Playback Issues - Audio/Video & Power

Help with audio & video playback issues, TV display type recognition & compatibility, HDCP messages, troubleshooting playback errors, advertisements, and resolving power issues.
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Miami_Son
Level 8

Audio passthrough not possible?

I apologize for the long first post.
Just purchased a Roku Ultra to replace my perfectly great, but obsolete (ie, not updateable) Western Digital Live Hub. I mostly use the Live Hub to watch my lossless MKV BD conversions through my audio system and on my Samsung TV. I convert my movies from Blu-Ray DVD to MKV format using Pavtube's ByteCopy. The conversions are done 1 for 1 in both video and audio, meaning that they are not re-encoded, but are as they are on the disc. If the audio is DTS, DTS Master, Dolby, Dolby Plus, TrueHD...whatever, it is retained in that format during the conversions. Same for video bitrate. I prefer this as I want the same quality of video and audio as the original. The Live Hub can be set to HDMI audio passthrough to let the audio be handled by my Onkyo home theater receiver. This setup has worked fine for me for over 9 years with all audio formats, but as I want to dump my dish I decided on a Roku. I got the Ultra because of the USB functionality. After setting it up the first thing I did was connect my Toshiba Canvio drive to it to see how it handles the audio from my MKV files. First movie I tried (It, TrueHD) was silent. Then the latest Mad Max movie. Also silent. I rooted through the settings and could not find any way to set the Ultra for simple passthrough of audio over HDMI. Am I missing something? Why wouldn't they include this basic functionality? It can't be due to licensing issues if the device is not actually decoding the audio. That's being handled by my receiver. How could a nearly 10 year old device (the Live Hub) that has been out of production for at least 6 years have more functionality than the latest and greatest Roku has to offer? Couldn't this be easily fixed in a firmware update? Will it? Very disappointed in my purchase. Was going to buy 2 more Ultras as I have another 5.1 system in another room and my brother wants to do the same. I did buy 2 Express models to use with sound bars. Hope there's no issue with those.
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15 Replies
atc98092
Level 16

Re: Audio passthrough not possible?

It isn't included because both DTS and Dolby require a license to allow the audio to be processed, even just for a bitstream passthrough. We have one saving grace in that DTS-MA tracks will passthrough the lossy DTS core, so it doesn't have to be transcoded. But TrueHD doesn't contain a DD core, so it can't be passed through. No Roku will pass the HD audio.
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Actually, many more older devices handled the HD audio, as you mentioned. But most new Blu Ray players, which all contain licenses for TrueHD and DTS-MA, are still removing bitstream passthrough for streamed media. I haven't had a BD player that passed both HD audio formats in years (as in 3-4 years). I agree it's annoying, since the AVR will process the audio and it has its own license for doing so. We've asked Roku for years to offer this as an option, but so far no luck.
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And it's not just Roku. The Amazon Fire TV also will not pass HD audio bitstreams. The lowest cost option I know that actually does pass it is the Nvidia Shield, which is double the cost of the most expensive Roku. And the Shield has its own set of issues, according to the forums I read. 
Dan
Roku Stick (3600), Ultra (4640), Premiere (3920), Insignia 720p Roku TV, Sharp 4K Roku TV, Nvidia Shield, Windows 10 Pro x64 running Serviio and Plex on a wired Gigabit network.
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Miami_Son
Level 8

Re: Audio passthrough not possible?

Wow, really? That is disappointing to hear. Such a simple thing would make this THE best device of its kind in the market. Not sure why WD got out of the streaming device market because the Live Hub was really ahead of its time. Guess I will be sending the Ultra back and getting another Express just for streaming and keeping my Live Hub for watching BD conversions. Was hoping to slim down to one device. Any workarounds that you know of? My TV and receiver both support ARC. Might that let me get the sound through? The optical out on my Smart TV only supports 5.1 internally, not on connected devices.
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atc98092
Level 16

Re: Audio passthrough not possible?

Nope, no workaround. ARC doesn't support HD audio in its current version, but an upcoming version will support HD audio. Of course, you'd have to replace your TV and AVR to support the new version! My current Sony BD Player is a couple of years old, and it passes TrueHD but not DTS-MA (or is it the other way around...). I also have an older Sony Media player, similar to your WD box, and it too would stream both. But I had to replace it because it couldn't handle the HD video bitrates. It choked at about 20 Mbps, and I have some BD rips that can exceed 40. 
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As I said, it's not a problem specific to Roku. Amazon Fire TV and Google Chromecast won't. The Nvidia Shield will pass both, and there's more expensive players that will also. Oppo does with their latest UHD players, so I've heard. But those start at over $500.  :shock:
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There are a number of inexpensive Android based players that can be found on Amazon or other sites. Many of them are well under $100. Some of those claim HD audio passthrough, but they will also claim 4K HDR support. But their HDMI connection is only version 1.4, which doesn't support 4K 60Hz, and doesn't support HDCP 2.2, so they aren't totally truthful. Not sure how much I trust their other specs. Also, many/most of them might work with Netflix but few if any support Amazon Prime. But they're cheap enough it might be worth trying, and Amazon's return policy is solid.
Dan
Roku Stick (3600), Ultra (4640), Premiere (3920), Insignia 720p Roku TV, Sharp 4K Roku TV, Nvidia Shield, Windows 10 Pro x64 running Serviio and Plex on a wired Gigabit network.
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Miami_Son
Level 8

Re: Audio passthrough not possible?

Checked out the Shield. Not really a gamer, but looks like it will do what I want. Only problem is having to teach the GF two different systems. She's not very techy and I was hoping to be able to use Rokus throughout the house to make it easier for her. Going to order one and try it out. Appreciate all your help and info. Still bewildering that Roku would leave passthrough functionality out of their flagship device with no plans to add it. My Live Hub has never faltered with any MKV I have thrown at it regardless of bitrate or audio codec. If only it could update to offer more streaming apps (other than Netflix) it would be perfect. Smiley Sad

Thanks again.
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karelj
Level 7

Re: Audio passthrough not possible?

"atc98092" wrote:
It isn't included because both DTS and Dolby require a license to allow the audio to be processed, even just for a bitstream passthrough. 

If this is the case, how do those various Kodi boxes based on the s900 chipset bitstream DTS-MA and Dolby True HD? There is no way the dozens of manufacturers pay licensing fees for the hundreds and hundreds of boxes they churn out. Kodi is created and maintained by dedicated volunteers, so they aren't paying any fees.
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twiceover
Level 11

Re: Audio passthrough not possible?

"karelj" wrote:
"atc98092" wrote:
It isn't included because both DTS and Dolby require a license to allow the audio to be processed, even just for a bitstream passthrough. 

If this is the case, how do those various Kodi boxes based on the s900 chipset bitstream DTS-MA and Dolby True HD? There is no way the dozens of manufacturers pay licensing fees for the hundreds and hundreds of boxes they churn out. Kodi is created and maintained by dedicated volunteers, so they aren't paying any fees.


I'm sure all those pirate box manufacturers aren't concerned about paying licensing fees.
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atc98092
Level 16

Re: Audio passthrough not possible?

What twiceover said...  Smiley Very Happy
Dan
Roku Stick (3600), Ultra (4640), Premiere (3920), Insignia 720p Roku TV, Sharp 4K Roku TV, Nvidia Shield, Windows 10 Pro x64 running Serviio and Plex on a wired Gigabit network.
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Miami_Son
Level 8

Re: Audio passthrough not possible?

I still don't understand why Roku (or anyone) would have to pay licensing fees for passthrough of signals it leaves untouched and undecoded. My amp (Onkyo) does all the work and has paid those fees in order to put those logos on the device and in their literature. It's not like Roku is getting away with anything. Someone already paid the licensing fees.
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kpfleming
Level 7

Re: Audio passthrough not possible?

Owners of patents on technologies can choose to require licensing in any way they wish; their methods don't have to be logical, rational, or anything else. I suspect in this case that both Dolby Labs and DTS have decided that any device which passes these signals and is aware of their content (unlike raw network devices which are just passing bits around) must pay some sort of minimal license fee. In order for the Roku to convert the source audio metadata (which describes the video and audio signal formats) into the HDMI metadata, it has to be aware of the types and content of the bitstreams. The recordings and streaming services that Roku devices support don't send an "HDMI bitstream", they send other types of streams which the Roku has to convert into HDMI.

I think all of us would certainly agree that requiring a license for this type of metadata conversion, which doesn't involve any manipulation of the bitstream itself, is quite ridiculous, but we aren't the owners of the patents.
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