Yesterday morning FedEx delivered the new surround receiver while I was walking the dogs. Even though I needed to be at a wedding in the early afternoon, I figured I had an hour or so to mess around with the new receiver and maybe get it set up. I took it out of the box first and it looked about the same size as my old Onkyo receiver. Also, I wouldn’t be needing my old Blu-ray player, so that left even a little more room on the shelf below the TV, which can’t hurt in something that gets pretty warm. So first I had to disconnect everything from the Onkyo receiver, which is a chore because everything connected into it including 8 speakers. Then I put the new receiver in place and started getting it hooked up.
One decision was whether to use the receiver as an input selector for the TV or as an optional sound source. With my old setup, it was optional and I could play any source through the TV without turning on the receiver. And my new UHD Blu-ray player has an audio output HDMI port that would let me run video and audio directly to the TV whether I was using the receiver or not, so I decided to try that. I still had to connect the cable box to the receiver and then to the TV since the cable box only has one HDMI output but the receiver would generally be left with cable selected which allows the pass through even if the receiver is off.
Once I got it all hooked up, the setup of everything could be done using menus that showed up on the TV. So I turned on the TV and there was a menu asking me to select a language. I put the batteries in the receiver’s remote and nothing happened. There was a big crack in the back of the remote, but maybe the included alkaline batteries were just old (kind of unlikely since this is a 2016 model so it shouldn’t have been sitting around for long) so I tried some NiMH batteries which also did not work. Sometimes NiMH batteries don’t power things properly because they have lower voltage than alkaline batteries, so I tried some lithium batteries that I was pretty sure should still be good and the remote still didn’t work. Couldn’t do much without the remote and the few buttons on the receiver didn’t seem to help. I have some old universal remotes, so I put batteries in one of those and looked up the code for a Denon receiver, but all it would do was turn the receiver on and off. I needed at least up and down arrows and a select button to pick my language. I tried another universal remote and it didn’t seem to be working. Then another one and got the same result of only being able to choose on or off (after writing this I found a good code for my Comcast remote, 31360, that seems to work great).
A couple of months ago I bought a neat device that lets you use an app on a portable device as a remote control. It is a small cylinder that connects to the wifi network and has infrared input and output. The wifi lets it connect to the app and the infrared output lets it tell device what to do while the input lets it learn commands from remotes. I meant to write a blog entry about it, but never got around to it. It lets you create a remote for any device by building buttons and learning commands into each button on the screen. Then you can save those, but you can also download remotes that other people have created. When I was originally setting the controller up I didn’t have much luck getting usable remote controls from other people, but would the Denon receiver have anything? Then I wouldn’t need a working remote control to learn from or use. I lucked up and found one for an older Denon model, but it had the Enter button and arrows I needed along with a few other things. Denon also has an app, but I don’t think theirs works until you can get the receiver connected to wifi, which I couldn’t do since I was still stuck on selecting English as my language. Even though it was almost time for me to go to the wedding at this point, I went ahead and called Denon about the broken remote (they had a piece of paper saying if there were any problems, don’t contact the seller, but they didn’t open until noon on Saturdays and I needed to leave the house by 12:30). Denon took down my information and serial number and then decided I needed to contact the seller about the broken remote, so they were useless and I wound up getting to the wedding with only a few minutes to spare.
Once I got back to the house (best wishes Mr. and Mrs. Shurling!), of course there was no way for me not to try to get the receiver working. I was able to do some basic setup and connect it to my wifi network by looking for available networks and using the arrow and select keys to type in the wifi password (later I found a way to use my iPod to tell the receiver how to connect to the network). Also, the receiver includes a microphone and some cardboard pieces that you can put together to make a microphone stand so that you can put the microphone at ear level wherever you will sit when you listen. This lets the receiver balance all of the speakers correctly. But it goes a little further by having you put the microphone and stand in 7 other surrounding locations which it uses to figure out the position of each speaker. This is important with newer surround sound technologies which let the receiver remix the sound information for your specific setup. Instead of having a discrete channel of audio for the back right surround speaker, the Blu-ray source might just say a sound comes from 70 degrees behind you at 20 degrees up and then the receiver matches that to whichever speakers can best approximate that location (I think that’s how DTS:X and Dolby Atmos work anyway). If a sound moves in the movie, it should track through your speakers realistically even though the people making the movie didn’t know the location of your speakers. So that was neat, but took 15 minutes or so. I am using the classic 7.1 surround setup where all 7 speakers are close to ear level plus the subwoofer behind the TV to provide rumble, but the newer systems do 5.1 at ear level and then add speakers on the ceiling (or reflected off the ceiling) for a 5.1.2 setup.
I was afraid my cable box would only do stereo sound (optical out only seemed to do stereo), but it seems to do some type of surround sound over HDMI. As I was playing around with my Blu-ray player and cable box and making a tweak here and there with my Denon app (which only sporadically connects to the receiver like it should, but when it does it is pretty cool) as well as updating the receiver’s firmware so I could use DTS:X decoding (I have one Blu-ray with DTS:X), I lost the picture from the cable box. I could get audio but no video. I turned everything off and back on with no effect. I even wound up resetting the receiver to factory settings hoping to get the picture back, but still got no picture. Even when I connected the cable box directly to the TV I didn’t get a picture (I was worried about resetting the cable box in case that made me lose all my DVR recordings on my external drive, but I ended up okay). I could get a picture if I connected component video cables (3 wires that carry red, blue, and green, but no sound). And I eventually got a message that the HD video out was disabled due to incompatible hardware. Apparently this is part of HDMI called HD copy protection (HDCP) which can trigger if you use the wrong kind of HDMI cable (I think all my cables are okay) or, apparently, if you are just messing around with your HDMI cables a lot like I was though sometimes running a Blu-ray and cable box through the same receiver can trip it. Anyway, I was able to “fix” the problem by unplugging the HDMI cable from the cable box, unplugging the cable box from power, unplugging the TV from power, then reconnect HDMI and power to the TV and then reconnecting the cable box. In the meantime, I lost all my speaker settings I had done with the microphone, so I had to do that all over today. And I also decided that maybe the best thing was to use the receiver as an input selector after all instead of running the UHD Blu-ray player audio independently. My Comcast remote has an “All On” button that turns the TV, cable box, and receiver on (and off) with one button press, so that is pretty easy.
There are some neat things the receiver can do. First it has Bluetooth so I was able to pair it with my iPod and can now play music wirelessly from my iPod to the receiver (with the old receiver I bought a 20 foot cord that I could connect to the iPod headphone jack, then I bought a Bluetooth dongle but it didn’t have great reception and honestly it isn’t something I do that often anyway). Also, because it connects to the internet, it can also access some music streaming services and internet radio stations, though I don’t have a Pandora or Spotify account. With the app you can easily choose and label AM and FM presets as well as relabel the HDMI inputs. It also supports a Zone 2 that I don’t know that I will ever use and seems to just cause problems because Zone 2 seems to always be on even when I think the receiver is off. Also the factory reset wasn’t truly a factory reset because when I tried to update the firmware again, it said the firmware was already up to date.