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