Who’s afraid of Im­age Con­straint To­ken? HDMI un­rav­eled.

Sound & Vision - - CONTENTS - BY AL GRIF­FIN

QI would like to use an Oppo BDP-93 as the Blu-ray player in my sys­tem con­nected to an Ar­cam AVR350 A/V re­ceiver. Since the Ar­cam is a legacy AVR with no HDMI switch­ing, I will need to use the Oppo’s com­po­nent video out­put. Here’s my ques­tion: Will I be able to get high-def­i­ni­tion res­o­lu­tion from Blu-ray discs with this setup? I have read that Blu-rays have embed­ded ICT (Im­age Con­straint To­ken), which forces the player to down­scale the video res­o­lu­tion to DVD qual­ity. Also, are there any work­arounds, like us­ing an OPPO player with early (pre-ict) firmware? LISA KAYE / VIA EMAIL

AI­mage Con­straint To­ken is a key fea­ture of the AACS dig­i­tal rights man­age­ment sys­tem that was cre­ated by a con­sor­tium of movie stu­dios and tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies to ac­com­pany the high-def­i­ni­tion Blu-ray and HD DVD disc for­mat launches. The idea be­hind ICT was to pre­vent the copy­ing of high-def­i­ni­tion dig­i­tal con­tent by plug­ging the “ana­log hole.” What typ­i­cally hap­pens is that when a Blu-ray player is con­nected to an HDTV us­ing com­po­nent-video ca­bles, a flag on the disc in­structs the player to down­grade the video out­put to 540p— a notch above DVD res­o­lu­tion. Hav­ing said all that, you still may be able to get high-def­i­ni­tion im­ages from some Blu-rays since the de­ci­sion to embed ICT on the disc is up to the in­di­vid­ual stu­dio that pro­duced it.

While it’s pos­si­ble to find an old Blu-ray player from Oppo or an­other com­pany with a firmware ver­sion that doesn’t sup­port ICT, I’d in­stead sug­gest mak­ing a di­rect HDMI con­nec­tion from the player to the HDTV. For an au­dio con­nec­tion to the Ar­cam AVR, you could then use the player’s op­ti­cal or coax­ial dig­i­tal out­puts, or even its mul­ti­chan­nel ana­log con­nec­tion. Be­cause the Ar­cam AVR is a legacy model that doesn’t sup­port Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Mas­ter Au­dio high-res sound­track for­mats, there will be no loss in us­ing any of those au­dio con­nec­tions. And by us­ing an HDMI ca­ble for a video con­nec­tion to the TV, you won’t have to worry about any re­duc­tion in out­put res­o­lu­tion caused by ICT.

QI’ve got a de­cent Velo­dyne sub­woofer that I’d like to con­nect to a pow­ered sound­bar. Most sound­bar man­u­fac­tur­ers now use wireless sub­woofer con­nec­tions, how­ever, so I’m strug­gling to find one that’s ca­pa­ble of con­nect­ing with my sub. Could you rec­om­mend a mid-level or a high-end sound­bar that fea­tures a hard­wired sub­woofer out­put? JIM O’HARA / VIA EMAIL

AIt’s good that you’re in the market for a mid-level or high-end sound­bar, be­cause it’s mostly the en­try-level mod­els that lack a hard­wired sub­woofer out­put. Three pow­ered sound­bars meet­ing your re­quire­ments that we can rec­om­mend in­clude the Fo­cal Di­men­sion ($500), ZVOX Sound­bar SB700 ($700), and Blue­sound Pulse ($999). Yet an­other op­tion would be to use a pas­sive three- or five-chan­nel sound­bar con­nected to an A/V re­ceiver. With that con­fig­u­ra­tion, you could use the AVR’S own sub­woofer out­put, which would also pro­vide the ben­e­fit of flex­i­ble setup op­tions when it comes to sub­woofer crossover point and dis­tance com­pen­sa­tion ad­just­ments.

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