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Are Your 7.1 Blu-ray Discs Playing Properly?

Posted by James Segars on March 4, 2009 
Filed Under: Blu-ray, Format War, Hardware, Software



We’re well aware that the number of 7.1 home theaters out there today are vastly outnumbered by the 5.1 configuration, but nonetheless, we felt that this was something worth bringing to your attention.

In the past, we’ve had no issues with our DTS-MA 7.1 discs, at least not up until last night. The anomaly came to our attention when we popped in the largely popular Hellboy II Blu-ray Disc. Something didn’t sound quite right… as if the surround back speakers were mixed too hot/bright. With a quick glance to the front of the AVR we noticed something bizarre. The SBL (Surround Back Left) and SBR (Surround Back Right) channels were nowhere to be found — ie. their respective channel lights were not illuminated.

This of course was contrary to what our ears were telling us. Audio was indeed coming from every channel, but the surround L/R speakers were ultra-quiet in comparison to the other five speakers. Stranger still, if we hit the “Display” button on our remote, the audio was listed as DTS-MA 5/2.1 (which implies there are FIVE front channels and only TWO rear) and not the proper DTS-MA 3/4.1 we’ve come to expect.

Now, initially we were quick to blame the player or the AVR — BDP-S350 and RX-V663, respectively — but a quick search online returned a number of threads on various Home Theater forums that detailed the same issue. Unfortunately, our search only led to more confusion, with no definitive answers and a whole lot of finger-pointing at the studios and CE manufacturers.

At any rate, we thought we’d take matters into our own hands, and we gathered up all of the 7.1 discs we own (ten in total) and cycled through them to see if the 5/2.1 mix-up would rear its nasty head.

As a result, we found that only three of the ten discs had the “glitch” (Pan’s Labyrinth, Shoot ‘Em Up, and Hellboy II). And while the results are comforting — far better than all ten discs — it still annoys us that issues such as these exist, but more importantly, that they haven’t been rectified yet.

For now, we’re going to lay the blame — until we get to the bottom of this — squarely on select DTS-MA 7.1 discs, and their interplay with a handful of Blu-ray players (select Samsung and Sony units, ex. BDP-S350/S550).  As you might imagine, we’re pardoning the AVR (despite the display anomaly) because the problem seems to arise in the player.

Please reply below if you’ve experienced similar issues with your 7.1 discs.  We’d like to close this case as soon as possible. With any luck, perhaps all we’ll need is a firmware update.

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Comments

17 Responses to “Are Your 7.1 Blu-ray Discs Playing Properly?”

  1. James Segars on March 4th, 2009 4:40 pm

    Worth noting is that Sony’s SDDS theatrical audio configuration is comprised of 5 front speakers, 2 rear and the .1 LFE channel, which means that is 5/2.1.

    Surely it’s just a coincidence, but it represents one of the only real-world applications of five front speakers and two rear.

  2. Paul Laplante on March 4th, 2009 7:31 pm

    We noticed that on Bangkok Dangerous (2008) that the selected DTS HD 7:1 was only coming through 5:1 from our Pioneer VSX-92TXH played from a Samsung BD-UP5000.
    What was interesting was that when we played the alternate ending it was played in 7:1 and displayed on the LCD panel on the front of the receiver.
    Thought I was seeing/hearing things but it seems there is a problem.
    Still bugs to work out on this BD thing, we should have stuck with HD DVD!

  3. Justin on March 5th, 2009 8:03 am

    You guys obviously don’t have any Denon AVR’s. Denon receivers are the only AVR’s that properly decode the 7.1 tracks on Pan’s Labyrinth, Rush Hour 3, Hairspray and Shoot ‘em Up. (Notice they are all early New Line titles!) The problem is squarely a studio authoring thing, as the Pan’s Labyrinth HD DVD has the same issue.

  4. Paul Laplante on March 5th, 2009 9:20 am

    Originally Posted By JustinYou guys obviously don’t have any Denon AVR’s. Denon receivers are the only AVR’s that properly decode the 7.1 tracks on Pan’s Labyrinth, Rush Hour 3, Hairspray and Shoot ‘em Up. (Notice they are all early New Line titles!) The problem is squarely a studio authoring thing, as the Pan’s Labyrinth HD DVD has the same issue.

    The Pioneer correctly decoded the alternate ending on Bangkok Dangerous in 7:1, just not the movie. So I don’t think think it is a hardware issue and I agree that the Denon products good but they are not alone in the decoding field. It is definitely a software issue.

  5. James Segars on March 5th, 2009 11:17 am

    Originally Posted By JustinThe problem is squarely a studio authoring thing…

    I agree that the root of the problem begins with the discs authoring, but I think its unlikely that we’ll see a replacement program to swap them out.

    Therefore, given the fact that some players have issues and some don’t, I think that a firmware should be able to correct the issue. This of course would be cheaper, and easier than everyone swapping out their AVR in pursuit of 7.1 purity.

    The AVR is the last line of defense, if you will. Surely the player is interpreting it, and bitstreaming incorrectly thanks to the botched authoring job on a handful of titles.

  6. Paul Laplante on March 5th, 2009 4:16 pm

    Originally Posted By James Segars

    Originally Posted By JustinThe problem is squarely a studio authoring thing…

    I agree that the root of the problem begins with the discs authoring, but I think its unlikely that we’ll see a replacement program to swap them out.

    Therefore, given the fact that some players have issues and some don’t, I think that a firmware should be able to correct the issue. This of course would be cheaper, and easier than everyone swapping out their AVR in pursuit of 7.1 purity.

    The AVR is the last line of defense, if you will. Surely the player is interpreting it, and bitstreaming incorrectly thanks to the botched authoring job on a handful of titles.

    It is a botch job on the authoring but with the arrogance of the studios and such I don’t really see a coming to the rescue of the few titles they got wrong. It will be Oh! Sorry! Did you have something else you wanted to discuss? Next question please! Oh you in the back row wanting to talk about something else.
    I think they will just turn their collective backs to the problems and hope the complainers will give up in frustration. The first line of defense!

  7. Vestige on March 5th, 2009 6:02 pm

    I have the Sony BDP S550 & a PS3. When I played the 7.1 Hellboy in the S550, it gave me 5.1; however the PS3 decoded the material and outputted the 7.1 DTS-HD signal. Interestingly, I purchased the S550 because it properly decoded a 24-bit / 192khz signal in multi-channel correctly. The PS3 does not. It appears to be the method in which some Blu-ray players decode a 7.1 signal. My receiver is HDMI 1.1 and I have both players connected via HDMI.

  8. Vestige on March 5th, 2009 6:10 pm

    @Justin

    I own a Denon 4306 and your comment appears to be half correct! The PS3 decodes a 7.1 signal to PCM and my Denon 4306 receives it as a 7.1 signal. However the same 7.1 material from my Sony S550 sends it as 5.1. Because my Denon is HDMI ver 1.1; it receives the incoming signal as a PCM (as it should) then outputs that signal in either 7.1 or 5.1. I believe the issue can be corrected in a firmware update by players experiencing this issue. Oddly however, the PS3 doesn’t output multi-channel 24-bit / 192khz audio from Blu-ray discs; however the S550 does! Go figure. With both players however, I have the perfect setup :-)

  9. Vestige on March 5th, 2009 6:15 pm

    @Paul Laplante

    I also have HD DVD, and I agree that HD DVD was more solid. Unfortunately it didn’t have the support from Studios like Blu-ray. I’ve accepted the defeat, but the feel of HD DVD was more complete and finished. Seeing load times when I put in a Blu-ray makes me feel like I’m waiting for a video game to load up. However the increased capacity of Blu-ray has always yielded (typically) better sound…i.e., DTS-HD! Very few HD DVD’s had that sound option. The only one I have is Terminator 2 (German Import) but my HD-AX1 doesn’t decode it :-(

  10. John Butler on March 18th, 2009 2:12 pm

    hmmm… this issue is rather annoying as I recentley ( before christmas ) purchased a new Pioneer sc lx81 AVR & an american Pioneer BD 05 FD player for the sole purpose of having 7.1 playback. I have a DTS demo disc that has several playback tracks in 7.1 surround & they work fine ( all 7 channels light up in the display ). So far I have only purchased 2 BD discs with ” 7.1″ DTS MA . Bangkok Dangerous, & Hellboy II… neither of these play 7.1, only 5.1.. Can someone explain to me about this disc authoring & why we should have problems with this!! We are led to believe as consumers that these expensive products should work correctly?!?!, not require that a month or two down the line that because of some production error or whatever that they will not in fact work?!?

  11. Jay Rodriguez on June 10th, 2009 8:54 am

    I have noticed this problem too, you can include T2 the skynet edition to the list, its DTS-HD MA 6.1 is also faulty at the decoder end of an AVR only putting 5.1! Also My Bloodly Valentine 3D.

  12. Jay Rodriguez on June 10th, 2009 8:58 am

    @Jay Rodriguez – I put a call into my AVR’s manufacture “pioneer”. I informed them of the issue and gave them a few titles, hopefully this can be corrected for future development stages of BD-ROM authorization.

  13. andy on October 4th, 2009 4:01 pm

    @Jay Rodriguez – hi mate, same for me just got t2 sky net edition only getting 5.1 dts ma hellboy 2 same thing 5.1 no 7.1 ? i have the bdp s500 and a pioneer elite vsx94, all my other movies in 7.1 play fine, but t2 if i ues the 5.1 ex dolby that works fine but the dts 6.1 comes out 5.1 .let me know if you hear anything take care andy

  14. Simon Brown on October 29th, 2009 11:17 am

    Same problem here with Hellboy II. Sony BDP-s360 and Denon 2310. Channels are active but not lit on AVR screen. What goes on?!

  15. Johnny B on January 8th, 2010 3:51 am

    I to am encountering this problem. i recently upgraded my avr to a lovely new denon 2310 and decided to take the leap from 5.1 to 7.1 only to be confronted with this headache. im using a panasonic bd 50 through chord silver plus HDMI leads and any DTS MA disc i play will only decode to 5.1! the bd 50 can decode to 7.1 onboard but the sound quality takes a distinct nose dive. incidently dolby true hd works just fine. lifes so cruel!

  16. Philippe Brodeur on February 1st, 2010 6:08 am

    I found the exact same problem with ‘Punisher – War Zone’.

    My Sony BDP-S550 display 5/2.1. Yamaya RXV-1900 display speakers icons as if it was 5.1 but all the speakers has audio comming out of it. Now that i read the thread, audio WAS a bit higher than usual in the rear surrounds.
    My RXV-1900 was auto-calibrated with the included device.

    I hope somebody will come up with an answer on this as it looks like more and more titles have the problem.

    Thanxs

  17. Sam on December 28th, 2010 12:47 am

    Dark City on Blu-ray – just bought it. It’s in 7.1 and it won’t play in my Sony player without horrible static. Very frustrating.

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