Should I Replace Optical Connection between Soundbar and TV with HDMI?

ljsummerlin

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Jul 29, 2014
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I have a Sony soundbar system with wireless subwoofer and rear speakers (HT-RT5). When we first got it, we had to use both an HDMI cable and an optical cable to connect to our TV because that TV didn’t support ARC. Our Blu Ray player and PS4 were connected directly to the soundbar. Later we got a new TV and paid to have it wall mounted / cables run through the wall. They set it up with the HDMI cables from the BluRay and PS4 going to the TV and only an optical connection between the TV and Soundbar. This has been a little more convenient for operation, because before we had to both select the device (BluRay, PS4) on the TV and also set the soundbar to the right connection. Now we leave the soundbar on the TV setting and just choose the device on the TV.
Recently we had some audio issues with BluRay playback (caused by accidentally changing some settings on the BluRay player). In the course of figuring that out, I realized a couple of things:
1) I can’t seem to pull up the menu for the soundbar on our TV. I wanted to see if any software updates are needed or if any settings should be adjusted, but apparently an HDMI connection is needed to display the soundbar menu and settings on the TV. Right now we have only an optical connection between the soundbar and the TV.
2) Our new TV supports ARC. I think that means that we can use an HDMI cable instead of the optical cable between the soundbar and the TV. Aside from access to the soundbar settings on the TV, is there a reason to change from the optical cable to HDMI? I read that optical connections can’t handle 5.1 surround sound, Dolby Digital Plus etc. Right now I guess I am getting 2 channel sound . If I replace the optical connection between the soundbar and TV with HDMI, could I get real surround sound? Note that I don’t have a separate AV receiver. Soundbar specs say that 5.1 is supported – the system is a soundbar, wireless (but powered) subwoofer and wireless (but powered) rear speakers (Sony HT-RT5). TV is Samsung NU8000 line.
Obviously I don’t have a super high end system but would like to get the best possible sound out of it.
(Eventually we hope to upgrade to an actual home theater system with separate AV receiver, but our house is slab floor construction, so running wires will be an effort. Waiting to do that together with a lighting upgrade, but it will likely be a year or two.)
 
Yes they both need to be in bitstream to get 5.1. It might work if you select the standard Dolby Digital audio on the disc menu.
The TV can't output Dolby TrueHD over optical or the current version of ARC (eARC which is starting to show up does pass TrueHD and Atmos). HDMI is the only way to do it so connect the BD player to the HDMI input on the HTS and the HTS HDMI out to the TV. Since you now have an HDMI cable from the soundbar to the TV you may as well use it for ARC too.
 
Since your soundbar can handle lossless audio codecs like Dolby TrueHD then there may be a noticeable difference but only when you playback a blueray disc if you connect the HDMI output to the soundbar instead of the TV.
For 5.1 codecs like Dolby Digital optical is fine. If your TV is set to output in bitstream then you will get 5.1.
If you want to access the on-screen menu of the soundbar it has to be connected to a TV. You could run a temporary cable to the TV.
 

ljsummerlin

Estimable
Jul 29, 2014
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4,510
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@americanaudiophole, Thank you for the information! Right now my TV is set to bitstream for digital audio input. However, my BluRay player is set to PCM for digital audio output. I was looking at the BluRay player settings over the weekend and tried to change the digital audio output to bitstream, but with this setting, sometimes I had no audio. (Playing a BluRay disc, the previews were fine - with audio - but when I played the movie in English, there was no sound. Oddly, I did get sound playing the movie in other languages,) I've changed the BluRay player back to PCM for now.

Do I need both the TV and the BluRay player set to bitstream to get 5.1?

Also, just to make sure I understand, you said that to get DolbyTrueHD, I'd have to connect the BluRay player HDMI to the soundbar instead of the TV. Is that because the TV doesn't support Dolby/TrueHD / lossless audio codecs?

Thanks so much for the help!
 
Yes they both need to be in bitstream to get 5.1. It might work if you select the standard Dolby Digital audio on the disc menu.
The TV can't output Dolby TrueHD over optical or the current version of ARC (eARC which is starting to show up does pass TrueHD and Atmos). HDMI is the only way to do it so connect the BD player to the HDMI input on the HTS and the HTS HDMI out to the TV. Since you now have an HDMI cable from the soundbar to the TV you may as well use it for ARC too.
 
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