Elephant traps in Home Cinema setup #1: HDMI Audio
So the problem is this: sitting down to watch the Return of the King (last of the Lord of the Rings trilogy) with it’s wonderful sound track, all we seemed able to get out of the system was 2.0 channel PCM. It seemed to defy all attempts to change the sound format to the Dolby HD Master output which the Disk claimed to be.
An HDMI output when connected to more than one device via a splitter, will default the output to the lowest common denominator. i.e. in this case connected to both a TV and an AV receiver via the splitter, the HDMI will setting the audio output to stereo if both devices were turned on. With the TV off, I would expect the HDMI handshake to establish the fact that there was a 7.1 HD capable decoder on the end of the cable and it would put out the appropriate format.
After some fiddling and cursing, it became apparent that the Blu-Ray Player thought it was still connected to a stereo only device (i.e. the TV), so was only putting out stereo. Despite the fact that the TV was turned off (I even unplugged the HDMI cable to make sure). The problem was that the Pioneer Blu-Ray player was being far to clever, and had decided that as it had seen a stereo device to talk to last time, it must still be a stereo device as it was still connected to the same splitter. It was paying attention to the immediate device rather than the handshaking result. I took the splitter out of the loop, and all was in harmony again.
This is a bit frustrating as it defeats the object of the splitter. – I will have to try different splitters and see if an alternative works – also a software upgrade to the Blu-ray player might be in order too!