ZONE-2 Processor, a Case Study

ZONE-2 eARC Audio Processor adds to the Thenaudio portfolio of eARC audio processors by introducing a way to extract and forward the original lossless audio received from a TV eARC port.

ZONE-2 builds on top of the already well known and popular SHARC eARC Audio Converter. SHARC is used in situations where you have a modern eARC TV and want to keep your existing audio system. SHARC will interface the two and you don’t need to purchase a new audio system for years to come. ZONE-2 has the same capabilities as SHARC and adds the capability to also forward the eARC audio to another zone.

For those who already have made the investment and purchased a modern soundbar, HDMI2.1 AVR, or another modern eARC sound system, ZONE-2 eARC Audio Processor will now enable the extraction and forwarding of a lossless audio stream from TV. This is useful for multiple scenarios that will be highlighted below.

HDMI 2.1 AVR Audio Splitting: If you have purchased a brand new modern HDMI2.1 AVR with eARC capabilities you can find yourself in a situation where forwarding audio is impossible. Depending on your model capabilities you either can’t route eARC audio anywhere or in some cases can only route a downmixed or transcoded signal. Using Zone-2 eARC Processor in between your TV and the AVR allows you to extract the original lossless audio and share it to a second zone with no degradation in the audio resolution or format.

Adding a Subwoofer: Let’s take an example of Sonos ARC soundbar. This new popular soundbar is capable of playing Atmos audio and does a very good job of producing a fantastic audio experience. In some situations, a user may still want to boost the bottom frequencies by introducing a subwoofer. Currently, this is not possible as you cannot get access to the audio signal “in-between” TV and Sonos ARC. However, with the use of ZONE-2 eARC Audio Processor, you can now extract the audio signal while having a connection between TV and Sonos ARC. This extracted audio signal can then be used to power a subwoofer amplifier using HDMI audio, optical SPDIF, or analog headphone connections. ZONE-2 audio signal is a perfect pristine representation of the original content. Your amplifier will perform the signal decoding and can therefore retain the full lossless accuracy.

Adding Second Room Audio: With a similar soundbar setup as above, you are able to route the standard HDMI audio signal to any additional room or zone in your house.

Launch of the New Website

Welcome to the new Thenaudio website.

We moved our website to Amazon Web Services to better handle the global traffic and to serve pages faster. In addition, we implemented a direct “my account” and cart system that will help you to track your orders and make changes easier. Payment processors now include PayPal and Stripe for CC payments. Amazon Pay will be added in the future.

Purchasing directly from Thenaudio website will allow the fastest shipping times as well as global shipping to almost anywhere in the world using trackable DHL Express service.

Our Amazon selling page will also remain active and can be used for domestic USA purchases.

State of the eARC

 

TV manufacturers tend to be drivers for new functionalities, features, and ever-improving video quality. It is understandable as it is the TV that always drives the user experience for the picture quality.

It is in consumer’s best interests to connect source devices such as PlayStation, Xbox, streaming players like Apple TV, and Blu-Ray players directly to the TV input ports rather than using a device such as an Audio Video Receiver to handle channel switching.

This has been increasingly important already over the past many years. Right now predominantly all new TVs in all price categories accept most flavors of HDR and the latest models already widely accept Variable refresh rates (VRR) and auto low latency modes (ALLM) which are indispensable for any gamer. Also, we already have Quick Sync and early HDMI 2.1 8k formats.

Such formats as described are accepted by nearly none of the current audio systems or repeater/matrix systems.

With this rapid evolvement of video formats, it is clearly not advisable to invest in those “man in the middle” devices which could easily be lacking a simple new feature rendering the device obsolete in a matter of months. We are living in a time where standards greatly change within a short period of time.

To discuss the development of the audio side we must investigate the past to see how sound formats got to be where they are.

In early 1990’s Dolby Digital was introduced. In the early 2000’s lossless high bit rate audio formats Dolby TrueHd and DTS-MasterAudio were created. In 2012 metadata object-based audio was introduced. These are the Dolby Atmos and the DTS-X formats. All these audio formats have been extremely popular together in most video content and continue to enjoy wide acceptance today.

An audio system purchased since 2012 already supports everything a Blu-ray / streaming content can throw at it. Why is this not highlighted more and why have customers still been upgrading audio receivers after 2012? How do audio system makers stay in business?

The reason is that each change in the video standard, even offering a single new HDR format, requires a purchase of a brand new Audio Video Receiver to pass such a signal to the TV. Each model after 2012 really only improve the video side and possibly add some new services from cloud vendors depending on the model.

The great new paradigm shift for HDMI audio came in late 2017 when the HDMI 2.1 specification was released and along with it the specification for a new audio transport called eARC – enhanced audio return channel. This is an upgrade to the legacy ARC specification already available since early HDMI 1.4 specification.

It is revolutionary because now there is a method to transport non-retouched lossless audio all the way from the original content to the amplifier via TV, something only an AVR could offer before using a direct connection to the source device.

AVR manufacturers have been understandably slow to adopt eARC because surely why detract from the only driving force that requires consumers to upgrade audio systems. This eARC, if widely accepted, would work towards removing the need of upgrading due to the video format evolvement.

Thenaudio has recognized this trend and the disconnection between the development of the audio and video formats in the past years. We offer solutions that finally enable consumers to get past the need to upgrade a perfectly sufficient working equipment.

Our products, such as SHARC eARC Audio Converter and ZONE-2 eARC Audio Processor harness the new eArc transport found in TVs and activate your current perfectly capable sound system for the latest lossless audio formats. Years ago you may have spent hundreds or thousands of dollars thinking your sound system will be good forever, just to find out that a year later it already was lacking in functionality.

Unfortunately, today the situation is still the same. If you were to finally buy a new receiver, today, or six months from now you may already be missing an important new video-related capability or never get the functionality you were promised. This is the case with the current HDMI 2.1 announced receivers due to a new bug as outlined in articles such as Bug in HDMI2.1 chips.

Please take a look at our Thenaudio products to learn how they will enable what you already have for the best possible audio experience without sacrificing anything in the video performance.

Connection Guide

  1. Connect SHARC port 1) to the TV eARC/ARC port
  2. Connect SHARC port 2) to one of the INPUT ports of the sound system (it is a common mistake to connect to the output of the sound system)
  3. Connect the USB micro cable to one of the USB ports on the TV.
  4. Set the TV into eARC mode and select PASSTHROUGH mode (or equivalent) to retain multi-channel audio.
  5. Enable TV per-input bitstream support to enable Atmos/multichannel-PCM (typically Sound->Additional Setting->bitstream or similar menu). The default only allows stereo.

LG C9 Owners

  1. Sound->Sound Out is set as HDMI ARC
  2. Sound->HDMI ARC -menu: eARC must be set ON and Digital Sound Out as “passthrough”
  3. Sound->Additional Settings->HDMI Input Audio Format -menu must have “bitstream” selected for each input to allow Atmos and multi-channel PCM

LG CX Owners

  1. Sound->Dolby Atmos is ON
  2. Sound->Sound Out is set as HDMI ARC
  3. Sound->HDMI INPUT AUDIO FORMAT must be bitstream per each port (not PCM) to allow Atmos andmulti-channel PCM
  4. Sound->Digital Sound OUT must be either AUTO/Passthrough. This depends on content, use both. Typically pass through is correct
  5. Sound->eARC must be set ON

Other TV Owners

Other TVs have similar setup procedure: find the eARC menu and make sure eARC is active and make sure each input port is setup to accept Atmos/multichannel PCM from sources (TVs typically limit this to stereo by default).


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