Technical & Editorial

TVs? We Don't Need no Stinking TVs - Third-Generation Multi-channel Audio - Part 2



It is not practical to connect your Universal Blu-ray Player to your AVR using an analog connection if you want to listen in multichannel. For similar reasons you should accept that the multichannel DSD data off an SACD is going to have to be transcoded at some point to LPCM. S/PDIF is also not a connection option in multichannel. Options you had in the stereo world are just not workable in the multichannel universe. All of this is explained in the Sidebar: What you need to know to be a multichannel Geek

So what features do we want in the Universal Blu-ray Players HDMI transmission system?

When picking a Blu-ray player (any Blu–ray player not just a Universal unit) the presence of an auto-detect mode for the type of HDMI receiver in the AVR is imperative. A player with this feature automatically sends high-resolution Dolby or DTS direct to the AVR with HDMI 1.3 (the different versions of HDMI are explained in the sidebar below), but converts the Dolby or DTS encoding to the LPCM when the unit is connected to an AVR with a HDMI 1.1 receiver. Without this feature, the AVR might go silent if it had only a HDMI 1.1 receiver and the setup Blu-ray setup menu was not properly set. I successfully tested the feature in a pair of Oppo Universal Blu-ray players.

When the Blu-ray player decodes the high-resolution Dolby or DTS to LPCM, a 48kHz sampling rate may be reported by the AVR. Not all Blu-ray recordings are issued at a 96kHz sampling rate.

Older AVRs may not be able to process signal sampled at 192kHz sampling rate. The universal player should sense this and down-convert the data to a 96kHz sampling rate before transmission over the HDMI line. Without this feature the sound will again go dead unless the Blu-ray setup panel is properly configured. I can confirm Oppo Blu-ray players do this function.

For SACD playback, the Universal Player should automatically perform the transcoding of DSD (Direct Stream Digital) to LPCM when the AVR does not have an HDMI 1.2 compliant receiver. A Universal Player without this feature can go silent if the Blu-ray setup menu option for DSD transcoding was not selected. I have hands on experience that demonstrates Oppo players correctly implement the auto transcode functionality. The Denon and Marantz players call it out in the instruction book, but I have not tested them.

If all else fails, turn to phone support from your Blu-ray vendor. Choosing the same brand of player and AVR will avoid one vendor inevitably blaming the problem on the other component. Oppo is an exception. Oppo does not manufacture AVRs, but their help desk is knowledge about most components to which their unit is likely to be connected. Oppo's help desk is also robustly staff to minimize wait time on the phone.