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Audio Theory, Setup, and Chat

Justinicus's Avatar Justinicus
08:30 AM Liked: 14
post #1 of 6
01-14-2013 | Posts: 8
Joined: Aug 2011
First, let me apologize if I missed the boat on this, but my searches have turned up empty. Well, not empty, but unrelated. My question is if an HDMI receiver should be able to process the audio signal without ARC coming back from the display.

I have a Samsung plasma display on the HDMI 1.3 spec. It does not support Audio Return Channel. I have a low-level Onkyo HTIB receiver (can't remember the model off the top of my head, but it was the second-to-bottom model, about 3 years ago) which handles HDMI switching to the display in addition to surround sound duties. So far so good. Sound has been "acceptable," and the display is nice. The problem is with HDMI audio. I don't seem to have any.

It turns out, my Onkyo receiver does not actually pull the audio out of the HDMI stream as it passes it along to the TV. My STB, video game consoles, streaming devices, etc. all need a separate digital audio connection in addition to HDMI. Now initially I figured Onkyo just cheaped out on their mid-level starter kit, but now I'm wondering if this is normal. I was just getting ready to upgrade my receiver, and was giving the Onkyo 515 the come-hither look when I decided to check its manual. Sure enough, the manual says without ARC, you need a separate audio connection in order for the receiver to get audio from any HDMI source. So I looked at their top of the line (that line, anyway), the 616... same problem. No ARC, no HDMI audio. So then I figured maybe it's an Onkyo problem. I looked at Sony, Pioneer, and Yamaha's manuals... they don't say an additional digital audio path is necessary if you're ARC-less. But they also don't say that it's not!

So can anyone tell me if I'm barking up the wrong tree? Is this Onkyo problem the standard? Was the audio part of HDMI just totally worthless before HDMI 1.4 came along?

Thanks for your help.

P.S. In case there's any confusion, I'm not at all interested in using my TV as an audio source. I don't care about getting audio from my TV tuner to my receiver -- I don't even use my TV tuner (this is the only thing most manuals and discussions seem to focus on). I just want my receiver to be able to pull the digital audio stream out of the HDMI signal before it passes it along to my display.
commsysman's Avatar commsysman
08:35 AM Liked: 269
post #2 of 6
01-14-2013 | Posts: 5,379
Joined: Dec 2007
If you have an HDMI cable from each source device to the HDMI inputs of the receiver, and an HDMI cable from the receiver HDMI output to the TV monitor, the sound should appear at the speakers hooked to the receiver for any HDMI device selected. It will also appear at the TV speakers, which should be turned down or off.

If this is not happening, I would say that the receiver is probably defective and needs repair.

I think you may be misinterpreting the manual. When it says you need that audio cable from TV to receiver, it is probably referring ONLY to the case where you are viewing on the TV with the TV TUNER (from an antenna, etc.). Since you are not going to do that, this is a non-issue.

On the other hand, I could be dead wrong. Maybe with that old receiver you will need to connect everything, including the TV, using the component-video and audio IN/OUT jacks to get what you want. That seems odd, but it may be the case.
BIslander's Avatar BIslander
09:00 AM Liked: 142
post #3 of 6
01-14-2013 | Posts: 8,665
Joined: Jul 2005
Low end AVRs like yours do HDMI switching and do not process HDMI audio from any source. Once you move up a bit in class, receivers have HDMI repeaters, which do process audio. No separate audio connection is needed.

ARC only deals with feeding audio from the TV to the AVR. It has nothing to do with any other sources.
Justinicus's Avatar Justinicus
09:07 AM Liked: 14
post #4 of 6
01-14-2013 | Posts: 8
Joined: Aug 2011
Thanks for the feedback, commsysman. That's what I assumed, too! Here's the section from the Onkyo TX-NR515 manual ( page 16) on connection HDMI sources:

* If your TV doesn’t support Audio Return Channel (ARC), you
need to connect an optical digital cable together with the HDMI
cable to the AV receiver

That's in the section talking about connecting ALL HDMI components, not just the TV. Though I suppose it could just be a poorly-written paragraph. Anyone out there have an Onkyo receiver WITHOUT an ARC-capable TV able to confirm?
Ratman's Avatar Ratman
09:13 AM Liked: 346
post #5 of 6
01-14-2013 | Posts: 14,837
Joined: May 2002
If the Onkyo HTiB only supports HDMI video switching/passthrough, you'll need either a new receiver that supports HDMI audio or run digital coax or optical for each component. If you're not interested in using the TV as the HDMI switching device and your TV doesn't support ARC, ARC doesn't mean squat.
Justinicus's Avatar Justinicus
09:21 AM Liked: 14
post #6 of 6
01-14-2013 | Posts: 8
Joined: Aug 2011
Okay, I think I get the problem now. It's a combination of slightly vague wording in the new Onkyo manuals, and my own fear of being burned again! I looked up my old HTIB order on Amazon -- it was the the HT-S5200, if anyone's keeping score. I tracked down the manual on Retrevo, and THAT says "4 HDMI*4 Inputs and 1 Output (Pass-Thru)". I forgot that it specified pass-through!

thanks folks!
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