How to Use a Non-3D AV Receiver With 3D TV & 3D Blu-Ray Player

Adding 3D to a home theater system doesn't always mean you need a new receiver

3D is a home theater viewing option that, although currently discontinued in TVs (but with many 3D TVs still in use), continues to be available in many video projectors and, by extension still has a smaller, but loyal following.

For those still desiring a 3D home viewing experience, you need to make sure you also have the right source components. This includes a 3D Blu-ray Disc player, as well as 3D content, (Vudu offers 3D streaming movies), and, of course, those glasses.

Another thing to consider is a 3D compatible home theater receiver (aka AV receiver). This is important if you rely on your home theater receiver for video pass-through switching or processing, in addition to its audio capabilities.

To be fully 3D signal compliant across the entire connection chain of your home theater system, you need to have a receiver that can pass 3D video signals. To do this it has to have HDMI ver 1.4a or higher connections. Almost all home theater receivers made since late 2010 should meet this standard. Composite and component video connections can't pass 3D Blu-ray disc signals.

However, you may be able to avoid this additional, potentially costly upgrade by planning ahead.

Surround sound formats aren't affected by 3D video, but depending on what home theater receiver you have determines how you might need to make the physical audio connections between a 3D-enabled Blu-ray Disc player, home theater receiver, and your TV or video projector.

Here are three ways you can still use an older non-3D home theater receiver with a 3D TV or video projector and 3D Blu-ray Disc player.

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Connecting a 3D Blu-ray Disc Player with Two HDMI Outs to a Non-3D AV Receiver

3D Blu-ray Disc Player – Dual HDMI
What We Like
  • Easy connection solution.

What We Don't Like
  • Most Blu-ray Disc players don't have two HDMI outputs.

If your home theater receiver has HDMI inputs and can access the audio signal that is embedded in the HDMI connection, if you purchase a 3D Blu-ray Disc player that has TWO HDMI OUTPUTS (shown in the above photo), you can connect one HDMI output to the TV or projector for the video and the second HDMI output to the non-3D compliant home theater receiver for the audio.

Although requiring an additional cable connection, this type of setup will provide access to all available surround sound audio formats that employed by the Blu-ray Disc and DVD formats, as well as all audio from CDs and other program content.

If your 3D Blu-ray Disc player only has one HDMI output, and think that an HDMI splitter might work, be cautious, as it may result in an HDMI handshake issue since one device is 3D-enabled and other isn't.

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Connecting a 3D Blu-ray Disc Player with 5.1/7.1 Audio Outs to a Non-3D Receiver

3D Blu-ray Disc Player – Multi-Channel Analog Outputs
What We Like
  • Good solution if your Blu-ray player and AV receiver have this connection option.

  • Blu-ray Disc player does all surround sound audio decoding.

What We Don't Like
  • Not available on most Blu-ray disc players and AV receivers.

  • Lots of cable clutter.

If you have or purchase a 3D Blu-ray Disc player that has one HDMI output, but it also has a set of 5.1/7.1 channel analog outputs, you can connect the HDMI output of the Blu-ray Disc player directly to the TV or projector for the video and connect the 5.1/7.1 channel analog outputs of the Blu-ray Disc player (shown in the above photo) into the 5.1/7.1 channel analog audio inputs of the home theater receiver, provided your home theater receiver is equipped with this feature, which is rare.

In this type of setup, the Blu-ray Disc player will do all the needed audio decoding of any Dolby TrueHD and/or DTS-HD Master Audio Blu-ray soundtracks and pass those signals to the receiver as uncompressed PCM signals.

The sound quality will be the same as if the decoding had been done by the receiver, you just won't see the surround sound format labels displayed on the home theater receiver's front panel display – it will display PCM instead.

The downside of this option is that it results in more cable clutter than you might like.

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Connecting a 3D Blu-ray Disc Player With Digital Audio Out to a Non-3D Receiver

3D Blu-ray Disc Player – Digital Optical/Coaxial Connetions
What We Like
  • Less cable clutter than the multi-channel analog audio connection option.

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't work with all surround sound formats.

If you buy a 3D Blu-ray Disc Player that doesn't have either a second HDMI output or 5.1 /7.1 channel analog audio outputs, you can still connect the Blu-ray Disc player directly to the TV using HDMI for the video. However, you would have to connect the Blu-ray Disc player's digital optical or digital coaxial output (shown in the above photo) to the home theater receiver for the audio.

Using this connection option, you will only be able to access standard Dolby Digital and DTS signals. You won't be able to access the Dolby TrueHD/Atmos or DTS-HD Master Audio/DTS:X surround sound formats.

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The Final Verdict

Onkyo TX-SR875 THX Certified Home Theater Receiver
Image provided by Onkyo

Upgrading to a 3D compliant home theater receiver is not a requirement for enjoying 3D TV or projector viewing as you can send the video signal directly from the Blu-ray Disc Player to the TV or projector and the audio from the player to the home theater receiver separately.

However, the options illustrated above do require one, or more, extra connections to your setup, as well as a possible limitation on what surround sound formats you may be able to access on a non-3D AV receiver.