Al Griffin Ask S&V: A/V Games
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?