Sunday, April 18, 2010

Home Theatre Update: Set up! (Well, 99% there)

My Dad helped me a huuuuge amount today in setting up my home theatre system... and we're all done! It took about 6 or 7 hours of setup after a day of shopping for stuff, and I got reaaaally tired by the end of the day, but man was it worth it.

We got the rear speakers attached beautifully to the wall, pointing down at the couch. We got speaker wire, measured it, stripped the ends of it and connected up all the speakers. The rears are attached high up so we could run the speaker wire along the picture rails so it's not messy at all, it looks really good.

The mains sound AMAZING and the center channel is absolutely fantastic. We didn't know where to put the center channel, but turns out it fits perfectly inside the top drawer in my IKEA cabinet, so that works well.

After getting it all set up, we ran the Pioneer receiver's auto speaker tuning utility, and it... sortof worked. First it got confused and thought my front right speaker was connected out-of-phase. We moved all the wires around to double-check, and it looked fine. Then it got confused that I had a 7.1 receiver, but I was only set up with a 5.0 system (no subwoofer). Then it messed up the setting so my 2 surrounds had a very low sound level for some reason. After messing around with it a whole bunch, we got it working... but... for the life of me I couldn't figure out why it wouldn't play DTS-HD Master Audio. That's one of the reason I bought the Blu-Ray in the first place - to play high-def audio signals through my sweet new speaker set!! So that was nuts, the receiver keeps saying "PCM" no matter what the signal is. Man.

Finally I gave up and we just listened to a few tracks from the new Blu-Ray I bought, "Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds Live at Radio City Music Hall" - awesome stuff. It sounds so gloriously clear and fantastic. But after some more research tonight, I think I've tracked down the problem. Turns out there is a setting called BD Audio MIX which is on by default. This does not pass the Dolby HD audio signal through, so your receiver only shows a "PCM" setting. To send the high quality HD audio through, you need to turn this setting off. This should work, this was the exact problem I was having.
In the player's setup menu you should set Audio Output Priority to 'HDMI', Audio (HDMI) to 'Auto' and BD Audio Setting to 'Direct'. Your amp should automatically detect the audio and decode it correctly if connected by HDMI. Remember that you may have to select the lossless audio through the disc's audio menu (sometimes under 'Languages' like they were on DVD). Also make sure you're using a disc with TrueHD or DTS-HD MA audio rather than PCM (or you will only see 'PCM' engaged on your receiver). If you see the TrueHD or DTS-HD lights activate on your amp then the settings are correct.
Sony BDP-S370 Manual:
BD Audio MIX Setting
On Outputs the audio obtained by mixing the interactive and secondary audio to the primary audio.

Off Outputs the primary audio only. Select this to output HD audio signals to an AV amplifier (receiver).
You didn't say what you were trying to play, bluray/DVD or streaming video ? If the later, PCM is normal. For BD/DVD if you set HDMI AUDIO to "auto" the receiver should show the audio format selected from the disk (DD.DTS,DTS-HD,True-HD).

actually, post #125 has the answer. it's not the "auto" part, oddly. it's the BD Audio Mix to "NO". that did it. it's really strange that it's so hidden.

"Try this. Will enable the player to bitstream the audio. I figured the PCM issue out. Instead of an option for Direct you just turn the "Mix" option to off and it sends the audio out to the receiver to decode. It's under Audio Settings-BD Audio MIX Setting. Options are On/Off. Set to off."

Another great explanation:

what is the advantage to using "Mix" turned On? what are the benefits of decoding the soundtrack in the bluray player, running the PCM through a mixer, and adding in a secondary audio? i have never before owned a bluray player so i'm not even sure what you mean. thx again. Secondary audio is not part of the movie soundtrack. If you want to hear it, it must be mixed in by the player. Secondary audio is not included in the lossless bitstream. Again, secondary audio is sound effects for disc menus and the audio for PIP commentaries.

oh, additionally, i was told by a friend that it is crucial, for the best possible sound, that if one were to have a good receiver, i.e. my Onkyo 807, that one uses the Mix "No" option (plus the HDMI Audio set to Auto), because that way, the 370 outputs the untouched bitstream to the receiver. According to him, this would allow the 807 Onkyo receiver to receiver the purest form of the audio tracks, be able to process it using the RECEIVER's superior audio processing algorithms/powers, and allow us maximum options of audio output.

May i ask if you guys agree with that, or, do you guys feel that it is equally good, or maybe even better, if the audio processing were to be done "in bluray player", i.e. ask the bluray player to output PCM?
Your friend doesn't quite understand how things work. TrueHD and dts-MA are really just zip files used to compress PCM and save space on the disc. Decoding unzips the file, turning it back into PCM. It doesn't matter where the unzipping takes place. You get the same PCM either way. No matter where the file is decoded, your AVR handles all processing. In fact, player decoding is better with some receivers that lack the processing power to decode dts-MA and apply Audyssey.

But, there's a caveat with the Mix setting. Many players cannot decode dts-MA and mix secondary audio. So they use the lossy DTS core track instead.

So, if you set HDMI to PCM and Mix to Off, you will get the same lossless audio as you get bitstreaming to your Onkyo for decoding. The Onkyo does all of the processing either way. If you set Mix to On, you'll get lossless TrueHD because the player can decode the TrueHD track when mixing in secondary audio. But, with the Mix setting, you will get the lossy DTS core instead of lossless dts-MA.

The Sony 370's nomenclature vis-a-vis "bitstream output" is very confusing to me. Why won't there be simply an output option called: "Output: Bitstream" and another "Output: PCM"?
Many players do just that. Sony chose a different approach where the HDMI handshake between player and receiver determines whether the player bitstreams or decodes.


Unknown said...

WHOA!!! No sub-woofer? Well, you won’t be getting the best sound quality if ever you'll be watching an AC3 or DNS audio system. Also, I normally use my PC to integrate it to my home theater, because PC's are more useful than any other gadget. With your PC, you'll be able to download multiple codecs to make it compatible with more than one format. Also, the upgrades are cheap.

Paul Brighton said...

Great post you have shared with us, I came across your blog while searching for home theatre setup.

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