How to connect HD DVD player to your A/V receiver

Ilya

Ilya

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As some of our forum members pointed out, the 5.1 analog audio output on the Toshiba HD DVD player sounds great! In fact, it sounds better than the digital (S/PDIF) output! I've spent some time doing a back-to-back comparison of various audio modes (using The Phantom of The Opera HD DVD as a source) and I came to the same conclusion. It's not really easy to compare different outputs, especially due to different subwoofer balance, but to me, the analog output offers more natural, clear and rich sound, than digital output (either coax or optical).

Doesn't make any sense! How can analog output sound better than digital? Based on our experience with traditional DVD players we would normally expect to get better sound from digital connections. After all, good A/V receivers normally have better DD decoders and Digital-to-Analog Converters than those inside DVD players. Well, this is not the case with HD DVD. And here is why.

Instead of traditional Dolby Digital encoding, HD DVD implements a more advanced Dolby Digital Plus format which uses a much higher bit rate (3 Mbps on HD DVD, 1.7 Mbps on Blu-ray Disc) and results in superior sound quality. The problem is that present digital connections (S/PDIF and even HDMI) do not support this format and even if they did, there are presently no A/V receivers capable of decoding Dolby Digital Plus.

Does it mean that you cannot take advantage of this new Dolby Digital Plus format? Does it mean you have to wait for the next generation of players and receivers? Not at all! You can enjoy the better sound, even with your current equipment! Toshiba offers three options for you:

Option One: HDMI. Even in its current generation (Ver. 1.1) HDMI interface is capable of delivering multi-channel uncompressed PCM. And Toshiba players are capable of converting DD+ stream to multi-channel PCM. So, if you have one of those latest A/V receivers that can extract multi-channel PCM from HDMI interface - this is your best option! Let the Toshiba player do DD+ decoding and use DACs in your A/V receiver.

Option Two: 5.1 Analog Output. Most of us do not have receivers capable of extracting multi-channel PCM from HDMI, but we do have 5.1 direct analog inputs, that were intended for DVD-Audio and SACD. Conveniently, Toshiba players include 24-bit 192 KHz digital-to-analog converters and can decode 5.1 channels of DD+. This is the best choice for most of us!

Option Three: S/PDIF or TOSLINK. For backward compatibility with DD equipment, Toshiba players re-encode the 5.1 audio signal in a form of standard (core) DTS stream and pass it via digital outputs (coaxial S/PDIF or optical TOSLINK). (It is interesting that Toshiba decided to re-encode the audio as DTS, rather than DD. Although DTS has higher bit rate and arguably better sound quality, not all DD A/V receivers support it.)

The HD DVD specification supports even better audio formats (with lossless compression): Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD. But you can forget about them for now. First of all, not many HD DVDs will have them (currently there are no DTS-HD discs and only one disc with Dolby TrueHD), and second, because the first-generation players cannot fully decode these formats (for example, Toshiba only supports 2-channel decoding of Dolby TrueHD and only core DTS decoding for DTS-HD). But even the 5.1 DD+, standard on all HD DVDs, is a huge step forward, compared to traditional DD.

Update 08/25/06: With the latest 2.0 firmware update all Toshiba players are now able to decode 5.1 channels of Dolby TrueHD. So, the above discussion about DD+ now equaly applies to Dolby TrueHD!
 
teamerickson

teamerickson

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Thanks for the post Ilya. I'm going to try the 5.1 analog also.

Due you think the digital out is decoded already? I belive if you chose bitstream it is not.
 
Ilya

Ilya

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That's the thing. S/PDIF cannot pass DD+. Only DD or DTS, which have several times lower bit rates. Even in bitstream mode, the digital output has to be re-encoded and downgraded, so that A/V receivers could recognize it. That's why analog output sounds better than digital.

S/PDIF Settings menu offers just two options (as I remember): 2ch PCM and Bitstream. PCM means 2-channel uncompressed audio (the format used on CDs). Bitstream is compressed multi-channel audio encoded as Dolby Digital or as DTS.
 
Jamey K

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If one end of your HDMI goes to the TV...and the other end to the HD-DVR? How would I get audio out of my receiver even if it was equipped to do so?

Magic?

I'm sure the answer is simple but dang if I know what it is.
 
teamerickson

teamerickson

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Jamey K said:
If one end of your HDMI goes to the TV...and the other end to the HD-DVR? How would I get audio out of my receiver even if it was equipped to do so?

Magic?

I'm sure the answer is simple but dang if I know what it is.
Some new recievers have HDMI input for sound and then will pass video to the TV. What I do is use the HDMI for better picture and good sound from the TV. But when I want more sound I use the reciever. I use the digital out to the reciver and turn down the TV.
 
Ilya

Ilya

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Jamey K said:
If one end of your HDMI goes to the TV...and the other end to the HD-DVR? How would I get audio out of my receiver even if it was equipped to do so?

Magic?

I'm sure the answer is simple but dang if I know what it is.
You use two HDMI cables: one goes from the HD DVD player to the HDMI-capable receiver, the other one goes from the receiver to the TV set. ;)
The receiver should be able to pass through the video signal and extract the audio.
 
Ilya

Ilya

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Speaking of 5.1 analog connections. Buy.com has Acoustic Research PR-136 Pro II Series 5.1 cables for $38.99. Sounds like a good deal! ($109.95 MSRP)
 
Jamey K

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The 6' HDMI cable that came with the player is about 1/2 inch to short for me so I ordered a 10' from Monoprice. $19 for a good strong sturdy cable. Hooked it up yesterday, and it looks great.
 
jgantert

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If I'm reading this thread correctly, the Toshiba HD-DVD player supports SPDIF using either 2 channel stereo, or re-encoded DTS digital sound.

So, how would you get an audio reciever with TrueHD and DTSHD decoding built-in to talk to the Toshiba HD-DVD player? Is HDMI the only interface that would support transporting TrueHD or DTSHD digital audio signals?

Thank goodness I never upgraded my old Yamaha 5.1 reciever (HTR-5250) for a newer 7.1 model. I wouldn't get anything out of it if I'm forced into using the 5.1 analog outputs!!! :)

-John

Er, nevermind... Here's an article on DDPlus... http://www.dolby.com/assets/pdf/tech_library/DDPlus_FAQ.pdf
Looks like it can be transmitted using Firewire or HDMI at 3-6Mbps and up to 13.1 channels! :)

Here's DDHD http://www.dolby.com/assets/pdf//tech_library/TrueHD_FAQ_10925_Final.pdf. Its over HDMI 1.3 and 2-18Mbps but only 8 channels (7.1, I assume) and is lossless.
 
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Ilya

Ilya

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Dolby TrueHD (in its unprocessed bitstream form) can only be output over HDMI interface starting with version 1.3 (or 2.0). The Toshiba players currently offer HDMI version 1.1. And I don't know if they are firmware-upgradable to HDMI 1.3. Probably not.
So, the only option for TrueHD in present players is 2-channel PCM, using Toshiba's built-in Dolby TrueHD decoder. Over HDMI this can be either passed at the native sampling rate of 96kHz (or even 192 kHz - not sure), or you can choose to downsample it to 48kHz if your AV receiver cannot handle higher sampling rates.
 
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techweb

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The Toshiba players decode and output up to 5.1 channel PCM from DD+ and DTS-HD (and 2 channel True HD) via HDMI only. There is currently no way to get the undecoded DD+, DTS-HD, or True HD bit stream from the player to an A/V receiver, but that's a moot point since no A/V receiver is currently capable of such decoding, although Denon (among others I'm sure) is working on it. The industry needs to standardize some sort of enhanced SPDIF that can handle these new digital audio formats. Right now your best bet for enhanced audio from HD DVD is to use analog 5.1. I'm not sure which A/V receivers with HDMI inputs can handle the 5.1 PCM format from the player (maybe Denon 2807?)
 
Ilya

Ilya

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techweb said:
I'm not sure which A/V receivers with HDMI inputs can handle the 5.1 PCM format from the player (maybe Denon 2807?)
Yes, Denon 2807 can handle multi-channel PCM over HDMI according to its manual.
 
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gizzer777

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HDMI Question

Ilya said:
Yes, Denon 2807 can handle multi-channel PCM over HDMI according to its manual.


I thought the HDMI 1.1 standard only passed 2 channel sound and the next iteration of HDMI (another screwing for us) would handle 5.1+?

I also hear that the next HDMI will require a different type of cable (yes...another screwing for us)

Jeff
 
Ilya

Ilya

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gizzer777 said:
I thought the HDMI 1.1 standard only passed 2 channel sound and the next iteration of HDMI (another screwing for us) would handle 5.1+?
From the start, HDMI was defined to carry 8-channels, of 192kHz, 24-bit uncompressed audio, i.e. multi-channel PCM (see http://www.hdmi.com/about/faq.asp). However, HDMI does not currently support Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD as a bitstream. That will be supported in future versions of HDMI.
 
jgantert

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Good site! Sounds like I need to wait for the 2nd generation HD/BR-DVD players with HDMI 1.3 output and the next generation of audio recievers with HDMI 1.3 inputs. (Hopefully all this will still be compatible with my TV using a HDMI to DVI-HDCP adapter.)

Yikes!
-John
 
jgantert

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Yeah, but the format war (HD vs BR) doesn't affect the audio side. Both players should support all of the new digital audio formats (DD+, DDHD, DTSHD).

-John
 

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