticed that in another thread you mention that you have a PS3. If that's your Blu-ray player then it will (with the latest firmware) decode both TrueHD and DTS-MA and will not send the TrueHD and DTS-MA bitstreams. You didn't say what your HD-DVD player is. Unless it's a Toshiba XA2 or A35 (which can send the TrueHD and DTS-MA bitstreams) it will also only decode internally. That said, there's a distinct possibility that a receiver with built-in decoders is not a necessity.
 

Cloud

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Correct, my BD player is a PS3 with the latest firmware upgrade. My HD-DVD player is a Toshiba HD-A30, also with the latest firmware upgrade. Am I correct in understanding then that neither of these will output the DTS-HD and TrueHD, and that any receiver with HDMI 1.3a would be adequate and I would have no use for a DTS-HD/TrueHD receiver?
 

gene c

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I've yet to hear the newer formats in a proper setup but I believe the difference is akin to the difference between DVD-A and DD/DTS. Some think it's substantial while others hardly notice it at all. I think DVD-A provides a noticable improvement. I can only assume that I'll feel the same way about DD-HD and DTS-MA.
 

gene c

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The only difference I can imagine is the way the signal is routed thru the receiver. I called Pioneer CSR a while back and asked if MCACC (room correction eq) was applied to the audio signal received thru hdmi. A few days later they e-mailed me back that the audio signal routed via hdmi went straight to the 6/8 channel anolog inputs which bypass all processing including bass management, bass/treble controls and MCACC (this could be an issue to anyone using the anolog outs of a BlueRay or HD player). I still don't believe them (why would they do such a thing?) but have been unable to verify it. So even though the digital signal is the same, I'd try both to verify the path of hdmi.
 

Bluzman

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David
You're correct that neither will output the TrueHD or DTS-MA bitstreams. Any receiver with HDMI 1.1 or higher and also able to accept multichannel PCM will work - built-in decoders for these formats are not needed. That said, and before I'm labeled as a technology averse Luddite, let me add that if you decide to get a new receiver, I'd recommend getting one with all the latest features, including HDMI 1.3, built-in decoders,...the works. Why not get a little future proofing against the inevitable bout with upgrade-itis. :laugh:
 

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