Blu Ray player that converts to Dolby Digital 5.1

  • 24 March 2016
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56 replies

Thank you for the additional information about codec licensing, most informative.
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I sincerely doubt the new Apple TV will have TOSLINK, even Amazon didn't bother on the 4k FireTV - they expect anybody using one to have compatible audio.

The problem with codecs is licensing. To add AC-3 to a device, you have to license it from Dolby. To add E-AC-3 you need another license which adds to costs.

The AC-3 licensing is fairly open, you can decode AC-3 into a bitstream and do what you like with it. The Sonos mesh allows you to pipe the decoded audio into another room. So you can watch a movie or TV in DD5.1 in the LIving Room and hear the sound in the next room through the Sonos player in there.

DTS licensing is a lot more restrictive. You can decode DTS locally on the device and output it to local speakers, but cannot output anywhere else. To do so requires a second license. For Sonos to support DTS, they would need to purchase a DTS license for every Sonos player ever made. Clearly the costs outweighed the benefit.

Several similar soundbar products also skip DTS, likely for similar reasons. If you've for a sound bar and wireless surround speaker, you likely need a DTS license for all of them. In Sonos' case, the wireless surround is the music speaker, adding to complication.

I'm not familiar with DD+ licensing, but I expect it may be similar to the DTS licensing - otherwise I expect it would be more widely adopted.

We're going to see the same thing happen with HDR video formats - Samsung refuse to pay for Dolby Vision.
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Any DD+ source is required to send an AC-3 stream as well by its very nature - it contains an AC-3 bitstream with extensions (hence E-AC-3). Most things, including a 15 year old receiver I know of, will read a DD+ as a DD stream if it's output over TOSLINK... Sonos does not. No idea why, but it doesn't.

A lower bandwidth DD+ bitstream over TOSLINK is still the same bitstream as a Blu-Ray uses with DD+, so it's as close to, "Full quality," as you're likely to get. Particularly with surround content with heavy use of the rear channels, there's a big difference in performance over ordinary Dolby Digital.

I definitely agree about the Apple TV though - and the next generation may not even have TOSLINK out at this point. HDMI is much more Apple-like, with a single AV cable, which would leave Sonos scrambling.
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There is minimal benefit to allowing PLAYBAR to receive a low quality DD+ signal over optical. It should support the full quality, otherwise where is the benefit? Any broadcaster sending DD+ is likely to also send a standard AC3 stream along with it.

The game changer here is going to be when Apple announces the new Apple TV set top box. Currently Apple are well behind the game, they don't support 4k, HDR or modern audio codecs. The new TV box will sort this and create a product the Sonos care about. They've never really cared for disc owners, they're a streaming company, so they see the future of PLAYBAR as Netflix, Amazon Prime etc.

Sonos has always wanted to appeal to the Apple crowd - iPhone controller came well before Android, they supported iTunes from day one, they added ALAC support, they even created an iPhone dock product. They watch Apple and follow what they do.

When Sonos owners start buying the new Apple TV device it will make Sonos step back and go "does this work with our kit?" The answer will be "not very well".
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DD+ would be a big help.

Or if you don't have the rears, you can just use LPCM or analog - much easier. :)


DD+ isn't going to happen without HDMI.


Technically TOSLINK can and does carry DD+ as well as DTS-HD HR, at least up to the Blu-Ray bandwidth of both, it's just a very unusual implementation (and on no consumer audio gear that I know of). But I have a TV that will happily output it over POF.

But, yes, HDMI is the way to go to remain relevant. Even on AVRs, the optical and coax digital audio ports are already disappearing in favor of more HDMI, with unbalanced analog audio handily outnumbering the digital audio inputs - which was definitely not the case 5-10 years ago.
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DD+ would be a big help.

Or if you don't have the rears, you can just use LPCM or analog - much easier. :)


DD+ isn't going to happen without HDMI.
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You can be fairly confident that any new product Sonos releases in the near future will not support DTS. There isn't any technical reason the existing PLAYBAR won't do it now, it's purely a licensing limitation.DD+ would be a big help.

Or if you don't have the rears, you can just use LPCM or analog - much easier. 🙂
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Oh, it won't be in my favour, I know. I have this gut feeling that Sonos are going to bring out a revised Playbar which will address the latest codec issues. When is another question entirely. Though I am one of those people who have taken the offer of buying on a 100 day return basis, and I need to decide very soon if I am going to keep it or not.
As a sceptic, I am now wondering if this 100 day thing is a last push to get rid of the existing stock in readiness for their replacements.


You can be fairly confident that any new product Sonos releases in the near future will not support DTS. There isn't any technical reason the existing PLAYBAR won't do it now, it's purely a licensing limitation.
The hundred day offer has been around for ages.
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Oh, it won't be in my favour, I know. I have this gut feeling that Sonos are going to bring out a revised Playbar which will address the latest codec issues. When is another question entirely. Though I am one of those people who have taken the offer of buying on a 100 day return basis, and I need to decide very soon if I am going to keep it or not.
As a sceptic, I am now wondering if this 100 day thing is a last push to get rid of the existing stock in readiness for their replacements.
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The trouble is everything is "just a matter of time". We buy something today, and before you get it home, it's out of date or being made obsolete by some whizo new device. (slight exaggeration here, I admit).
I didn't say they'd fix the existing product - I said they'd do something. It doesn't mean it's something you'll like. 😉
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The trouble is everything is "just a matter of time". We buy something today, and before you get it home, it's out of date or being made obsolete by some whizo new device. (slight exaggeration here, I admit).
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Not so unbelievable! My Samsung TV won't pass ANY signal from my Panasonic Blu Ray player to the Playbar. I've done the same as you and used an optical splitter. The TV will pass DD5:1 from Apple TV, Sky Box and just about anything else.
Even so, I still can't get DD5:1 onto the Playbar, only PCM as my Blu Ray won't convert, so I am now trying to make up my mind if I will get a new Blu Ray player. We do seem to mainly watch streamed stuff these days, but it would still be nice to have the option to use Blu Rays and get the best I can from them. Decisions, decisions!

At the end of the day, with Dolby Digital being rapidly deprecated, Sonos is going to have to do something. There is no requirement for DD on a Blu-Ray disc, or indeed any audio formats supported by Sonos - leaving you with transcoding only. Streaming services are also starting to drop DD in favor of DD+. It's just a matter of time. 🙂
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Samsung BD-H6500 converts dts to Dolby 5.1. I’ve connected it to an optical splitter (CYP AUD-41) so that I can connect it directly to my Playbase. This is because my Samsung TV doesn’t pass the Dolby signal from the Samsung DVD player to the optical out. (However it does pass the Dolby signal from an Apple TV.) Unbelievable I know.
Not so unbelievable! My Samsung TV won't pass ANY signal from my Panasonic Blu Ray player to the Playbar. I've done the same as you and used an optical splitter. The TV will pass DD5:1 from Apple TV, Sky Box and just about anything else.
Even so, I still can't get DD5:1 onto the Playbar, only PCM as my Blu Ray won't convert, so I am now trying to make up my mind if I will get a new Blu Ray player. We do seem to mainly watch streamed stuff these days, but it would still be nice to have the option to use Blu Rays and get the best I can from them. Decisions, decisions!
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My BD-H6500 sounds fantastic with my Playbase even when it converts dts to Dolby.

Thanks, they look a great buy for the money so will go with one (proven to downmix to 5.1 as well).

All I'm after is a nice clean simple system with a decent sound to it, not the best of the best!. I'm sure DTS on a full system is thing to behold but for my living room Sonos Playbar with Sub and possibly a pair of Play 1's will be more than adequate.


The point is that the full system costs less than the limited Sonos offering!

Anyway, if you're looking for a Samsung blu-ray, it's worth looking at eBay. I paid good money for a Samsung blu-ray that was Sonos compatible, then had to buy again when I wanted one which supported 3D. By third time around, when I wanted 4k, I decided to look at them on eBay - got one that was "nearly new" that may as well have been brand new when I got it. Saved about £100 vs. a new one.

My old one is likely to be heading to eBay soon. Actually, my 4k one may go back there as I'm looking at a player that supports Dolby Vision - none of the Samsung players do.
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My BD-H6500 sounds fantastic with my Playbase even when it converts dts to Dolby.

Thanks, they look a great buy for the money so will go with one (proven to downmix to 5.1 as well).

All I'm after is a nice clean simple system with a decent sound to it, not the best of the best!. I'm sure DTS on a full system is thing to behold but for my living room Sonos Playbar with Sub and possibly a pair of Play 1's will be more than adequate.
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My wife can also hear the difference, particularly on the back channels, as DD's rear channels usually end up far more compressed than the front so they don't even have the volume necessary to equal what DTS puts out. To even it out, you can run the rear channels about 1-3 db overamplified. And this one is easy to do an A/B for, you can simply flip the audio track back and forth on a player.

However I doubt that on most material I'd be able to tell the difference on a playbar/playbase, they can't really reproduce enough detail to begin with ... but that's why all of my larger TVs go into AVRs with real surround sound systems tailored to the room in question.


Indeed, ultimately on DD you've got 640kbps between 6 channels. It's not a lot. If you run the 3 front channels at 180kbps each (still lower than DTS) you've only got 100kbps left over for both rears and the sub. It's just not enough.

I guess in most cases, customers are more than happy with PLAYBAR/PLAYBASE as it's the best home cinema system they've ever heard. As the old James record Sit Down goes "if I hadn't seen such riches, I could live with being poor".
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Actually, the pops and clicks were from a magnetic multi-channel strip on 70mm prints - a pretty esoteric format. Magnetics on film were and are a rare commodity.

Dolby Digital actually uses a 2D barcode to imprint the data between the sprocket holes (it's was the only space left on the film). It's actually digital, and contains error correction, so there are no pops and hisses or other issues. SDDS used the area outside of the sprocket holes, and DTS shipped separately on CDs and synced up using a timecode imprinted just inside of the optical audio tracks. Wikipedia has a great visual of it:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolby_Digital#/media/File:35mm_film_audio_macro.jpg


Superb info, thanks - I appear to have merged two memories into one!
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What double blind listening tests have you undertaken? Bet you will be completly, and utterly unable to tell the difference.
If my wife can hear the difference, anybody can :D

My wife can also hear the difference, particularly on the back channels, as DD's rear channels usually end up far more compressed than the front so they don't even have the volume necessary to equal what DTS puts out. To even it out, you can run the rear channels about 1-3 db overamplified. And this one is easy to do an A/B for, you can simply flip the audio track back and forth on a player.

However I doubt that on most material I'd be able to tell the difference on a playbar/playbase, they can't really reproduce enough detail to begin with ... but that's why all of my larger TVs go into AVRs with real surround sound systems tailored to the room in question.
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In technical terms, they used to fit Dolby Digital onto a bit of magnetic strip at the bottom of the film in the cinema. As the projector shone the light through the frame, it also read the audio information back from the "tape". This tape didn't have enough quality for DTS, which had to be delivered on a separate audio CD which was played back in parallel with the movie. Not only was it higher quality, it also eliminated static clicks and pops that the tape source occasionally produced.
Actually, the pops and clicks were from a magnetic multi-channel strip on 70mm prints - a pretty esoteric format. Magnetics on film were and are a rare commodity.

Dolby Digital actually uses a 2D barcode to imprint the data between the sprocket holes (it's was the only space left on the film). It's actually digital, and contains error correction, so there are no pops and hisses or other issues. SDDS used the area outside of the sprocket holes, and DTS shipped separately on CDs and synced up using a timecode imprinted just inside of the optical audio tracks. Wikipedia has a great visual of it:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolby_Digital#/media/File:35mm_film_audio_macro.jpg
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What double blind listening tests have you undertaken? Bet you will be completly, and utterly unable to tell the difference.


I think it's well documented that the jump from 128kbps to 256kbps is quite audible. As the source becomes more complicated, the compression becomes more noticeable - e.g. a track with a single guitar would compress better than a guitar and a saxophone playing concurrently. When it comes to movie audio, you may often hear speech, car engines, explosions and music concurrently. This is extremely hard to squash into a low bitrate - like trying to fit a full orchestra into a lift.

If my wife can hear the difference, anybody can :D

In technical terms, they used to fit Dolby Digital onto a bit of magnetic strip at the bottom of the film in the cinema. As the projector shone the light through the frame, it also read the audio information back from the "tape". This tape didn't have enough quality for DTS, which had to be delivered on a separate audio CD which was played back in parallel with the movie. Not only was it higher quality, it also eliminated static clicks and pops that the tape source occasionally produced.
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Worth mentioning that the conversion from DTS to Dolby Digital isn't lossless - it's much lower quality.

DTS 5.1 has about 256kbps per channel, Dolby Digital just 128kbps - so it won't sound anything like as good as the original DTS source.

Obviously this is subjective, it may be good enough for you, but in my experience converting to DD 5.1 is quite a compromise.


What double blind listening tests have you undertaken? Bet you will be completly, and utterly unable to tell the difference.
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Lipsync drove me mad for many years, using 2 different TVs. All resolved now I've replaced the PLAYBAR with a problem AV receiver.
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Worth mentioning that the conversion from DTS to Dolby Digital isn't lossless - it's much lower quality.

DTS 5.1 has about 256kbps per channel, Dolby Digital just 128kbps - so it won't sound anything like as good as the original DTS source.

Obviously this is subjective, it may be good enough for you, but in my experience converting to DD 5.1 is quite a compromise.
My BD-H6500 sounds fantastic with my Playbase even when it converts dts to Dolby.