Can an HDMI Audio Extractor Degrade Performance?

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Q I have a Samsung HDTV and use the set’s analog minijack output to route an audio signal to my NAD integrated amplifier. Here’s my question: Would using an HDMI switcher/audio extractor that has HDMI inputs and HDMI and RCA-jack audio outputs increase sound quality? I have been told that using such a device would actually decrease audio performance. —James P. Landolt / via e-mail

A There are loads of devices available on sites like Amazon that can extract audio from an HDMI input, most in the under-$30 range. I wouldn’t expect any of these to improve audio quality in your setup, however, since you will likely be swapping out the cheap digital-to-analog converter (DAC) in your TV for a cheap DAC in an outboard converter box. Another problem: You’ll make your setup more complicated by adding an extra component to the mix.

On the other hand, if your integrated amp has digital audio inputs, you could buy an HDMI switcher/audio extractor with optical and/or coaxial digital outputs and use one of those jacks to connect to your amp. That way, you’ll be using the NAD’s built-in DAC to handle conversion, which will likely provide better sound quality than a direct analog connection from the TV. Some advice: If you do decide to buy an inexpensive HDMI audio converter, be careful when shopping online. Look for a unit that has plenty of positive user reviews, and check to see that the seller offers a money-back return policy.