Will My Older A/V Receiver Pass 4K to My New TV?

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Q I have an older Pioneer VSX-820 receiver (circa 2010) and currently have my 4K Roku streaming stick plugged in to one of its HDMI inputs, with the receiver’s HDMI output connected to my 1080p-resolution HDTV. I plan to upgrade to an Ultra HDTV (Vizio M65Q7-J01). Here’s my question: If I continue to connect my Roku stick to the receiver, will it pass a 4K signal to the new TV? If not, is my best bet for audio to connect the Vizio TV to my receiver via its optical digital audio output? — Chris Murphy, via email

A To answer your first question, no, your Roku streaming stick will not be able to pass a 4K video signal through the Pioneer VSX-820 receiver. The HDMI 1.4 connections on older receivers like yours use an outmoded version of HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) that doesn’t support passthough of protected 4K video content. Back when the 4K/Ultra HD video format started ramping up in the middle of the last decade, the HDMI 2.0 connections that started to appear on components like Ultra HD Blu-ray players, satellite and cable boxes, AVRs, and TVs were accompanied by a new flavor of HDCP. This new version, 2.2, was developed specifically to protect 4K video content in the Ultra HD era, and it required support from all devices in the signal chain, from the player to the AVR to the video display.

Now for your second question. While you won’t be able to send 4K video from the Roku streamer through your Pioneer receiver to the new 4K TV, you could connect it directly to the set and, as you suggest, route 5.1 Dolby Digital audio back to the receiver using an optical digital connection. The Vizio TV you’re planning to buy also supports HDMI ARC/eARC (Audio Return Channel/enhanced Audio Return Channel), which enables the output of audio signals from the TV back to the receiver via an HDMI connection. But taking advantage of that connection option requires a receiver with an HDMI ARC/eARC-compatible port, and your Pioneer doesn’t support that feature.

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