Should I Use the Coax or HDMI Output On My BD Player for Hi-Res Audio?

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Q I have a new Sony UBP-X1100ES Ultra HD Blu-ray player and Denon receiver. I know I can use a coaxial digital connection between the player and receiver for playback of regular CDs. Can I use the same connection to pass high-res audio formats like SACD and DVD-Audio to the receiver, or do I need an HDMI cable for that? —John Huxhold, Manchester, MO

A You will need to use either an HDMI or an analog stereo connection between the Ultra HD Blu-ray player and your receiver. The Sony’s coaxial digital connection only supports output of standard Dolby Digital and DTS bitstreams, along with the two-channel PCM digital audio found on CDs, while its HDMI output will pass the multichannel high-resolution digital audio contained on SACD and DVD-Audio discs.

Depending on the capabilities of your external gear, you can configure the player to pass the SACD data in bitstream format (for decoding by the receiver). The other option is to configure the player to first convert the DSD on SACDs to a multichannel PCM format, which is also used by DVD-Audio discs.

If HDMI isn’t an option for you, you can still listen to high-res audio on SACD and DVD-Audio discs using the Sony’s RCA analog stereo connection. In this case, however, any multichannel mixes on disc will be downconverted to a two-channel format for output.

Puffer Belly's picture

You don't state which model AVR you have, so here are some general guidelines:

- DSD is not allowed through S/PDIF connections because of Sony's license restrictions (Sony owns SACD and DSD). PCM from CDs, DVD-A/V, BD-A/V is allowed although your AVR may limit the sampling rate to 48 or 96 kHz and not allow higher rates (have the player convert higher sampling rates to the AVR's maximum sampling rate).
- If your AVR doesn't decode DSD, then have the player convert it to PCM and then it can be passed through S/PDIF, although some players may still block it because the PCM came from DSD.
- DSD can be passed through HDMI if your AVR decodes DSD, otherwise, convert it to PCM and have the AVR play the PCM.
- The last option is the analog stereo-only connections; if your player has a DAC that is better than the AVR's, this option may sound the best.