How Do I Get the Best Picture and Sound From an Apple TV 4K?

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Q I just bought the new Apple TV 4K streaming box and am wondering how to get the best picture and sound from it. My system consists of an LG OLED Ultra HDTV and a Marantz SR7010 receiver. Should I route the signal from the box through my Marantz receiver via HDMI, or connect it directly to the TV? —Mike Franchek

A I would connect the Apple TV 4K directly to your TV — for now. Here’s why.

One of the key features of the new Apple TV 4K is its support for Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR) video. Since your LG OLED supports Dolby Vision (presuming it’s a newer Ultra HDTV model), the Apple TV 4K should automatically detect that capability and send signals to the TV in the Dolby Vision format. Here’s the rub: while your Marantz SR7010 receiver has HDMI 2.0a connections that are capable of passing signals in the HDR10 high dynamic range (HDR) format, it isn’t Dolby Vision-compatible. Marantz has announced a firmware update to change that situation, but it won’t be available for the SR7010 until at least 2018.

Your Marantz receiver may not be Dolby Vision-compatible (yet), but it does support the Dolby Atmos object-based soundtrack format. Unfortunately, the new Apple TV 4K does not! For that reason, it won’t be a loss to route surround sound audio back to the receiver via an HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) link when the Apple TV 4K is connected directly to the LG. Downsides? Depending on your TV (and 2016 and earlier LG OLED models are reportedly on the list), sound quality will be limited to regular Dolby Digital when using an HDMI ARC connection, instead of the higher-quality Dolby Digital Plus format offered by many streaming services.

Of course, you could always run the Apple TV 4K’s output through your Marantz receiver. The catch there would be no Dolby Vision, though you would still be able to watch programs in the HDR10 high dynamic range format. One upside: the Apple TV 4K supports Dolby Digital Plus, so you’d at least get a sound quality boost.

COMMENTS
jnemesh's picture

It's just complicating an already complicated process in upgrading to UHD, and the benefits vs. the OPEN AND STANDARD HDR10 are not proven in the real world.

drny's picture

Al is completely correct in advising those with Apple TV, or Roku for that matter to connect signal from Apple TV straight to the display by passing the receiver.
I would add that this is the way to go with all HDMI connection sending video signal straight to TV. Thereafter audio out from TV via an optical is the better option. I would also suggest the use an HDMI powered splitter. That is from Apple TV connect HDMI output to powered splitter.
Just a suggestion

JustinGN's picture

"Thereafter audio out from TV via an optical is the better option."

Negative. Optical Digital has long been surpassed by HDMI, and Optical won't return a Dolby Digital Plus signal, only DD and DTS standard signals from TVs (assuming the TV even supports DTS).

Dolby Atmos, DD+, TrueHD, etc, cannot be passed via Optical. I'd avoid it at all costs on modern gear, personally, unless you absolutely need it for retro gear like digital cassette.

JustinGN's picture

I've got a different take on the situation from Al, who pretty much hits the nail on the head with his core argument. The problem is that no LG OLED sets have a 12-bit panel for accurately reproducing the Dolby Vision color range, meaning the only part of the standard any given set out there can reproduce accurately is its contrast and/or brightness requirements.

Given that you can't enjoy 12-bit Dolby Vision color anyway, and OLED sets still can't reach the brightness to suitable enjoy Dolby Vision, I'd personally suggest connecting the AppleTV straight through your Marantz receiver for now. That way you won't have to reconfigure it when the Marantz does support Dolby Vision passthrough, and you'll get all the benefits of Dolby Atmos (when added in a future update, per Apple) and DD+ audio in the meantime, without having to fuss with ARC (which, in my experience, is incredibly fussy to the point of not being worthwhile for folks with dedicated AVRs/theaters, but only to smaller setups geared around soundbars; but that's my highly subjective opinion on the matter).

Dolby Vision is awesome on paper, and on the few pieces of equipment that fully support and reproduce the spec. Your LG OLED panel almost certainly isn't one of them, so going through the Marantz should be fine. If you're really concerned, plug it directly into the TV with some Dolby Vision and HDR10 source material, give it a try, and then compare it with that same material being run through the Marantz. If you see a discernible difference, go with Al's suggestion! If not, then there's no harm sticking with the Marantz.

Either way, YouTube won't play in 4K, which is probably the bigger issue you'll have at the end of the day!

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