Question Replace AV receiver with another one or go the simple route: soundbar

So I couldn't really explain in the title what I'm currently struggling with in my mind regarding my home cinema setup. The gist of it is that I used to be someone who was constantly keeping track of new features and hardware and knew exactly what to buy and how to set up my stuff. That was basically up until the Blu-ray era and although it's nothing fancy, my setup used to be:
  • Sony 46 Full HD tv (46W4000)
  • Onkyo TX-NR609 AV Receiver
  • JBL Northridge E80 front speakers
  • H/K surround and center speakers
  • Apple TV 4
  • Xbox One S game console (also my Blu-ray player)
Now with upgrading my tv last year to a Sony 55XF9005 4K HDR I've later found out that even though the tv supports 4K HDR, not all HDMI ports support the full spec and because my Onkyo receiver doesn't support 4K, HDR, Atmos and stuff like that (which I knew when I bought the tv) I had to resort to using the ARC output on my tv for sound, otherwise I'd be restricted to 1080p. That ARC HDMI output turned out to be 1 of just 2 full-spec HDMI as the avforums review also writes:
All the HDMI inputs are 4K HDCP 2.2 compliant but as with recent Sony displays we find that only HDMI 2 and 3 are full 4K/60P 4:4:4 capable and need to be switched on within the HDMI signal format menu under Enhanced format

At the same time of upgrading my tv I also upgraded my Apple TV 4 to a 4K and I've been going back and forth with the connections, since HDMI 3 is the ARC output and HDMI 2 the only full-spec port left. Eventually I settles with the Apple TV 4K on HDMI 2 so that works at 4K/60P 4:4:4. Reason being I watch more movies and series than I play games or watch Blu-rays (and those aren't 4K HDR discs in my case anyway).

This means the Xbox now shows:
  • Your TV supports 4K UHD (60 Hz)
  • Your TV supports 4K 10-bit at 24 Hz
  • Your TV supports HDR10 video.
  • Your TV supports Dolby Vision.
  • Your TV setup does not support 4K 10-bit at 50/60 Hz.
  • Playing games: Your TV setup does not support 4K 10-bit at 60Hz. However, you can still upscale to 4K by choosing the 4K UHD TV resolution setting.
  • Playing games: Your TV does not support HDR10 for gaming. Games will not be shown in HDR.
Also, I notice the audio is off between the Apple TV and Xbox. I had to shift the Apple TV audio 140ms, but because I'm using the single HDMI (ARC) input on the receiver, I can't have multiple settings for each device, I have to manually set the audio back to 0ms when the Xbox is on and then put it back on 140ms afterwards, which requires going into the settings each time, so it's a terrible experience.

The good thing though is that I have the Apple TV on the "Cinema Pro" video preset and the Xbox on "Game", which automatically switches because they're connected to the tv.

Now, I know that the easiest route would probably be to upgrade my AV Receiver to a modern version that supports 4K, HDR, Atmos and so forth. I can then connect my devices to receiver and use the one HDMI connection to the TV, meaning I get full 4K/60P 4:4:4 from both devices, which is what I want. I want to be able to game in HDR (4K gaming is very limited on the One S, it's just upscaling from 1080p/1440p, but I'll be upgrading to a Xbox Series X later this year so that's another reason) and 4K, but I also want the audio to be perfect in sync for each device without having to change it all the time I use a different device.
But I'll probably lose the automatic switching between of video preset when I just use connection to the tv, though that's easier to change and possible (haven't tested it yet) can even be programmed into my Harmony remote (when turning on Xbox, set video preset to "Game" and vice versa for Apple TV).

Because my viewing habits have changed and because of kids nowadays it's become much more casual viewing and streaming from Netflix, Disney+ and only occasionally we rent/buy an iTunes movie or put in an 'old' Blu-ray disc, I've also lost interest in keeping up with everything and constantly fiddling around. Basically speaking: I don't mind spending a day to set up something new, but then it just needs to work, every time.

With that in mind, I was wondering: would a soundbar not be a better idea? I like Sony's HT-ST5000 which gets good reviews. I don't need proper surround - heck, I've been using my JBL stereo setup for the last two years, having turned off the surround and center speakers - which is fine because quality wise it's still pretty good sound.

But coming back to the audio sync 'issue' I have right now: isn't there a proper auto sync feature these days that I currently don't have because it's just ARC and not eARC maybe? Because if there is, I think a soundbar is exactly what covers my needs, as long as it has 3 HDMI inputs (I want to have one spare, just in case). Or do those high-end soundbars like the Sony have audio sync settings in their menu anyway?

I know in most cases a soundbar will be a downgrade in terms of pure audio quality, but I'm not necessarily bothered by that if it fixes everything that currently bothers me and keeping it extremely simple. Reason is also because with the current living room setup my wife wants to have less obtrusive speakers in the house. She doesn't hate the current setup but her idea of an upgrade is more aesthetically focused, so any soundbar basically is better in that regards than just a AV Receiver upgrade.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Welcome to the Forum.

You could buy the best soundbar for your needs and it will look neat underneath the TV and you can get multiple HDMI inputs. It's a lifestyle choice as the audio isn't going to be as good as a 5.1 system.
 
Thanks! I appreciate your comment, and not to be rude but it doesn't really answer any of my questions. I know that a soundbar is always going to provide a subpar audio quality compared to full-sized speakers. The main issues for me are A/V sync and I've read somewhere that with eARC, actually the TV knows which device is connected through a soundbar/receiver that sits in between de two, so the tv will switch video preset based on the connected device it sees, is that right?

I also should've probably worded my opening post differently, because indeed a soundbar or AVR is a matter of preference/lifestyle, but my point was more towards: are soundbars such as the HT-ST5000 from Sony actually decent enough with regards to A/V sync and such? I don't mind losing the nitty gritty precision tuning of an AVR, as long as I don't compromise on being able to fix the basics such as output/input/av sync and such.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
If you are going to ask a specific question about a soundbar then this would be better off being moved to the soundbar section of the Forum, which I shall do if you wish. I don't own a soundbar so cannot comment on individual strengths or failings of any particular model.

 

razy60

Well-known Member
Any device can have sync issues for one reason or another, I have skyq going into an AV receiver if I watch normal TV no issues but if I use the Q box to watch Netflix I occasionally have an issue with some 4k streams, but if I play that same stream using my PJ the sync is fine. I personally don't use arc as I've never found it consistent I use digital optical if it's possible. Whatever you decide on get something with lots of hdmi ports.
 
Any device can have sync issues for one reason or another, I have skyq going into an AV receiver if I watch normal TV no issues but if I use the Q box to watch Netflix I occasionally have an issue with some 4k streams, but if I play that same stream using my PJ the sync is fine. I personally don't use arc as I've never found it consistent I use digital optical if it's possible. Whatever you decide on get something with lots of hdmi ports.
Thanks! So there's no auto-sync by way of leveraging the CEC/eARC capabilities on any device?

I did notice myself that there's a difference in sync between 4K and 1080p content, possible because I've read that most 4K tv's have the lowest input lag on 4K as opposed to 1080p content which will be upscaled/processed to some extent causing a bit of a delay.

Personally I've never had an issue with ARC throughout the last year. Though my receiver doesn't support eARC, my assumption would be that it has only improved.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
I did notice myself that there's a difference in sync between 4K and 1080p content, possible because I've read that most 4K tv's have the lowest input lag on 4K as opposed to 1080p content which will be upscaled/processed to some extent causing a bit of a delay.
I have two apps that I use regularly with 4K and 1080 content on my TV, Amazon and Netflix. Amazon is spot on every time. Netflix is all over the place. I often have to turn off the TV or my receiver to force a better handshake and sync. ARC is worse as well as being unstable having a mind of it's own. Long given up and reverted to optical.
 

razy60

Well-known Member
Thanks! So there's no auto-sync by way of leveraging the CEC/eARC capabilities on any device?
Can't comment on the capabilities as I don't own anything with eARC, as for auto sync I have devices that play a tone and bounce a ball or flash a light to test audio /video sync but none do auto sync. Didn't think it was possible?

@gibbsy I have more problems with amazon than Netflix, different devices different problems. Who knew😱
 

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