Panasonic TV + Playbar combination question

  • 17 October 2016
  • 7 replies


Just picked up a Playbar from Amazon which is arriving today - been doing some reading around on the whole DD5.1 vs DTS support argument. I'm not precious over exactly what format my audio is in, but eventually I'll be adding 5.1 support by adding a sub and some rear speakers so I'm looking for the easiest/best way of achieving true 5.1 surround from my living room setup.

I have a Panasonic AS650B TV, hooked up to an Amazon Fire TV (new one supporting 5.1), and an LG BP556 blu-ray player. The playbar is replacing a Philips Fidelio B5 which I've had a lot of issues with, but it did take all the inputs and handle all the audio decoding etc seamlessly so I didn't need to worry about it at all.

So my main question is, how do I ensure that I get 5.1 surround whenever possible using my current setup? The manual for my TV states that there are 2 options for audio output via SPDIF - Auto and PCM. Auto states that DD, DD Plus, HE-AAC multi-channel are all output as DD bitstream, and DTS is output as DTS. Whereas PCM states that "Digital Output is fixed as PCM".

My understanding is that PCM can actually mean multi-channel 5.1, so if this is correct I take it the playbar should be able to handle this and sort it out with the surround speakers? If so, which option am I best to use do we think? I don't think many of my sources are DTS based, the Fire TV as far as I can tell is DD5.1, at least that's what always showed up on the Fidelio system as the input stream. I don't have many blu rays yet, but I take it this is down to the individual disc as to what format the sound is in, and so I can always make sure to buy DD versions if possible?

The only complication is that I'm potentially swapping the Fire TV for an NVIDIA Shield TV, as I'm fed up of the netflix bug on the Fire where it constantly needs the app re-installing and is a major pain in the ass. I also have an Xbox 360 that gets used occasionally for games, so hopefully that's supported as well, but not the end of the world if games are only in stereo.

Thanks in advance, looking forward to joining the sonos ecosystem!

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7 replies

PCM is actually stereo. You'd want to use the 'Auto' setting on the TV.

Some (many) TVs won't pass through DD from an HDMI input. If you find this to be the case you'd need to invest in an external switch that sends audio directly to the PLAYBAR without passing through the TV. The most straightforward option is to use an HDMI switch capable of extracting the audio as S/PDIF.

Thanks for clearing that up. I've received my playbar now, and leaving the setting on auto is working great for the TV's built in apps.

However, the built in apps are a bit laggy and slow, and don't seem to produce the same picture quality as the Netflix app on the Fire TV. My problem is I can't get the Fire TV to output DD5.1. I've tried all possible settings and the playbar only ever detects stereo input.

Does anyone know if this is even possible with the gen 1 Fire TV? (I thought it was gen 2, but it's not 😞 ) I'm not 100% certain if it's the Fire TV, or my Panasonic TV that is preventing the 5.1 passthrough, as there are options in the Fire to send 5.1 output through both the optical and HDMI cables, but as I say neither seem to work.

Ok scrap that, I was assuming that as the native TV apps could output 5.1 that the fire would be able to as well, but I don't think my TV can pass through the 5.1 as my dvd player also outputs stereo after the pass through the TV.

So I'm going to need a hdmi switch with optical out, preferably one that can handle as many formats as possible, as well as 4k in future if I upgrade my TV. Any suggestions for purchases in the UK?
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I don't believe there are any HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 compatible HDMI switches with optical output at this time, so thinking ahead for 4K support is a fruitless effort at this time. Technically HDMI 1.4 supports 2160P, though only at 30 frames per second though, but nearly everything sending out 4K signals now requires HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2.

I know availability of products in the UK differs from here in the States so I'm not going to try and recommend something, but I know there are others here that have purchased HDMI 1.4 three or four input HDMI switches with optical output from Amazon. Since it sounds like you aren't fond of using the TV's bulit-in apps, you can probably get one without ARC (audio return channel) support... which has been a problematic feature for some that did get switches with it.

Thanks for that. I'm not particularly clued up with AV as you can tell!

I guess if I upgrade to a 4k TV I can get one that supports 5.1 passthrough anyway so no big issue there. Would something like the following work do you think?

I'll want to control it with my logitech harmony remote, and according to the logitech website these Tendak switches appear to be supported!

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It looks like that switch would work. Has one HDMI output (with ARC support, if you use your TV's apps or tuner), four inputs, and the optical output (along with coaxial, not that you need it). Make sure that it is always set to 5.1 audio, otherwise it will only output stereo.

I have the current Panasonic DX750 model and have found that although it does support pass-through of a 5.1 signal from HDMI sources it is unusable as is inserts a very large delay into the audio. The delay is apparent both through the internal speakers or a Soundbar attached to the optical output when the HDMI audio option is set to bitstream rather than PCM (stereo). The retailer has replaced the set as Panasonic suspected a hardware fault but it came as no surprise t me that the second one was identical. I have reproduced the issue with multiple source devices and cables. With the HDMI Audio setting set to PCM the audio is perfectly in sync, with it set to bitstream the delay kicks in. With the Sonos connected directly to a BlueRay player and the TV speakers set to bitstream the size of the delay can be heard on the video linked below. This is very disappointing as one of my reasons to upgrade to this set was to get rid of the optical switch I had in my previous setup. This is not a Sonos issue, they would need to invent a time machine to be able to fix this!