Should I upgrade home theatre to one with HDMI?


Hello - I was wondering if someone could give me some advice. I have a Denon 5.1 channel amp and pre amp that does not have an HDMI input. I recently got a plasma TV and wanted to hook up the home theatre setup, but was dismayed to find that the input and outputs on the directtv receiver don't correlate with the inputs and outputs on the Denon. Currently the television is connected only to the directtv receiver with the HDMI cable; i.e. only sound coming from the television. Is it time for an upgrade to a receiver with HDMI inputs and pass through or can I still get high def television and quality audio with an optical video feed and a coaxial digital audio feed? Any help or advice would be appreciated. Thanks, KMW
kmw614214
Inevitably. HDMI to the TV and digital coax/optical will get you HD for now but, if/when you add a BD player, you will be better off with a new AVR or prepro with HDMI.
Kr4 is correct but let me elaborate by saying that you need HDMI to get the highest quality audio meaning Dolby TruHD and DTS HD Master Audio playback. These formats are commonly found on many available Blu-ray discs and do sound considerably better than the lower resolution Dolby and DTS formats you can get with the Toslink optical or coaxial S/PDIF-RCA digital connections.

I also found recently that my AVR's HDMI 1.3 inputs will not pass 3D signals from a Blu-ray player although they have no trouble delivering hi-def 3D from Comcast Cable. If I plug the Blu-ray player directly into the TV and bypass the receiver then I can get 3D but have to settle for lower quality audio via Toslink or RCA S/PDIF. Blu-ray players and 3D tv's use the HDMI version 1.4.

I'll probably spring for a blu-ray player with 2 HDMI outputs in the future to circumvent this minor issue.
$1000 should be enough to buy a decent receiver with xt32 and a new 3d blu ray player.
You can connect the DirecTV receiver to your AVR via coax or Toslink and get Dolby Digital 5.1 and run the HDMI cable directly to the TV. This is how I hook up my DTV HR-24
Plato,
Another way to solve your minor issue is using a HDMI Splitter w/ 3D support.
If a Blue-ray player like an Oppo 95 is connected via 5.1 analog and the prepro set to bypass aren't Dolby TruHD and DTS HD MA passed through without HDMI?

db
Yes, dbphd is correct...

-RW-
Simple solution:
HDMI to TV and toslink from the TV to your receiver. Your tv should have digital out.
Imhififan, I see a lot of debate in the forums about being able to use a splitter (even a 3D one) to pass 3D video to a monitor and Hi-def audio to the receiver and everyone seems to be saying that it doesn't work.

Have you actually tried it using a Blu-ray with HDMI 1.4 and a receiver using HDMI 1.3 and got it to work for both 3D video and the advanced audio codecs???

For me the easy solution would be simply to buy the Sony S790 Blu-ray player that has both an HDMI Video output to the TV (for 3D) and an HDMI Audio output to the AVR that will do the advanced Dolby and DTS codecs. But since I have only one Blu-ray disc with 3D video so far it's not that big of a problem.
You can use optical or coaxial from a BD or DVD player but as has been noted, you will not have the newer higher resolution audio formats not present in your Denon. I have had a similar dilema, running HDMI to my plasma, but making compromises with older legacy codecs via optical connection or multichannel analog. If you use analog out from the player, you need the multichannel analog inputs on your prepro/receiver. You also rely on the bass management of the player unless you have some type of analog bass management device, like the older Outlaw ICBM. I have done this with an Integra Research 7.1, but it's a cable jungle from the BD player to the ICBM and then to the IR. I also have dual subs with unequal distance from listening area. I have decided to upgrade my prepro, simplify my cabling, and get a unit (Marantz AV8801) with Audyssey XT32 and ability to calibrate for dual subs. You could stay pat and still have pleasurable listening, and I have been doing that for some time now. I watched The Dark Knight Rises last night on my current legacy system and the audio was great. You also have choices of many full featured, high quality performing units available now. Good luck.
You do not mention te primary purpose for the HT system. Movies, Music, TV, Gaming or all of the above?

Here are my thoughts. Everyone who mentioned that you are missing out on the new lossless formats, namely Dolby True HD and DTS Master are correct. These audio formats truly sound amazing, some of the best recordings I have heard in over 35 years in this hobby. And I am not talking movies in 5.1 or 7.1 lossless (although they are great) - I am talking about music, particularly Blu-ray concerts that sound simply spectacular. Without HDMI 1.3 or higher into a processor or AVR that can decode it, you are missing out. Optical or digital coax cannot carry these signals. They can only do lossy formats which are the old Dolby Digital and DTS.

Now if all you are concerned about is TV or even movies (Blu-ray or DVD), IMHO the old lossy formats are just fine. TV and DVD can only do the old lossy codecs anyway. If you have a Blu-ray player, you still have the lossy soundtrack that sounds just fine for a movie. So running an optical conmnection between player or cable box and your current 5.1 Denon processor is all you need. But if you want music and want to take advantage of the new lossless formats, get an HDMI equipped processor or AVR. In fact an AVR with PRE-OUTS connected into your 5 channel Denon amp would be the most cost effective solution. Just make sure the AVR has PRE-OUTS. They all have room correction, some proprietary like Pioneer MCACC and some licensed like Audyssey that is found on Denon and Marantz products. They all do a good job. Good luck.
Thanks for the response guys. All helpful. Happy New Year
Not to pile on, but my Rotel 1056 receiver has me in the same boat, no HDMI inputs/outputs.

I've done what others have suggested and used it for some time now.

TV-Directv box hdmi to tv, tv volume set to zero. Digital audio out of Directv box to receiver.

DVD-Oppo 95 hdmi to tv, 5.1 analog direct to receiver which lets the Oppo deal with the new codecs and the receiver sends the signal unmolested to the amp section.

CD-Oppo 95 2-channel analog out to cd analog input on the receiver. Lets the nice DACs in the Oppo handle the signal.

Hope that helps.
Just wanted to emphasize a point of clarification for anyone not completely up to speed on this format and connection stuff.. ....
Any of the TV, Cable, Fios or Sat boxes will not use the high resolution uncompressed audio that you hear about. (They cleverly make little mention of these specs in the cable marketing and high res audio won't be happening anytime soon) So, the hdmi cable input avail is just an issue of wiring convenience for audio (and a flim flam excuse to sell you new gear) .... The old fashion fiber or coax cable is all you need for Dolby digital 5.1 TV as many of the posters recommend.

Now.... the high res audio formats on Blue Ray discs are fantastic sounding and a good reason to spin discs and hook up the gear with hdmi or 7 channels of analog cables (pick your favorite Dac/pre amp and room management technique configuration)

Admnranger have you chosen the DACS of the Oppo over the Room management and DACS of your Rotel by ear?
"Admnranger have you chosen the DACS of the Oppo over the Room management and DACS of your Rotel by ear?"

No I have not. My Rotel doesn't handle the new codecs on the blu-rays so I let the Oppo do the heavy lifting.

For cd's, I let the Sabre chipset in the Oppo again do all the work. I can't image that the 2005? era DACs in the Rotel receiver are going to trump the ones in the BDP-95 Oppo, but I could be wrong. Are you suggesting that they are better or will sound better with my setup, Tcatman?

I let the Rotel handle the processing for the ipod output coming out of my Wadia i170 and the DirecTV HD DVR. Otherwise, the Oppo does the DAC work for me.
Admranger you wrote...
I can't image that the 2005? era DACs in the Rotel receiver are going to trump the ones in the BDP-95 Oppo, but I could be wrong. Are you suggesting that they are better or will sound better with my setup, Tcatman?

Actually,

I was looking for your opinion on the tradeoff between room management through dsp with your Rotel.... VERSUS the "potentially" better sounding DACs of your OPPO.

Another way of framing the question... what's most significant as you evaluate your upgrade path..?

Room management, Base management, better DACS, No jitter, High Resolution Formats AND what is the rank order for two channel versus 5/7 channel music content..

Everyone has their bias...
Tcatman: Sorry, I may still not understand, but I'll give it a shot.

I don't like what the Rotel does taking 2-channel input and running it through it's DSP for 5.1 sound. If I didn't have small front speakers, I'd run 2 channel bypass but I have to add in the .1 as my speakers roll off once you are in the 60-ish hertz range.

My room is definitely not optimized nor will it be barring personal tragedy or divorce (for me it is one in the same). The Rotel room management doesn't exist. I don't have any automatic room management/sound correcting software working (maybe I'm misunderstanding what you are getting at).

Bass management is done by ear. I've now had my subs in 3 different spots in the past month. I think I'm getting close to liking where they are.

I don't have any SACDs. So high resolution formats are HDCDs and blu-ray concert dvds. I don't even like some of the DTS audio cds I have (Henley's "End of the Innocence" for instance). They are muddy and meh to me. I prefer the regular CD hands down in this particular instance. Adele at Royal Albert Hall blu-ray, in stark contrast, is stunning in DTS 5.1.
Ah... I read through your other thread about your acoustic problems... Its a fun challenge!

Im not a pro at this stuff either... Part of my confusion was your terminology.
Bass management usually means the processing in the digital domain (either the Oppo prior to the output of your 5.1 analog signals.. or the Rotel (processing the hdmi input signal). The bass management had two jobs... One, to cross over the bass information to your sub. Two, process LFE or .1 channel and manage the gain issue for the LFE channel.

The old school method of using an analog filter in your sub with your two channel full spectrum analog signals coming to the subs and then high pass info to the mains was rarely termed base management. The subwoofer was never called... .1 because there was no separate LFE channel... The subs just played the low pass analog signal they got based on your filter cutoff while your mains were easier to drive without the bass frequencies.

So, I understand your current configuration as one of setting up the Oppo to do bass management for your 5.1 channel content using the single multichannel DAC in the OPPO. Sending discrete analog channels to the Rotel for all of your speakers and subs including the LFE info and the frequency information is right for each channel/speaker. This analog info is passed through the rotel and then amplified.

What I don't understand is how you manage the bass using your 2 channel (dual sabre DACS) outputs going pure direct to your Rotel amps for Music CDs ... It seems to me that you have to go old school with one of your subs running in analog mode because your not happy with the low end of your mains in stereo. (The other sub would be driven by the LFE channel in your 5.1 setup. (I can't imagine the Oppo giving you a third discrete output channel in this mode.) But I could be wrong about what your gear will do.

My original question is not applicable.
You don't have the ability to do room correction in the digital domain in either the Rotel or the Oppo and compare all of the potential solutions.

I am surprised that the Rotel is flexible enough to pass the 5.1 analog blue ray through to the amp AND have the CD inputs also bypass the digital stage and go pure direct to the amps.

So... I understand that you are at step one... Optimize the acoustics of your current speakers and subs in 5.1 mode. You are now trying to manage the acoustics of your room with a major WAF constraint..

Step two. You will consider different speakers given the size of the room you have and WAF.

In parallel with your acoustic experiments... you might consider a PC and JRiver MC with an HDMI output to your Rotel. (splitter for the video hdmi to your TV) You could use the DSP and room management tools of JRiver on the high resolution uncompressed 7.1 formats stored on disk and go to the Rotel DACS. This would allow you to evaluate if more digital processing room correction would improve your already optimized acoustics. (You would not have to purchase a new AV receiver to try the room management solutions)
Sorry for the multiquote fail, but I can't seem to do any formatting of text so I'll do my best to separate comments from responses.

>Tcatman wrote: What I don't understand is how you manage the bass using your 2 channel (dual sabre DACS) outputs going pure direct to your Rotel amps for Music CDs ...
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I think you are on to something here, Tcatman. I'm looking into just running through the multi-input on the Rotel as I think I can have the Oppo send 2.1 through that route. It would eliminate 2 RCA cables in my system. If I'm not mistaken, I can run the front mains through the stereo out of the OPPO and the center, surrounds, and the .1 LFE from the 5.1/7.1 analog outs. I'll have to break down and violate my engineering background and (re) read the manual...
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>Tcatman wrote: I am surprised that the Rotel is flexible enough to pass the 5.1 analog blue ray through to the amp AND have the CD inputs also bypass the digital stage and go pure direct to the amps.
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I can do 2 channel bypass, but then I don't have any .1 LFE. Made that mistake already. I've been running the 2 channel w/LFE, using the Rotel bass management to crossover at 80 hz. This may be a huge mistake on my part so I need to RTFM, as I stated above.
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>Tcatman wrote: So... I understand that you are at step one...
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That's two steps ahead of where I started thanks to thoughtful responses from Audiogon posters like yourself.
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>Tcatman wrote: Optimize the acoustics of your current speakers and subs in 5.1 mode. You are now trying to manage the acoustics of your room with a major WAF constraint..
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Ahhh yes, the WAF. Subs were moved again this weekend over WAF issues...I'm still in the denial stage of grief over this...
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>Tcatman wrote: Step two. You will consider different speakers given the size of the room you have and WAF.
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My room just plain acoustically sucks. I'd love to scoop up the Aerial Acoustic 7B's that are in the consignment section of one of the local high-end shops in town ($1800!), but that's not going to happen right now (my budget has changed due to some unforeseen issues). Of course given my mid-frequency hearling loss I may want to find some speakers that over-emphasize the 4k-12k hz range!
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>Tcatman wrote: In parallel with your acoustic experiments... you might consider a PC and JRiver MC with an HDMI output to your Rotel. (splitter for the video hdmi to your TV) You could use the DSP and room management tools of JRiver on the high resolution uncompressed 7.1 formats stored on disk and go to the Rotel DACS. This would allow you to evaluate if more digital processing room correction would improve your already optimized acoustics. (You would not have to purchase a new AV receiver to try the room management solutions)
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I'm going to have to do some googling to figure out what these items are and what they do, but it sounds intriguing! My Rotel can't accept an HDMI input though, if that's required.
you wrote
This may be a huge mistake on my part so I need to RTFM, as I stated above.

Yes... you have made a huge mistake.

Anytime you send analog signals to the rotel and ask it to do anything.. IE base management... the signal is digitized processed and then output through the DA of the Rotel. ... basically you wasted your money on the Oppo that way.

What I think you want is as good a 2 channel system that you can get with your speakers..

I would go old school on ONE of you subs with the 2 channel output from the oppo pure direct through the rotel. ... to the sub and then to your LR mains. Optimize this system for two channel imaging and base integration with your two main LR speakers setting the cross over and level to get the best integration of the base with your two main speakers. Get the spacing, phase etc right for your primary listening position as recommended in this thread.

For theater... you want all 5.1 channels to play the high res Blue Ray sound tracks.. So you need to go analog to do this. I would then use the multi channel Dac of the oppo and send all channels out of the oppos including the .1 and go pure direct ... do not use any of the features of the rotel... get them all turned off...You want it to be a pre amp and amp with a volume control.... In this mode the oppo will route the boom boom of a theater .1 track to this 2nd sub.... its cross over will be turned off... (you are using the Oppo for base management.... ).... You will need the manual to make sure how the rotel handles an analog .1 input and you make sure that it passes the .1 signal straight through to your other home theater sub. (you may just go from the Oppo to the 2nd sub... but you won't have the theatre sub on TV source material 5.1 dolby digital)

For theater mode... your mains and first sub will function just as they did in the best you can get two channel mode with the sub cross over doing it's thing.

Tell the Wife that you are compromising... ONE sub will stay exactly where you get your best two channel music... the other sub can hide in a corner if need be.. the boom boom of the .1 track of a movie won't be as critical for your listening.

Also hook up the oppo to the rotel with a fiber optic cable or digital cable.. (you can use the fiber optic out of the TV to the Rotel for both cable and the oppo if you run out of digital inputs) This will let you switch gears on the Rotel and use the Rotel Dacs, base management and what ever DSP they give you for standard DVDs (or blue rays that you use the standard dolby digital 5.1 track).... they probably give you several DSP modes.... eg Concert, or Movie Spectacular that do things to the sound....

Have fun... You will get the best results from the forum if you focus on improving your two channel sound... Once that is as good as you can get... the 5.1 stuff will be easier.
Thanks Tcatman.

Hopefully this has helped the OP, Kmw614214 too!

I will tackle the recommendations in the near future.

BTW: the JRiver stuff is beyond what I'm looking to do, to be frank, but thanks for pointing out the option. Just one more thing I didn't know before coming to the 'gon.