Five Ways To Get Audio From a Blu-ray Disc Player

01
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Option One: Connect A Blu-ray Disc Player Directly to a TV Via HDMI Connection

HDMI Cable and Connection
HDMI Cable and Connection. Robert Silva

Blu-ray is definitely an integral part of the home entertainment experience. For those that have an HDTV or 4K Ultra HD TV, Blu-ray is easy to add on the video connection front, but getting the most out of Blu-ray's audio capabilities can sometimes be a little confusing. Check out up to five different options for connecting the audio output of a Blu-ray Disc player to your TV or the rest of your home theater setup.

Important Note: Although up to five ways of accessing audio from a Blu-ray Disc player are presented in this article, not all Blu-ray Disc players provide all five options - most Blu-ray Disc players only provide one or two of these options. When purchasing a Blu-ray Disc player, check to see if the options that are provided on the player match with the rest of your home theater audio and video setup.

Connect A Blu-ray Disc Player Directly to a TV Via HDMI Connection

The easiest way to access audio from your Blu-ray Disc player is to simply connect the HDMI output of the Blu-ray Disc player to an HDMI-equipped TV, as shown in the above photo. Since the HDMI cable carries both the audio and video signal to the TV, you will be able to access audio from a Blu-ray Disc. However, the downside is that you are depending on the audio capabilities of the HDTV to reproduce the sound, which doesn't produce a very good result.

Proceed to the next option...

02
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Option Two: Looping HDMI Through a Home Theater Receiver

Blu-ray Disc Player Audio Connections - HDMI Connection to Home Theater Receiver
Blu-ray Disc Player Audio Connections - HDMI Connection to Home Theater Receiver. Images provided by Onkyo USA

While accessing the audio from an HDMI connection using a TV only produces the least desirable audio quality, connecting a Blu-ray Disc player to an HDMI-equipped home theater receiver is the best option, provided your home theater receiver has built-in Dolby TrueHD and/or DTS-HD Master Audio decoders. Also, a growing number home theater receivers made from 2015 forward also incorporate

In other words, by looping the HDMI output from a Blu-ray Disc player through a home theater receiver to the TV, the receiver will pass the video through to the TV, and will access the audio portion and perform any additional decoding or processing before passing the audio signal through to the receiver's amplifier stage and on to the speakers.

The thing to check for is whether your receiver has just "pass through" HDMI connections for audio or whether your receiver can actually access the audio signals transferred via HDMI for further decoding/processing. This will be illustrated and explained the user manual for your specific home theater receiver.

The advantage to the HDMI connection method for accessing audio, depending on the capabilities of the home theater receiver and speakers as outlined above, is the audio equivalent of the high definition video result you see on your TV screen, making the Blu-ray experience all encompassing for both video and audio.

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03
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Option Three: Using Digital Optical or Coaxial Audio Connections

Blu-ray Disc Player Audio Connections - Digital Optical - Coaxial Audio Connection - Dual View
Blu-ray Disc Player Audio Connections - Digital Optical - Coaxial Audio Connection - Dual View. Photo (c) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

The Digital Optical and Digital Coaxial connection option are the most commonly used connection for accessing audio from a DVD player, and most Blu-ray Disc players also offer this connection option as well.

However, while this connection can be used to access audio from a Blu-ray Disc player on a home theater receiver, the downside is that these connections can only access standard Dolby Digital/DTS surround signals and not the higher resolution digital surround sound formats, such as Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio, and DTS:X. However, if you are satisfied with sonic results you previously experienced with a DVD player, you will also get the same results with a Blu-ray Disc player, when using the Digital Optical or Digital Coaxial connection option.

NOTE: Some Blu-ray Disc players provide both Digital Optical and Digital Coaxial audio connections, but most only provide one of them, most commonly it will be Digital Optical. Check your home theater receiver to see which options are available to you and what options are provided on the Blu-ray Disc player you are considering.

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04
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Option Four: Using 5.1/7.1 Analog Audio Connections

Blu-ray Disc Player Audio Connections - Multi-Channel Analog Audio Connections
Blu-ray Disc Player Audio Connections - Multi-Channel Analog Audio Connections. Photo (c) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Here is a method that some Blu-ray Disc players and some home theater receivers can take advantage of. If you have a Blu-ray Disc player that is equipped with 5.1/7.1 channel analog outputs (also referred to as Multi-Channel Analog outputs), you can access the player's own internal Dolby/DTS surround sound decoders and send multichannel uncompressed PCM audio from the Blu-ray Disc Player to a compatible home theater receiver.

In other words, in this type of setup the Blu-ray Disc player decodes all the surround sound formats internally and sends the decoded signal to a home theater receiver or amplifier in a format referred to as Uncompressed PCM. The amplifier or receiver then amplifies and distributes the sound to the speakers.

This is useful when you have a home theater receiver that does not have digital optical/coaxial or HDMI audio input access, but can accommodate either 5.1/ 7.1 channel analog audio input signals. In this situation, the Blu-ray Disc player performs all of the surround sound format decodings and passes the result through the multi-channel analog audio outputs.

Note to Audiophiles: If you use a Blu-ray Disc player that incorporates the ability to listen SACDs or DVD-Audio Discs and the Blu-ray Disc player has very good or excellent DACs (Digital-to-Analog Audio Converters) that may be better than the ones in your home theater receiver, it is actually desirable to connect the 5.1/7.1-channel analog output connections to a home theater receiver, instead of the HDMI connection (at least for audio).

It is also important to note that most "lower-priced" Blu-ray Disc players do not have 5.1/7.1 analog audio output connections. If you desire this feature, check the specifications or physically inspect the rear connection panel of the Blu-ray Disc player to confirm the presence or absence of this option.

Some examples of players 5.1/7/1 channel analog outputs include all Blu-ray Disc players from OPPO Digital (Buy From Amazon), Cambridge Audio CXU (Buy From Amazon), and the forthcoming Panasonic DMP-UB900 Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc player ( Official Product Page.

Proceed to the next option...

05
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Option Five: Using the Two Channel Analog Audio Connections

Blu-ray Disc Player Audio Connections - 2-Channel Analog Stereo Audio Connection
Blu-ray Disc Player Audio Connections - 2-Channel Analog Stereo Audio Connection. Photo (c) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

The audio connection of last resort for connecting a Blu-ray Disc player to a home theater receiver, or even a TV, is the always reliable 2-channel (Stereo) analog audio connection. Although this eliminates access to the digital surround sound audio formats, if you have a TV, Sound Bar, Home-Theater-in-a-Box, home theater receiver that offers Dolby Prologic, Prologic II, or Prologic IIx processing, you can still extract a surround sound signal from embedded cues that are present within a two-channel stereo audio signal. Although this method accessing surround sound is not an accurate as true Dolby or DTS decoding, it does provide an acceptable result from two-channel sources.

Note to Audiophiles: If you use a Blu-ray Disc player to listen to music CDs and the Blu-ray Disc player has very good or excellent DACs (Digital-to- Analog Audio Converters) that may be better than the ones in your home theater receiver, it is actually desirable to connect both the HDMI output and the 2-channel analog output connections to a home theater receiver. Use the HDMI option to access movie soundtracks on Blu-ray and DVD discs, then switch your home theater receiver to the analog stereo connections when listening to CDs.

Additional Note: As of 2013, an increasing number of Blu-ray Disc players (especially entry-level and mid-priced units) have actually eliminated the analog two channel stereo audio output option - However, they are still available on some higher-end players (refer back to my Note to Audiophiles above). If you need or desire this option, your choices may be limited, unless you want to reach deeper into your pocketbook.

Final Take

As technology moves forward, both devices and our decision options can become more complex. Hopefully, this overview has helped those that may be confused as to how to connect their Blu-ray Disc player for getting the best possible audio performance.

For more on accessing audio from a Blu-ray Disc player, also read Blu-ray Disc Player Audio Settings - Bitstream vs PCM.

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