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How to get 5.1 audio on Sky HD – updated


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:

Sky HD Fix

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:

23 comments to How to get 5.1 audio on Sky HD – updated

  • Chris Mumford

    I do have this problem with my Onkyo amp. I was considering using an HDMI to DVI cable to lose the audio signal and then a DVI-HDMI adaptor so that I can plug this into my amp. I am slightly worried that the amp will see an HDMI input with no signal but refuse to pick up the audio from a separate optical cable from my sky hd box to the amp. Any comments/suggestions would be appreciated.

  • Tom G

    Hi Chris, the honest answer is the unhelpful one of “I don’t know”. However, this is more than merely ignorance on my part; in truth, different manufacturers seem to configure their AV systems differently and it is often difficult to be sure about what they will do in the circumstances you describe without actually trying it; I know the Sony receiver that I mentioned seemed as if it would do what I wanted without the extra box and, if I had designed it, it certainly would have done the switching properly, but in the end its (lack of) logic defeated me and the extra box solution was the best I could come up with. You may find that the obvious advice about reading the Onkyo amp instructions or FAQ/Support website won’t help because the question you want an answer to is just too subtle. I guess an obvious suggestion is to buy the Cable and Adaptor from someone who agrees to giving you your money back if they don’t work, and give it a try. This is where it’s worth paying a bit more on the high street for the luxury of a customer-friendly product returns policy; you could try Richer Sounds who, in my experience, are very good on price AND flexible over things like this. Sorry I can’t be more specific than that!

  • Chris Mumford

    Thanks for the reply Tom. And apologies for taking too long to get back to you. I thought I would give Onkyo one more try and this time the reply I received sounded right as they also suggested I read page 59 of the instruction manual (which runs I believe to about 180 pages and is not the easiest to understand) I did as the manual suggested which is you have to assign a digital audio input to the HDMI input for the Sky box.By doing this it tells the amp to take the picture from the HDMI but not the sound which then comes in from the assigned optical input. I put the HDMI lead back into my amp did the required assigning and bingo I can now hear Dolby Digital sound from my Sky box. The amp is very nice(TX NR1007 9.2 sound) but is quite complicated to set up.Thanks again.
    Regards Chris

  • Tom G

    Hi Chris

    Sorry for the delay; I have been away. I’m glad you sorted your amp configuration out. I use Sony and, frankly, won’t ever do again. Not only is their functionality very limited – I can’t do the sort of assignment you can with the Onkyo – but the reliability of Sony gear is diabolical! Anyway, you’re sorted now so that’s the main thing.

    Thanks for the feedback and best regards.


  • Matt Hardwick

    OK, I have been doing some research, this won’t be fixed by a software update (certainly on most boxes) because it’s actually a fault with the design of the motherboard.

    The chip/processor that deals with AC3 5.1 audio isn’t actually wired into the HDMI output processor – instead is wired to the SPDIF Optical and Coaxial output processors only.

    Shame really.

  • Tom G

    Thanks for the update Matt, looks like the workaround – as so often happens – is the permanent fix!

  • Bill W

    Thank you very much for this idea which I’m about to try. I have developed a horrible spaghetti solution over the years to get the Sky HD box to work through my AV receiver (Panasonic HTR210 integrated TV stand with speakers) using a separate optical connection for audio. The main challenge is to get everything to wake up with one press of the TV remote control with everything switched through correctly by default. I’ve never been able to achieve this – the state of the art is that I need one extra button press from TV to AV mode on the television, as the Panasonic kit, while well designed (unlike the Sky box), isn’t quite up to sorting everything out with its Viera/HDMI control while being half-fooled by separate HDMI and optical inputs. This solution, which ought to make the Sky HD box look like a well behaved HDMI source, may well be the answer.

  • Tom G

    I hope you have success, Bill. I use a Sony AV Receiver and TV (never again, I hate their reliability) and the main reason for choosing that set-up was the close integration of TV, AV and Sky; my Sky+ remote controls the Sony’s AV volume so, for normal use, you only need the one Sky remote. It all falls to pieces when you watch a DVD though, as you then need to reset the HDMI inputs with a third remote. Maybe, one day, they’ll all agree a comms standard!

    Thanks for the comments.

    Tom G.

  • Hi Tom
    The sky HDMI DD separate Box solution looks good, however, it does not appear to be still available as at 02/01/2012

    Can you advise where I can get one?


  • Tom G

    You appear to be correct, Mike, thanks for bringing this to my attention. I found other solutions at the same time as I found HD Cable but they were more expensive – for example, Gefen: http://www.gefen.com/kvm/dproduct.jsp?prod_id=3570 . I will get onto the HD Cable people and let you know what they say.

    Tom G.

  • Thanks Tom
    I recently purchased a top of the range sony KDL-HX923 TV and a BDV-E780W wireless surround sound system. They integrate well together, except that I have to use an optical cable to get DD from Sky => although I sometimes get sound drop outs when switching between sky channels and have to got to another channel and back again to get the sound back. This is very annoying. Also, if I want to watch BBC I Player on the TV I have to turn sky off otherwise the sky sound overwrites the sound from i player source
    I don,t think sky have a HDMI DD sound option on any of their PVR HD boxes, although one of thei help pages seems to indicate that they do:


    screen shots in this official sky link show a “hdmi” sound option which I don’t have on my Sky + hD Box (purchased May 2010) do they now do a sky HD box with HDMI option? Very confusing

    Any assistance you could provide on this matter would be greatly appreciated



  • Tom G

    Update from HD Cable, January 2012:

    “This is now discontinued.

    CYP make an alternative product that can be found here:


    It’s not something we stock, but the CYP equipment is very good. They are more expensive than our older device, but will perform the same function.

    It’s always worth being aware that you can only get one type of audio on HDMI, stereo or multichannel. So using this will mean no stereo TV will playback audio.

    Similarly, most surround sound amplifiers have audio inputs alongside the HDMI inputs that can be assigned, so this device isn’t necessary in those situations.”

    So there is an alternative, albeit at a higher cost.

    Hope this helps.

    Tom G.


    Hi hope that you can assist. I have a Sky HD BOX connected to a projector Optima HD20 via an HDMI Lead I have the Sky box connected to a Denon AV amp ref AVR1820 Via an optical Toslink cable. Problem I cant get 5.1 sound. Any suggestions?

  • Tom G

    Hi Paul

    I don’t know those particular devices so I’m not sure I can be a lot of help. The Sky box should certainly send out 5.1 Audio on its optical output (mine does!).

    Are you getting stereo, i.e. it’s just the 5.1 surround sound aspect that’s missing? In that case, have you set the Sky box’s audio output correctly? Or is it completely silent?

    Best regards


  • paul rudd

    hi tom,
    i have read your couple of threads on the 5.1 surround/sky issue, and you sound as though you are an expert on the subject. i have done some research reference time delay on sound against picture or vice versa. there seems to be a lot of the same answers, until i read your threads.
    i have been trying to find a solution to get surround sound from my sky hd box onto my sony dav 888s. i have optical into amp from the sky box, but hdmi from sky box to tv. dav 888s has no hdmi connection. would you be so kind in offering any suggestions to overcome my sound lag issues please?



  • Tom G

    Hi Paul

    It is often unwise to promote ones-self as an expert… if one isn’t! I certainly would not claim guru status on digital audio (although I used to be a professional analogue audio designer in the seventies) – this blog piece was written simply because I found a way of fixing a problem that seemed to have few published solutions.

    From a quick check of its user manual the DAV-S888 seems to have no time delay capabilities. The system I put in for the colleague, and my own system at home, both have a built-in time delay that you can adjust. This doesn’t fix all sources because some TV channels do have variable delays, but it allows you to overcome a consistent delay caused by decoding technology within your set-up.

    So, assuming that you don’t want to replace the DAV-S888, common-sense would suggest that you put a separate time-delay unit into the offending part of the signal chain. http://www.js-technology.com/store/product.php?id_product=21 seems to be such a product and there is further information at http://www.felston.com/.

    Sky+ HD boxes (some variants, at least) also allow a time delay to be added to the audio signal in 20ms chunks if the sound is ahead of the video in your case, although that would have no effect on DVD sound sync, of course.

    Sorry I can’t be more specific but web searches on “lip-sync” or “audio time delays” may give some useful information.

    Best regards


  • Jon H

    Hi Tom

    I’m just about to buy a new home theatre system and have come up against a pretty big stumbling block. I am wanting to link my sky hd box and xbox360 to the 5.1 system. However, both have a digital optical outlet only.

    One of my friends uses a manual optical switch for 2 to 1 but i was wondering if there was a better way to fix this problem. My old Dvd player was connected via a digital coaxial and component leads and wondered if there was a way to use these as they were very expensive?

    In addition, is this the right way to split sound and vision as my tv is the new panasonic tx-50vt50B and i want to complement this with a decent surround system, where i can have 5.1 from sky, blue-ray and x-box360.

    Thanks in anticipation


  • Stu F

    I also have an Onkyo amp connected to my sky+HD box via HDMI and Optical cables. Up until 6 months ago I could recieve DD fine then overnight it just stopped and now i just get stereo. Is this possibly due to a firmware update? My amp settings have always been the same and sky have even replaced the box for a brand new one. If however i unplug the HDMI cable from my sky box and just leave the optical lead plugged in the sound comes through in DD then when I plug the HDMI back in to the sky box it reverts back to stereo again. I find this incredibly frustrating and baffling as one day i’m getting DD fine then the next day just stereo….
    Please help!!

  • Tom G


    Apologies for the delay in responding. As in my reply to Paul, I don’t want to claim any digital audio guru status, I will just apply a little experience and ask you to make your own mind up and do more research as you see fit.

    A digital optical connection to your 5.1 receiver is a good solution technically. You haven’t said what 5.1 audio receiver you either have or aspire to. Some AV Receivers do provide multiple digital audio inputs which they switch to the TV along with the associated digital video inputs; it looks like this approach might be good for you.

    Yes, you could use a 2>1 switch but it will always need you to switch between the sources manually which could be a pain. You could get a digital audio to component or digital co-ax converter, but (a) this would add to your bill, negating the benefit of re-using older cables, (b) the wiring becomes more complicated, and (c) does your preferred AV receiver actually allow for multiple digital audio inputs on different types of interface? Until you know what you want to do at the receiver end it is difficult to offer much more advice.

    I think a chat with a knowledgeable person in an AV / HiFi shop might be a good way forwards.

    Best regards


  • Tom G


    Apologies for the delay in responding.

    I can’t comment on whether an over-air firmware update HAS caused the change, other to say that it wouldn’t surprise me. I have seen, over the years, several over-air updates that seem not to have been fully tested on the variety of hardware that’s out there and the consequence is a sudden change of behaviour (often unwanted)!

    From your description, I wonder whether it is the audio in the HDMI (from a Sky+ box this is probably stereo, although – as per my original blog – there may be 5.1 at some time; perhaps it has changed in your box from the “new” 5.1 to the older stereo?) that is causing the amp to switch to this in preference to the digital audio (DD) cable?

    Google “sky hd audio over hdmi” to see more comments than I can write here!

    On your Sky+ HD box, do you have a setting to turn off audio in the HDMI? Or can you do the same in your AV receiver? If not, then I wonder if something like I show in the diagrams could be used to either get 5.1 onto HDMI or – paradoxically – to take audio off the HDMI (e.g. use a DVI to HDMI cable as this strips the audio off?) and let the digital audio connection do its job?

    Before you spend any money, though, I suggest you do a little Googling and get some advice, there would be nothing more annoying than spending the money and ending up exactly where you are now!

    Sorry I can’t offer you any certainty, but I hope you have a few things to look at. As with the comment to Jon, a knowledgeable AV expert in one of the better HiFi shops could be worthwhile speaking to.

    Best regards,


  • Ian Oxley

    Though my experiences are mainly with Yamaha and Denon receivers- the main brands (which to my mind includes Onkyo) usually allow a video input to have an alternative audio input assigned. This was touched on in an earlier post.

    I think that Stu F’s receiver defaults to HDMI audio when this is connected but will play optical carried signal otherwise. In the receiver input setup menu I am 99% sure it will be possible to instruct the relevant HDMI input to use audio from the appropriate optical port. This is quite a long standing principle of AV receivers which I first encountered on. Pioneer unit a decade ago. But the average manual needs a second manual to translate it!! 😮

  • Ian Oxley

    I meant to say, instruct the HDMI input to permanently use the audio from the optical port of your choice. Once set this override is transparent and the audio carried by HDMI becomes irrelevant.

    I do feel that Sky has crudely trampled upon the advantages that HDMI was supposed to bring!

  • Tom G

    Thanks Ian, helpful information.

    My blog post originally started because of Sony’s quirkiness regarding what it would and would not allow you to do when tying separate audio and video signals together, especially if you wanted to use its proprietary integrated control signalling. But we are now hearing about all sorts of other issues that people have too!

    I guess the key message is to study the manuals… and experiment… especially before you spend any money on other kit that may not be needed!

    Thanks for taking the time and trouble to comment.


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