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HDMI extractor for 5.1 sound from ancient Harman AV receiver?

philipus

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Hello and Merry Christmas to everyone

We recently bought an Apple TV 4K to replace our Apple TV 3. The idea is to upgrade the TV at some point, but for now we use an old (but imho still quite OK) Panasonic HD plasma – the TX-P50GT30. The sources are either ripped DVDs from our media centre or streamed movies and series from iTunes, Netflix and the like.

Surround sound is provided by an old Harman Kardon AVR 130 and a set of Canton MX with sub. The surround system will be upgraded too at some point.

On the ATV 3 I used the optical out for 5.1 sound, but since the ATV 4K lacks audio out I am currently outputting audio from the TV's optical digital out. This results in stereo sound only (though the Harman has that Logic 7 thingy that tries to mimic surround sound somehow).

What I am wondering is if it would be possible to use an HDMI extractor to get 5.1 sound through the Harman somehow?

That receiver obviously lacks HDMI but has optical and coaxial digital inputs. I'm not able to figure out what the bandwidth capacity of those inputs really is. According to the manual they can handle a signal that is "either a Dolby Digital signal, a DTS signal or a standard PCM (S/P-DIF) digital source".

Would that be sufficient for the amount of audio information that runs over HDMI when 'extracted'?

EDIT: I was looking at for instance the OREI HDA-912 4K HDMI Audio Converter.

Thank you very much in advance
Philip
 

twsecrest

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When using DDL (Dolby Digital Live) or DTS-Connect, to send more than 2 audio channels, thru S/PDIF optical or coaxial, audio is limited to 24-bit/48K.
What sources will you try and get the audio from, using an HDMI extractor?
 
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philipus

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Thank you very much for the reply. I would play ripped DVDs from my media centre (an old Mac) or stream movies and series from iTunes, Netflix etc.

When I previously used the Apple TV 3 I got 5.1 audio over optical through the Harman receiver so I assume I would be able to get that with an HDMI extractor too.

So the challenge might be that streamed content will contain more audio information than the optical or coaxial inputs can handle, is that correct?

Cheers and thank you in advance
Philip


When using DDL (Dolby Digital Live) or DTS-Connect, to send more than 2 audio channels, thru S/PDIF optical or coaxial, audio is limited to 24-bit/48K.
What sources will you try and get the audio from, using an HDMI extractor?
 

twsecrest

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For the best audio, your best off replacing the HK AVR 130, with a newer AV receiver that comes with HDMI ports.
Connect (HDMI) the Apple TV 4K to the AVR, then run HDMI from the AVR to the TV.
HDMI can carry up to 8 channels (7.1) or more, at 24-bit/194k.
The AVR should be able to decode any audio surround sound (like 5.1), from Netflix or other sources
 

ThatM1key

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I would recommend you buy a device that'll last you through your HT adventure. Don't buy gadgets that only benefit for a little while.

I was looking through your TV's manual and I saw a section about HDMI. Your TV only accepts 2ch, no 5.1. So your TV cannot take in 5.1 signal and spit it out through optical sadly.

A 4k disc player is your best bet. Most come with a optical/coaxial out (Lossy 5.1) so you can use it with your current AVR. Once you get a better modern AVR, you can use the HDMI out of the player to your newer AVR (Unlossy 5.1, better sound)

If your gonna go down that the HDMI extractor route, it technically will degrade your audio quality since optical/coaxial can only handle lossy surround sound. Once you get a better AVR, it's just gonna sit there doing nothing, essentially a waste of money.
 
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philipus

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Thank you, both for the advice and for taking the time to check the TV manual.

I hadn't considered getting a disc player. Unfortunately that would probably also be wasted money since I don't have Blu-ray discs. Such players also seem to be a lot more expensive than an extractor, too.

I'll probably just leave the setup as is for the moment and then rebuild everything later on.


I would recommend you buy a device that'll last you through your HT adventure. Don't buy gadgets that only benefit for a little while.

I was looking through your TV's manual and I saw a section about HDMI. Your TV only accepts 2ch, no 5.1. So your TV cannot take in 5.1 signal and spit it out through optical sadly.

A 4k disc player is your best bet. Most come with a optical/coaxial out (Lossy 5.1) so you can use it with your current AVR. Once you get a better modern AVR, you can use the HDMI out of the player to your newer AVR (Unlossy 5.1, better sound)

If your gonna go down that the HDMI extractor route, it technically will degrade your audio quality since optical/coaxial can only handle lossy surround sound. Once you get a better AVR, it's just gonna sit there doing nothing, essentially a waste of money.
 

tlin

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@philipus - I'm 100% in agreement with the advice offered above to get a new AVR. Do you have a budget you're trying to stick to?

Costco's been selling a Denon AVR S760H for $459 for a while now. I picked one up to replace the Harman Kardon AVR430 in our living room. I was tired of missing out on the newer audio formats and the basic Audyssey room correction it comes with did wonders for that little space (a 5.1 setup - the surrounds have come alive!!!!).

Good luck!!!
 

ad_fletch

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FWIW, I have been using an HDMI->Optical converter for my older AVR for a couple of years now. However, my Sony TV does pass 5.1 optical, so I guess I was lucky in that sense. It works quite well, despite the occasional ARC stuff-up.

I actually bought an Apple Tv 3 recently to be able to use its optical out too (for my projector). Annoying that you can’t add apps to it when new streaming services appear, but I knew that going in.

I only want to replace my AVR if (a) it breaks or (b) I can be confident I’m getting a real upgrade in sound quality. Having read all the AVR reviews on here, I’m holding out for a 2nd hand Denon X-series, but those are very thin on the ground in Australia. New ones are over US$2k!

TL;DR, I get wanting to prolong the life of your existing gear.

EDIT: Forgot to mention I do “room correction” manually with REW and EQ. Crude but adequate. If i do get something like Audyssey XT32 or Dirac Live some day, I hope it will be noticeably better.
 

krabapple

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"According to the manual they can handle a signal that is "either a Dolby Digital signal, a DTS signal or a standard PCM (S/P-DIF) digital source".

This is telling you the fact that an optical connection can only pass multichannel audio as raw, 'lossy' compressed Dolby/DTS encoded data (by passing it to an AVR that can decode it) ; it can also pass a 2-channel i.e., 'stereo' PCM audio signal such as from a CD player optical/coax out.
 

EdTice

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"According to the manual they can handle a signal that is "either a Dolby Digital signal, a DTS signal or a standard PCM (S/P-DIF) digital source".

This is telling you the fact that an optical connection can only pass multichannel audio as raw, 'lossy' compressed Dolby/DTS encoded data (by passing it to an AVR that can decode it) ; it can also pass a 2-channel i.e., 'stereo' PCM audio signal such as from a CD player optical/coax out.
Until recently I didn't think that optical could pass multi-channel at all. I learned that in the last few months.

FWIW I am strongly opposed to any idea of an HDMI optical extractor. Pass all of your audio over HDMI. If a piece of equipment can't handle that, donate it to Goodwill (or try to sell it) and buy a piece of equipment that can handle audio over HDMI. If your TV can't to HDMI ARC, that's okay, just hook things up via the AVR (the old fashioned way).

HDMI has more audio bandwidth. It also has mechanisms for devices to self-report their signal propagation time. Otherwise you are going to have to manually adjust lipsync of each input device. And sometimes there are no presets for that so you have to keep a sticky note and then change the settings every time you change sources. Really it's not worth it in today's day and age.

If budget is really an issue, look for used items. Even my seven-year old Yamaha AVR is more than sufficient for most purposes. There's a reason that devices like ATV4k don't have optical output. It's not just cost savings (although that may be a factor). It's because trying to carry audio and video over separate channels brings a host of usability and timing issues that just aren't worth the hassle (for the manufacturer or the user).
 

krabapple

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Until recently I didn't think that optical could pass multi-channel at all. I learned that in the last few months.

For some years (in the 90s/early 2000s) optical and coax S/PDIF were the ONLY consumer means to pass digital audio directly to a receiver -- 2 channel PCM from CDS/DVD, and multichannel Dolby /DTS from DVD and DTS CD. The only other option was analog (RCA). A few proprietary connections arose in the interim (e.g. Pioneer's iLink, Denon's DenonLink) but HDMI obsoleted them all.
 

ThatM1key

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For some years (in the 90s/early 2000s) optical and coax S/PDIF were the ONLY consumer means to pass digital audio directly to a receiver -- 2 channel PCM from CDS/DVD, and multichannel Dolby /DTS from DVD and DTS CD. The only other option was analog (RCA). A few proprietary connections arose in the interim (e.g. Pioneer's iLink, Denon's DenonLink) but HDMI obsoleted them all.
Some ways I like optical better than HDMI. A decade ago HDMI handled 1080p 7.1 audio very well, even with a very long generic cable. Nowadays brand matters and length matters. Pumping 4K 60hz HDR Dolby Atmos through HDMI has made it a lot more unstable. They add and add more bandwidth but the cables get smaller and smaller in length. I wish DisplayPort killed HDMI, DisplayPort is always a generation head, more stable, use any cable and stronger connector. This whole thing reminds me of VGA for computers and RGB component for TV's. I don't know why people thought it was good idea to have 3 different cables for each RGB signal but not have 1 single VGA connector back then :facepalm:.
 

EdTice

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For some years (in the 90s/early 2000s) optical and coax S/PDIF were the ONLY consumer means to pass digital audio directly to a receiver -- 2 channel PCM from CDS/DVD, and multichannel Dolby /DTS from DVD and DTS CD. The only other option was analog (RCA). A few proprietary connections arose in the interim (e.g. Pioneer's iLink, Denon's DenonLink) but HDMI obsoleted them all.
In the early 2000s when I bought my first DVD player, I was fortunate (or unfortunate) enough that BestBuy salesmen got a good commission on interconnect cables. Because I did have to purchase a composite video cable as well as a two-channel L/R RCA cable in order to hook the player up to my TV. I was expecting to disconnect the antenna from my TV and hook it up to the DVD player. Then select Ch 3/4 on the DVD player and hook that up to the TV so that Ch4 would be for DVDs.

My first reaction was to simply pick a different brand of DVD player since the one I had selected was clearly ridiculous in requiring such non-standard connections and I wasn't even sure my TV had such inputs. But apparently, by then, there were no DVD players that would connect to the TV in this way. They all required connections incompatible with the normal along TV way of doing things.
 

krabapple

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The connections you describe were standard by early 2000s (and earlier than that)....composite video was the lowest quality and the most widely available. If your TV had any video and audio inputs at all, it surely had at least composite for video and L/R RCA for audio, which are what you are calling 'non-standard'.

But by 2000, US market TVs also certainly widely offered the better-quality S-video (Europe had SCART ) and , for the best quality, component ('RBG') IN, and there were surely DVDPs that offered these as OUT.

I don't recall if S/PDIF audio IN was yet a thing for TVs then.
 

ThatM1key

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The connections you describe were standard by early 2000s (and earlier than that)....composite video was the lowest quality and the most widely available. If your TV had any video and audio inputs at all, it surely had at least composite for video and L/R RCA for audio, which are what you are calling 'non-standard'.

But by 2000, US market TVs also certainly widely offered the better-quality S-video (Europe had SCART ) and , for the best quality, component ('RBG') IN, and there were surely DVDPs that offered these as OUT.

I don't recall if S/PDIF audio IN was yet a thing for TVs then.
Why would there be a optical in for TVs?
 

EdTice

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The connections you describe were standard by early 2000s (and earlier than that)....composite video was the lowest quality and the most widely available. If your TV had any video and audio inputs at all, it surely had at least composite for video and L/R RCA for audio, which are what you are calling 'non-standard'.

But by 2000, US market TVs also certainly widely offered the better-quality S-video (Europe had SCART ) and , for the best quality, component ('RBG') IN, and there were surely DVDPs that offered these as OUT.

I don't recall if S/PDIF audio IN was yet a thing for TVs then.
The DVD player was manufactured September 1999. I know this because I still have it (and it still works!) It has both S-Video and RGB video output and S/PDIF optical output as well as coaxial digital audio output!

On the other hand, my TV had inputs only for antenna and composite video with L/R RCA audio. In 2000, those connections were standard on new TVs. But back then a 27" CRT was a $800 purchase. Most of us had much smaller and older TVs. I certainly didn't have a 720p screen. My first 1080p screen was a 42" Vizio that I bought in 2010 (and it did have HDMI inputs).

  • HDMI (with HDCP): 4 (1 side)
  • Component: 1
  • Composite Video: 1 (shared with component)
  • RF: 1
  • Computer Input (RGB): 1
  • SPDIF Digital Optical Output: 1
  • Headphones Output: 1
  • USB: 1 (side)
One of the big challenges we have on ASR is that there are many people here who have owned high-end equipment for decades even when a CD player cost more than a car. They have a much different perspective on things than those of us who had mass-market equipment in our youth!

Now I would have a hard time using the DVD player because of the lack of HDMI output. I think my TV supports composite input with a dongle so it's possible. But I'll probably never find out.
 

EdTice

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Why would there be a optical in for TVs?
Before the days of HDMI, you would want optical in to the TV for two reasons. The first is that if you want to use the TVs remote volume control, those are all digital. If you were to pass analog to the TV, it would first have to get converted back to digital, attenuated, and then reconverted to analog losing fidelity. Maybe not an issue if using low-end TV speakers, but if you want the TV to pass the (attenuated) audio onto something like an AVR, better to keep it all in the digital domain.

The other reason is lipsync. The TV should know how long it needs to process video frames in order to keep the analog in sync and it should buffer the audio as much as necessary to do this. Again this means an analog->digital conversion if you start with analog audio.

In modern HDMI connections, the delays are "negotiated" among devices so you don't have to fuss with lipsync delay.
 

ThatM1key

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Before the days of HDMI, you would want optical in to the TV for two reasons. The first is that if you want to use the TVs remote volume control, those are all digital. If you were to pass analog to the TV, it would first have to get converted back to digital, attenuated, and then reconverted to analog losing fidelity. Maybe not an issue if using low-end TV speakers, but if you want the TV to pass the (attenuated) audio onto something like an AVR, better to keep it all in the digital domain.

The other reason is lipsync. The TV should know how long it needs to process video frames in order to keep the analog in sync and it should buffer the audio as much as necessary to do this. Again this means an analog->digital conversion if you start with analog audio.

In modern HDMI connections, the delays are "negotiated" among devices so you don't have to fuss with lipsync delay.
Instead of hooking up optical to the TV why not to the AVR directly and also the component cables, that would fix the lip sync issue. I know 2000's TV's hit the peak of good sound but I could never tell the difference between analog and digital (HDMI) sound on those TV's.
 

EdTice

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Instead of hooking up optical to the TV why not to the AVR directly and also the component cables, that would fix the lip sync issue. I know 2000's TV's hit the peak of good sound but I could never tell the difference between analog and digital (HDMI) sound on those TV's.
That also would have worked. It meant that you had to use two remotes (since the TV digital volume control wasn't in the chain). If you had an AVR. But it most certainly did not solve lip sync issues. If you wanted your TV audio to come from the AVR, you'd have to hook up a separate cable from the TV to the AVR.

Until HDMI came along, nothing took care of lip sync issues! TVs had different video frame propagation times and you had to manually adjust.
 

EdTice

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The connections you describe were standard by early 2000s (and earlier than that)....composite video was the lowest quality and the most widely available. If your TV had any video and audio inputs at all, it surely had at least composite for video and L/R RCA for audio, which are what you are calling 'non-standard'.

But by 2000, US market TVs also certainly widely offered the better-quality S-video (Europe had SCART ) and , for the best quality, component ('RBG') IN, and there were surely DVDPs that offered these as OUT.

I don't recall if S/PDIF audio IN was yet a thing for TVs then.
The DVD player was manufactured September 1999. I know this because I still have it (and it still works!) It has both S-Video and RGB video output and S/PDIF optical output as well as coaxial digital audio output!

On the other hand, my TV had inputs only for antenna and composite video with L/R RCA audio. In 2000, those connections were "standard" on new TVs. But back then a 27" CRT was a $800 purchase. Most of the market was saturated with much smaller and older TVs and only a small subset of the population upgraded more than once a decade or so. I certainly didn't have a 720p screen in 2000. My first 1080p screen was a 42" Vizio that I bought in 2010 (and it did have HDMI inputs).

  • HDMI (with HDCP): 4 (1 side)
  • Component: 1
  • Composite Video: 1 (shared with component)
  • RF: 1
  • Computer Input (RGB): 1
  • SPDIF Digital Optical Output: 1
  • Headphones Output: 1
  • USB: 1 (side)
One of the big challenges we have on ASR is that there are many people here who have owned high-end equipment for decades even when a CD player cost more than a car. They have a much different perspective on things than those of us who had mass-market equipment in our youth!

Now I would have a hard time using the DVD player because of the lack of HDMI output. I still use the CD changer occasionally. The optical output is quite nice since, as long as the disc reads accurately, the internal DAC is not a limiting factor.

People who have been into audio and video for decades, even without sites like ASR, managed to avoid the worst of the equipment out there and don't realize just how bad the average setup was.
 
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