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"Make sure it's set to bitstream? What's a 'bitstream'?'"

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by LanceJ, Oct 7, 2004.

  1. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    O.K. I had to write this because yesterday I ran into another person that has been listening to DPL and thinking it was actually 5.1 Dolby Digital. This subject may seem obvious to an HT enthusiast but obviously not to everyone. (and for the people just reading the little yellow pop-up preview box, the rest of this post is about HT in general, not dvd-audio)

    And to make it worse this friend of a friend is someone I helped to convince to try surround music. I let him listen to my system using my Linkin Park dvd-audio but using the Dolby Digital track for the demo because he didn't own a dvd-audio player--he uses a PS2 instead. He liked the format & bought a copy for himself. But he never mentioned the disc again so I figured the excitement of surround music had worn off for him.

    That was almost a full year ago.

    Now it's yesterday...........

    Me, him and my buddy were at a big-box store checking out some new Klipsch's in a fully set-up HT demo system. Since I was used to the big-box stores almost never setting up their HT displays correctly, I was poking around the receiver & player audio menus because this time a movie was playing but there was no Dolby Digital indicator lit up on the Yamaha receiver they were using. And only two of the channel indicator lights--[L] and [R]--were lit up. The remote for the player was available so I went into the player's audio option submenu and yep, it was set to PCM. So I changed it to "bitstream", pushed play and finally the receiver's DD light turned on.

    My buddy's friend turned to me and said his big Yamaha only had the PCM indicator turned on.......and what is a bitstream?* I explained these more fully to him and we both kind of stared at each other for a few seconds, realizing what had happened.

    Keep in mind this guy has owned his HT system for two years now. Wow, all those movies. Thinking he was listening to the latest hi-tech 5.1 movie surround tracks.....when actually it was some simulated surround mode trying its best to concoct some sound effects based on a downmixed stereo PCM input signal. And, no wonder he was so underwhelmed with that dvd-audio he bought (and probably why he never said much when I would describe the latest new one I had bought).

    More confusion: when he saw the player's "DTS out ON/OFF" option in the menu, he said he saw the DTS indicator light up on his own receiver. But after I asked more about this, we realized it was actually the DTS:Neo indicator, not the one for "real" 5.1 discrete channel DTS.

    This guy is actually quite knowlegdeable about audio but I don't think it's a full-blown hobby for him like for me. So I don't blame him for not knowing about this obscure and unglamorous subject.

    This is the second (non-HTF) person I've run into with his system not configured properly. I really think all the audio manufacturers need to include a separate "quick set-up" guide with their components that describe in layman's terms & in bold-faced font the basic but important options that need to be taken care of FIRST. Then go into the secondary foo-foo options that only us audio nerds get excited about.

    And (if this is actually happening) why would a player's digital output option be set for PCM from the factory? How many other non-audio people are out there being underwhelmed by their non-bitstream HT systems?

    So, just a heads-up for the people new to the multichannel hometheater scene. And as boring as they are, read your product manuals all the way through at least one time! [​IMG]

    * same for the employees that have watched me change this setting on a demo system at another store (they said their bosses don't let them play with the equipment; only some special set-up team is allowed to do this--what a stupid and non-productive policy). They didn't even know their $700 demo receiver had an on-screen display for setting purposes--wow. And they wonder why so many customers shy away from component HT systems.
     
  2. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    Sad but 100% true. I don't even bother fixing display setups in stores. Waste of time because some fool will do it wrong the very next day again.

    I have to "correct" my parent's system every time I go over there, because they just start pressing buttons until it sounds OK to them, even if it's not correct for the format. LOL. I keep telling them leave the receiver in AUTO, you won't have to do anything 95% of the time.
     
  3. John S

    John S Producer

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    Yep.... lol

    I still find people using svideo or even worse from their DVD players to their HDTV displays all the time as well too.

    Real DTS can be transfered by PCM though, just so you know. But not Dolby Digital. So who really knows on that one.
     
  4. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    DTS can be passed via DTS only if it is encoded that way though. Most DVDs are not done this way, AFAIK.
     
  5. Brian L

    Brian L Cinematographer

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    I have set up three systems in the last 12 months for friends. And just so you know the kind of idiots I hang with; one guy is a System Admin at Los Alamos National Labs, one a satellite designer at Sandia National Labs, and one a Structural Engineer with a PE. Morons, right?

    And NOT ONE of them would have gotten it right without help. So, even techie guys like these dudes are hosed. Imagine the non-techies trying to set up a basic 5.1 system.

    Whenever I read Bose bashing posts, it makes me think that Bose are really the only ones that "get it" with there all in one systems. It may be over priced, and under-performing, but non-techies can install it, start it up, and get pleasing sound out of it. IMHO, its better than even money that a user of a traditional system would not have a chance.

    Rant mode now off.

    BGL
     
  6. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    To echo what BL said, one thing I have to give Bose props for is how easy their systems are to set up. And the large, almost poster-sized drawings of the speaker & electronics connections. Anybody with five brain cells could hook up these systems with such thoughtfully-designed visual aids.

    One minor complaint about Yamaha's set-up menu: they have the button set up as the "enter" keys. Eventually I finally learned to deal with this but it is not a natural thing to do. And how about a "exit" button or "end programming" on-screen icon or something similar? Because even with my dumpy [​IMG] Technics receiver, when you're done programming it you just push the A and B speaker buttons simultaneously & the word "COMPLETE" appears on the display so you know what you entered has been stored.

    FYI: if you became the owner of a Technics receiver with no operating manual, own speakers with 4 ohm ratings and want to change the receiver to 4 ohm operation: on 90% of the Technics receivers I personally have dealt with, you push and hold one of the speaker selection buttons for about 5 seconds and a small indicator will finally light up that says LOW IMP. I'm pretty sure most Panasonic receivers work this way too.
     
  7. Brian L

    Brian L Cinematographer

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    There is a review of a new Yammy AVR in either the current or the previous Ultimate AV (formerly SGHT). The reviewer makes comment about some issues with navigation, maybe even the exact scenario you describe.

    BGL
     
  8. Jan Strnad

    Jan Strnad Screenwriter

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    I have a Harman Kardon AVR 55 receiver that I bought a few years ago, when I had more brain cells than I have now. Since then, I've entered that age where all of the little fiddly things I used to love are now just annoyances. I've found myself in the scenario mentioned above, where for some reason I'm getting no sound and it's been too long since I looked at the manual and I have to start pressing buttons...not quite randomly, but almost...until the sound comes on. I hate it.

    The receiver puts out great sound and way more than enough power, but damn...I should be able to switch between playing CDs and playing DVDs without having to f--- with "SURR. MODE" and "SPK. MODE" and "SURR.OFF" and whatever other buttons I have to cycle through to make sound come out of the speakers.

    What receiver do I have to buy today to get this automatic switching you guys are talking about? And once I have it, will that solve my problem? And once that problem is solved, what do I buy to help me remember where I left my glasses so that I can read the teeny tiny type on the front of these dangnabbed things?

    Jan
     
  9. EricRWem

    EricRWem Screenwriter

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    Well, I use the HK 630, which is a bit newer than the HK you have. I love it, it's solid, and it's a lot easier to use than what you've just described here.
     
  10. Drew_W

    Drew_W Screenwriter

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    If you care enough about good sound, you'll take an hour to set it up properly and to actually learn about what you have. If you don't take this time, you obviously don't care and deserve to spend too much of your money on an overpriced sounds-like-shit Bose system, and get flamed for having one.
     
  11. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    After seeing more talk of this issue here....bump.
     
  12. Jerome Grate

    Jerome Grate Cinematographer

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    Heck, I know my brother in law has his set up all wrong. He has an Onkyo HTIB set and I know his is listening to pro-logic on everything including DVD. I've tried too many times to assist him with his system before the HTIB and currently but eventhough he use to be a d.j. (as was I) he claims that everything is fine and claims that it really sounds great. Therefore, I just leave it, even if the Dolby Digital is set to PCM and DTS set to off.

    My son's godfather completely depends on me for all his tweaking and adjustments. I love going to his house to watch the game or movie because with his set up I used the SPL meter for his sound and Video Essentials to calibrate his Samsung 55 inch 4:3 t.v. The System administrator on my job has no clue about Dolby Digital, upscaling players even defined in his terms in reference to a computer and completely oblivious to High Definition.
     
  13. Lewis Besze

    Lewis Besze Producer

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    Yep this is it! Many people wants HT because they were "wowed" by their buddies demo,then run out and get one, knowing wery little about it, or "care".One don't have to be an enthusiast about this just realize that in order to get the best performance out of it it must be configured right.
     
  14. DustinLC

    DustinLC Supporting Actor

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    This is one of those thing that you learn, got it all set up properly, and probably don't touch it for some time. Now, a year and a half later, I'm trying to find my manuel because I remember it sounding better and trying to relearn all the functions. It's not like a remote control that you use everyday.
     
  15. JeremyErwin

    JeremyErwin Producer

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    The second bit of every 32 bit spdif packet is the data bit. If it's set to zero, the packet contents are treated as audio, If it's set to one, the packet contents are assumed to be MPEG2, Dolby Digital, dts, or something else. I have had the unfortunate experience of replaying dolby digital material with the data bit set incorrectly-- one of the hazards of learning to program audio. While it did not damage my speakers, the beeps, buzzes, and shrieks that resulted were still annoying.

    Now, imagine plugging your dvd player into a really old reciever-- one that doesn't understand dolby digital-- perhaps one that forgets to check if bit 2 is set. If the dvd player is set at the factory to output PCM, all is well. If the dvd player is set to output AC3, a few obsolete receivers could be damaged.
     
  16. FeisalK

    FeisalK Screenwriter

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    Obsolete receivers that don't understand PCM won't have a digital input though?

    'Course if someone took a single input from the digital coax and plugged it into either of the red/white stereo analog inputs, they're going to get.. what?
     
  17. JeremyErwin

    JeremyErwin Producer

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    er.
    "one that doesn't understand Dolby Digital"
    oops.
     
  18. RomanSohor

    RomanSohor Second Unit

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    Unfortunately, many of my customers at Best Buy have the impression that S-Video is better or as good as component, and that we are trying to sell them some sort of "gimmick" by telling them they need component cables.

    I had a customer try to return a 60" JVC DILA set becuse his DVDs looked "awful" and were "stretched out all weird" - turns out he had connected the CYBERHOME DVD PLAYER he bought with his DILA with the "yellow white and red that came in the box" and had no idea what I was talking about when I Told him about setting the DVD player so it knew he had it attached to a widescreen TV.

    What amazes me is that people can spend so much money on these items without doing any research (And take an hour of a salesman's time, buy none of the things he recommended, listen to nothing he said, and then try to return the product)

    If I wasn't an HT Enthusiast and video professional, I would have done some serious research before dropping $4,000 or whatever he spent in Best Buy that day... amazes me how much money people have to waste, while the rest of us have to scrimp! LOL
     
  19. John S

    John S Producer

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    hehe. I ran into a guy over the weekend that was going to return an LCD RP because he did not push in the blue connection all the way on the component cable from his DVD player to the display. [​IMG] Made for some really interesting color palets though.
     
  20. Rolando

    Rolando Screenwriter

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    Reminds me when I got my new amp, I was so excited because my old Elite amp did not have DTS. Well imagine my dissapointment when DTS signals showed up as Dolby Pro-Logic.

    Well I figured it was the player not the amp since my daughters cheap Diamond DVD player seemed to play DTS fine.

    Since I did not hav the manual for my Malata N996 anymore I decided to check the ÈexpertÈ set up section in the set-up menu. under DTS I noticed I had the optios in digital out of:

    1 original
    2 PCM
    3 original S/PDIF only

    well I set it to original and what do you know? My 814 all of a sudden showed DTS [​IMG]

    Which reminds me I actually had a lot of audio drop outs on different DVDs until I switched to the 3rd setting: original S/PDIF only however I must admit I donèt know what that means.

    I figured original should have worked fine. am I wrong. can anyone explain the difference between them?

    Am I in the right setting now or should it be on original and I should have the drop out looked into?
     

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