Sound Bar Advice (HDMI v Optical)

cunnas

Well-known Member
Hi all
I have recently purchased a LG NB4530a Sound Bar having read a lot of reviews online.

I've set it up and all is working great - overall it is a huge improvement on my current TV audio.

However, I have a bit of a question to do with the whole Dolby/Virtual Surround.

I currently have the following setup - a Panasonic SMART 42" 3D TV. I have the following devices attached; SKY HD on HDMI 1, sound bar on HDMI 2 (ARC), XBOX ONE on HDMI 3 and a Net Top PC on 4.

Edit - I can pass a device, such as SKY through the sound bar and that seems to allow me to select the Dolby option within SKY and keep the sound - but by doing this I need to press a button on the sound bar remote to view SKY and I lose the SKY remote control use for volume.
It all works really well through ARC and by using ARC it means the sound bar turns off/on with the TV and also allows me to use my SKY remote to adjust the sound on the bar when viewing SKY without the need for using the sound bar remote - good for the wife!

The thing is, am I missing out on a better quality of sound by using HDMI over optical?

In my SKY settings, if I choose to use Dolby over HDMI the sound disappears. When I choose the Dobly/DTS option on the XBOX it says system not supported.

My TV does have an optical out which I have tried using instead of ARC HDMI - it works but I lose the use of my SKY remote and the sound bar no longer goes on and off with the TV.

So my question is, in order to get the best sound would I have to DIRECTLY attach each device (SKY or XBOX) to the sound bar using an optical cable and NOT use either HDMI ARC or the TVs own optical socket?

I'm really sorry if this is such a basic and daft question to ask but having googled this over the past day or 2 I'm getting different answers and confusing solutions.

The thing is, I like the setup I have now, it works well, no button pressing to change sound sources, no multiple remotes etc but I do worry that I am missing out on something. I know I don't have a 5.1 setup but I had assumed that the sound bar I got would "attempt" a surround sound experience and I am worried that I am simply not getting that because of the setup I have chosen?

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated
 

cunnas

Well-known Member
It does seem that only a device directly linked to the optical port on the bar or via the arc hdmi port allows me to use the DTS option which I'm a little disappointed with but this is perhaps down to my naivety more than anything.
 

dante01

Distinguished Member
S/PDIF optical and HDMI ARC are both limited as to what audio they can convey and both are governed by the S/PDIF protocol. Standard HDMI (not ARC) can convey every format S/PDIF can plus HD formats such as DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD. HDMI can also convey up to 8 channels of PCM audio while S/PDIF and ARC are limited to just 2 channels. Also note that if using an optical output from a TV then the output will be limited to the audio the TV itself can handle. Not all TV's can handle SD DTS and some even limit their optical audio output to stereo. It is always preferable to connect sources directly to an AV receiver or soundbar rather than passing audio through a TV.
 

cunnas

Well-known Member
Thanks Dante, but just to make clear as I really am new to this - if I wanted to achieve HD/Dolby audio I would have to connect the source DIRECTLY to the sound bar which seems to be the case after doing a bit of testing?

I guess the best setup would be an AV Receive and connect each device via HDMI or Optical? As my budget couldn't stretch to that I settled with what appears to be one of the best sub £300 sound bars there is. I did not even know what ARC HDMI was until I bought the thing - I kind of assumed I would just connect the bar to the TV via one optical cable.

The way it seems to be, HDMI ARC is the only way that the soundbar allows me to use my SKY remote to control the audio AND have the bar turn on and off with the TV, as daft as it sounds, this is vital for me - I don't want to mess round with 2 remotes.

That said, last night I did connect the Xbox to the bar through ARC and this DOES allow me to have DTS, albeit I have to use the bar remote.

I had hoped that SKY and the Net Top would also let me hear Dolby audio but sadly not. I suppose I could buy a longer optical cable and plug it from the bar to the SKY box directly and select the optical option on my bar remote when I fancy a bit of DTS. Best get saving the pennies for a proper system!
 

Rodders53

Distinguished Member
Panasonic TVs limit the sound from other hdmi-connected devices to stereo (sadly). It will send multichannel surround from internal tuners and sources like its' media server/player to the ARC-connected device though.
So to get the best surround effects it may be better to connect the other hdmi devices direct to your soundbar? Or it may make very little difference in practice, if you just allow the bar to make pseudo surround up from the stereo downmix it sends over ARC?

You'll need to try things connected up both ways and decide which sounds best to your ears!!

The Sky remote may be programmable to control the soundbar volume control with a different code LG Soundbar volume control via Sky remote - Sky Community (but may then not turn the TV on/off / be able to control the TV at all? )

A universal remote (e.g. Harmony) may be an alternative if that doesn't suit you?
 

dante01

Distinguished Member
I guess the best setup would be an AV Receive and connect each device via HDMI or Optical? As my budget couldn't stretch to that

You can get the Yamaha YHT199 for under £200. This is basically a Yamaha RXV375 with bundled Yamaha speaker package. The speakers are nothing special, but the receiver is a proper AV receiver.

Yamaha YHT-199 | 5.1 Package System inc Speakers excluding DVD Player | Richer Sounds

ARC will allow DTS, but not DTS-HD Master audio. DTS has a standard form of a lesser quality similar to standard Dolby Digital. This is what you'll get via ARC and or optical.
 

cunnas

Well-known Member
cheers folks - the Yamaha 5.1 system looks good but with 2 young kids it is a no go for now.
 

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