Soundbar connection problem (another one confused by HDMI!)

Netherthorpe

Novice Member
I don't know much about audio technology, or what most of the specialist terms mean (apart from some that overlap with computing/comms/networking). It's also my first encounter with HDMI, and extensive Googling has served up info I find confusing and/or contradictory. And, I suspect, often incomplete thanks to dumbing down. (Hence posting here!). Sorry about the short story (I don't know which details are irrelevant).


I bought this soundbar, (our first) to use with our little TV. The soundbar itself is working fine (it's currently connected to the TV by optical cable in a roundabout way, while I try and figure out why I haven't got the HDMI connection working). Model details are below, though it feels like it's the connection process I've got wrong, and that there's some general principle or other involved that I don't yet know about (or possibly some TV setting I've missed). My HDMI connection attempts have failed as in no sound at all (as opposed to untoward noises).


I gathered along the way that the video part of HDMI is one-way, but the audio part can go in either direction (provided the connections are ARC enabled all the way). And that the direction of an HDMI signal is determined by the devices it's connected to, not by the cable itself or which end of it (please correct me if I'm wrong!). But after extensive Googling I'm still confused about (for instance) what sequence if any in which to connect things, what to turn on when, and whether to wait between steps. Can anyone tell me, or point to some info that does? Though the HDMI connection is direct and should be simple, in our case it's tied in with the more complex connection of our new stereo system to some speakers (once the HDMI connection is working and the stereo can have its cables back!).


I'm familiar with handshaking (from fiddling with internet connections etc), so can understand it coming into some audio connections. So far, I've only tried the HDMI connection with all power disconnected (with mains connection as the final step). Should I treat it more like setting up/resetting our wifi network or VOIP box (power to router, wait for handshaking, repeat at each point downstream)? When the soundbar is turned on, it's about 10 seconds before we hear the sound.


I'm also confused about volume settings during setup when there are two of them. I started with both at minimum,, but don't know in what order to raise the volumes, or by how much, and just (cautiously!) tried some permutations. (Our soundbar doesn't indicate its own volume level. But if I need to know, maybe I could time a change from minimum to maximum, and use some percentage?)


The soundbar has one HDMI (ARC) socket, and the TV has 2 (labelled HDMI 1 and 2). The only use mentioned in the simple TV booklet is input for video, from a computer, camera, set-top box etc (but I guess it's just a popular example). When I bought the soundbar, my man in the (very knowledgeable and helpful) shop was able to check the specs of the TV as well, and confirmed that HDMI between it and the soundbar would work (which was all I wanted to know; It was only later I learned a bit about the video side).


I had the soundbar set to HDMI (ARC) when trying the connection. The TV booklet has a list of supported signals for AV and HDMI signal compatibility. It's for sources, but the codes for HDMI 1 and 2 go from 4801 up to 1080P (whatever those represent - video standards I presume, as one was PAL which rang a bell re TVs).. The cable packet speaks a different language (pixels; 3,840 × 2,160), but from reading up on that particular type of HDMI, it seems to match at least the highest code in the TV's sources list (in case that matters with audio). I tried both the TV HDMI sockets in turn (ust in case that mattered!).


The packaging of the cable says ARC (and 'Supports Audio Return' for good measure). I tried all the TV settings that seemed maybe relevant, but no difference, so left it on the previous settings. Those worked when connected to pair of bookshelf-sized speakers, which were also powered/active. As with those, the optical cable I'm currently using is connected via the TV's headphone socket (the only option in both cases; the TV has AV sockets, but they seem to be for input only).


I have no other HDMI devices with which to try the cable (and don't know of anyone reachable here in rural Ireland who does). It's a more upmarket one than the others in the shop, and I'm sure they choose all of them for reliability. (I wanted a short one, and it happened to be the only 1m one in stock).

The soundbar is a Panasonic SC-HTB498. Cable is Vivanco brand; High Speed HDMI Cable With Ethernet, UHD 4K HDR; transmits ultra high resolution formats (zB 4K, UHD, HDR). (I presume the Ethernet part will simply be ignored?). The TV, bought in 2016, is a Walker WP19DVDV12. I think Walker (and maybe the model code) is just the name it's sold under in the ROI, and that Argos and similar in.the UK sold TVs under other names with the same specs (apart from the Irish Freeview type service). I don't know what's relevant for identification, or my problem, so here goes;

19"/48cm screen, resolution 1366×768 pixels, 'fully integrated digital/cable TV (DVB-T/C)', with integrated DVD player. Audio Types MPEG Multichannel decoding and LPCM; Audio Output Power (WRMS.) (10% THD) 2×2.5. HDMI, NTNS playback, AVL (Automatic Volume Limiting), PC input, Plug&Play for Windows from 98 to 7, optional Game Mode.
 

Joe Fernand

Distinguished Member
AVForums Sponsor
TV - in your system is going to be the Hub of the system with any external Source devices connected to the TV via HDMI and the Source set to (usually automatically) 2.0 PCM audio and HD (1080p) video.

TV to Soundbar - it'll make no real difference in terms of what you hear if you use Optical Out or ARC between the TV and the Soundbar.

ARC - requires the Soundbar and TV to have ARC enabled sockets, is ARC listed as a Feature in your TV User Manual?

ARC - relies on you enabling HDMI CEC before you can select it as an option in the TV menu. CEC can be very unreliable so is often best avoided and use of Optical Out of the TV if you want an easy life.

Joe
 

Netherthorpe

Novice Member
Thank you Joe for the info, and for homing straight im on my mistake!

I could have sworn the TV's HDMI sockets were labelled ARC, but when I looked again just to make sure, they weren't! No mention of ARC in the booklet either (let alone CEC). It was the back of the soundbar I'd been picturing. (Probably had troubleshooting fatigue and couldn't see the wood for the trees). In my haste to get everything working, I may have also not taken in everything my salesman said about optical versus HDMI.

Your final sentence rang a bell re other topics I'd read.about HDMI problems. It had sounded quite fiddly to set up, but having sorted computer problems like printing and comms I wasn't really put off. Having now read some more about it however, particularly re the standards situation, I'd now avoid HDMI on principle. (Enough said, as this isn't the place for rants!).

Our TV setup was never going to be immersive, so any differences in sound quality between technologies don't really matter (the selling points of the soundbar were its neatness, and Bluetooth for streaming music from the internet via phone).. The first speakers I tried with the TV were a cheap 2.1 computer set circa 2004, which were excellent with it. When they finally failed 2 years ago, the nearest thing I could find on the market were some decent bookshelf ones. They had us looking out of the window at every door-knock on TV, which was over the top for a 19" TV 5 paces away. (Though the soundbar doesn't have anywhere near that stereo effect, the sound actually feels more believable). Radio drama and music are a better match for the bookshelf ones, which will join the new stereo system today (having bought the necessary yesterday, another headphone to phono lead).

The reason HDMI seemed a good idea at the time was the idea of just one short cable, as opposed to 1.5m of headphone to phono cable, an analogue to digital converter, and 1.5m of optical. (But then that kind of thing is what our nice built-in cable management shelf is for - I can get a bit OCD about elegant solutions!).
 

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