HD in Zone 2, Two Subs, Video Conversion

In The Zone
As digital HDMI connections (and their associated HDCP requirements) become the default for A/V gear, I wonder if the days of a second HD zone on AVRs are behind us? Or are the manufacturers planning to address the current limitation of sending only SD video to a second zone? Will I be forced to buy an HDMI matrix?

Jeff Kramer

Some AVRs, such as higher-end models from Integra, Pioneer, and Sony, do have HD video outputs to a second zone, and those outputs can carry a different signal than the one showing in the main zone. However, they are component-video outputs, not HDMI, probably because it would generally require a very long cable, which is impractical with HDMI. Also, these outputs are limited to 1080i, and in most cases, they can only convey a component-video source, not an HDMI source.

The only exceptions I know of are the Sony STR-DA4600ES and DA5600ES, which can send the signal from an HDMI or component-video source to the second zone via component. Actually, the second-zone video output is CAT5, a type of cable that can run hundreds of feet, and a balun in the remote zone converts CAT5 to 1080i component video. (BTW, you might think that the two independent HDMI outputs on the 5600ES, which are labeled in the photo above, might work for this application, but they can only be used one at a time. These outputs are intended for installations with a front projector and flat panel in the main zone.)

Update: It turns out that Sony misinformed me about the capabilities of the STR-DA4600ES and DA5600ES. They cannot send an HDMI source to the remote zone; they can only send HD from a component source to the remote zone.

Two Subs Are Better Than One
Many of the new A/V receivers this year have 7.2, 9.2, or even 11.2 channels, as opposed to 5.1 or 7.1. Does that mean we can now connect two subwoofers to the receiver? If so, do they have to be exactly the same make and model? For example, if I have a REL T-3, can I add a REL T-2?

Aopu Mohsin

Yes, the ".2" means you can connect two subs to the AVR. In most cases, both subs play the same signal, but the judicious placement of two subs can substantially improve the low-frequency performance of your system over what one sub can do. Sub placement is a complicated subject, but if you have a closed, rectangular room and you sit near the middle of that room, placing the two subs at the halfway points of the side walls is usually a good starting place.

As for make and model, I suspect it's better if they are as close to identical as possible. I don't think you'll have any problem with the two RELs—the T-2 has a little more power and a larger passive radiator than the T-3, but they have the same frequency-response specs, and I would guess that they are voiced very similarly, so you should be fine.

Time to Convert
Does the typical A/V receiver convert component video _to HDMI so the receiver can act as a true A/V switcher? It_ appears that some models (e.g., Pioneer VSX-520) do not have this feature. I_ would hate to purchase a component-to-HDMI box just for my Wii.

Chip Steiner

Many AVRs do exactly what you're asking about, though they are generally the more expensive models. For example, the Pioneer VSX-920—which is two steps above the 520—offers this feature at a retail price of $399. (The 520 is $229.)

However, you need to be a bit careful when selecting an AVR with this capability. In particular, make sure it doesn't do anything untoward to the video signal. How do you determine this? By reading the AVR reviews in Home Theater and on HomeTheaterMag.com. In all of our recent receiver reviews, there's a section called Video Test Bench in which Tom Norton tests the video processing of the AVR, including its conversion from component to HDMI.

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

Jarod's picture

Scott, wouldn't it be possible to connect two subs to any AVR by using a Y-splitter on the sub line-level cable?

asugarbe's picture

This is the configuration I use. The only this is that the subs play the same LFE signal with the Y-splitter. The .2 sub configuration is the best scenario. Based on the type of receiver and placement of the subs, the receiver can output two different lfe signals to the subs.

Sean's picture

I'd be interested in more info on HD in zone 2. With the AVR pumping HD cable to the main display, I'd like to also send, say, the PS3 output, to the HDMI input of my PC monitor. Then my girlfriend could watch True Blood while I game with headphones without having to relocate, or buy a second, PS3.

Aopu Mohsin's picture

Hi Scott, if Jarod's comment (posted earlier) is correct, would the "Y-splitter" substantially work as ".2" on a 7.1 receiver? In that case, would there be any difference in quality in low frequency having two subs with 'Y-splitter" on a 7.1 AVR vs. two subs on a 7.2 AVR?Thanks for all your good suggestions.

Tom's picture

A splitter wouldn't be the same. It would simply allow you to connect two subs to the same input. AVRs with .2 outputs allow for individual adjustment of distances from the listening position and (especially where Audessey is used) individual room correction settings for the two subs ensuring that each sub is timed correctly for it's position in the room.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

What Tom said, though I think he meant that a splitter would allow you to connect two subs to the same output, not input.

Adam's picture

In regards to the Y-Split on the X.2 receivers, some of the .2 models are basically just internally Y split. Not all .2 models actually offer individual subwoofer processing, but just provide the extra plug, eg. Integra DTR-40.1 from last year vs. the DTR-50.1 which actually processed the second sub. I don't know if that's still the case on the mid-range models for this years DTR-XX.2 models or not.

Jarod's picture

Thanks Tom and Scott. I figured it would not be the same just a way to hook up two subs to an AVR.

Jeff D's picture

I, currently use a Y splitter in my hometheater for two subs. So, instead of spending the extra money on a higher price AVR, why not got to Radioshack to get an SPL meter. They are less than 50 bucks, do an excellent job of level setting. Just sit at your listening position and take the measurements, don't get me wrong, it takes some time but, you'll save a lot of money!

CJLA's picture

At Aopu, Scott & Tom,Having two good subwoofers like REL's I would bet that you are a discerning listener and that perhaps you are interested in 2-channel audio as much as surround sound? If so, you could use one REL connected on the main speaker outputs, which by the way is typically how REL wants their subs to be hooked up, you could then hook up the 2nd sub just as a (.1) for LFE.Whatever you choose to do, I would definitely contact Sumiko Audio, the US distributor for REL to get their input. They are extremely knowledgeable and helpful.

Dan's picture

Scott,Regarding the Sony STR-DA4600ES and 5600, I believe your statement that it will send an HDMI signal to Zone 2 (or any other Component Video Out) is false. I have the 5400 and bought it about 2 years ago thinking that it can do it, but it can't. I ended up haveing HDMI AND Component Video AND separate Audio connections from every device so I can get Video in Zone 2.After reading your post I downloaded the manual for the 5600 and it looks almost exactly the same as for the 5400 except for the networking and a few minor things. I didn't see anything where it talks about down-converting from HDMI to Component.Please correct me if I'm wrong. I'm still looking for an affordable multizone receiver that can send one HDMI input to multiple zones and drive the appropriate speakers.Regards,Dan

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Dan, according to my contact at Sony, the 5600 can do exactly as I described—send HD video to zone 2 over CAT5 and convert it to 1080i component at the far end. And it can do so with component and HDMI sources connected to the AVR. This is a new feature in the 2010 top-of-the-line ES receivers, so I'm not surprised that the 5400 can't do it. I have no idea why this would not be mentioned in the manual. Are you sure you carefully read the section on the CAT5 video output to zone 2?Note that I did NOT say the 5600 would convert HDMI to component for all component outputs. In fact, it won't convert HDMI to component in the main zone, only to the remote zone.

Dan's picture

Scott, I double checked the manual and it clearly states that Zone 2 will only play analog sources. Also, the Zone 2 remote doesn't let you select HDMI which would indicate that it doesn't support it.I'm not trying to disprove your statement, I just want to make anybody reading it aware that there is need for more research, in case somebody is considering this receiver for that particular feature. I was initially considering this unit but now I'm not sure it will do anything more (in regards to Zone 2) than my current 5400.Regards,Dan

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Hmm, well, I'll have to get with my Sony contact and get to the bottom of this! Stay tuned...

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Well Dan, you were right. I rechecked with my Sony contact, who verified that he had given me incorrect information on this. The zone-2 CAT5 output can carry HD video from component-video sources only, not HDMI. I updated the text in my main response accordingly. Thanks for helping me get to the bottom of this issue!

Dan's picture

That's a shame. I was hoping I was wrong and this receiver would provide me with a possible solution. Anyway, thanks for following up!