Home Theater Audio - What is ARC, HDCP, Toslink, SPDIF, Dolby Atmos?

So a lot of people are confused lately about home theater audio.

So today I'm going to tell you everything you need to know about home theater audio

so stay tuned.

So as TVs have gotten thinner and thinner their sound has actually gotten worse over the years.

So this has lead people to go out and buy a soundbar or a home theater receiver for

better sound.

Now most people are generally happy with their new speakers but there are several ways you

can connect them so if you're not using the best connection method, then you might be

missing out on better sound.

So today I want to go over all of your different options and show you the best way to connect everything.

Now I'm going to try and make this video as short as I can but there is a lot of information

to cram into this video, even some that you might not be aware of

do do try to stay to the end if you can.

So first I want to start with surround sound formats and configurations.

Now there a ton of different ways that you can setup surround sound speakers but I'm

going to go over just a few to give you an idea.

So a surround sound format is basically what tells your sound bar or your home theater

receiver exactly which sounds to send to certain speakers.

So there are two major companies that specialize in surround sound formats.

The first one is Dolby and the other one is DTS.

So on most blurays you're usually going to see 1 of 4 different formats.

If it's Dolby then it will either be Dolby Atmos or Dolby TrueHD.

If it's DTS then you'll see DTS-HD or DTSX.

So when you go out to the store to purchase a home theater receiver you'll see numbers

like 5.2, 7.2, 9.2 and so on and these numbers basically refer to the number of speakers

that the receiver supports.

So the first number tells you how many full range speakers it supports and the second

number tells you how many subwoofer speakers it supports.

So a basic home theater surround sound setup is going to be considered 5.1 and this is

going to include a center channel, 2 main speakers, 2 surround speakers, and a subwoofer.

So since you have 5 full range speakers and 1 subwoofer, it's known as 5.1.

So when you see things like 7.2, 9.2, or higher, they're basically expanding that 5.1 to more speakers.

So these additional speakers can be used for a ton of different things.

You can have height channels, wide channels, or even ceiling speakers.

So for example, with Dolby Atmos and DTS-X, those formats actually use overhead speakers

so you can have 2 or more overhead speakers in that setup and that's going to give you

way more immersive sound with things like raindrops and overhead helicopters flying

and stuff like that.

And they also make Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers.

Now these are basically going to use top-mounted speakers that are going to reflect off the ceiling

and bounce back towards the listening position and that's going to make it sound

like you have ceiling speakers.

Now it's not going to sound as good as actual in-ceiling speakers

but it does work pretty well in some rooms.

Now if you want Dolby Atmos and you don't want to do a full home theater setup they

do have Dolby Atmos soundbars and these work by also reflecting sound off the ceiling to

make it sound like the sound is coming directly from the ceiling.

So now that you understand the formats let's go over the different types of connections.

So analog stereo cables are the most common type of connection you'll find for connecting

audio devices.

This is going to include things like RCA cables or 3.5mm cables and ton of other different

types of connections.

Now these cables work just fine for connecting things like a phone, a CD player

or a bluetooth adapter.

However, they don't actually provide the best audio quality, especially for a home theater setup

since they only support 2 channel audio.

Now one way you can get true surround sound from stereo cables is using what's called

a multi channel connection and some devices like computers and bluray players actually

do have multi channel outputs on them and some audio receivers have multi channel inputs

so these devices are going to have separate inputs for subwoofer, center channel, surround

speakers, and your main speakers and they're all separated so you actually do get true surround sound.

So a step up from stereo cables is a digital connection using coax which is basically just

a simple RCA cable or it can use a fiber optic cable known as TOSLINK.

Now TOSLINK is a better alternative to coax since it's going to be immune to most interference

since it's using fiber optics to send the signal.

So unlike a stereo connection, an optical connection can actually send true DTS or Dolby surround

formats directly to your receiver or your soundbar.

However, they don't support the newer audio formats like Dolby True-HD, Dolby Atmos, or

DTSX since those require an HDMI cable.

So this brings us to HDMI which is one of the most complex topics when it comes to home audio

and unlike an optical connection an HDMI cable supports all of the latest surround sound formats.

So this has forced home audio manufacturers to put HDMI ports on receivers and even some

soundbars but it has caused some issues because of HDCP.

So I just recently did a video explaining HDCP and HDMI versions so go ahead and check

that video out if you haven't already because it has a lot of useful information in it but

what this means is if you have a 4K bluray player connected to your sound bar or home

theater receiver you may not be able to send 4K video if it doesn't support the right version

and you'd be forced to upgrade it in order to get 4K video to your TV

and this is because some 4K content is actually protected using HDCP 2.2

and if any of the devices that you're connecting it to doesn't support that version of HDCP

you're either going to get no video or you'll be limited to 1080p.

So for example, let's say you have your 4K TV connected to your soundbar through HDMI

and you also have a 4K bluray player connected to the soundbar as well.

Even though your 4K bluray player and your TV probably support HDCP 2.2 your soundbar

might not support it and in this case you'll either get no video at all or you'll be limited

to 1080p video and it won't be in 4K.

And the same is true for a home theater receiver.

If it doesn't support the right version of HDCP you're not going to get 4K video.

Now there are a couple of ways around this situation.

The first way is to just use an optical connection.

So if you don't care about transmitting the new surround sound formats like Atmos or any

of those, you can simply use an optical connection between your TV and your sound bar or home

theater receiver and it will send the sound just fine and it won't affect your 4K video at all.

And another alternative is to use what's called ARC or Audio Return Channel.

So ARC allows you not only to use an HDMI cable to send audio and video to your TV,

but it also allows your TV to send audio back through the cable to your soundbar or receiver.

So this means you wouldn't have to use an optical cable in order to get audio from your

TV's built in apps back to your sound bar or receiver.

Another cool thing is that it will also pass the audio from the devices that are connected

to your TV back to your sound bar as well.

So in order for this to work you can use any HDMI cable.

You just need to make sure that both your TV and your soundbar or receiver support ARC.

Now I know ARC seems really awesome but there are some drawbacks to it.

One issue is that even though it's using HDMI most TV's don't actually send surround formats

through ARC so you're going to be limited to 2 channel audio which definitely sucks.

And even the TVs that do send DTS aren't able to send the newer format like Atmos or DTS-HD

so in my opinion this actually defeats the purpose of it in most cases.

So if you have an older audio receiver and you want to be able to get the latest formats

like Dolby Atmos then you have 2 options.

The first thing you can do is get an HDCP 2.2 HDMI splitter and this is going to allow

you to use 1 HDMI cable to send 4K video to your TV

and use the other cable to send audio to your receiver.

The other option is to simply use devices that have 2 HDMI outputs.

So some bluray players have more than 1 output for this specific reason.

It's going to allow you to use 1 port for your TV and use the other port for your receiver.

So in both of these situations you wouldn't be affected by HDCP and you'd be able to take

full advantage of 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos.

Alright guys I know that was a lot of information.

Hopefully I covered any questions you may have had.

If I missed anything go ahead and post in the comments section and I'll respond to your

questions and comments.

Now I have had several people ask me how they can support the channel

so I've actually started a Patreon page.

So if you're interested you can use the link in the video description to make a pledge.

and that goes towards helping me make more reviews and tutorials

so I do appreciate your support and I'll see you guys in the next video.