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This is Fred Pinkerton, Product Manager at ZVOX Audio. Optical digital audio is used because it is inherently shielded. It is unlikely that only the optical audio path would allow interference that wasn't heard on the analog audio inputs. It possible the sounds you hear are some artifact of our Dolby Digital 5.1 processing. In these cases, sounds that are "down in the mix" in a stereo speaker system and in a 5.1 separate speaker system are accentuated in the PhaseCue II system we use to create a soundfield using our subwoofer/left/center/right speaker complement.
You should know that there are two possible sources for the sound you hear from a ZVOX 580: two channel Dolby Surround or 5.1 channel Dolby Digital. Both signals are part of the Dolby Digital bitstream.
If the 580 is connected to your TV's optical audio output, then the digital signal sent to the ZVOX is usually PCM stereo audio.
The Dolby Digital decoder in the TV takes the Dolby Digital bitstream, reads the native Dolby Surround two channel signal within the Dolby Digital bitstream and converts it to PCM digital stereo.
There is no audible difference between the PCM stereo digital signal sent to the ZVOX and the Dolby Surround stereo signal.
It possible that your TV is sending the native Dolby Digital bitstream directly to the 580. In this case, the Dolby Digital decoder in the ZVOX decodes all five plus one channels and creates a "better" soundfield based on the 5.1 signal. This decoding process is unique to a ZVOX 555 and 580.
You could tell if the Dolby Digital signal vx Dolby Surround signal is the source of the difference if the disc menu has an option for sending Dolby Digital vs Dolby Surround vs stereo.
The ZVOX Audio 555 and 580 use a sophisticated audio decoder processor developed by an outside agency. This decoder/processor engine passed Dolby Labs rigorous certification process. At ZVOX, we concentrate on taking the 5.1 separate channels and processing them before sending the signals to the bass, left, center and right speakers. It's possible that some sonic passages in the Dolby Digital soundtrack of this movie create the notable effects you hear.