McGary Audio

Essential Sound

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Audiophile Review!
HDMI De-Embedder Offers
High-Res Conduit For Universal Players

by John Gatski
  In the world of video and home theater, the Blu-ray player is the king of quality for video and audio, but for the audiophile, Blu-ray players (which are often universal players with DVD-A, SACD and linear PCM playback as well) can frustrate audiophiles. On many players, an owner discovers he can’t get high-res audio out the SPDIF or TOSLink jack to his upscale DAC. DVD-A and Blu-ray PCM audio is inhibited by a BD player’s internal copy-protect software, converting audio output from 24-bit to-16 bits and/or reducing the sample rate to 48 kHz.
 For example, my Oppo BDP-105 cannot play back a commercial DVD-A in full res from the SPDIF jack (the previous BDP-95 could). Nor can it output the stereo 24/192 tracks from my various Blu-ray music discs, such as 2L or AIX Records via the SPDIF. The audio is 16/48.

De-embedder to the rescue
  But do not despair; I have discovered a useful gadget that is sold through many home theater accessories stores; it is called an HDMI audio de-embedder. The de-embedder enables high-res music fans to use their high-end DACs with certain BD/universal players. The DEs relay the high-res PCM stereo audio from commercial DVD-As, Blu-ray music discs, and DSD-to-PCM from SACDs from the player’s HDMI output.
  The HDMI de-embedder takes a player’s HDMI audio stream, extracts the PCM stereo and routes it through its SPDIF output, TOSLink or RCA coax, which is then connected via cable to a digital input source — such as a DAC. The de-embedder also has an HDMI output pass-through jack that ensures audio/video compatibility with other HDMI input sources, such as a LCD, plasma, receiver, etc. The HDMI de-embedder was designed to maintain audio compatibility with devices that don’t have HDMI connections, such as old receivers, etc. An HDMI de-embedder can also output surround Dolby Digital and the core DTS surround soundtracks via the SPDIF jack.

The de-embedder enables high-res music fans to use their high-end DACs with certain BD/universal players. The DEs relay the high-res PCM stereo audio from commercial DVD-As, Blu-ray music discs, and DSD-to-PCM from SACDs from the player’s HDMI output.

  The HDMI de-embedders range from a simple one-input HDMI unit to one with multiple HDMI inputs. Their outputs include SPDIF TOSLink and/or SPDIF coax RCA; some even have up to 7.1 channels of decoded analog audio output for Dolby, DTS and linear PCM movie soundtracks.The de-embedders range in price from about $50 to a couple of thousand dollars for the more elaborate boxes that also incorporate an audio de-embedder.
  For my intended use as a BD/universal player stereo HDMI audio-to-SPDIF PCM conduit, the de-embedder boxes examined here are priced under $300; my favorite was one of the lower-cost, simple HDMI digital in/SPDIF out units, Although two of the tested de-embedders sported multichannel analog outputs, I did not really cover that feature since the focus of the article was to get HDMI audio from a BD player to a high-end stereo DAC.
Editor's Note: The HDMI de-embedders that allow the stereo PCM to be tranaparently converted to SPDIF and passed out the digital port should not be used for copying copyrighted music. It is illegal to use accessory gear or modified source equipment to circumvent the copy protection embedded in Blu-ray, DVD-As, etc.

Choose your player wisely
  In order to use an HDMI de-embedder with a Blu-ray player and achieve full-res signal transfer to your DAC, you must have a player that passes the audio via HDMI — without firmware copy limitations. Most Blu-ray players, especially the cheap ones, do not pass high-res audio through the HDMI, unless they see an encrypted signal from a receiving “handshake” device that tells the player to allow full-resolution audio output. This electronic “handshake” is a mandated code that was agreed upon by electronic manufacturers to prevent perfect copying of video and audio.
  Receivers, TVs, preamp/processors are the more-common devices that allow that HDMI handshake for full-res audio (and video) to be transmitted from a BD/Universal player. Once the two components talk to each other through the digital handshake, Blu-ray music soundtracks, a SACD’s DSD stream, or DVD-A music are delivered at full quality to the receiver or preamp/processor, which then routes the audio to the internal DAC.
  If you try to use a handshake-compliant player and a HDMI de-embedder with your separate DAC, you will only get “dumbed down” audio sent to your DAC that ain’t even close to hi-fi — usually 16/48. You could listen to 24-bit Blu-ray audio or DVD-As through a receiver, but that defeats the purpose of being an audiophile. Most receivers don’t sound that good, and they will not pass full-res audio via their outputs to an external DAC either.

  All Oppo players, since the BDP-80, can pass up to 24/bit/192 stereo PCM via the HDMI jack. The BDP-80, 83, 83SE, 93. 95, 103 and 105 all pass 24 bits through the HDMI, when using a de-embedder. 

  What about a dedicated audiophile DAC that has an HDMI input and supports the handshake protocol? The most talked-about, standalone HDMI DAC is the Essence HDACC, priced at $699, which has a plethora of inputs and playback to 24/192. Most DACs, however, still rely on a SPDIF, AES/EBU XLR or USB audio connection. Absent the Essence HDMI DAC, if you want to successfully use your BD/universal player with a non-HDMI outboard DAC, you need an HDMI de-embedder and a player that bypasses the handshake.
  There are a few players that bypass the handshake protocol and allow the full-res audio signal to escape via the HDMI (and in some cases even the SPDIF). These are the machines the audiophile can use with their big-ticket DAC and an HDMI de-embedder, the subject of this article.
  In my experience, the popular Oppo manufacturer offers the most digitally-open players on the market — in terms of an external DAC connection — and are a perfect mate for an HDMI audio de-embedder.
  All Oppo players, since the BDP-80, can pass up to 24/bit/192 stereo PCM via the HDMI jack — without the aforementioned handshake. The BDP-80, 83, 83SE, 93. 95, 103 and 105 all pass 24 bits through the HDMI, when using a de-embedder. The Lexicon-badged version, the BD-30 is the same. The Oppo BDP-93/95 players can even play commercial DVD-As full-res from their SPDIF output. (The newer 103/105 players, however, can only transmit commercial DVD-Audio from the HDMI.

Wireworld Platimum Series Audiophile HDMI Cable

   The new Marantz UD-7007 universal BD player also allows HDMI-transmitted, full-res audio from DVD-As and commercial BDs, as well as from data downloads. The Marantz also allows data media (USB, BD and DVD-Data and portable hard drive via USB) to play up to 24/192 PCM audio from the onboard SPDIF jacks, but not DVD-A. I also have confirmed that the latest Pioneer Elites and Yamaha high-end players support full-res, commercial DVD-A and data media full-res PCM audio output through HDMI and SPDIF, but no commercial Blu-ray audio output at full spec.

The set up
  I tested four de-embedders for this roundup and used them, primarily, with an Oppo BDP105 — since its HDMI audio doorway is fairly open. I played selected music cuts from music Blu-rays: Ole Bull (2L), at 24/192 and The Who - Live at the Isle of Wight 1970, a concert movie Blu-ray with dedicated stereo PCM soundtrack at 24/48. I also used the commercial DVD-A of The Eagles — Hotel California, at 24/192.
  I also played tracks downloaded from HD Tracks burned onto BD data, DVD data and USB 2.0 thumb drive. All HDMI de-embedders were measured on an Audio Precision digital signal test set to check SPDIF bit and sample rate transmission accuracy. All the units passed 24-bits, up to 192 kHz sample rate without error.
  Each of the de-embedders was connected to a Benchmark DAC2 HGC with its handy, dandy word-length and sample-rate status display, which visually indicates what the player is outputting. The Oppo’s HDMI output was connected to the de-embedder via a custom-made, 1 ft. length of Wireworld Platinum Starlight Series Flat HDMI cable. These Wireworld cables are extraordinarily transparent for audio and video. I use a 15 ft. version in my high-end home cinema setup. I used an MIT SPDIF cable to link the de-embedder and the Benchmark DAC.

Tested HDMI Audio De-Embedders

Retail Price: $43.21
Where to Buy: (factory direct)

HDMI Audio De-embedder

  The Monoprice HDX401TA was the lowest-priced de-embedder that I tested, yet it contained numerous features including four HDMI inputs, HDMI throughput, TOSlink and SPDIF digital output jacks and an 1/8th inch analog stereo output jack. The price was so low I ordered two. Each unit comes with a mini-remote control so the operator can select HDMI inputs remotely, as well as mute the audio and select either 5.1 or 2.0 output from the SPDIF port. The 5.1 or 2.0 feature is for routing HDMI audio to a TV with only SPDIF audio input. If you select the 2.0 mode, the audio is sample rate limited to 48 kHz. Thus, if you use the HDX401TA as a stereo audio conduit via the SPDIF, the channel mode should be set to 5.1 to reliably relay the highest sample rates. Most de-embedders work the same way.
  The manufactured-in-China, 6-inches long x 3-inches thick metal-encased, Monoprice, sports a 5V wall wart DC power supply for electric power. One HDMI input is on the front; three are on the back along with the HDMI pass-through. The two SPDIF jacks are located next to each other. One of the Monoprice remotes arrived dead on arrival, but the company kindly sent me a replacement, and I was back in business.
  When I played The Eagles — Hotel California DVD-A into the Oppo, it initially did not pass 24/192, the native digital stereo signal of the disc. The Benchmark DAC2 HGC indicated 24/48. Huh? I quickly figured out that the unit was set to 2.0 channel output mode. When I switched the de-embedder to 5.1, the DAC’s 192 kHz LED indicator was activated and I commenced my battery of subjective and objective testing.
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Audiophile A/V Multichannel
  My 2L Blu-ray music also played through the de-embedder at 24/192 via the selected stereo track, as did all my Blue-ray data and USB data-stored, high-res tracks from my own home-brew recordings and HD Tracks downloads. The Monoprice has a lot of features for such a low price. However, it locked to the HDMI signal a little slower than the others. The remote was a mixed bag; it was so small I kept losing it. I did really did not like it, but it is the only way you can switch between 5.1 and stereo output
  Measurement of the Monoprice digital signals confirmed its ability to transparently transmit 24-bit PCM taken from the HDMI signal and route it through the SPDIF jack in its native sample rate: my listening sessions confirmed full res as well.
  Overall, Monoprice HDX401TA IS inexpensive and has a lot of features, but the mini-remote and slow lock time put me off a bit. Still, it passed transparent audio, once the signal was locked, and it does have both TOSLink and SPDIF output. For $43 bucks, it ain’t bad!

Retail Price: $95.00 (as low as $65)
Where to Buy: Markertek, B and H Photo
HDMI Audio De-embedder

 The most compact of the HDMI audio de-embedders in my roundup, the KanexPro is effectively simple: an HDMI input, TOSLink and SPDIF RCA digital outputs, an HDMI pass-through, a 5.1./2.0 switch, and a DC 5V power jack for the wall wart. The designed-in-USA/assembled-in-China, KanexPro HAECOAX is sturdily built, and it became my favorite HDMI box for audiophile use because of its compact size (2.5 inches by 2.5 inches) and simple I/O layout. It basically fits in line and could hang with all the other cables without needing shelf space.
  Like the others, lab measurements showed that the KanexPro passed 24-bit stereo audio perfectly. All my high-res audio samples from the 2L Blu-ray, the Hotel California DVD-A, as well as HD Tracks downloads (and my home studio recording of acoustic and jazz guitar) sounded brilliant as they passed transparently from the Oppo through the de-embedder to the Benchmark DAC2 HGC. The KanexPro HAECOAX locked on quickly to the digital signals and worked without a hitch. On the bench, measurements showed its transparency in transmitting the full-resolution PCM.
  For my audiophile stereo HDMI audio tasks, I really liked the KanexPro HAECOAX. It is a simple HDMI-in, with TOSLInk and RCA coaxial outputs — with a pass-through HDMI jack. Minimalist and effective, it is $65 on the street through various accessories dealers, such as B and H and Markertek.

Retail Price: $279 ( as low as $184)
Where To Buy: Amazon, B and H Photo
HDMI Audio De-embedder
  The made-in-Tawain HD570 is a full-featured de-embedder with more inputs/outputs than the KanexPro. It may be overkill for the audiophile hi-res listener, but I included the de-embedder because it is a solid piece and readily available via numerous dealers. The unit features four HDMI inputs, an HDMI pass-through and 7.1 surround audio via four mini-jack, 1/8-inch analog outputs — two channels per jack.
  The HD570‘s major downside is its single TOSLink digital SPDIF output, which limits its usefulness for audiophiles who don’t have a TOSLink connector on their DAC or other device. Also, TOSLink also does not always support 192 kHz sampling rates. Most of the other de-embedders on the market have both SPDIF and TOSLink. I ended up having to buy an extra box that converted TOSLink SPDIF-to RCA SPDIF in order to use it with one my older DACs. 
  Even with the limited-to-TOSLink output, the Atlona HD570 performed satisfactorily as an HDMI-to-SPDIF converter, passing the Oppo-derived 24/192 signals to the Benchmark DAC via a TOSLink cable and SPDIF adapter. The onboard converter’s A/D wasn’t bad for a little box, but it definitely was not full res. The 1/8th-inch mini-jack 7.1 channel outputs are kind of funky to use with a receiver or preamp, which always have RCA inputs. You need four 1/8th-inch-to-RCA adapter cables or plug-in adapters to make it all work.
  Much better is the now-defunct, Atlona HD577 that I got in for testing a year ago, which is essentially an upgraded HD570 — with the additional SPDIF RCA digital output and 7.1 RCA analog outputs — no mini-jacks. It is housed in a bigger frame to accommodate the larger cables. And though it cost more, I preferred the HD577’s RCA SPDIF, more stable size footprint and its locking DC adapter barrel. Alas, though, the company stopped making it a few months ago. That always happens to things that I like.

The verdict
  In my small sampling of the HDMI de-embedders for hi-res audio use, they were all pretty good, converting the Oppo’s HDMI PCM signals to SPDIF output — without degrading the signal. Since I was really focused on the stereo SPDIF output and not the de-embedder’s onboard analog outputs or extra HDMI inputs, I was more drawn to the KanexPro HAECOAX for its audiophile simplicity. It is compact, robustly built, contains both TOSLink and RCA SPDIF outputs — as well as the single-HDMI input and pass-through.
  And most importantly, it converts, transparently, two-channel 24-bit, up-to 192 kHz audio from any player that passes it through the HDMI, including the mighty Oppo. To be fair, the other de-embedders passed audio transparently, but I preferred the KanexPro HAECOAX because of its non-obtrusive, compact size and sturdy feel. Plus, it synchronized a touch quicker than the others and always stayed locked in the presence of the HDMI signal. The $65 street price tag was welcome as well. Of the four HDMI de-embedders, the KanexPro HAECOAX also gets my nod for the Stellar Sound Award.
  It should be noted that there are a number of the HDMI de-embedders on the market, so if you can’t find one of these, other options are available. Just make sure they pass the 192 kHz sampling rate. I found one that was limited to 48 kHz in its specifications.

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Anonymous said...

Please not that the Monoprice unit defaults to 5.1ch mode when powered ON/Off.
Hopefully the KanexPro unit does the same (please comment ??


Anonymous said...

Atlona HD577 - John was this old unit a good one, re full 24bit etc? Thanks.

John Gatski said...

Yes. The Kanex defaults to 5.1, but it has a swicth to manually switch it as well. The Monoprice needs the remote, which I already lost.

John Gatski said...

The HD577 indeed passes the 24-bit through RCA and TOSLink, plus the onboard analog connections are high-grade; the DC power supply delivers more current and has a locking connector so it does not get pulled out so easily. But for whatever reason, Atlona stopped production.

A Recipe Collector said...

I'm considering the Kanex for use with my Roku 3, however I've read that the Netflix app outputs Dolby Digital Plus, which several of the de-embedded/audio extractors will fail on. Do you know if the Kanex supports Dolby Digital Plus?

Anonymous said...

Is Sony BDP S790 capable to send 24/96 via HDMI slot ?

Anonymous said...

The KanexPro I just received defaults to 2 channel mode when it loses power.

The manual says it defaults to 5.1.

My plan was to use it mainly to get 24 bit output for Blu-ray movies to my DAC, which it does. In order to get a 2 channel downmix, 2 channel mode is required. And in this case, I prefer that it defaults to 2 channel mode.

The issue is that 2 channel mode is limited to 48kHz. So if I want to listen to say DVD Audio or SACD (using Oppo BDP-103) or anything greater than 48, I have to switch to 5.1 mode.

I would prefer that 2-channel would also pass up to 192, which would not require any switching.

John Gatski said...

Using the 5.1 mode does not change discrete stereo output in any way. The Kanex will output up to 192/24 bit, if a discrete 2.0 soundtrack is an option. (BTW, my Kanex Pro's both default to 5.1 when disconnected from power). As for BD downmix to stereo, it depends on the player. Since most BD movies don't come with discrete stereo soundtracks, players often do the downmix in Dolby Digital or DTS, both lossy formats. DD and DTS indicate 48 kHz on a sample rate display. To your other point, some players will output on the Kanex full res through the 2.0 if the player HDMI output is set to seperate (video via HDMI one) audio via HDMI 2). Remember, these HDMI boxes were originally designed to offer a connection solution to folks with a BD player, but no HDMI capable preamp or receiver. The fact they can pass stereo high res up to 192 from DVD-As, BDRs, USB sticks, etc. is a perk that is useful for audiophiles who use the players. My Pioneer Elites, three Oppos, Marantz, a Yamaha and a cheap Sony all output full res stereo from HDMI and de-embedder using data media. The Oppos, Pioneer and Marantz also do it from commercial BDS, if there is a discrete stereo track. Hope this helps.

John Gatski

Anonymous said...

I am using an Oppo BDP-103 set to split A/V with the KanexPro hooked up to the Oppo HDMI 2 output. The KanexPro then goes to a 2 channel DAC. The KanexPro HMDI output is not connected.

As far as I can tell, the KanexPro is limited to 48kHZ when in 2.0 mode.

DVD-A of Fleetwood Mac, Rumours has a 2.0, 96 kHz track. In 2.0 mode, the Oppo display shows LPCM 2.0 48k. In 5.1 mode, it shows LPCM 2.0 96k.

It seems you are saying that some players will output higher than 48kHz when the KanexPro is set to 2.0. Is this correct?

My guess is that in 2.0 mode, the EDID in the KanexPro is telling the Oppo that it will only accept up to 48kHZ. So unless a player is ignoring the EDID data then the limit is 48kHz.

5.1 mode works fine unless you need a 2.0 downmix which most BD's require. If the 2.0 EDID were changed to tell the player that it can accept up to 192, then there would be no need to switch from 2.0. Everything would be covered.

Perhaps I am wrong and the downmix is occuring in the KanexPro rather than the player and in this case, the 48kHz could be a hardware limitation.

This is a nice unit. I have a 3' Blue Jeans Series FE HDMI cable going to the KanexPro. I did some brief testing last night with a DVD comparing the sound through the KanexPro to the sound directly out of the Oppo. There was a definite difference in the sound, but the KAnexPro did not sound inferior, just different. I did not test enough to see which I preferred or test using a CD. This is impressive since I have consistenly found HDMI to sound worse than any other option.

Try changing to 720P and see what you hear. On the 103 this is by far the best sounding resultion. And it afffects the analog and digital outs,not just when using HDMI. I watch most DVD's at 720P because the sound is so much better and the resolution loss in not much. I also watch some BD this way as the sound is so much better with not much loss in resolution.

And with the 103 practically EVERY setting in the setup menu affects the sound. I listened to a CD and went through every setup menu item seeing what sounded best.

John Gatski said...

In my use of the HDMI de-embedder, I use it to transmit audio to an external DAC via the HDMI that otherwise does not transmit full res via the SPDIF or optical. I can assure you that none of the de-embedders we tested and measured sounded any different than the Oppo digital output connected to the same DAC. Yes, the Oppo’s own D/A can sound different than the DAC you are using that is fed from the de-embedder, but the DE boxes we tried are bit and sample rate transparent via the HDMI-to SPDIF conversion pass through in the 5.0 mode with the Oppo. As far as stereo audio, it does not change the sound to play stereo high-res in the Kanex 5.1 mode when output from the SPDIF. We measured it from HDMI in to the SPDIF out. Identical digital signal measurements to 192. If you are using the Kanex as a DAC then, of course, it will sound inferior to the Oppo. Its virtue is the HDMI LPCM being extracted and routed to the SPDIF output.
BTW, I just played the Rumours DVD-A MLP 2.0 24/96 tracks via the HDMI of the Oppo, which was connected to the Kanex Pro — with the DE’s SPDIF output connected to a Benchmark DAC2 D D/A. The DAC2‘s word length/sample rate indicator said 24/96, and it played fine.

John Gatski

john said...

OK Try to finally understand...
If i have sony bdp xxx - output is DSD 2.0CH STEREO VIA HDMI. Would DE extract HR PCM from that output ( then it will go to arcam rdac via coax or optical..)

jovan said...

So Dear John , Im ready to order kanex but unfortunately still Im trying to catch the point. Intention is to use it as transmiter as u said so: output of sony, oppo, marantz or denon or any universal player should be hdmi connected to kanex hdmi input and then via rca, spdif kanex should be connected to DAC. I hope that you will confirm this statement. Regards

John Gatski said...

A Sony player is likely to give you a DSD-to PCM conversion of 16/48, which willl get passed on through the DE SPDIF output. That is not high-res enough. It is lower resolution than using the player DAC. An Oppo BDP-95 or higher, new Pioneer Elites, Marantz will give you 24/88.1, which is better, from the DE SPDIF output. No solution is perfect for DSD-to PCM. If I had a Oppo 95 0r 105, I would use the internal converters. They are very good. If you are transmitting high-res PCM from HDMI, Oppo passes up to 24/192, even from DVD-A.

John Gatski said...

Jovan: Your second comments are correct. Kanex or any other DE will extract PCM from HDMI output, route it to SPDIF output. You then connect that to external DAC. The output quality depends on recording resolution and the player's capability.

Anonymous said...

Not sure that the monoprice is limited to a 48Khz sample rate in 2 channel mode. I just emailed you a sample recorded this way into Logic which appears to be full 88.2 Khz resolution with high-frequency content.


Anonymous said...

I have just got the Denon DBT3313UD which has two HDMI outs... one for audio and one for video.

I was planning to use its 2 channel audio outs into my pre-amp but I assume that using the KanexPro HAEXCOAX, connected to the HDMI audio only output would be work (obviously into my DAC)



Unknown said...

Dear John.
According to some forums sony bdp-s, with setting sacd layer, and lpcm via hdmi can output 176,4 -whats is ok. Then through dac to amp and i suppose we catch the goal for sacd....

Then what about blue ray disk and those settings for hires pcm audio via hdmi...

Anonymous said...

Dear John,
You mentioned: connection solution to folks with a BD player, but no HDMI capable preamp - thats me. Also you have ( between all..) cheap sony bdp so what is your set up for blue ray audio output ( HIREC PCM) - cause I intend to buy kanexpro and to connect it with AMP.

John Gatski said...

I have sampled those Sony players. They output the 176.4 sample rate, but a bit-reduced 16-bit for dsd to PCM conversion. At least, the Oppo gives you 24/88 on the comversion You are better off using the Oppo DAC.

Robocop said...

I've just bought the Kanex to extract HD sound from my Cambridge 751. Interesting that some BR's especially early ones only output 16/48 in PCM mode. The only one that outputs 24/96(I own)is Leonard Cohen's live concert(Songs from the Road) BR. Sacd outputs PCM 24/44. DVDA is no advantage as the Cambridge outputs 24/88 on the players digital and was slightly better sound than HDMI output. The Cambridge is made in the same factory as the Oppo and mine is similar to the 93. I run the new Benchmark DAC2L. I tried switching between 2 and 5.1. It reverts back to 2 on some recordings. It needed to be in 5.1 to get 24/96 on LC otherwise it produced 24/48 in 2 channel. Anyway great little gadget, I've mainly bought it to hear live BR concerts in HRes.

Anonymous said...

Hi from sweden
I have oppo 103 and hegel hd11 dac supports 24/192. Bought kanex pro, settings for oppo should I have hdmi audio settings to Lpcm? and should I downmix stereo 2 channel from oppo or just from the kanex pro? I know that i plugin in hdmi 2 outpout from oppo, but im not sure by the settings for the oppo, hopefully you know=) // Thomas Palm

John Gatski said...

Mr. Palm:
With Kanex, you need to set HDMI to LPCM or bitstream and at 192 sample rate. You will get full res audio from download files, DVD-A, Dual-Disc and Blu-ray — if it has distinct stereo soundtrack. You can get DSD-to-PCM as well, at 24/88.1 from the Oppo. You do not have downmix if you are listening to stereo music. You can downmix 5.1 to two channel, but I cannot guarantee you will also get a good stereo mix from the machine. BTW, you can also post questions to our facebook page:

John Gatski
Everything Audio Network

Anonymous said...

Has anyone tried a de-embedder with a Pioneer BD-450? I can’t find out if this player is handshake-compliant or not. When I play DVD-A files to a Rega DAC straight through the coax output it plays in higher res, but when I play BD it gets down sampled to 48 kHz.
Thanks for your help!

John Gatski said...

I have not personally used that player. Several of the later Elite players would output hi-res via a de-embedder. Do you have the de-embedder set to 5.1 mode or stereo. Sometimes it makes a difference. BTW, if you can get full-res from the coax, you don't need the de-embedder, except for BD music. I run a Pioneer BDP-52 Elite from the coax for DVD-A. USB, BD and DVD-Data hi-res files. Works great.

John Gatski

Anonymous said...

Hi, John:

Thank you for your very informative information to discuss about de-embedder and HDMI-output music. The specific question I have is the Marantz UD 5007's output specification for SACD. Does it handle 24bit/192Hz or it will down convert everything into 16Bit/48Hz?

Thank you very much,

Best regards,


John Gatski said...

I don't know about UD5007, but UD7007, outputs 24/88 PC from DSD via HDMI. In my opinion, it sounds okay, but not as good as the native decoding from the player. The UD7007 is a mighty fine SACD player.
BTW, I am now testing the Essence HDAAC DAC,A/D headphone amp/preamp (an audiophile army knife) that is one of the few DACS with real HDMI input. IFor a 5V DC powered DAC, it works really well and has impressive audio quality, smooth and detailed, for $699. You don't have to add a HDMI box if you use it with an Oppo, etc. It already has an HDMI input

John Gatski

Anonymous said...


I have a Samsung BD-P1500 connected via an optical cable to a Peachtree Dac-it D/A converter.

According to the User Manual for the BD-P1500, "PCM Down Sampling - select Off when the Amplifier connected to the to the player is 96 KHz compatible. Signals will be output without any changes."

Based on a that, it would seem that I do not need any de-imbedder and my admittedly subjective listening sees to confirm that, when I play Blue Ray discs with 192/24 material, i.e. The newly released Pure Audio recording of Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique LS00757.
It sounds "fantastic"!

What do you think? Is the BD P-1500 up to snuff?

Ogi said...

John, I was interested for UD5007 (cheaper option) but if you didnt test it, no matter.
If you can confirm for ud7007 cause i cant check it by myself

signal via hdmi output:
- BRA_ as its specified on disc (24/96,24/192)
- DVA_ as its specified on disc ( same as BR)
- SACD_ dsd direct or conversion to PCM 24/88

John Gatski said...

The UD-7007 passes BD audio, DVD-A, and data PCM up to 24/192 from the HDMI. It only passes DSD directly to a receiver or prepro that is capable of decoding the full res DSD bitstream. The HDMI de-embedder only transmits the DSD-to-PCM conversion that takes place in the player. 24/88.2. I don't like onboard dsd-to-PCM conversion. You are better off listening to SACD via UD-7007 converters.
The UD-7007 is an excellent BD and audio plyer. I use one for playing HD Tracks from USB sticks.

John Gatski

Anonymous said...

If we use Kanex just as a road between source and dac, can we conclude for KAnex that: 5.1 is default and it should stay like that even when our signal from source is 2.0 24/96 or 192.
For dsd/pcm via hdmi signal before kanex is 24/88.

I understood your review like that but some comments after confuse me.
Regards and thanks a lot for comment in advance.

John Gatski said...

The reason to leave the HDMI de-embedder in the 5.1 mode, which the Kanex defaults to as well as Monoprice, is that the sample rate stays native. The two-channel mode on the HDMI boxes is for connecting to TVs, thus the sample rates drops to 48 kHz. Leave Kanex in 5,1 mode for the native res of the recording. BTW, the HDMI de-embedders will not pass hi-res audio from BD players that don’t have a open pipeline via the HDMI conduit. I have sampled many Samsung, Yamaha, Sony etc. that are locked at 16/48. Pioneer, Oppo, Marantz and Denon models do pass up to 192/24--at least as of two years ago. Higher-end BD players are becoming fewer and fewer. If you use an Oppo BDP-105 for downloads, you can use the SPDIF for everything but DSD.

John Gatski

Unknown said...

Hi John, Thanks for great article. Wonder if these can decode Chromecast 5.1 audio to spdif to Onkyo AV receiver which has no HDMI. Was looking into essence HdAC when I stumbled on your review. Any thoughts would be helpful. Currently My current setup is Chromecast to TV which o my allows 2.1 spdif to receiver.

John Gatski said...

I have not tried to link Chromecast to A/V gear. If you are transmitting the audio via the HDMI to the de-embedder, you might be able to get Dolby Digital 5.1 out the SPDIF. You won't get multichannel hi-res surround.

John Gatski

Michael said...
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Michael said...
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Anonymous said...

I am using one of these with a Blackberry Playbook. When playing 24/96 files stored on the playbook and outputted via the BB's hdmi port through the Kanex and into my Audiolab MDAC, the MDAC shows its playing at 16/48 either through coax or optical input from the Kanex. The same thing happens when playing the same 24/96 file from my computer into the MDAC via the Kanex i.e. still shows 16/48 so it's not a problem with the Blackberry. If I play the same file via USB straight into the MDAC the latter shows 24/96. So is the Kanex really transmitting 24/96?

John Gatski said...

We have tested the Kanex. It does indeed transmit up to 24/192 from the digital output. However the transmitting HDMI device has to allow it. There are many TVs, BD players, etc. that limit word length and sample rate. The HDMI de-embedder will only pass hi-res if the host allows it. My Oppo and pioneer Elite players allow full res via HDMI; my Samsung, Sony and Yamaha BD players do not.

Unknown said...

John I try to contact you but now in hope that you will find time to answer me just to make my equipment to work as i wish
-Marantz ud5007 hdmi output set to PCM ( NoT BITSTREAM)
-Kanex works without redlight (below to 2.0 indicator) so i suppose that is set to default 5.1 as you suggest for high resolution (i need stereo but player allow switch to stereo)
-further via coax to dac from dac via rca to strero amplifier.
Thats it. I have arcam rdac so there are not indicators for resolution that can helps me. You alredy know protocol thats why I am asking your confirmation.
Best regards

John Gatski said...

Jovan: Your described setup scenario with Marantz UD-5007/Kanex should be passing hi-res, but your DAC has no indicators.You will just have to take on faith that hi-res is passing through. Now some sources, such as commercial BD may not output hi-res unless there is a dedicated stereo PCM tracks. But with DVD-A, HD Tracks Downloads, etc., the Marantz will pass 24/192 audio via HDMI. If you want a visual indicator of sample rate and word length (16 or 24 bit), get a DAC that displays that info, such as Benchmark, Oppo...Hope this helps. BTW, the Marantz has vg onboard converters

John Gatski

VoronoV said...

Hello John !

Thank you so much for your review, it helped me a lot choosing a de-embedder !

I bought the Kanex HAECOAX in april, after having read a million articles on the internet about how to extract the hi-res audio from a HDMI signal ... none of them were really helpful, except yours !

Finally, your review decided me to buy it (Amazon US), fortunately they ship to France.

BD player : Toshiba BDX 4500 / Amp : Yamaha R-N500 (I use the coaxial input).
I can listen BD Pure Audio (192/24 or 96/24) with this tiny device and it sounds great !


Steve Izzo said...

Hi John, like others, thanks a ton for a serious education on audiophile bd performance and the de-embedder. Already have an external dac and just purchased the de-embedder/cables. I am looking to buy a pioneer elite(oppo is out of my league). you had good results with a bdp52. There are bdp 62's and 80's available for a reasonable price. can you elaborate on what pioneer elite player you know will pass hi res audio other than the bdp5 or where else to look for such info? thanks.

Anonymous said...

To confirm, did the Kanexpro HDMI de-embedder require you to use the HDMI output in order to draw digital audio out of the coaxial audio output?

Tried the unit with my Oppo BDP-105, via HDMI2, and a coaxial cable into my stereo DAC and could not get a signal with either 2.0/5.1 channel option selected on the Kanexpro and with every combination of Oppo audio processing and downmix settings.

The light always stayed red, until I tried hooking my TV up to the HDMI output of the Kanexpro box, then the light changed to blue and the video signal was passed to the TV.

John Gatski said...

Make sure you have selected HDMI output on the Oppo from the player menu If you choose SPDIF out, no signal gets to de-embedder. . I have two 105's and the Kanex. The Oppos' relay the hi-res from data BDs, DVD's, thumb drives all the way to 24/192. DVD-A i down sampled to 16/48, unlike the BDP-95, which could 24/192 from DVD-A.

John Gatski

francisco gaston de iriarte said...

John Thanks in advance for your help.I have a Minerva Weiss DAC with usb DSD and Marantz 9600 universal player.I want to improve the sound quality of the Marantz using the external DAC.I have a lot of SACD and DVD A. Using the Kanex Pro from HDMI output of Marantz I will get PCM in the DAC , but not DSD, could you please confirm? Because I can directly plug in my preamp the output from Marantz which is analog.I think the improvement of quality would be the best quality of my DAC compared with the internal one in Marantz.

francisco gaston de iriarte said...

John I have a universal player Maranzt 9600 SACD DVDA that I utilize directly with my preamp.But I would like to use the Weiss Minerva DAC DSD instead of the internal DAC in Marantz.I understood that using the HDMI out of Marantz into the de-embedder and out to the DAC I will get PCM signal into the DAC.But is it a way of getting DSD to my DAC from de-embedder? I thanks you so much for your help

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for posting this article, its been a huge help. I just bought an Oppo 103 and plan on buying the KanexPro to run HDMI through my aftermarket DAC. In your opinion, how does audio from an aftermarket DAC via Kanexpro compare to the Oppo 105's highly touted audio section?

John Gatski said...

Mr. Garcia: The BDP-105 DAC is good player and the ESS onboard DAC is very good.Takes a pretty good standalone DAC to beat it. Benchmark Dac 2, Mytek Brooklyn do the job, but it sets you back $2,000. You gotta spend about $2,000 to beat the player DAC

John Gatski

Anonymous said...

Hi John,

This has been a very helpful blog indeed, many thanks for that!

I have invested in a Mytek stereo192-DSD this year and thought a SONY UHP-H1 might serve me well as a reasonably priced transport for my CDs, SACDs, DVD-As (and BDs with DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD content), so I just bought one.

Unfortunately I wasn't yet aware of the HDCP / EDID handshake issue at the time of purchase.
(I could still return the player and be refunded, but haven't got enough time to order and test a recommended de-embedder.)

Do you know whether or not the SONY UHP-H1 is a handshake-compliant player?
Thank you for your help!

Best regards,

Nicholas (Germany)