Recently my receiver crapped out and I suspect it'll cost more to fix than it's worth (no power, just clicking) so I'm in the market for a new receiver, or am I?
All these years I've run HDMI cables from the cable box/DVD player/PC straight to the TV and optical audio from the TV to the receiver. I've always thought video quality can be maintained better avoiding another connection (receiver). Now that I'm researching new receivers (Onkyo TX-NR616) I have read some reviews where people complaint about bad HDMI connections on the receiver. All that plus I tend to control everything very well with my Harmony remotes, so I don't really care if it's all connected to one place or not.
That being said do I really need an AV receiver or is there another option that lets me purchase more power and quality for audio without focusing on video?
Why are you using optical audio? Use HDMI if you watch Blu-rays.
I just commented in another thread regarding Denon and you might add this to your auditions. If I were picking an AVR price no object I like NAD.
You really should be running it all thru a quality AVR using HDMI.
Lose the optical audio for Blu-ray.
On the other hand, given that you had your sound routed through your TV you may not have been getting true surround anyways. While you can get 5.1 Dolby Digital from your TV's own internal sources you're usually limited to just stereo from sources connected externally to the TV. Using HDMI through a receiver will let you get up to 7.1 discrete channels through DTS-HD, Dolby TrueHD or raw PCM. Otherwise you're just simulating 7.1 up from 5.1 Dolby Digital/DTS or plain stereo.
People used to say until not so long ago all 24p video from all BD players is the same, until the Secrets of HT started measuring HDMI output. Nobody has measured HDMI output on receivers, so you just can't say with confidence they don't mess up video.
But at the $300-400 range many receivers don't even have a dedicated video chip or do any processing. Some don't even upscale/upconvert. You just need to do your own homework and find out about each model you shortlist.
Video problems aren't necessarily linked to HDMI connections problems. If there are HDMI problems, you get problems with audio via HDMI too.
There are other options to split up HDMI to audio and video feeds and avoid sending video to receiver but would be beyond your budget.
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The reason I'm using the optical from the TV to the receiver is becasue my current Onkyo receiver, which is done, does not have HDMI and we use the receiver's audio for all TV/movie/PC use. With a new receiver I would have no issues using the HDMIs receiver audio from the TV, where I currently have all components connected. Or obviousely I can just use the HDMI connections supplied in the new receiver for the audio and video. Again, most if not all the problems I've read on ANY receiver in my price range of $400 have to do with HDMI connections, bad video signals, etc. IF there's no other option that will give me amped audio and zone 2 for my 7.1 system then I'll get a new receiver, but I just wanted to get some feed back before placing an order.
Problems with video signals for a particular receiver line should be apparent and probably covered in the thread for the receiver you are considering.
HDMI handshake issues can occur with cable boxes - using the right turn on sequence with the Harmony remote may help - generally no issues with blu-ray players.
You can still route some items, say the cable box, to the TV by HDMI (with optical to the receiver) while routing others to the receiver by HDMI and then to the TV by HDMI.
As mentioned, you get the highest blu-ray sound quality by sending HDMI to the receiver. For cable boxes, the optical cable to the receiver is sufficient for Dolby Digital 5.1.
Some newer receivers have GUIs that overlay the signal, which is bypassed by sending HDMI to the TV directly.
Since you said you use 7.1 in your main zone and also need zone 2, you need to ensure the receiver has zone 2 preouts. Some receivers power zone 2 with the extra two channels, making a 7.1 system effectively a 5.1 system, and some can do both. There is also a limitation for zone 2 - most receivers can't send digital signals, including HDMI, to zone 2. So you need to also hook up parallel analog audio cables.
LCR: Hsu HB-1 MK2, HC-1 MK2..........Subwoofers: Rhythmik D15SE, Hsu VTF-2 MK4
Receiver: Denon 1712CI, 2310CI........Networking: Roku 3, WDTV Live......Other: MiniDSP 2x4 RevB
Blu-Ray: Oppo BDP-80, Sony S590.....TV: Samsung PN60F8500, Panasonic TC-50PU54
Atmos/DTS-X: 5.1.4; RSL C34E speakers; receiver TBD