How to get 5.1 audio on Sky HD – updated
UPDATED – SEE BELOW!
I have just installed a Sky HD system for a colleague and hit a really annoying problem.
The Sky HD box puts out stereo digital audio onto its HDMI connector, and provides 5.1 (surround sound) digital audio on separate connectors. This is fine if you are just feeding a TV, but if you are going into an AV receiver to provide switching between different video sources – and to give you surround sound – it is a real pain because:
(a) Some AV receivers won’t let you provide audio separately from the HDMI video signal
(b) Those that do let you provide separate audio and video (e.g. Sony) don’t allow you to use automatic HDMI linking or signalling if you do use separate audio; in other words, rather than using one remote control to control everything, you’re back to having a whole pile of remote controls, one per box, and you need a degree in AV Engineering to work out what controls what!
The grapevine suggests that Sky recognise the limitation of their design and, at some point in the future, will allow you to optionally select 5.1 for the HDMI interface. This may or may not be a software upgrade; nobody seems to know. Until they do fix it, here’s a work-around:
Go to http://www.hdcable.co.uk and buy their ‘DVI to HDMI Converter with Audio’ box (CECD0101B); it’s about £50. Then get yourself a short digital audio coax to coax lead (or optical to optical) and a decent quality short HDMI male to DVI male cable. Wire it up like this:
The hdcable.co.uk box strips off the stereo digital signal from the HDMI cable and replaces it with the 5.1 digital audio from the Sky HD box. The AV receiver sees a normal HDMI cable (carrying 5.1 audio) and can use all its HDMI linking / signalling / etc so you can stick half your remote controls in the cupboard as the TV remote can do all the day to day controlling!
There are several more expensive ways of fixing the problem, but this was the cheapest and easiest that I found and works a treat. I’ve even suggested to the good folks at hdcable.co.uk that they make another version specifically for this SkyHD purpose with an HDMI connector instead of a DVI connector.
UPDATE – January 2012
Courtesy of Mike Spurr (thanks Mike) it now transpires that HD Cable have stopped making this product. Although some Sky HD boxes now seem to have a ‘5.1 on HDMI’ audio option, older boxes certainly don’t and there is still a need for something like this if you want to embed the 5.1 audio with the HDMI output.
HD Cable recommended CYP products as an alternative (at a higher cost), and Mike has found this: http://www.superfi.co.uk/p-3638-cyp-au11ca-hdmi-audio-embedder-with-repeater.aspx
It’s actually a little easier to use than the HD Cable product, although it is more expensive, but if your Sky HD box doesn’t offer you the choice and you need to strip off 2 channel and add 5.1 to Sky’s HDMI signal then it seems a good way of doing it:
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