HDMI vs. Optical or Digital Coax. - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 07-16-2011, 04:11 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm comparing a Rotel 1068 pre/pro to a Yamaha 667 with pre-outs. They will be connected to a Rotel 1075 amp. I'm using a Panasonic BDP as the source. Currently DD and DTS are set to "Bitstream" in the BDP. The Yamaha is connected via HDMI, whereas the Rotel doesn't have that capability.

Does sound over HDMI have significant audio performance that is audible as compared to optical or digital coax or is this something that is more measurable with equipment than with your ears?

I found this interesting and also a little confusing:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=748147
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post #2 of 21 Old 07-16-2011, 05:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Think I have my answer here:

http://www.tested.com/news/hdmi-vs-o...onnection/632/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DTS-HD_Master_Audio

Some posts state that you might not be able to tell the difference between cables. Perhaps that's assuming lossy formats running on those?

Otherwise, it seems that the HDMI cable is the only one that properly handles the DTSHD-MA and other lossless formats.

Looks like I'll be getting rid of the 1068.

Anyone disagree with the above?
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post #3 of 21 Old 07-16-2011, 06:25 PM
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HDMI supports lossless multichannel audio. SPDIF (optical, digital coax) does not. But, it's debateable whether you will hear a difference between lossless and the high bitrate lossy codecs on Blu-ray.
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post #4 of 21 Old 07-17-2011, 08:33 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BIslander View Post

HDMI supports lossless multichannel audio. SPDIF (optical, digital coax) does not. But, it's debateable whether you will hear a difference between lossless and the high bitrate lossy codecs on Blu-ray.

Just to be clear, if I were playing content, such as a film with a DTSHD-MA signal through the HDMI via the Receiver vs. that same signal over optical, it would be so close in audible quality, it's almost unnoticeable?
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post #5 of 21 Old 07-17-2011, 09:03 AM
 
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Well, here is your test...

Next movie you watch in your BD player(go through the movies first).

Find one where you can select the "regular" 5.1 track and play both....if you can't tell a difference, there is no reason to care about lossless. Some people can tell, others can't.
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post #6 of 21 Old 07-17-2011, 09:30 AM - Thread Starter
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I'll look, but every movie I've seen recently only offers DTSHD-MA on BD. I suppose I could find a musical scene and select another language, since this is the only option I have seen to play DD.

I suppose if I did that and noticed a difference, attempting to setup a DTSHD-MA signal to compare across HDMI vs. Optical would yield a similar difference.
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post #7 of 21 Old 07-17-2011, 09:58 AM
 
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All movies support a regular non lossless track, because not everybody is going to connect HDMI.

Some moves let you select the normal 5.1 while still connected HDMI(it will show in the set-up if it is still available).

I think(though not sure) Scott Pilgrim vs The World lets you pick the standard 5.1 while connected HDMI.

You might just have to bite the bullet and just connect the BD player twice and reconfigure the BD player for digital audio out. It was 3 years ago when HDMI pass-through receivers still existed(what godawful wastes those things were).
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post #8 of 21 Old 07-17-2011, 10:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richord View Post

I'll look, but every movie I've seen recently only offers DTSHD-MA on BD. I suppose I could find a musical scene and select another language, since this is the only option I have seen to play DD.

I suppose if I did that and noticed a difference, attempting to setup a DTSHD-MA signal to compare across HDMI vs. Optical would yield a similar difference.

Hi Richord, during the movie ... go into Panny BD menu ... turn off and on "Secondary Audio".
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post #9 of 21 Old 07-17-2011, 11:03 AM - Thread Starter
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I just played the last scene of Black Swan in DTSHD-MA and then switched to DD. I did this about 5 times... At the same volume, same settings other than switching the signal type.

My impression was that the DTSHD-MA signal was more detailed. It seemed to define and separate instruments better, creating a wider sound stage. Most noticeable in the higher freq. range.

However, the DD signal seemed louder creating a bolder bass and mid-range. I do like this aspect, but I'm not sure if this is a side effect of less separation/detail (if that's the right description) or the DD soundtrack was recorded slightly louder?

After listening to both, back to back - I was hoping there was another signal that had the best of both. Overall, the DTSHD-MA would be my choice due to the detail, but it's not as smooth on the ears as the DD.
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post #10 of 21 Old 07-17-2011, 01:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richord View Post

I just played the last scene of Black Swan in DTSHD-MA and then switched to DD. I did this about 5 times... At the same volume, same settings other than switching the signal type.

My impression was that the DTSHD-MA signal was more detailed. It seemed to define and separate instruments better, creating a wider sound stage. Most noticeable in the higher freq. range.

However, the DD signal seemed louder creating a bolder bass and mid-range. I do like this aspect, but I'm not sure if this is a side effect of less separation/detail (if that's the right description) or the DD soundtrack was recorded slightly louder?

After listening to both, back to back - I was hoping there was another signal that had the best of both. Overall, the DTSHD-MA would be my choice due to the detail, but it's not as smooth on the ears as the DD.

Part of the difference is you are comparing DTSHD-MA vs DD (different types of processing). The comparison should be between DTSHD-MA vs DTS or TrueDD vs DD
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post #11 of 21 Old 07-17-2011, 02:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richord View Post


Just to be clear, if I were playing content, such as a film with a DTSHD-MA signal through the HDMI via the Receiver vs. that same signal over optical, it would be so close in audible quality, it's almost unnoticeable?

Yes, it is unlikely you would hear a difference.
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post #12 of 21 Old 07-17-2011, 02:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by schan1269 View Post

Well, here is your test...

Next movie you watch in your BD player(go through the movies first).

Find one where you can select the "regular" 5.1 track and play both....if you can't tell a difference, there is no reason to care about lossless. Some people can tell, others can't.

Very few BDs offer that choice. Plus there's no way of knowing whether the sources are the same and the bitrate of the lossy option.

You can compare by connecting the player both ways and playing a lossless track. Switch between HDMI and S/PDIF.
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post #13 of 21 Old 07-17-2011, 03:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richord View Post

I just played the last scene of Black Swan in DTSHD-MA and then switched to DD. I did this about 5 times... At the same volume, same settings other than switching the signal type.

I was not aware that Black Swan has an English language DD 5.1 track.

Comparing can be difficult. Is the content (source, bitrate, etc) comparable? Are the levels matched? Louder sounds better to most people. (The system volume may be the same, but that doesn't mean the playback level is the same.) How long does it take to make the switch? The longer the interval, the harder it is remember what the first source sounded like.

I think adding an SPDIF connection is the best bet here for comparison. You know the sources are the same and the time interval making the switch is pretty short.
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post #14 of 21 Old 07-17-2011, 05:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BIslander View Post

I was not aware that Black Swan has an English language DD 5.1 track.

Comparing can be difficult. Is the content (source, bitrate, etc) comparable? Are the levels matched? Louder sounds better to most people. (The system volume may be the same, but that doesn't mean the playback level is the same.) How long does it take to make the switch? The longer the interval, the harder it is remember what the first source sounded like.

I think adding an SPDIF connection is the best bet here for comparison. You know the sources are the same and the time interval making the switch is pretty short.

It was actually a Spanish 5.1 DD signal, but I was just listening to the music scene. I was figuring that the signals were probably somewhat different in terms of volume. No, I did not match the signals. I was able to switch signal types rather quickly with a sub menu while playing the scenes - Approx. 3-5 seconds between switching back and forth.

If one had more loudness, it was the DD signal.
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post #15 of 21 Old 07-17-2011, 06:31 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BIslander View Post

I was not aware that Black Swan has an English language DD 5.1 track.

Comparing can be difficult. Is the content (source, bitrate, etc) comparable? Are the levels matched? Louder sounds better to most people. (The system volume may be the same, but that doesn't mean the playback level is the same.) How long does it take to make the switch? The longer the interval, the harder it is remember what the first source sounded like.

I think adding an SPDIF connection is the best bet here for comparison. You know the sources are the same and the time interval making the switch is pretty short.

I connected the optical and HDMI while running the same track/scene of Black Swan at the same volume. It took about 5-7 seconds to switch inputs. Much less difference than in the prior comparison. I could tell a difference, but it was a small one. Whether or not this small difference is significant is of course up to each individual. And one, that may not be noticeable if I wasn't switching back and forth within seconds. I would have to do more in depth comparisons to see if I felt the same with various content, but with regards to the scene I was comparing there were a lot of orchestra horns/brass and such - the optical cable sounded smoother, whereas the HDMI sounded more detailed/defined, but yet a tad harsh in comparison.

While my ears enjoyed the smoother presentation of the optical cable with regards to the horns, I appreciated the extra detail the HDMI connection provided - it sounded a bit more like someone playing the instrument(s) live vs. recorded.
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post #16 of 21 Old 07-17-2011, 09:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richord View Post

...- Approx. 3-5 seconds between switching back and forth.

...

That is a lot of time delay. Memory fades rapidly for small differences.
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post #17 of 21 Old 07-18-2011, 03:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richord View Post

I'm comparing a Rotel 1068 pre/pro to a Yamaha 667 with pre-outs. They will be connected to a Rotel 1075 amp. I'm using a Panasonic BDP as the source. Currently DD and DTS are set to "Bitstream" in the BDP. The Yamaha is connected via HDMI, whereas the Rotel doesn't have that capability.

Does sound over HDMI have significant audio performance that is audible as compared to optical or digital coax or is this something that is more measurable with equipment than with your ears?

I found this interesting and also a little confusing:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=748147

This controversy has been raging all over AVS for years. The two references you cited are only the tip of the iceberg.

There are at least two independent dimensions to this question. One relates to the quality of any given implementation of each means of connection. The other relates to any generic differences between them.

The most generic answer is that all 3 alternatives are digital, and being digital they have the potential to be sonically transparent. IOW they have the potential to make absolutely no difference at all, let alone one that is audible.

However, there is a second generic answer that says that since coax has the potential to work over longer distances and with potentially greater bandwidth, that it has the potential to be best. Of course that potential is only relevant if you are sending the A/V signals 100's of feet and you are using some A/V standard that is not being widely used that would actually need more bandwidth than HDMI can provide.

The counterpoint is that with all 3 alternatives you have a potential to lose synchronization between audio and video and that in general HDMI has the least likelihood to do that to you.

Then there are the jitter-based arguments, which have been raging particularly strongly lately. The professional literature of audio technology says that it isn't a relevant issue, but there are many high end audio people who disagree.

Me, I rely on HDMI.
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post #18 of 21 Old 07-18-2011, 03:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlesJ View Post

That is a lot of time delay. Memory fades rapidly for small differences.

Also, the comparison needs to be double blind to eliminate the possibility of listener bias which almost always is very strong when the differences are small like this.
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post #19 of 21 Old 07-18-2011, 05:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Also, the comparison needs to be double blind to eliminate the possibility of listener bias which almost always is very strong when the differences are small like this.

Unfortunately, the best I could get was down to those 5 seconds or so. I'm not going to say that my observation was conclusive or classified as a test or anything of that nature. However, I did play the same scene with the same setups for another individual (not knowing which was which) and they noted a difference as well. When asked what that difference was, they stated it differently than I would have explained it, but it was along the same lines as what difference I had heard.

That being said, I couldn't tell you if there is any quality difference in general between the cables, meaning whether the HDMI is a high end and the optical a lower end cable, etc. Not that it would necessarily matter. Or if the BDP's optical out does a better or poorer job compared to its HMDI out. Or if the same would hold true for the Receivers inputs.

I just simply heard a subtle, yet noticeable difference. I will probably have that person due some switching for me when I have more time over the weekend.
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post #20 of 21 Old 07-18-2011, 09:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richord View Post

... I will probably have that person due some switching for me when I have more time over the weekend.

Good idea, even if that will be a single blind test. But, have him swap it in a random order, have him keep track on paper, you write down your guesses as well which cable it is, not how you feel about each cable, compare at end of a run of 15 or 20 trials and let us know how many correct guesses you got
We'll tell you the statistics if it was significant or just guessing
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post #21 of 21 Old 07-19-2011, 04:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richord View Post

I just played the last scene of Black Swan in DTSHD-MA and then switched to DD. I did this about 5 times... At the same volume, same settings other than switching the signal type.

After listening to both, back to back - I was hoping there was another signal that had the best of both. Overall, the DTSHD-MA would be my choice due to the detail, but it's not as smooth on the ears as the DD.

I saw Black Swan (forget if BR or DVD) and didn't think much of the 5.1 sound, and didn't really care for the movie either.

I'd rather see/hear a great movie with great sound. Try Blu-ray of 5.1 movie of either "Moulin Rouge!" (w/Kidman) and/or "Pride & Prejudice" (w/Knightley). Amazon shows Blu-ray of P&P is less expensive at $9 vs $17 for MR!, but both have outstanding 5.1 sound.

And with regard to your title of this thread, my very slight cable preference, for highest sound quality (it's a subtle thing), is RCA "digital" cable (Belden or Canare RG-6 coax) for both digital S/PDIF or analog sound.

IMO your money and time are better spent with P&P and MR!

The best is the enemy of the good. Voltaire (1694-1778)

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