Dear Mr. Trautner,
Yes, there is a better way to connect things. If it is at all possible, keep ALL video connections OUT of your SSP and let the display do the switching. This only works if your display has enough inputs to handle all your sources. And it adds complexity to the system, as every time that you want to switch sources, you will need to use two remotes -- one for your display and one for your SSP. (Unless you use a programmable remote or a system controller such as a Crestron.) Running the video signals through the SSP will degrade them, and it also combines the grounds from your video and audio systems together, which is a bad for performance (both video and audio).
If your only video source is the DX-5, run the HDMI A?V output to the display and the HDMI Audio output to the SSP and things will be much better. However, many other video sources won't allow this separation of video and audio outputs. If they do please connect all of the audio connections from your other video sources to your SSP with Toslink cables. This will ensure that the video and audio systems remain totally isolated, improving both picture quality and sound quality. If this is not possible, then the next best solution is to connect all of the other video sources' AC power cables to a switched outlet strip. Then for critical viewing with the DX-5, simply turn off the power to all of the other video sources.
All of this assumes that you want to hear multi-channel sound -- then you have done the best that you can do. The separate HDMI Audio output on the DX-5 has several advantages over any other Blu-ray player:
1) It is completely isolated from the HDMI A/V (main) HDMI output. In fact it is completely isolated from all of the video circuitry and all of the computer circuitry (assuming you have a computer connected to the USB Audio input on the rear panel). This isolation avoids any ground loops or other interference caused by the other equipment.
Another source of high-frequency interference is via cable connections to a cable provider. I strongly recommend to purchase a video isolation transformer from Jensen if you have cable:
You will want the VRD-1FF at the bottom of the page.
2) The HDMI Audio output has the lowest jitter of any HDMI equipped source. The master audio clock is used to create ALL of the clocks used throughout the player. Then the HDMI signal is re-clocked by the master audio clock to remove any jitter generated by the signal processing (ie, the signal from the disc is picked up by a blue laser and contains all of the video and audio, which must be separated, de--scrambled, et cetera, et cetera).
3) The HDMI Audio output contains ONLY audio information. If you connect a video monitor to that output, you will see a grey screen at 720p. There are no other signals to cause interference with the audio signal.
Despite everything that we have done, the HDMI connection itself unavoidably adds jitter as the signal is transferred from the source (DX-5) to the receiver (your SSP). This is simply because the HDMI system was poorly implemented. They literally designed the connector before the system was fully finished, and they were one pin short of being able to create a MUCH better sounding system.
Since the signal received by the SSP will have jitter (although FAR LESS with the DX-5 than any other Blu-ray player on the market), there will be variations in sound quality depending on how well the SSP is designed. One common method for reducing jitter is to use an Asynchronous Sample Rate Converter (ASRC). While this gives good-to-excellent measured
performance, the audible
performance is not as good as the measurements would suggest. This is because an ASRC literally throws away all of the original audio data and makes up new audio data, based on its best guess of what the data would have been if there had been no jitter on the incoming signal.
A better approach is to use traditional jitter reduction systems, such as double PLL's, PLL's based on VCXO's (Voltage-Controlled Crystal Oscillators), and things like this that have been common in the world of high-performance digital audio products for well over a decade now.
The BEST approach is to use an optional feature that was added in HDMI version 1.3a, called Audio Rate Control (ARC -- not to be confused with Audio Return Channel that was added in version 1.4). Audio Rate Control allows the audio converter in the SSP to act as the master clock for the entire video system by sending a feedback signal upstream
to the Blu-ray player, and eliminates ALL jitter in the HDMI interface. The Ayre DX-5 supports ARC. Unfortunately, the only SSP's that I know of that also support ARC are low-cost surround-sound-receivers
made by Sony and Pioneer. These are NOT compliant with HDMI version 1.3a, but instead are proprietary versions that only work with matching sources from those respective companies. It is definitely a nice feature of those SSR
's but not enough to overcome all of the other compromises made in both the audio and video circuitry of both the players and receivers.
The only thing you can do is demand that your favorite brand of SSP include Audio Rate Control in their new products. The specification is poorly written, and very unclear, but Ayre will be happy to work with any SSP manufacturer to help them implement ARC in any of their products.
The only other choice (and this is what I do personally) is give up the silly sound effects (eg, subwoofers for explosions and earthquakes, and surround-sound for bullets that whiz past your head) that are only relevant in perhaps 5% of all film titles, and just create an HT2.0 system. This means using just two full-range speakers up front, flanking your display, with no subwoofers and no surround sound speakers. Then you can use the analog outputs from the DX-5, which will easily sound twice as good as the two main channels on any SSP available. But it means giving up special effects that many home theater enthusiasts are so fond of. It's your system, your money, and your choice, so go whichever way is important to you.
It's just unfortunate that HDMI was so poorly implemented with regards to audio. Their main concerns when designing it were to make it easy for the average person to connect EVERYTHING with one single cable and to provide "content protection" for the movie studios. It was never designed for high-quality audio. But it has become by far the dominant standard, and it is what we are stuck with. We put a LOT of lipstick on that pig, and our pig looks MUCH better than anybody else's. But it is still a pig underneath all that lipstick...
Ayre Acoustics, inc.