Dolby Digital sound from WDTV to Samsung HW-D350 sound bar - some files don't play? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 03-14-2012, 03:19 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi

I realise this a is fairly long description but I figure I need to give you all enough info to help you to help me!

I have recently got a WDTV and really like it. I have been playing various files, iPlayer, etc.

Initially, it was connected just to the TV via HDMi, audio from the TV's stereo speakers. It worked fine but surround sound films would have terribly quiet dialog compared to the explosions and such. A standard problem when converting surround to stereo I have now read about.

I had set the DRC on the WDTV but, although better, it still wasn't great.

In order to get around this problem better, I decided to get a sound bar to move a step up from my TV speakers. Putting in proper surround sound speakers and such isn't possible at the moment, both physically and moneywise.

As this expense wasn't planned for I went for a fairly cheap sound bar (as far as these things go!) - Samsung HW-D350 with 2 optical inputs and one standard "audio in" jack socket.

I now have my WDTV box connected via optical to the sound bar and have changed its Audio settings to be Digitial Pass thru via Optical Only.

On selecting that I have to choose what capability my sound bar/amp/receiver etc. has from AAC, Dolby Digital, DTS and WMA Pro. Of those, I think its only Dolby and DTS the Samsung has so I tick them.

Now, when I play a film file some have sound and some don't. I have the sound bar set to Pass (original audio) but have tried other modes as well.

Going by the NFO files its the ones marked as AC3 audio that don't have sound. Ones marked as MPEG seem ok. That's not a comprehensive diagnosis as I don't have NFO files for all of them. The WDTV simply states the Audio as "Dolby Digital" or "DTS" for the bad ones which the bar should be able to do?

As a test I disconnected the optical from the WDTV and put it into the optical out of my TV (a fairly old Panasonic TH42PX700B) and changed the WDTV to be Audio HDMI pass thru, so my sequence is WDTV to TV via HDMI, then on to Bar via optical. The WDTV detected 2 channels on the TV which I assume is stereo (?) and I got sound from the sound bar for everything, all the files, regardless of audio type

However, does this mean I have lost my pseudo surround sound and therefore my dialog level "balance" if I go this route? I figure something must have changed as I get audio on files I didn't before therefore the bar is receiving a different signal from the TV's opt out than direct from the WD?

Really puzzled and a bit worried I have made a bad choice with this bar. Is it possibly not working correctly, its 'seller refurbished' but it does work for some files so don't see why a particular 'type' would bother it.

Samsung don't have any updates for this bar on their site but the site seems quite flaky, so can't get new firmware as far as I can tell. If anyone has or knows of any updates for it that would be a start!

If someone could please help that'd be great, really not good with the complexities of audio!

Thanks

Simon
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post #2 of 14 Old 03-14-2012, 11:17 PM
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Originally Posted by simon22 View Post

I now have my WDTV box connected via optical to the sound bar and have changed its Audio settings to be Digitial Pass thru via Optical Only.

Ok.

Quote:


On selecting that I have to choose what capability my sound bar/amp/receiver etc. has from AAC, Dolby Digital, DTS and WMA Pro. Of those, I think its only Dolby and DTS the Samsung has so I tick them.

Correct.

Quote:


Now, when I play a film file some have sound and some don't. I have the sound bar set to Pass (original audio) but have tried other modes as well.

Going by the NFO files its the ones marked as AC3 audio that don't have sound.

What is the source of these files?

Quote:


Ones marked as MPEG seem ok. That's not a comprehensive diagnosis as I don't have NFO files for all of them. The WDTV simply states the Audio as "Dolby Digital" or "DTS" for the bad ones which the bar should be able to do?

It should be able to decode DD and DTS. Maybe you can borrow a basic DVD player, feed that via optical into the sound bar, and see if that works from a few DD and DTS discs. If so, that will show the bar works. If not, then the bar is not happy.

If the bar works with 5.1 DD/DTS DVDs, but not these files, then maybe the files are odd or the WDTV is not outputting the sound correctly formatted.

Quote:


As a test I disconnected the optical from the WDTV and put it into the optical out of my TV (a fairly old Panasonic TH42PX700B)

I hope you mean you disconnected the WDTV's optical out from the bar, and connected the TV's optical out into the bar.

Quote:


and changed the WDTV to be Audio HDMI pass thru, so my sequence is WDTV to TV via HDMI, then on to Bar via optical. The WDTV detected 2 channels on the TV which I assume is stereo (?)

Yes, the TV only handles 2-ch so it communicated that via the HDMI back to the WDTV, forcing the audio to be decoded and downmixed to stereo in the WDTV.

Quote:


and I got sound from the sound bar for everything, all the files, regardless of audio type

The only kind of sound flowing from the WDTV to the TV to the bar is PCM stereo. The WDTV is doing all the decoding.

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However, does this mean I have lost my pseudo surround sound and therefore my dialog level "balance" if I go this route?

Yes. It's plain stereo all the time.

Quote:


I figure something must have changed as I get audio on files I didn't before therefore the bar is receiving a different signal from the TV's opt out than direct from the WD?

Yes, stereo PCM.

Quote:


Really puzzled and a bit worried I have made a bad choice with this bar. Is it possibly not working correctly, its 'seller refurbished' but it does work for some files so don't see why a particular 'type' would bother it.

We do not yet know if the bar is at fault. It is designed for standard DD/DTS. Try that from a DVD, or even from a DTV tuner (does your TV pick up off-air digital channels? They are all DD) and see if it works.
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post #3 of 14 Old 03-15-2012, 01:42 AM - Thread Starter
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Roger

Thanks for your reply. Very helpful.

Quote:


What is the source of these files?

Off the net, for speed, wanted to see how well WDTV played ripped files across the network against DVDs I already have. Longer term I intend rip my DVDs to a NAS but not there yet.

Quote:


It should be able to decode DD and DTS. Maybe you can borrow a basic DVD player, feed that via optical into the sound bar, and see if that works from a few DD and DTS discs. If so, that will show the bar works. If not, then the bar is not happy.

If the bar works with 5.1 DD/DTS DVDs, but not these files, then maybe the files are odd or the WDTV is not outputting the sound correctly formatted.

Ok. Unfortunately the 2 basic DVD players I have don't have optical output, surprisingly but my Sky+ HD box does so I connected that, switched to a film channel which has DD in the info and it worked. Is that an equivalent test?

If so, I guess that means it is the particular files it won't handle. According to Wikipedia, AC3 is another name for Dolby Digital so don't get why it won't play them particularly?

Quote:


I hope you mean you disconnected the WDTV's optical out from the bar, and connected the TV's optical out into the bar.

Yes, sorry bad phrasing.

Quote:


Yes, the TV only handles 2-ch so it communicated that via the HDMI back to the WDTV, forcing the audio to be decoded and downmixed to stereo in the WDTV.

Hmm, so if if go via the TV I can hear everything but I've lost surround sound so all I get is a slightly better quality of sound from the bar over the TV speakers but no dialog improvement which was the pint of the bar!

I haven't finished the various changes to the set-up as yet so longer term it may just be I have to be careful creating files for my NAS to avoid this audio type. Annoying it is being so fussy for what seems a fairly common audio codec (apologies if codec is not the right term there!)

Thanks

Simon
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post #4 of 14 Old 03-15-2012, 10:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simon22 View Post

Off the net, for speed, wanted to see how well WDTV played ripped files across the network against DVDs I already have. Longer term I intend rip my DVDs to a NAS but not there yet.

Ok.

Quote:


Unfortunately the 2 basic DVD players I have don't have optical output, surprisingly but my Sky+ HD box does so I connected that, switched to a film channel which has DD in the info and it worked. Is that an equivalent test?

Yes. So it proves the bar understands DD. I am certain it understands DTS, too. If your ripping software supports both then DVDs with DTS can also be played via the NAS. Anyway, it should work.

Quote:


If so, I guess that means it is the particular files it won't handle. According to Wikipedia, AC3 is another name for Dolby Digital so don't get why it won't play them particularly?

Yes, AC-3 is the same as DD. The problem is apparently with how those files are reformatted to output over the S/PDIF (as you said they do decode inside the WDTV). You may have to find a thread dedicated to WDTV to see about file compatibility wrt to audio output.

Quote:


Hmm, so if if go via the TV I can hear everything but I've lost surround sound so all I get is a slightly better quality of sound from the bar over the TV speakers but no dialog improvement which was the pint of the bar!

All I can say is when I go to a bar the dialog is always improved after a pint.

Quote:


I haven't finished the various changes to the set-up as yet so longer term it may just be I have to be careful creating files for my NAS to avoid this audio type. Annoying it is being so fussy for what seems a fairly common audio codec (apologies if codec is not the right term there!)

Codec is the right term. Not yet sure it is a matter of the soundbar being fussy. The S/PDIF format has certain requirements for how DD is packed and flagged. If the WDTV box has to do that work, maybe it is the problem. The reformatting job it does may vary with the kinds of source files/streams it receives. If you can find some example of the actual file type you will see in the NAS, and if WDTV declares support for that file type (not just the codec), that would be a more important test.
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post #5 of 14 Old 03-16-2012, 01:09 AM - Thread Starter
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Roger

Thanks again, I will go explore WDTV forums and see what I can find. I did look before in terms of connection to a sound bar/av receiver with no joy but I'll try focusing on AC3 and see what comes up.

I did try a different tack, I got a free bit of software called AviDemux (AvD) and used it to edit the audio type (whilst leaving the video format as was). It creates a new file with whatever changes you want.

AvD has several output options but the 2 that are worth mentioning are ...

AC3 - I changed an MPEG audio to AC3 using AvD and the sound stopped working for the AC3 copy. That confirmed to me that its probably AC3 in general not just the particular variant I had in my test files. I had been hoping that AvD AC3 was going to be 'better' than the AC3's I already had but alas no!

AAC - I changed a non-working AC3 file over to AAC. The sound bar I have can't do AAC and WDTV knows that from the settings I chose. However, the file played sound.

I guess that means that either ...

A) WDTV downscaled the AAC automatically to something generic, stereo say, on the fly because it knew AAC wasn't going to work.

B) WDTV switched AAC to Dolby Digital (or DTS) on the fly as it knew those types were acceptable. This is me being very hopeful I suspect.

Whatever its doing there was sound from both ends of the bar but I couldn't tell if it was "surround" or not. It does at least give me a way to make the files play, just not sure I am getting the dialog balance I was after but oh well.

Again, this is a WDTV thing really so I'll go explore forums for that, see if I can find out what WDTV does for formats it knows it can't output optically.

I've also opened a call with Samsung support as they claim Dolby Digital and yet AC3 not right (for me anyway)

I get any news back re WDTV's features or from Samsung I'll post it here in case anybody else gets this problem in the future.

Simon
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post #6 of 14 Old 03-16-2012, 11:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simon22 View Post

AAC - I changed a non-working AC3 file over to AAC. The sound bar I have can't do AAC and WDTV knows that from the settings I chose. However, the file played sound.

I guess that means that either ...

A) WDTV downscaled the AAC automatically to something generic, stereo say, on the fly because it knew AAC wasn't going to work.

If the WDTV is connected to the soundbar with HDMI, then yes, it knows AAC cannot work, and is outputting 2-ch PCM.

Quote:


B) WDTV switched AAC to Dolby Digital (or DTS) on the fly as it knew those types were acceptable. This is me being very hopeful I suspect.

No, WDTV cannot transcode to DD or DTS.

And while there is an extensive list of compatible file extension types in the manual (p. 211), it is not clear that we can assume that WDTV can parse out the AC-3 and pass it thru to the S/PDIF or HDMI outputs as is normal for "traditional" streams like Netflix, etc. That certainly is the implication, though, so if the problem files you are using (with AC3 in them) are listed there, then maybe posing the question to WD would be the next step. Your soundbar is apparently happy with some sources of DD passthrough, so why cannot WDTV output a happy DD stream from the (fill in the blank) file formats?

Quote:


Whatever its doing there was sound from both ends of the bar but I couldn't tell if it was "surround" or not. It does at least give me a way to make the files play, just not sure I am getting the dialog balance I was after but oh well.

The WDTV's internal DD decoder is said to output a stereo signal only (footnote p. 209), even if connected with HDMI.

Could you explain a little about how, if you have a 5.1 discrete signal, you would change the dialog level?

Quote:


Again, this is a WDTV thing really so I'll go explore forums for that, see if I can find out what WDTV does for formats it knows it can't output optically.

Hopefully they can offer some insights. Sorry I cannot help resolve the matter.
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post #7 of 14 Old 03-17-2012, 02:21 AM - Thread Starter
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Roger

Ok, I will talk to WD and hunt around in related forums for that aspect of things. The puzzling bit is that if AC3 is never outputted properly by WDTV via Optical then there should be lots of chatter about that. Mostly I am finding the opposite - people wanting to change AAC, or some other format, to AC3.

That's why I'm thinking its my bar that is not playing ball but I'll talk to WD/forums anyway, I'm sure they'll still have insight

Quote:


The WDTV's internal DD decoder is said to output a stereo signal only (footnote p. 209), even if connected with HDMI.

Could you explain a little about how, if you have a 5.1 discrete signal, you would change the dialog level?

The footnote is ...

Quote:


**2-channel only. 2+channel signal is sent via digital pass through to a receiver. Manufactured under license from
Dolby Laboratories. Dolby and the double-D symbol are trademarks of Dolby Laboratories.

I read " 2+ channel output via "pass through" " to mean the surround sound signal is being sent provided I set WDTV to "pass through" either via HDMI or via Optical (which is what I have done). Its then down to my receiver to do something surroundy with it

Exactly how that improves the dialog level I didn't really know, I was just going by the forum text I found that indicated DD 'squashed' to stereo results in quiet dialog and noicy explosions whereas pushing it to a sound bar (or better yet a full surround sound setup) will set a better balance between dialog/explosions.

There was a certain level of "punt" on my part which is why I didn't go nuts on the expense of the sound bar - I spent £130, which seems to be pretty low for these beasts.

As an extra feature, I made sure I picked a bar with DRC and/or "Smart Volume". The WDTV has DRC but can't flick it on/off easily via remote.

Samsung define Smart Volume as "Regulates and stabilizes the volume level against a drastic volume change."

Samsung define DRC as "You can use this function to enjoy Dolby Digital sound when watching movies at low volume at night (Standard, MAX, MIN)."

The manual doesn't say if you can use both at once but figured I'd experiment to see which works best, using my highly sensitive sound level diagnostic tool, or my fiance as she prefers to be known ...

Thanks for your help, I have learned quite a bit about what is going on and I really appreciate your time.

This is my first foray away from "let the TV handle it" audio and its a steep learning curve!

Simon
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post #8 of 14 Old 03-17-2012, 02:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simon22 View Post

Ok, I will talk to WD and hunt around in related forums for that aspect of things. The puzzling bit is that if AC3 is never outputted properly by WDTV via Optical then there should be lots of chatter about that. Mostly I am finding the opposite - people wanting to change AAC, or some other format, to AC3.

I know you said DD didn't work from certain files, but are you also saying there's no DD passthru sound from Vudu, CinemaNow, or whatever other commercial services that may use it in your area?

Quote:


That's why I'm thinking its my bar that is not playing ball but I'll talk to WD/forums anyway, I'm sure they'll still have insight

Might be the bar in the end, and the easy way to know is to drag in some other form of DD decoder, like an AVR, or take the WDTV over to a friend's house and see if it works with some other decoder.

Quote:


I read " 2+ channel output via "pass through" " to mean the surround sound signal is being sent provided I set WDTV to "pass through" either via HDMI or via Optical (which is what I have done). Its then down to my receiver to do something surroundy with it

Correct.

Quote:


Exactly how that improves the dialog level I didn't really know, I was just going by the forum text I found that indicated DD 'squashed' to stereo results in quiet dialog and noicy explosions whereas pushing it to a sound bar (or better yet a full surround sound setup) will set a better balance between dialog/explosions.

You would have some flexibility on center level with a full 5.1 kit, but the squashing only hurts intelligibility when it's buried under a loud effect, which is not all that often. It can actually help as it also raises the quieter passages. The real culprit are tiny TV speakers. The bar will help there.

Quote:


As an extra feature, I made sure I picked a bar with DRC and/or "Smart Volume". The WDTV has DRC but can't flick it on/off easily via remote.

In passthru the WDTV cannot apply DRC anyway.

Quote:


Samsung define Smart Volume as "Regulates and stabilizes the volume level against a drastic volume change."

Yes, it is an automatic gain control. Aimed at reducing commercial blast.

Quote:


Samsung define DRC as "You can use this function to enjoy Dolby Digital sound when watching movies at low volume at night (Standard, MAX, MIN)."

Yes. Once you get some DD to play in the bar, try them out. It does very little on stereo sources, so try it with 5.1 movies.

Quote:


The manual doesn't say if you can use both at once but figured I'd experiment to see which works best, using my highly sensitive sound level diagnostic tool, or my fiance as she prefers to be known ...

You can use them together. They have rather different characteristics.

Quote:


Thanks for your help, I have learned quite a bit about what is going on and I really appreciate your time.

Glad to do so. I feel a little bit responsible since I worked at Dolby in a past life. I hope you can get it to work, or know the reason why!
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post #9 of 14 Old 03-17-2012, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by simon22 View Post


If someone could please help that'd be great, really not good with the complexities of audio!

Thanks

Simon

I have three units if they are .mkv files the box will not play audio if the audio track has a compressed audio header, if that is the case it's a two minute fix. It's a common problem but easy to fix.

Follow this on one file to test it, pick under "Compression" none, if it doubt do it to everything, (in the picture you see four components (audio, video, subs and whatever). This will generate a new file with a 1 on the end in a minute or two after you hit "Start Muxing". Make sure you see both the old and new file so you don't copy the new file to the WD-Hard Drive.

http://www.mediasmartserver.net/2010...-side-effects/
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post #10 of 14 Old 03-17-2012, 11:02 AM
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Scratch that, I see you get sound on the TV, the above is would not be the issue unless you got no sounds at all on a file hooked to anything.
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post #11 of 14 Old 03-17-2012, 04:53 PM - Thread Starter
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Laika - Thank you for your response. I do get sound from the TV for all files and even from the sound bar for some files.

---

Roger

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Vudu, CinemaNow, or whatever other commercial services

Our equivalent here is NetFlix I think, on WDTV at least, but I haven't got that going as yet, it has a free 1 month trial so I wanted the kit in place and working before I kicked that off.

In terms of other DD devices I will be unpacking/testing my new FoxSat HDR that's replacing our Sky+ HD box this week so will see what it offers in terms of optical outputs and how well the bar behaves.

I assume it will have DD capabilities although I didn't research that aspect of it before choosing, as you may have guessed by now, audio doesn't factor that highly in my decision making, something I am now regretting.

Quote:


You would have some flexibility on center level with a full 5.1 kit, but the squashing only hurts intelligibility when it's buried under a loud effect, which is not all that often. It can actually help as it also raises the quieter passages. The real culprit are tiny TV speakers. The bar will help there.

Ok.

I will experiment with the DRC/Smart Sound. When I do get sound from the bar even my rubbish ears can tell it is better than the TV, regardless of what the source feed may be.

---

I got a strangely vague reply from Samsung ...

Quote:


Thank you for contacting Samsung and I have pleasure in providing the following assistance.

Unfortunately I do not believe AC3 would be directly supported. This would normally be transcoded before being sent to the soundbar. This is done by the connected device , eg a Television.

If you require any further assistance, please contact Samsung again and we will be more than happy to help.

I've asked for further clarification as the words 'I believe' didn't fill me with a lot of confidence in that individual.

The issue I have with that statement is, from what I am reading on the net, AC3 "is" Dolby Digital. The sound bar's specs say it handles that one. It is clear it doesn't handle the rest of the Dolby stable (Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Pro Logic II, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, Dolby Pro Logic IIz, Dolby True HD)

Having said that, I am reading forums/blogs/webpages on the net so misinformation is entirely possible, probably not deliberate, just poor/casual use of terminology or just basic misinterpretation on my part.

If my device (the WDTV or TV or whatever) is supposed to be "transcoding" before sending to the bar then what is it transcoding to? If I knew that then perhaps I can use some software to do that to a file that won't play. I haven't asked that question of them, only just thought of it!

For example, I used a free app called MediaInfo to inspect of one my dodgy files and it reports ...

First Audio Stream
448 Kbps, 48.0 KHz, 16 bits, 6 channels, AC-3

Now, if what I have been reading about audio is right then ...

6 channels equals 5.1 (left, right, centre, surr-left, surr-right and subwoof)
and
AC-3 refers to the compression used to keep the audio part of the file smaller (in a similar way to MP3 I imagine)

So, assuming I didn't just type nonsense then its the compression element I want to shake off as my "allegedly" Dolby Digital bar is fussy about it I, er, believe.

Can I therefore get software to maintain the 5.1 bit and drop the AC3? If so, what am I aiming to output as?

I found reference to people wanting to convert audio but they are usually trying to get to AC3!

I was going to take this thread off to the world of WDTV and stop bothering you all but I am very confused by Samsung's email which seems to contradict what their own website says their bar can do.

I am definitely learning a lot, trouble is I suspect its a slippery slope to more expenditure once I grasp how much better sound from my AV kit "could" be!

Sigh, sorry for the rambling post, had quite a lot of wine whilst roaming the net for answers!

Simon
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post #12 of 14 Old 03-17-2012, 06:30 PM
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Our equivalent here is NetFlix I think, on WDTV at least, but I haven't got that going as yet, it has a free 1 month trial so I wanted the kit in place and working before I kicked that off.

Ok, so that leaves a certain question open wrt to "righteous" delivery formats via WDTV. If it worked, that would tell us the fussiness could be a WDTV reformatting thing. If it also fails to work, it shifts the fussiness to the Samsung. All we have seen it decode thus far is PCM and DD from the Sky box.

Quote:


In terms of other DD devices I will be unpacking/testing my new FoxSat HDR that's replacing our Sky+ HD box this week so will see what it offers in terms of optical outputs and how well the bar behaves.

I expect it will work fine, and output DD.

Quote:


I assume it will have DD capabilities

Yes, the new and old boxes all have to work, so the transmitted signals remain as before.

Quote:


I got a strangely vague reply from Samsung ...

Stock boilerplate. Useless. They should know DD is the same as AC-3.

Quote:


If my device (the WDTV or TV or whatever) is supposed to be "transcoding" before sending to the bar then what is it transcoding to?

PCM. And the correct term they would use is decode, not transcode. The only transcode I have seen in STBs is a DD+ bitstream becomes DD at the S/PDIF output for compatibility. The WDTV probably has this capability, as it has a DD+ decoder in it.

Quote:


For example, I used a free app called MediaInfo to inspect of one my dodgy files and it reports ...

First Audio Stream
448 Kbps, 48.0 KHz, 16 bits, 6 channels, AC-3

It all looks textbook. I see no problem there. The question is whether that AC-3 part of the file gets packaged correctly into S/PDIF format. It should be easy these days... But we have this fussiness result!

Quote:


Now, if what I have been reading about audio is right then ...
6 channels equals 5.1 (left, right, centre, surr-left, surr-right and subwoof)
and AC-3 refers to the compression used to keep the audio part of the file smaller (in a similar way to MP3 I imagine)

Yes.

Quote:


Can I therefore get software to maintain the 5.1 bit and drop the AC3?

No.

Quote:


I am definitely learning a lot, trouble is I suspect its a slippery slope to more expenditure once I grasp how much better sound from my AV kit "could" be!

If it turns out the Samsung is at fault, then you should get a refund. Might try a Vizio bar if you have them there.
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post #13 of 14 Old 03-22-2012, 05:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Ok. News!

After further searching I found that the WDTV DOES have known issues with Dolby and DTS. It's something that got 'broken' by a release back in Nov 11 or so, I think, and hasn't yet been fixed.

It didn't come up under AVForums (who have a WDTV area) or AVSForum as far as I could find but WD have a community forum of their own and I found talk of it in there. I ended up there hunting down a different problem with the WDTV.

Not sure why Google searching didn't get me there though. Didn't get the key words quite right I guess.

Anyway, I rolled back the firmware on the WDTV to the recommended one and I now get DD and DTS from the files that wouldn't play before.

Phew, although the old firmware doesn't have NetFlix, which is partly why I bought the thing!, and anyway NetFlix doesn't work on WDTV with the latest release either.

Thanks for all your help, I have learned plenty about audio at least. Fingers crossed WD get their act together and fix both the problems with DD/DTS and NetFlix!

Simon
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post #14 of 14 Old 03-22-2012, 01:14 PM
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Always nice to see there is order in the world. Glad the mystery is solved, and the honor of the Samsung soundbar preserved.
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