A Letter to the Old Country

Yesterday I received a Blu-ray player produced by a very highly regarded UK company, which shall remain nameless. This is not a cheap Blu-ray player.

But oddly it seemed rather deficient on the HDMI audio output front, not having anything like the range of output options you’d expect. I soon discovered that one setting provided only the original bitstream, while the other switched off the audio entirely, in favour of the analogue outputs.

I emailed the local distributor, who in turn emailed the UK manufacturer. This morning I received a reply. The manufacturer’s Senior Engineer’s only suggestion was that maybe I had it plugged directly into a TV. Here’s my reply (I omit the photos which would give away the product):

Ah, the home office! I do love the way the engineers back in the old country think we’re complete effin idiots out here in the colonies!

So to make it clear:

  1. the Blu-ray player is plugged via HDMI into a Yamaha RX-A1000 receiver. The receiver is in turn plugged into a 52 inch Sharp Quattron TV.
  2. in the HDMI settings for the receiver I have ‘Audio Output’ set to ‘Amp’, with both ‘Out1’ and ‘Out2’ (the two HDMI outputs) set to ‘Off’.
  3. also in those HDMI settings, I have switched all HDMI control functions off
  4. according to the manual, three major settings are supposed to be available under the ‘Audio’ menu in ‘Setup’:
    • PCM Downsampling
    • Digital Output
    • Dynamic Range Control
  5. With the above-described setup, only two options are available on the review unit:
    • HDMI Output
    • Dynamic Range Control
  6. Instead of the range of six choices stated in the manual for ‘Digital Output’ (all of which the receiver supports, of course), the HDMI Output setting offers only two options:
    • On(Auto)
    • Off *Speaker
  7. With the first option selected, the unit bitstreams out the original audio format over HDMI — for example, as I demonstrated, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. With the second option selected there is no audio output from the unit’s HDMI output. There is no option for PCM or any other output.
  8. The Oppo BDP-83 and Panasonic DMP-BDT300 Blu-ray players which are also plugged into the receiver are not so constrained, and all their various output options operate correctly. Indeed, that is the case for the other forty-odd Blu-ray players I have reviewed (except for a couple of the very early ones and the phat PS3 which lacked bitstream output).
  9. I’ve attached photos of the unit’s Audio menu display to show precisely what I am seeing on screen.
  10. And before our English brethren start blaming the Yamaha, I’ve just plugged the unit into a Marantz NR1601 which I cracked brand new from the box especially for the occasion. It has ‘HDMI Audio Out’ set to ‘Amp’ and ‘HDMI Control’ set to ‘OFF’. Results: identical to those with the Yamaha.

Perhaps you can pass this back to the UK and see if they want to have another go.

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5 Responses to A Letter to the Old Country

  1. Simon Reidy says:

    Brilliantly and deservedly scathing! Make sure you post their reply (if you get one..)

  2. Simon H says:

    The company didn’t remain nameless… in point 9 you refer to “the XXX’s Audio menu display” :o) XXX?

  3. Stephen Dawson says:

    Hey Simon H, thanks for that! I’ve taken the liberty of editing your comment to remove the relevant information, and my post of course. If you want me to restore your comment, I will do so of course.

    And, yes, the model number you stated was correct.

    It shouldn’t really reflect poorly on the brand. Before even raising the issue I googled around to see if others had the same problem, and there was nothing obvious on the web. My guess is that the unit has an early test firmware for some reason.

  4. Stephen Dawson says:

    Local chap (probably wisely) removed my snarky first para, and sent it off to UK. Just received an answer suggesting a couple of sensible things to look into (which I’ve done, and they confirm the problem). They’re taking it seriously. Mission accomplished.

  5. Victor says:

    Heh heh heh….already indexed by google.

    It appears to me that the smaller, “boutique” brands like XXX seem to struggle with HDMI. Don’t know whether I am being unfair, but it is the general impression I get when reading reviews.

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