DD 5.1 from U-Verse STB via HDMI
HI! This is for jesterjr as well as the unusually responsive and helpful (for service reps) Technician who has been trying to help resolve this issue. I have a back ground in Home Theater installations---more the hardware (hookup) part than programming or custom construction sides. From what I have been able to learn, through a lot of trial, error, and online forums, the problem being experienced here* is not Samsung's fault and I don't believe anything they do can fix it. (*jesterjr said he was able to get DD via HDMI from his U-Verse Set Top Box [STB] into his TV and using the TV's optical output, send the digital bitstream back to his receiver, until a firmware update on the TV caused the 5.1 bitstream to drop to Stereo.) I have only JUST added the AT&T U-verse STB to my home theater and have learned, the hard way, that AT&T is not sending the full digital audio out via the HDMI output. While the cable is capable of it, the STB only sends DD, or 5.1 audio, via it's optical (Toslink or SPDIF) output. The length of the threads on ATT's sites discussing why customers can "see" (hear) DD via their receivers, which usually show some kind of display to inform you that it is seeing the 5.1 feed, go on and on. The people who have narrowed down the problem to the fact that the STB isn't even sending DD via HDMI have suggested using the optical connection in tandem WITH the HDMI cable. This will work if your receiver will allow you to assign an optical input to the same source as the HDMI input, but usually, it seems the audio coming from the HDMI cable "overrides" the digital signal coming in via the Toslink (opt.) cable. An alternative option seems to be using the optical cable for audio, and a component (Red, Green, Blue RCA) cable. This generally means you have to change inputs on the TV as well as the receiver, creating more headache. ATT cust support (Tier 1) told me today, after checking with someone higher up, that they ARE working to resolve this issue (it DOES seem to be well known) within 2009. Considering that the reason DVI went away to be replaced by HDMI was because the later ADDED audio, in particular, the digital bitstream, the delay in executing this upgrade, which should be simply firmware, is inexcusable. The posts complaining about this stretch back to the very beginning of U-verse's release. There are other "handshake" issues with audio drop-outs and picture problems related to all the different HDMI formats in the industry (particularly problems involving DRM and HDCP--look those up if you want even MORE information overload), but this problem seems a rather small one. My Pioneer Elite up-converting DVD player has the option to send the DD stream via HDMI OR optical (or digital coax) outputs--all chosen quite simply in the setup menu. No such menu seems to exist on the U-Verse STB.
As for the occasional few who seem to think they are, in fact, seeing DD via HDMI from their STB, I propose that they have their surround settings set to Pro Logic II or some other format that will make use of the 5.1 (or even 7.1) speakers in their system by simulating a surround track from a stereo (Linear PCM) feed. I've done side by side comparisons of the same live, HD show, and while PL II will give you sound from all the speakers, it is not the actual DD bitstream, and it doesn't sound AS impressive as the original, of course. I'm heading to the AT&T shop tonight to see about what I can find out as far as why I'm paying an additional $10/month for my HD pictures, but can't get the DD unless I use an additional optical cable.
I have not resolved the question of whether or not you can push resolutions greater than 720p via component cables...I think you can go up to 1080i (which is U-verse's limit--and I think Satellite and Cable, too). But I know the simplification of using a single cable from each device into the receiver and out to one input on the TV is a HUGE deal. Shoot, even my Vista Media PC has an HDMI output with DD out. I sure hope ATT gets their act together. I also help this little dissertation helps some people out there. Huge kudos to the Samsung tech for trying to help Jesterjr out. Samsung TV's seem to be getting bad reps on the street due to "lag time" on start up, and some handshake issues, but at least somebody at their end is trying to keep us customers happy. FYI, the complaints about the tv's are NOT about picture quality...just software and firmware issues. I can be reached at yahoo with my same screen name, if anyone wants to pick my brain one-on-one (or point out errors or omissions), if you really want. I'm in the Chicago area and have a Sceptre 46" LCD that I bought new from TigerDirect right after Thanksgiving. It has a couple shortcomings, but the price couldn't be beat for the size and the pic is really quite nice.
I'll try to follow up if I find out anything else.
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