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.