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5.1/7.1 PCM, HDMI, and DSP - An Explanation of the Future-Proof Receiver


Introduction:


With the recent introduction of high resolution sound provided from both Blue-Ray and HD-DVD players, a lot of people have been inquiring about buying a future-proof receiver - one that can handle the lossless and higher resolution lossy formats (TrueHD, etc.) even though HDMI 1.3 is not here yet. There seems to be a lot of confusion here surrounding these topics so I've taken a moment to sit down and write a little bit about it all. First things first, HDMI 1.3 is unnecessary for a receiver, a future-proof receiver with HDMI 1.1 is all you need.

Words of caution:

1) Only some receivers with HDMI currently on the market output audio over HDMI, others simply ignore the audio signal and act as a switcher (i.e. Pioneer 1016tx).

2) Movie soundtracks are recorded with the .1 (LFE) channel 10db quieter than the rest of the channels. It is a receiver's job to increase the .1 channel by 10 db, when fed a Dolby or DTS signal. Some receivers do NOT apply this 10 db increase to PCM signals over HDMI, reproducing the bass much quieter than the rest of the soundtrack. See here for more information (including which receivers do what).

3) Some PS3 games (Ridge Racer 7) will only output 7.1 and 2.0 PCM, and thus, will only output 2.0 PCM when settings indicate a 5.1 channel setup. For such games, setting the output to DD will allow 5.1 channel setups to experience properly downmixed 5.1 channels of audio.

4) My examples of receivers with various support is only a small sampling and may not be entirely accurate. As new information emerges, I will try to keep them updated as much as possible. If you have any corrections or additions to the list, please post them in this thread. Use the examples list as a guideline, but be sure to double check support in the receiver's specific thread.

Defintions:


These aren't rigorous, so cut me some slack.


Simple Processing

- Level trimming (volume balancing)

- Distance adjustment

- Bass management

Surround Processing

- Dolby Pro-Logic IIx provides surround upmixing from 5.1 pre-HDMI Dolby formats and two channel formats to 6.1 and 7.1 channels.

- DTS EX provides surround upmixing from specially encoded 5.1 pre-HDMI DTS formats into 6.1 channels (7.1 too?).

- Some receivers also have THX Select2 provides advanced THX processing that attempts to improve sound quality for small rooms from sound formats that were originally mixed for theaters. Also provides surround upmixing from 5.1 channels to 7.1 channels.

EQ Processing

- Some receivers provide advanced equalization, or adjustment of the volume of specific frequency bands, to help correct room acoustical problems (some even in the time-domain, i.e. Audessy).

Analog

- Provides one analog channel of lossless uncompressed PCM audio.

- Most receivers have 5.1 analog inputs, some have 7.1.

SPDIF (Coaxial, Optical)

- Provides two channel lossless uncompressed PCM audio.

- Provides all pre-HDMI Dolby and DTS formats (5.1/6.1).

HDMI 1.1

- Provides up to 8 (7.1) channels of lossless uncompressed PCM audio.

- Provides all pre-HDMI Dolby and DTS formats (5.1/6.1).

- Provides DVD-Audio streaming as PCM.

HDMI 1.2

- Adds SACD streaming as proprietary DSD format.

HDMI 1.3

- Adds up to 8 (7.1) channels of post-HDMI Dolby and DTS formats (TrueHD, etc.).

Current HD-DVD and Blue-Ray Players

- Provides pre-HDMI and post-HDMI formats through analog outputs in lossless uncompressed PCM format.

- Provides pre-HDMI and post-HDMI formats through HDMI output in lossless uncompressed PCM format.

- Provides pre-HDMI formats through HDMI output in bitstream compressed format (Dolby/DTS).

- Limited to 5.1 channels (7.1 channels will come with later players).

PS3

- Provides 7.1 channels.

- 7.1 titles include: Resistance of Man (7.1 discrete video game), Descent (6.1 matrixed to 7.1), and Crank (6.1 matrixed to 7.1).


Levels of Receivers:

Level 1

5.1 receivers that provide SPDIF, 5.1 analog input channels and provide all three processing stages on digital sources.

Examples: Virtually all 5.1 receivers.

Level 2

7.1 receivers that provide SPDIF, 5.1 analog inputs, and provide all three processing stages on digital sources.

Level 3

7.1 receivers that provide SPDIF, 5.1 analog inputs, and 5.1 HDMI PCM but can't perform surround processing on PCM digital sources.

Examples: Panasonic XR57 (no processing at all).

Level 3.5 (added late in the game)

7.1 receivers that provide SPDIF, 7.1 analog inputs, and 5.1 HDMI PCM but can't perform surround processing on PCM digital sources.

Examples: Onkyo x04 series.

Level 4

7.1 receivers that provide SPDIF, 5.1/7.1 analog inputs, and 7.1 HDMI PCM but can't perform surround processing on PCM digital sources.

Examples: Panasonic XR700 (no processing at all). Onkyo 605. Sony STR-DG810 and higher.

Level 5

7.1 recievers that provide SPDIF, 5.1/7.1 analog inputs, 5.1 HDMI PCM, and allow all three processing types on all digital signals.

Examples: HK 645 and higher. Marantz SR6001 and higher (only with latest firmware?).

Level 6

7.1 receivers that provide SPDIF, 5.1/7.1 analog inputs, 7.1 HDMI PCM, and allow all three processing types on all digital signals.

Examples: All HDMI Denons. Yamaha RX-V661/HTR-6060 and higher. Pioneer Elite 81TXV and higher. Onkyo 705 and higher. Integra *.8 series.


Future-proof decisions:


If you don't care about 7.1 surround sound, then all receivers are future proof.


If you don't care about 7.1 surround sound for post-HDMI Dolby and DTS formats, or using generally inferior DACs in your player for post-HDMI Dolby and DTS formats, then receivers Level 2 and higher are future proof.


If you don't care about 7.1 audio for post-HDMI Dolby and DTS formats, then receivers Level 3 and higher are future proof.


If you don't care about 7.1 audio for 5.1 post-HDMI Dolby and DTS formats, then receivers Level 4 and higher are future proof.


If you don't care about being at the mercy of the generally inferior DACs in your player (vs the DACs in your receiver) for 7.1 audio and switching between HDMI and Analog output for 5.1 and 7.1 sources, then receivers Level 5 and higher are future proof.


If you want a true future proof receiver with full processing on post-HDMI Dolby and DTS formats, and true digital 7.1 channel support, then Level 6 receivers are future proof (see annotation).


Annotation:


The only current 7.1 PCM HDMI source is the PS3. Receiver manuals are notoriously vague on HDMI audio support. Therefore, there are very few confirmed Level 6 receivers. Some Level 5 receivers may be Level 6 receivers. Contacting the manufacturer is the best way to confirm Level 6 receivers until people begin testing with the PS3.
 

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XR57 is HDMI 1.2 though


plus, your definition of future is limited to HDMI v1.3? ;D
 

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Discussion Starter #4

Quote:
Originally Posted by SiriuslyCold /forum/post/0


XR57 is HDMI 1.2 though

plus, your definition of future is limited to HDMI v1.3? ;D

1.2 doesn't change support for new audio formats, but I removed the '1.1' reference, since it was unnecessarily specific.


Definition of future proof is flexible based on what kind of handling you want for PCM formats. Providing we don't change physical interfaces and need more channels, any receiver that has full capabilities for PCM over HDMI can handle any future audio formats in, say, the next 5-10 years. Full PCM over HDMI with adequate channels handles any audio needs for a good time to come because all decoding can be done on new players (which will be required for new formats, anyway) - the audio will simply be streamed without loss over HDMI in PCM format. I didn't think I'd have to explain that to you, though.
 

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sorry if i sounded overly critical..
its a good guide, its just that we're always going to be limited by whatever decisions HDMI, DD and DTS makes, maybe when they announce HDMI 1.4 (or 2.0 or whatever)


plus, you know for some people adequate is not enough.... (or we'd all be having 5.1 systems)
 

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Quote:
6) HDMI receivers that output 7.1 channels of uncompressed lossless HDMI PCM formats.

Examples: Yamaha RX-V1700 and RX-V2700 (many more are supposedly do, but unconfirmed, see annotation).

Another to add is the Panasonic XR700, which a higher-priced version of the SA-XR57 with full support for 7.1 LPCM, 7.1 processing for 5.1 LPCM signals, and 7.1 output.
 

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One thing to be aware of is that if the HD-DVD or BluRay disk is created using advanced authoring (all are so far) the ablity to mix audio streams on the fly requires that the post-DD and DTS formats be converted into PCM in the player. So owning an HDMI 1.3 reciever really does not give you very much over 1.2 or 1.1.
 

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Keep in mind that the latest desiged AVRs are targeted to handle the HD video developments.. Advanced HD video technologies are driving the demand and push for higher HDMI and greater video performance capabilities.. Also the studio/content providers want copy protection as well..

Additionally supported by the skyrocketing sales of flat HD panels/displays..

Along with the drive for video comes...

HD audio...

But the marketplace has already cast their vote (or lack of) for more HD video performance and features rather than multi-channel music material as DVD-A and SACD have failed..


Today's performance level of Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 satisfies the majority of the market.. The latest developments will be video oriented such deep color and even higher levels of resolutions..
 

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Lindahl,

Thanks for this post! Very informative and it clears up my questions from the other post.

-Tom
 

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Nice summary post. I like.


But I'm curious, what could they add with HDMI 1.4 or greater? Anyone have a clue? I've got my mind set on 1.3, and I can't imagine what would be worth waiting for after it...
 

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Discussion Starter #12

Quote:
Originally Posted by M Code /forum/post/0


Keep in mind that the latest desiged AVRs are targeted to handle the HD video developments.. Advanced HD video technologies are driving the demand and push for higher HDMI and greater video performance capabilities.. Also the studio/content providers want copy protection as well..

Additionally supported by the skyrocketing sales of flat HD panels/displays..

Along with the drive for video comes...

HD audio...

But the marketplace has already cast their vote (or lack of) for more HD video performance and features rather than multi-channel music material as DVD-A and SACD have failed..


Today's performance level of Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 satisfies the majority of the market.. The latest developments will be video oriented such deep color and even higher levels of resolutions..

I'm not sure what this has to do with the thread (future proofing audio). But, yes, some receivers are adding video processing to the mix as a bonus. IMO, this should be done far away from the receiver to avoid single-point failure/upgrades. You should really be buying two components, a receiver and a scalar, if you want video processing (unless you just want simple transcoding).


You may be talking about single-point upgrades, where changes in HDMI video will require upgrading the receiver since it's a video processor as well - which is one of the reasons to buy a seperate scalar (the other being avoiding single-point failures).
 

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Side note, I called Pioneer and all of the 8(x)TSXI series receivers support 7.1 audio over HDMI. (Yes I'm in the market
)
 

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Discussion Starter #14

Quote:
Originally Posted by cecaa850 /forum/post/0


Side note, I called Pioneer and all of the 8(x)TSXI series receivers support 7.1 audio over HDMI. (Yes I'm in the market
)

Thanks. I updated the original post to reflect this. Those are excellent receivers. Most of the information in my original post was gathered during receiver research, since I'm in the market. I'm wishy washy between the Pioneer Elite 81 and the Yamaha 1700. I like the THX support in the Pioneer, but I think I may prefer the sound of the Yamaha (more laid-back). What I really need to do, is an audition - especially to see which auto-EQ, if any, works best with my room!
 

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So does a future-proof recvr not need to support 4 ohm speaker loads?


I seem to be the only one who cares about this? There are lots of speakers out there that are 4ohm (some even lower). Does everyone only buy speakers that are 8 ohm?


-Tom
 

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The Panasonic XR57 does not meet your level 4 standards either because it only has 5.1 analog inputs.

Still, you've done a very nice job here and it is very helpful in sorting through the many AVR's out there.
 

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Discussion Starter #17

Quote:
Originally Posted by tome /forum/post/0


I seem to be the only one who cares about this? There are lots of speakers out there that are 4ohm (some even lower). Does everyone only buy speakers that are 8 ohm?

Very few receivers are spec'd into 4 ohms, probably since few mid-fi speakers are 4 ohm. That said, most mid-fi receivers will drive 4 ohm speakers if you don't push the volume and watch the heat - be careful. Otherwise, you generally have to go with seperate amplification. You can use the preouts on your receiver, so it functions as a preprocessor. Receivers are generally more functional and significantly cheaper than seperate processors, but they may not give you that last 5% in sound quality (not a problem for mid-fi speakers).

Quote:
Originally Posted by rseven /forum/post/0


The Panasonic XR57 does not meet your level 4 standards either because it only has 5.1 analog inputs.

I've classified it as a level 3 receiver, but I've clarified the annotation in this respect.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bdftv /forum/post/0


Another to add is the Panasonic XR700, which a higher-priced version of the SA-XR57 with full support for 7.1 LPCM, 7.1 processing for 5.1 LPCM signals, and 7.1 output.

That receiver isn't on the market yet. There isn't enough information yet to say that it does 7.1 processing for 5.1 PCM signals - unless you work at Panasonic or have some inside information
. I'll add it to the list if this thread is still hanging around once we have more information on the XR700 (once the manual is published).
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lindahl /forum/post/0


Thanks. I updated the original post to reflect this. Those are excellent receivers. Most of the information in my original post was gathered during receiver research, since I'm in the market. I'm wishy washy between the Pioneer Elite 81 and the Yamaha 1700. I like the THX support in the Pioneer, but I think I may prefer the sound of the Yamaha (more laid-back). What I really need to do, is an audition - especially to see which auto-EQ, if any, works best with my room!

I too am curious about the sonic differences between the Pioneer and Yamaha units. I currently run a Hk-7200 and it's warm sound mates with my Klipsch speakers perfectly. I don't want to go to a "brighter" receiver. I've allways thoutht that the Yamahas were a little more forward than the Elites. I'd love a comarison if anyone has had them both (or similar units).
 

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Discussion Starter #19

Quote:
Originally Posted by cecaa850 /forum/post/0


I too am curious about the sonic differences between the Pioneer and Yamaha units. I currently run a Hk-7200 and it's warm sound mates with my Klipsch speakers perfectly. I don't want to go to a "brighter" receiver. I've allways thoutht that the Yamahas were a little more forward than the Elites. I'd love a comarison if anyone has had them both (or similar units).

We're using the terms differently. IMO, forward and bright aren't the same thing. Forward means the soundstage is well in front of the speakers. Laid-back means the soundstage is much further back, closer to the speakers, or behind them. Bright (harsh) means there's an emphasis in the treble. Warm (muddy) means there's an emphasis in the bass. Although I have heard some people use the term forward to mean bright, I believe this is incorrect. I think you mean to say that the Yamahas were brighter than the Elites.


I've also read that the Yamahas tend to be bright, but I haven't read that in comparison with the Elites. For all I know, the people who said the Yamahas were bright, were HK owners who found the warmer sound more pleasing than the possibly-neutral sound of the Yamahas. With all that said, this is why I intend on auditioning, and I suggest you do the same
.


Let's get back on topic - try asking about those receivers in their respective threads.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lindahl /forum/post/0


That receiver isn't on the market yet. There isn't enough information yet to say that it does 7.1 processing for 5.1 PCM signals - unless you work at Panasonic or have some inside information
. I'll add it to the list if this thread is still hanging around once we have more information on the XR700 (once the manual is published).

The XR700 does seem to be available on some sites (don't know how reputible they are):

http://www.**************.com/photos/25509.html


You can get the PDF manual here:
http://www.panasonic.co.uk/customer-...147269&fmt=pdf


If the link above doesn't work go here:
http://www.panasonic.co.uk/customer-...oad-centre.asp


select:

AV Products

Home Audio

SAXR700

Get the one dated 18/10/06
 
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