AVS Forum Special Member
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Ontario, Canada
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The first device would require something to convert HDMI audio to SPDIF, and obviously would only work with SPDIF compatible formats, 2.0 PCM, Dolby Digital and DTS.
The second device can only convert PCM audio, up to 7.1, to analogue, but can also convert Dolby Digital to SPDIF for use with the first device. If you can convince all your sources to do their own decoding and output mulitchannel PCM then this device alone could be all you need to handle the job of converting HDMI audio to analogue.
If you need to be able decode compressed formats that aren't SPDIF compatible, like Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD, or Dobly Digital +, then niether of these devices will do the job. They also wouldn't be able to handle matrixed surround formats like Dolby ProLogic II or DTS Neo:6, but these formats are pretty much obsolete these days.
Using either decoders, or any similar device, you're still missing one important part of a surround sound processor: level and distance adjustments to compensate for how you've placed your speakers in the room. You're also going to need a volume control as well, and maybe an HDMI switch if you have more than two sources.
A used AV receiver with pre-outs would give you all this functionality and more, and could end up costing less.