If you want to be able to play back HD audio in 7.1 you will need a processor with 7.1 ins or HDMI and 7.1 channels. When using the 7.1 inputs you will be bypassing the surround modes in the processor or receiver and only be using the player's settings. There are other ways to do it but they are cumbersome.
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Mitch4t, Re: Coax vs. Optical
There are some variables to consider... i.e., the quality of your speakers and the rest of your electronics (most specifically your "source component." However, generally speaking, Coax has a wider band-width. and it has been my experience to higher sound quality from a good coax cable.
What if you only have 5 speakers and don't ever intend on setting up 7? I've been trying to figure this out too... I want the benefit of the lossless audio formats of blu ray, but if I use the player to decode and pass an analog signal to a 5.1 prepro, do I "lose" part of the movie soundtrack? Is there a setting on the blu ray players that have built in decoders where you can tell it you have 5 speakers and it mixes the 6th and 7th speaker into the existing rear surrounds?
If you take a look at Mitch4t's "System" link, you'll see what kind of system and space he has. Also, Mitch started this thread in June. In the time between the first posts and this revival 3 months later, he bought the $2K Marantz BD8002 Blu-ray player with built-in decoder for all the lossless formats. I suspect you'd have to get a very expensive pre/pro--when it comes along--to equal the decoding quality built into this Marantz.
As to how you can configure the analog outputs, this page has a link to download a pdf of the manual, which should tell you all about it. Page 13 mentions that there is an analog output configuration menu where you can set the rear surrounds to "None."
My $169 Oppo DV-980H allows me to configure the 7.1 ch analog outputs for 2, 3, 4, 5, or 7 channels, so I'd be very surprised if the $2K Marantz flagship wouldn't at least equal it in configurability.
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