Your home cinema receiver might be over 10 years old, but if it works well with your speakers, you might not feel any need to replace it. Although understandable, such a decision also implies that you will not be able to take advantage of the most recent multi-channel HD formats, such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. Yet, it is still possible to enjoy lossless 7.1 sound.
Take a close look at your old receiver
There is always a good reason to keep an old home cinema receiver. Most of the time, it is a midrange or high-end model fitted with a solid power supply and high-quality amplification components. During the golden age of home cinema, in the early 2000s, brands such as Yamaha, Denon, Harman Kardon and Sherwood released excellent receivers, the likes of the Yamaha DSP-AZ1 and Denon AVC A1SE.
Back then, it was not uncommon to come across power supplies rated at over 1,000 watts which guaranteed a rich and highly detailed sound. Today, these vintage amplifiers are, at best, equipped with Dolby Digital and DTS decoders and can only handle the 5.1 compressed core of DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD stream. In other words, older amplifiers can only handle classic DTS and Dolby Digital stream.
Solution #1: 7.1 Blu-ray player
One solution to circumvent this problem consists in using a new generation Blu-ray player equipped with 7.1 analog outputs, which you can then connect to the 5.1 or 7.1 inputs of an older amplifier.
Of course, the home cinema receiver needs to be fitted with such inputs, which was generally the case for high-end models purchased 10 to 15 years ago.
Finding the right Blu-ray player
It is essential to use a Blu-ray player with 7.1 analog outputs to enjoy multi-channel HD sound with an older home cinema receiver. The Philips Fidelio BDP9700, Panasonic DMP-BDT700, Panasonic DMP-UB900, Oppo UDP-203 (4K), Cambridge CXU, Cambridge Azur 752BD and Oppo BDP-105D Aria are all equipped with such outputs. The star of the moment is the Oppo UDP-203, which is equipped with a new-generation Asahi Kasei AK4458 multi-channel DAC. For more information, feel free to check out our review of the Oppo UDP-203.
Setting up your new Blu-ray player
You may experience a slight delay between the image displayed on your HDTV or Ultra HD TV and the sound delivered by the receiver, which is absolutely normal since most TVs have to process the incoming image. When signals for the sound and image are transmitted together via an HDMI cable, the TV and Blu-ray player exchange information regarding the delay, which is then automatically compensated for by the player (lip sync). If your new Blu-ray player does not offer automatic syncing of the 7.1 audio outputs, you may manually adjust the settings by a few milliseconds to make up for the time difference.
What if my receiver only features 5.1 analog inputs?
Most Blu-ray players offering 7.1 analog outputs feature a downmix function. The 7 channels of a DTS-HD Master Audio stream can therefore be converted to stereo or 5.1.
Solution #2: new generation home cinema preamp
A multi-channel audio processor (home cinema preamp) capable of handling Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X stream can be used as a plan B. Electronic devices of this sort are equipped with 7.1 or 9.1 analog outputs and can decode analog Dolby Atmos stream.