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May 1, 2009

My Blu-ray Outputs Only Stereo

Q. I have a P-965 preamp that lacks HDMI and a multi-channel power amplifier. My Sony Blu-ray BDP-S300 player can output true surround audio only through the HDMI output. When it is connected through the optical cable, it mixes down everything into 2 channels. Since my P-965 preamp does not have HDMI, how do I get true surround sound? – D.M.

A. There are two ways to get surround sound from your Sony Blu-ray player.

All Blu-ray discs must contain a “legacy” standard Dolby Digital 5.1-channel soundtrack mix that you can output from the Sony’s digital optical or coaxial output to the P-965 preamp. If all you are getting is a 2-channel stereo mix, then you may have inadvertently clicked on “PCM” (Pulse Code Modulation) in the setup menu for the Sony Blu-ray player.

You will have to go into the Sony’s audio setup menu and turn off the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack via HDMI. Then you’ll need to activate the Dolby Digital 5.1 data stream via the optical/coaxial digital output. It might be called “Raw” or “Bitstream”. Carefully check the Sony player’s owner’s manual. Now connect the digital optical or coaxial output to your P-965 and you should get Dolby Digital 5.1. The P-965 should recognize that when you have it set correctly and will automatically switch to DD 5.1, and display that on the P-965 front panel or on-screen display.

The other way to get surround sound from the Sony BDP-S300 Blu-ray player is to use the Sony’s internal Dolby TrueHD decoder (it may or may not have this feature) and a set of analog 5.1 or 7.1 multi-channel RCA output jacks. If it has this feature, connect the 7.1 channel analog outputs to the multi-channel analog input set of jacks on the P-965 preamp. – A.L.

Alan Lofft was, for 13 years, Editor in Chief of Sound & Vision, Canada’s largest and most respected audio/video magazine. He edited Sound & Vision (Canada) until 1996, when he moved from Toronto to New York to become Senior Editor at Audio magazine.
Lofft has been writing about hi-fi and video professionally for over 20 years, ever since his first syndicated newspaper column, “Sound Advice”, began appearing weekly in The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest-circulation daily newspaper. In the late 1970s, he became a contributing editor, columnist, and equipment reviewer at AudioScene Canada, the leading national consumer electronics magazine at the time. Find out more about Alan in his bio.

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