Help! Get Me Out of HDMI Hell!

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Q I have a 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos setup powered by a Yamaha RX-A2040 AV receiver that’s also connected to a Vizio M55-D0 Ultra HD home theater display. The Vizio only has one HDMI 2.0a port capable of passing 4K/high dynamic range (HDR) signals. The other four HDMI ports are all version 1.4, which is not HDR compatible. My RX-A2040 receiver, meanwhile, has HDMI 2.0 ports that not only don’t support HDR, but lack the HDCP 2.2 copy protection required for passthrough of movies on Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc.

Now for my question. I am currently using an Xbox One S for Ultra HD Blu-ray playback, with the console connected directly to the Vizio’s HDMI 2.0a port. This setup allows me to watch 4K/HDR movies, but because the Xbox only has a single HDMI output, I am forced to use the console’s optical digital audio jack for audio output to the receiver, which means soundtrack options are limited to standard Dolby Digital/DTS. Is there a workaround you know of that will let me keep using the Yamaha? I love my AVR and don’t want to replace it, but these HDMI issues are killing me. —Matt Piper / via email

A Sorry to report this, but your situation is one of an early adopter caught in the crossfire of emerging technologies. In 2014, a slew of new products, including AVRs and a handful of first-gen Ultra HDTV models, shipped with HDMI 2.0 ports that lacked HDCP 2.2 copy protection. Your Yamaha receiver was among these. The situation was made right the following year, with most new products providing updated HDMI 2.0 ports with HDCP 2.2. At that point, things seemed all well and good, but yet another HDMI issue popped up to vex consumers: HDR support. For a receiver to pass Ultra HD signals with HDR, it now needed to be outfitted with yet another new HDMI version: HDMI 2.0a.

The standard workaround to deal with these situations is to do exactly what you are doing: connect a video source directly to the TV and use a separate connection for audio. That’s why the new crop of Ultra HD Blu-ray players feature dual HDMI outputs: You use one to send video directly to the TV and the other to route audio bitstreams, including object audio-based ones like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, to the receiver. However, as you note, the Xbox One S only has a single HDMI output, which in your case limits you to using the optical digital output for audio.

What I’d recommend for your situation is to buy a new Ultra HD Blu-ray player to use along with your Xbox One S. Why? The new players from Samsung, Panasonic, and Philips all feature dual HDMI outputs, which will let you route audio bitstreams, including hi-res Dolby True HD/DTS-HD Master Audio and object-based Dolby Atmos/DTS:X ones, directly to the Yamaha receiver while simultaneously routing video to the Vizio display. It’s also important to note here that the Xbox One S currently doesn’t support Dolby Atmos/DTS:X, so you’ll need a new player anyway to make the most of your 5.1.4 speaker setup. [Ed. note: Dolby announced yesterday that Dolby Atmos is coming to Xbox One in 2017.]

One other thing: The Vudu TV app, which you can access directly on your Vizio display, features a number of UHD titles with Dolby Atmos soundtracks. Since the HDMI 1 port you’re currently using on the Vizio supports Audio Return Channel, it’s possible to route the Atmos soundtracks from streamed movies

jmarkaustin's picture

You could try a Intergral HDFury (Google Search it)... I have one on order for just what you describe (my receiver is an Emotiva XMC-1 with only one HDMI 2.0 input and output.. no HDMI 2.0a). Monoprice also had one 4k splitter which will supposedly pass HDR (full 18ghz bandwidth) but I haven't tried it. Hope that helps?

trashmanssd7's picture

Just did same thing with my Pioner 1124,spent few hours trying cable to make sure it wasnt a cable issue and just ended up using optical for audio. As for the spliter option, just have make sure it can do different audio signals. Most I have seen default to lowest common denominator.

mikem's picture

When in the hell will we ever be rid of HDMI? Hollywood and their movie pirating paranoia is behind HDMI, and they have more money and lobbyists than the NRA it seems.

mtymous1's picture

Those exact same reasons are why HDMI is here to stay.

(I think you got your special interest groups mixed up and intended to say that Hollywood wished it had as much money and lobbyists as the ACLU.)

mtymous1's picture you might as well make it something you can at least upgrade more easily and cost effectively. That said, invest in a Home Theater PC (HTPC) -- that way, you can install a video card that supports HDCP and dual HDMI outputs today, and then whatever other future video standards emerge, you can address them with either software solutions, hardware upgrades, or both. An HTPC with a good video card will also deliver a MUCH better entertainment experience than most mass-produced players.

While you're at it, I would also recommend installing an audiophile grade sound card. The Asus Xonar Essence STX received a favorable review on sister site Stereophile:

Since that review, there has been a release of the STX II:

I have both and recommend both.

If you are looking to send discrete signals, you'll want to take a look at this:

I would also recommend a NAS for storage of ripped movies.

...And if you end up going the new player route, look at the Oppo UDP 203.

K.Reid's picture

Just wait for the new Oppo Digital 4K Ultra HD player and buy it. It will be much better built and performing than the brands mentioned.

big45's picture

The HD Fury looks very promising and is legal. It will allow all of your receiver HDMI inputs to pass a UHD signal as it reduces the HDCP 2.2 down to 1.4 but leaves the UDD signal alone. as far as the HDR, you may be out of luck. Go to the website and check it out. I was going to buy one, but ended up replacing my Preamp.

Deus02's picture

I have the "Integral" with a Yamaha HDMI 2.0(without HDCP 2.2)Pre-Pro and it works very well and compared to plugging directly in to the monitor and in terms of quality of signal, there is no signal degradation whatsoever. The only limitation is that with only two in puts and two outputs, it does require plugging the source(s) in to the Integral and then the receiver which will allow HDCP 2.2 signals to pass through to a 2.2 4K monitor. In terms of HDR it can be set up as well within the unit through onscreen programming, however, in order to get full range sound on BR discs of any configuration AND access to full HDR it must be used in conjunction with the "Linker" which is explained in much more detail on the Fury website. It is a matter of deciding whether or not to spend $450.00 on the two units or having to go out and purchase an Up-to-date AVR/Pre-Pro with all the latest video configurations. Since I am only concerned about two 4K capable source units to worry about, the purchase of the linker and Integral was a no brainer, since to replace my existing Pre-Pro with something current, it would be over $2000 and although the existing models can handle HDCP 2.2 they STILL do not have the ability to pass through HDR signals.

drny's picture

This is the lot in life for many of us early adopters. New formats always mean new gear for the most part. Firmware update are an after the fact upgrade only.
I myself purchased (back in April) the brand new on the market Samsung UHD player, knowing full well that Oppo would come through with the real deal down the road (Oppo 103). I agree with Al, the better option for the individual who made the inquiry, is to purchase a Samsung UHD player or better yet purchase the new Oppo 103 UHD player.
I will not be upgrading my receiver any time soon. I also love my Yamaha receiver, but receivers tend to have a 2-3 year life shelf at most.
Spliters are loosing gamble as they can seriously degrade the quality of your signal, whether video or audio.