B&K Upgrade, Video Degradation, Improving Audio

Generous Offer?
I currently have a B&K AVR507 S2 receiver. It is a great receiver, but it does not have HDMI, DTS-HD, or Dolby TrueHD. When I purchased this receiver, I was told I could upgrade when possible. Now, B&K says this is not possible and is willing to give me a $1000 credit toward a new B&K. What can I do to get these features or do I have to buy a new receiver?

Kevin Bussey

There's no way to upgrade the receiver to add HDMI or, by extension, advanced audio decoding, because it would require changing the hardware configuration. A $1000 credit toward a new B&K receiver is generous, and the current AVR707 (7.1-channel) and AVR705 (5.1-channel) do have HDMI, but as far as I can tell from the company's website and owner's manual, they do not decode DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD. They have multichannel analog inputs, and they can accept PCM via HDMI, so you can get high-res audio from a Blu-ray player into the AVR in either of those ways. However, you need a player that has multichannel analog outs and/or can decode DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD to PCM.

On the other hand, the AVR707 lists for nearly $4800 and the AVR705 for $4500, so even with $1000 off, you'd still be spending well over $3000. There are plenty of great AVRs that cost a lot less than that and provide all the advanced audio decoders. Take a look at the Integra DTR-9.9 ($2600), Pioneer Elite SC-07 ($2200), Pioneer Elite SC-05 ($1800), and Onkyo TX-SR806 ($1100).

Digital All the Way
I own a Panasonic PT-AE3000U projector, and I just upgraded my receiver to a Pioneer Elite SC-05 for the DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby TrueHD, and PCM decoding. I prefer to have the receiver do the decoding or have my Panasonic DMP-BD55 Blu-ray player decode to PCM and send via HDMI to the SC-05. In my tests, the sound quality is certainly better this way than it is using the 7.1-channel analog outs on the BD55 to the 7.1-channel ins on my older receiver. I assume that's because the analog inputs bypass any speaker, EQ, or processing settings.

I've heard that running video signals through the receiver can degrade the video quality. If I use the HDMI switching capability of the SC-05, will I notice any video degradation? If I want optimal sound quality, I don't see any way around using the SC-05 as a HDMI switch because I would only get lossy Dolby Digital or DTS if I ran the HDMI signal directly to the projector and used the player's coax digital out to the SC-05 for audio.

Richard W. Zeddun

Some receivers do, in fact, degrade the video that passes through them, but the SC-05 is not one of them, so no worries there. You are correct that the only way to hear the advanced codecs in all their glory via HDMI is to send them as bitstreams or decoded PCM from the player to the receiver. That's certainly how I'd go in your case.

Why Wireless?
I have a new Samsung 1080p TV and want to improve the sound system not only for the TV but for music as well. So I bought a Boston Acoustics Tvee (2-channel soundbar with wireless subwoofer), but I can't play my music through it. Then I bought a new receiver to accommodate 5.1-channel surround sound, but I don't have a Blu-ray player yet. What I really want is to keep my two large JBL tower speakers and get a new front speaker to put next to the TV and a wireless subwoofer. What should I buy to make that work?

Ann Duran

Since you don't specify the model of your JBL speakers, I can't make specific product recommendations. I would see if JBL makes a center-channel speaker that tonally matches your towers—perhaps from the same product line—and put that under the TV.

Are you sure you need a wireless sub? I have no experience with such products specifically, but in general terms, wireless audio is not as reliable as a wired connection, especially if the wireless frequency is shared by other devices such as cordless phones and WiFi networks that might interfere with the signal. Wireless subwoofers are not all that common, but a few companies offer them; for example, JBL makes the ES250PW, which I haven't heard, so I can't attest to its quality.

I would also get some surround speakers, again from JBL to match the fronts as closely as possible, to complete the 5.1-channel package. This is very important for getting maximum enjoyment from movies.

If you have a home-theater question, please send it to scott.wilkinson@sorc.com.

Jeffrey's picture

I have a wireless sub by HSU Research (ULS-15) and it has performed quite well over wireless. We have a lot of other wireless devices around our downtown neighborhood, including our own cell phones, WIFI, and Sonos networks. Never has the sub had any issues, and always sounded great (they claim flat in most rooms to 15hz, and I would believe it!). I do run it now with an RCA cable, but that is only because it can be slow to wake from sleep on wireless if the volume on the pre amp is low (e.g. THX reference -15db or lower). Wireless can be very advantageous for optimum placement.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Excellent input, Jeffrey; thanks!

Brendt's picture

As far as replacing the B & K is concenred, I think that you have a couple of options:1. Besides the great AVRs that Scott mentioned, maybe the new RSX-1560 by Rotel would be in more of a comparable genre as the B & K.2. Personally, I'm waiting on the UMC-1 from Emotiva to pair with my Emotiva amp. You could get the UMC-1 with a 5 channel / 7 channel amp for $1300 total...3. Ask for more credit from B & K to make the prices of their AVRs more reasonable.

Jim's picture

As far as journalism goes, did anyone call B & K or an authorized dealer to ask about decoding? Way to dig to the bottom of the matter. Secondly, would anyone accustomed to the sound quality of something like B & K actually want to downgrade to the equipment listed as cheaper alternatives?

Scott Wilkinson's picture

I didn't contact B&K directly, but I did read through the relevant section of the owner's manual, and nowhere did it mention Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD at all. I would be shocked if the receivers decoded these formats without mentioning it in the manual, which does discuss all the other audio formats, including PCM. But just to be absolutely sure, I'll contact B&K and ask.As for audio quality, I haven't heard any B&K stuff lately. I'm sure it sounds excellent, but I'm also completely confident that the receivers I mentioned are fine performers as well, and I have no problem recommending any of them.

Donnie's picture

Scott, Nice job completely deflating the value of Higher end electronics designed and built by american adults! The receivers you mentioned as alternatives are fine for those of us without the means to obtain quality american made electronics. I have to admit that I own an Integra DTR-9.9 and if the second unit, which is on it's way to me now, has three of the three component vid inputs working instead of just two I'll be just fine with this receiver untill I can afford some serious gear again. Kevin had the ability to originally purchase a very fine american made receiver with a 5 year warranty and now that company is willing to take it in trade for $1000!? That's some great customer support in my book. I'm pretty sure none of the companies you mentioned (Integra included) would give anything for a legacy receiver in trade.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Donnie, you're entirely correct that few if any other companies will take a trade-in like B&K, but I disagree that American-made electronics are inherently superior to those made in Japan or other countries. In some cases they are, but in other cases they aren't—it depends on a lot more than the country of origin. I haven't heard any B&K products lately, so I can't say how they stack up against Integra or Pioneer Elite. I do know that the Integra and Pioneer Elite AVRs are fine-sounding products with nothing to apologize for, and they are a lot less expensive than the B&K. Maybe the B&K is better, but is it $1000+ better? Only the buyer can decide that.

Alan's picture

I just spoke to B&K technical support last week and they indicated that the AVR-707 does not decode Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD nor is it multi zone, however these features are being added and will be available as a free upgrade to AVR-707 owners. BTY this receiver is not THX certified either. I currently own an AVR-307 and love it.

bfash's picture

I have to comment here regarding the sound quality of the AVR's mentioned. I have owned several high end AVR'S over the years(Yamaha/Denon/Pioneer/Marantz)Although good quality and all do a good job. None of them produce the sound/video quality of B&K. A company know for it's separates componants. The b&k Amp section is far and away better than anything mention. Also the B&K is the only AVR where the user can adjust the video scaling. It's like having a DVDO VP 50 built in(it is!) There are new bells & whistles every year.So as long as it's just software, b&k can provide the free firmware upgrade. I have seen brand new on(authorized dealer) eBay for $3,295.00 Trust me, it's worth the money. FYI-I'm running Sonus Faber Domus Surround (7.1) with Analysis Plus Oval 9 cables on a OPPO BDP -83 universal player.