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So back in 2009 when I was first setting up my home theater system I bought an ONKYO HT-S3200 system. At the time, when I read that the HDMI ports were "passthrough", I naively assumed that simply meant that there would be no decoding/conversion of the video signal within the receiver and the video signal would simply be passed through the system on to the video monitor unaltered. It never even occurred to me that a device designed specifically for the sole purpose of decoding/processing both analog and digital audio would actually NOT decode the audio component of the HDMI signal, and that I would have to run separate optical/coax audio cable from all my sources that use HDMI if I wanted the receiver to output sound from those sources.


Well eventually with some extra cables and some fairly convoluted configurations, I managed to get everything working in spite of that limitation. However, I have since added a couple more sources (new game consoles), and I'm running short on inputs on the existing system, so I'm considering upgrading the receiver and I don't want to make the same mistake again. I'm using a digital projector rather than a TV for my setup so the receiver HAS to handle all audio.


However, almost all the receivers I'm looking at still list their HDMI ports as "passthrough", "pass-thru", or some other variation on the term. Searching around on the term I've found conflicting opinions on whether or not this term still means the audio on the HDMI port will not be processed. I've also seen mention of turning "passthrough" on and off on some models as if its an optional feature. Then there's the "Standby Passthrough" feature a lot of receivers have now, which I can see the advantage of but is not really of concern to me.


So how am I supposed to figure out if a receiver who's specs say "HDMI (passthrough)" are referring to an optional feature or to the only mode that the HDMI ports operate in? And is it still impossible to pass the video signal through while still processing the audio from HDMI? This is really frustrating.


What I'm looking for is a 5.1 receiver with plenty of HDMI inputs (only 1 output is fine) that is capable of processing the audio from those HDMI inputs so I don't have to run separate audio cables and complicate my setup. I don't need any video processing (though upscaling/encoding of analog sources to output over HDMI would be nice but not required). Its also important that the receiver not introduce any latency on the video signal as this is being used for gaming. And I'm hoping to keep the price around $300. Is this reasonable? Any recommendations?
 

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When you introduce the twitch factor of latency for gaming there's still something to be said for sending video directly to the display. Or you accept that fact that it's not the gear latency causing your gaming to suck... it's the player... Heh.



But by doing so, especially with HDMI, you introduce the gawd-awful nightmare of audio handshaking hassles. As in, your source negotiates with the connected devices to decide what format of audio to send. If one of those devices is a 2-channel only television then you're stuck with that. Pass-through likewise presents that issue, your source has got to be capable of renegotiating the formats during the switch. Most new stuff "sucks less" at doing this, but it's still often a crap-shoot.


So the answer is "it depends" and you'll only know for sure by either finding someone else with exactly the same gear or experimenting with it yourself.
 

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All current AVRs now decode HDMI audio. You don't' need a separate cable for audio. That wont be a problem if you buy a new receiver. Even back in 2009 the majority of them did decode HDMI audio, you just happened to buy an entry level receiver that didn't.


As JD said, "passthrough" nowadays means standby passthru which means the receiver can be in standby mode and the HDMI audio and video will be passed on to the TV. This is convenient for folks that want to watch TV late at night when everyone is asleep and they don't' need the surround system on.


Be aware that your HT-S3200 system uses a passive subwoofer. The sub gets its power from the receiver via the speaker terminals. More than likely a new AVR will require a powered sub which is connected by a dedicated RCA type subwoofer output.


You're probably going to need to upgrade your sub too.
 
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