Al Grif­fin Ask S&V: A/V Games

Sound & Vision - - CONTENS -

My sys­tem con­sists of a Sony XBR-X900E TV, a Plays­ta­tion 4Pro con­sole, and a Yamaha YAS-207 sound­bar. The PS4 Pro does not play Ul­tra HD Blu-ray Discs, so I’m plan­ning to buy an Ul­tra HD Blu-ray player. Here’s my prob­lem: I want to con­nect both the PS4 Pro and the disc player to the Yamaha, but the sound­bar only has one HDMI in­put. I’ve looked around for an HDMI switcher that’s com­pat­i­ble with both 4K/60-HZ video sig­nals and high dy­namic range but haven’t been able to find one. Will I have to switch the ca­ble con­nected to the sound­bar from my sources on an as-needed ba­sis to main­tain best pic­ture and sound qual­ity?

Paul Trava / via e-mail

I wouldn’t sug­gest do­ing that—un­plug­ging and re­plug­ging ca­bles each time you switch sources is a has­sle, and it can also put sig­nif­i­cant wear and tear on the con­nec­tors. A more el­e­gant so­lu­tion to your dilemma would be to use an HDMI switcher.

You can find HDMI switch­ers that are com­pat­i­ble with both 4K/60-HZ sig­nals and high dy­namic range on sites like Ama­zon. Many of these cost un­der $50 and are made by out­fits with col­or­ful names like Fosco­max, Roo­ful, and Awake­lion. My sug­ges­tion would be to look for a model with an Ama­zon’s Choice tag, which in­di­cates that the prod­uct is highly rated by buy­ers. If you’re seek­ing a more road-tested so­lu­tion—the type that would be used by a Ce­dia-af­fil­i­ated cus­tom in­te­gra­tor—and are will­ing to spend more money, I’d also look at HDMI switch­ers from com­pa­nies like Key Dig­i­tal, At­lona, and Ge­fen.

Hav­ing said all that, since you’re plan­ning to buy an Ul­tra HD Blu-ray player, why not get a model that has built-in HDMI switch­ing? Oppo Dig­i­tal’s UDP-203 ( Sound & Vi­sion, May 2017 and soun­dand­vi­sion.com) fea­tures an HDR10­com­pat­i­ble, 4K/60-hz-ca­pa­ble HDMI in­put you can use to hook up your PS4 Pro. To se­lect be­tween the Plays­ta­tion and the UDP-203’S out­put, all you’ll need to do is switch them us­ing the Oppo player’s re­mote con­trol. At $549, the UDP-203 isn’t the cheap­est Ul­tra HD Blu-ray player out there, but its HDMI switch­ing fea­ture will both solve your con­nec­tiv­ity prob­lem and en­sure that you get the best A/V qual­ity from each source.

I re­cently bought an Xbox One X con­sole and have it con­nected to my Yamaha RX-A2050 A/V re­ceiver. When I watch At­mos demo videos us­ing the Dolby Ac­cess app on the Xbox, my AVR’S front-panel LED dis­play reads “Dolby At­mos.” I get the same re­sult when I watch Net­flix shows with an At­mos sound­track. When view­ing Ul­tra HD Blu-rays with Dolby At­mos sound­tracks, how­ever, the re­ceiver’s front panel will read “Dolby Truehd.” Are At­mos and Truehd the same thing?

Hans Furey / via e-mail

No, they’re not. Dolby Truehd is a loss­less au­dio codec that sup­ports up to eight au­dio chan­nels on Blu-ray Disc. Dolby At­mos sound­tracks, in con­trast, con­sist of au­dio ob­jects— up to 128 of them—that are mixed in a 3D sound­field dur­ing the pro­duc­tion process. When the sound­track is played back in a movie the­ater or home en­vi­ron­ment, the au­dio ob­jects are ren­dered by an At­mos de­coder to the avail­able speaker set, which in­cludes over­head ceil­ing speak­ers.

While Dolby At­mos and Dolby Truehd are two sep­a­rate sound­track for­mats, At­mos data on Ul­tra HD Blu-ray is ac­tu­ally an ex­ten­sion to Truehd that is folded into the bit­stream to main­tain back­wards com­pat­i­bil­ity. Here’s how that works: If you play a disc with an At­mos sound­track, the At­mos ex­ten­sion data is de­coded by an At­mos-com­pat­i­ble re­ceiver. If your re­ceiver isn’t At­mos com­pat­i­ble, the ex­ten­sion data gets ig­nored and the sound­track is de­coded as reg­u­lar Dolby Truehd.

Now that we’ve cov­ered the dif­fer­ences be­tween At­mos and Truehd, let’s dis­cuss your Xbox One X. There are doc­u­mented is­sues on the Xbox sup­port site of Mi­crosoft’s Blu-ray player app de­fault­ing to Truehd out­put when play­ing discs with At­mos sound­tracks. Mi­crosoft reg­u­larly up­dates their app (a patch was re­cently done to cor­rect too-high black lev­els when play­ing discs with high dy­namic range video), so your first step should be to make sure you’re run­ning the lat­est ver­sion. While you’re at it, also make sure to up­date the firmware on your re­ceiver: At­mos play­back prob­lems with the Xbox One X are re­port­edly as­so­ci­ated with spe­cific re­ceivers and sound­bar mod­els, so Yamaha may have a re­lated fix in the works.

Are Dolby At­mos and Truehd the same thing?

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