AppleTV/Surround Sound Set Up Inquiry

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by JoltinJoeIV, Jan 20, 2015.

  1. JoltinJoeIV macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2015
    #1
    Hi all,

    Bit of background on my set-up:
    HDTV with 4 HDMI inputs (cable box, AppleTV, Bluray/surround sound, WiiU) and optical audio from TV to Bluray/surround sound unit for audio from whichever HDMI input is selected.

    My (self-created) problem is that I cannot AirPlay to AppleTV when TV is off or on a non-AppleTV HDMI input. I realized I need to take advantage of the optical audio out on AppleTV, bypass the TV, and go right for the Bluray/surround sound unit (confirmed by yanking optical audio from TV and inserting to AppleTV - AirPlay works with TV off). But, alas, there is only one optical audio port that is occupied by the TV (which is my priority).

    So, what are my options? I'm thinking either split the optical audio from the surround sound unit to go to TV and AppleTV OR pick up an optical audio to digital audio coax converter (or is it available as a single cable?). Also, would having the two audio outputs (HDMI and optical) pose a problem when watching, say Netflix, on the AppleTV?

    Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks!
     
  2. HobeSoundDarryl, Jan 20, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2015

    HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 603

    HobeSoundDarryl

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2004
    Location:
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    #2
    You got a lot of stuff going there.

    If you have some dollars, what you are seeking is best covered by a dedicated product called a receiver. You don't have to go crazy here (there are $5K and higher receivers out there) but if you could get one that gives you all of the inputs and outputs you need now PLUS extras for what you can possibly imagine you'll need in the next couple of years, THAT is the best way to go to completely address this in a very full way.

    Refurbished receivers can be had if new ones cost too much.

    "Open box" receivers from stores are about as good as new... especially with the same warranty as new.

    Previous generation models on clearance are often packed with almost every feature of the brand new models.

    Used receivers can be purchased for even less but be more careful that it completely works.

    If none of that can work for you, it's generally not a good option to try to make the TV jacks do anything. Digital optical out of a TV will generally take any surround signal it receives and convert it down to stereo. So trying to use the jacks in your TV for any kind of signal switching is probably the WRONG way to go. General rule: minimize cables running to the TV. General rule #2: think of the TV as the end of a signal chain: maybe running only 1 HDMI cable to it + (maybe) one ethernet cable if it's a "smart TV" (but not wifi enabled).

    If you are really financially pinched such that there's no way to buy any receiver, since you have only one optical in for surround audio, you're going to need to get an "optical in" switch box so that you can choose from the various sources that can deliver surround audio and route it into the ONE jack you have. This is like taking one small function of a receiver and breaking it out to a separate little box. Not the greatest option but it can work and you can probably find one where you can switch sources with a remote for <$30-50. Do searches like "2 to 1 optical audio switch" and similar on Amazon.

    Again, with anything along these lines, be sure to consider the future. For instance, right now maybe you only need 2 into 1 optical but what about when you add that next thing. Maybe it would be better to go ahead and get 3 or 4 into 1 if you go this (not-a-receiver) route.

    Again, bypass the TV. So this would be optical audio from :apple:TV to this 2-4 jack optical switch. The one "optical out" would then go straight to the Blu Ray/Surround sound "optical in" jack.

    If even that's a pinch, you can do the cheapest option which would be tag your cables and go back there and unplug & switch manually. Hopefully that won't be your best option.

    I really suggest you go with a receiver (with your best cut at future proofing). There are many fairly low-cost receivers that have airplay built in too. But most importantly, you can route all of your cables to the receiver, have one HDMI out to the TV and do all your surround sound switching and speaker driving from this particular new toy. You might spend $100-$300 on the low end but it is THE best way to completely cover this base. If you can afford $400-$800, there are fantastic quality receivers even in that price range. Look up some reviews and you'll likely find a great one for less than you might expect.

    Personally, I look at receivers like the HUB of a whole A/V setup. A good one can serve you for many years, even when you add various other A/V hardware that you don't even know you want yet. Switchers, etc, while cheaper, are a kludge solution that only seems to become more and more of a hassle as you add future A/V stuff and realize you should have purchased the one with an extra jack or you now need a switcher with the other standard, and so on. Receivers other than the cheapest units usually have jack overkill to cover what you have and what you'll add in the future (and still have open jacks).
     
  3. takeshi74, Jan 20, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2015

    takeshi74 macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2011
    #3
  4. JoltinJoeIV thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2015
    #4
    Thanks very much for the thorough answer. I guess I will need to look into receivers, which is kind of more than I wanted to bite off right now.

    Thanks again!
     
  5. HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 603

    HobeSoundDarryl

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2004
    Location:
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    #5
    Receivers tend to bring a LOT of value for a relatively little price to this situation. Again, I think of them as a central HUB for A/V stacks. Once you have one, everything along these lines changes (for the better IMO). Wiring to/from individual devices like the TV, :apple:TV, Blu Ray Player, etc become simpler. It will probably be a more capable device for powering your surround sound speakers. Receivers are generally better at processing audio signals. And much more.

    Once a person has reached the point where they have multiple (video) playing devices and 5.1 or more speaker setup, it's basically time to own a good receiver. If you need 3 HDMI jacks now, buy one with 5 or more. If you need 2 optical in jacks now, buy one with 4 or more. Etc. In the next few years when something else needs to be plugged into your A/V setup, you'll appreciate the hub being ready for it's signals.
     
  6. JeffPerrin macrumors regular

    JeffPerrin

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2014
    #6
    And a side note for the OP or anyone looking into surround w/Airplay: you may come across some receivers that say "Airplay compatible". The last time I checked, that Airplay "support" generally only applies to streaming stereo audio. They do *not* support Airplay streaming of video of any sort (stereo or surround).
     
  7. JoltinJoeIV thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2015
    #7
    I should do my own due diligence research before I ask this question, but here goes anyway. The Sony Bluray player is one unit with 5.1 surround sound. I guess I naively or incorrectly refer to it as a receiver, albeit one with very few inputs! Would a receiver replace this unit? Or does this unit then become an additional input to the receiver?

    Thanks again!
     
  8. NeilHD macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2014
    #8
    The blu-ray would become an additional input to the receiver. The 5.1 surround speakers would connect to the speaker outputs on the receiver (assuming there's no proprietary weirdness going on here, but Sony do make an excellent line of great value receivers also).

    So your blu-ray and Apple TV and everything else would go directly into the receiver via HDMI, and then one HDMI output from the receiver goes to the TV. You switch sources on the receiver instead of on the TV, which remains always on the same input.

    As others have said, good receivers can be had on a budget, you do not need to spend loads. I recently replaced mine with a new Harman Kardon one for £250 (not sure where you are). I still Airplay audio through the Apple TV (and out through the receiver) if I want it, but it can do Airplay for audio natively, too.
     
  9. JoltinJoeIV thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2015
    #9
    Still trying to figure out the best way to do this on the cheap so that I can compare the pros and cons against a purchase of a receiver. And this all has me thinking, maybe I can get a 4 (or more) x 1 HDMI switcher to increase the number of outputs on the bluray/surround sound unit...
     
  10. HobeSoundDarryl, Jan 21, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2015

    HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 603

    HobeSoundDarryl

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2004
    Location:
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    #10
    If cheap is key, why do you need 4 to 1 HDMI? I thought the problem was audio and you have only one optical audio "in" on that combo Blu Ray + Surround Sound box. If that's the case, the option I reference after the long recommendation for a receiver will work.

    If the Blu Ray (BD) jack is HDMI "in" such that you are currently running 3 or 4 HDMI cables into your TV and then one HDMI out to your Blu Ray, I don't even think I've seen that setup on a television. HDMI is often about trying to terminate the signal at the TV rather than allowing it to be passed to other devices from there. There may be some sets that have a pass through on the TV but I haven't seen them.

    Maybe you're running 3 or 4 HDMI cables to your TV and then going optical out (of your TV) and into the BD player (that's very common). If so, odds are very high that the audio coming out of the TV is downconverted to just stereo (not surround). If so, your BD player may be creating faux-surround to make it seem like surround but it can't possibly be the same as true surround (unless in that setup, you have a very special, very unusual (translation: not cheap) television that will pass through true surround received via HDMI).

    If you want to insure true surround, you need to pump the audio directly into the surround sound amp (your BD player in this case) or a receiver. Working through the television will almost certainly rob you of true surround.

    And if so, a 2 or 3 or 4 optical audio "in" to 1 optical audio "out" switcher with a single audio cable going into your Blu Ray player should do the trick... and be pretty cheap (<$30-50). BUT, it's not a optimal solution... just a "cheapest" one that doesn't involve running around back and switching out cables as you hop from Blu Ray player to cable/satt box to :apple:TV.

    Scratch up the money for the receiver. It solves all of the present and future problems the (best) way they are meant to be solved. These are the very kinds of issues it is meant to address. Consider selling the combo BD + Surround box and replacing it with just a BD player. That might generate some cash to put toward a receiver (since you won't need the surround amp portion of the BD player anymore). Unless the combo box was very expensive, odds are high that it's surround sound functionality is not great quality relative to a receiver which is mostly built for that. So you might be doing your wallet and ears a favor by going this way too.

    You might also consider learning how to convert your Blu Ray discs into HD videos, dump them into iTunes and watching your BD videos via your :apple:TV. Then you can just sell the BD + Surround box completely and buy a BD drive for your computer for converting them.
     
  11. demodave macrumors regular

    demodave

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2010
    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    #11
    I'm having a (sort of) similar issue, I think, only I already have a receiver. Mine is a Sony STR-DH820, only a few years old. Several HDMI inputs - and I've tried several with my AppleTV 4 as I just bought it.

    I'm having to set my sound out to "stereo" and not 5.1 or "Best available" to get voice (speaking voices). This was similar with my Apple TV 3, I think, and it's really ticking me off. Any insights?

    I have verified (and corrected) speaker hookups and settings on the receiver, and researched a fair bit. No luck.
     
  12. waw74 macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    May 27, 2008
    #12
    sounds like your center channel isn't working.

    You've done the auto-calibration?
    pg 36 in the manual
    I'm not sure how the sony version works, but on my denon it will tell me if a speaker is missing or connected out of phase (red/black swapped)


    if you have netflix, search for "example short 23.976"
    it does a channel by channel test sweep through the frequencies. a voice says "left channel ... " then a frequency sweep happens on the left channel. it then goes though the other channels. the voice is always on the center channel.
    the voiceover for the center channel sweep starts about 2:10
     
  13. demodave macrumors regular

    demodave

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2010
    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    #13
    You're right. I may have been conflating issues. The receiver isn't super new to me, but it was the first update after about ten years, because I realized that I would need to break down and get with the HDMI program. In my life, stopping at 5.1 surround will likely be sufficient, because I don't anticipate moving soon, which would be the only way to inherit a media room that justifies the additional speakers.

    Long story short, when I did the zone check on the "3/2.1" speaker set-up (3 = LCR in front, 2 = LR in the rear, .1 = subwoofer), I got no Center and no Woofer. The challenge is that my system feeds into a Bose Acoustimass woofer/splitter, so it is quite literally a big Black Box. What I lack for troubleshooting is a multimeter. I don't own one today, and if I did it would be in PODS storage. (Don't get me started! ;)

    Beyond the Bose box, all five channels go into a wall socket (I bought the Bose plug and gave it to the builders when they were doing a reno on my house. That's as close as I imagine getting to a media room. At any rate, I really need a meter to figure out where the problem is: no Center from the receiver? no Center out of the Bose box? no connection from the Bose bass box all the way to the little speaker? I have to partition the problem.

    Thank you for this! This sounds supercool, and it is something I would have wanted to look for anyway.
     
  14. Lumpy05 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2010
    Location:
    Bloomington, IN
    #14
    One thing that may be confusing to you is that the Bose Bass box is not really a subwoofer in most of their setups. So this would at least explain why you get no output when your receiver tests the .1 channel. It is most likely setup taking its feed from the 5 channels input. To get around this ensure you have your speaker setting in the receiver set to full and the subwoofer turned off which will send the bass channel to your bose system. Alternatively you can get a real subwoofer and add it to your setup.

    I would definitely check the wiring on the center channel, could be loose wire at your wall panel, at the speaker or at the receiver. It could also be the speaker is just dead. Check all connections first.
     
  15. demodave macrumors regular

    demodave

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2010
    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    #15
    It the possibilities of the last paragraph that are the most troubling to me, but yes. I need to put a multimeter to work. I don't know exactly how you test for a dead speaker other than by swapping out a known good unit against the "dead" one. Unfortunately, in this case, the center speaker is not identical to the four front/rear left/right speakers.

    I think I also agree with your comment on the subwoofer, but I may go ahead and consult with Bose on that directly.

    Thanks.
     

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