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Old 05-17-2020, 06:16 PM
robardin is offline
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Flushing, NY
Posts: 4,980

Netflix / Plex / a 4K HDR display run through an AV receiver = don't get a Roku!!

[So, is a part-question, part-informative-rant (warning to others) that is home theater related appropriate for Cafe Society? Feels like it is to me...]

TLDR: If you have an AV receiver multiplexing input audio/video sources to a 4K/HDR video display while doing the audio processing work for surround sound, especially if you will heavily use both Plex and Netflix, don't get a Roku device (specfically, the Roku Ultra, though by all reports, the Roku Premiere has the same problems).

Because even the Roku Ultra, their top of the line model:

(a) doesn't work for 4K/HDR if passed through an A/V receiver (I've tried two of them!)
(b) doesn't support lossless audio (DTS-HD or TrueHD), which I didn't know
(c) if you use the optical audio output (SPDIF) on the Ultra, you lose Netflix surround sound (which is DD+ and requires HDMI)
(d) and also, the SPDIF output on the Roku has a timing bug for DTS audio

QUESTION: I've tried (a) with two receivers, a Denon AVR-S720W and a Yamaha RXV-485, both brands whose designs I trust, with the same fundamental problem with HDR video played from the Roku Ultra. If you have a receiver that does work exactly as I describe (as it ought to do) with a Roku Ultra, PLEASE let me know what make/model it is, and maybe I'll give it a go.

OK, now begins my rant.

I've used various Roku devices quite happily for many years with my HDTVs with 720p and 1080p displays.

About 3 years ago, I got my first 4K/HDR display - a video projector (a JVC DLA-540).

To go with it, I got a 4K/HDR blu-ray player and a bunch of latest release movies to try - they look and sound great! - and a Roku Ultra, which supports 4K/HDR.

Because the projector is video only, I am running all the various things with HDMI video/audio - the Roku, the Blu-ray player, a cable TV set-top box (for a while), a gaming console, and a lead for attaching a laptop - into an AV receiver that supports passing through 4K/HDR HDMI.

However, it turns out that while the Blu-Ray player plays just fine through the receiver, and the Roku does for ordinary 1080P material, as soon as I try to play anything that is 4K/HDR - on Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Vudu - from it through the AVR, it fritzes out so badly I have to power cycle both the projector AND the Roku Ultra.

I discovered a workaround, to run a separate HDMI video cable to the projector directly from the Roku, and using the Ultra's optical audio output (SPDIF) to send the audio data to the receiver. This mostly has worked well for the last 2.5 years - I can view 4K/HDR streaming material, and hear audio from my receiver.

In the past year, I've become a heavy user of Plex - my home library has hundreds of movies, shows, and other things. And as I use Plex more, I have discovered that often my Plex Server is burdened with "transcoding" - translating data on the fly, video or audio, to a lower quality or alternate format so that the receiving player application can use it. It kills the CPU, the fan runs loudly, and occasionally it is working so hard that the stream drops out (especially if more than one person is playing something over the server).

To avoid transcoding, the player should be able to "direct play" the source material, and this is when I discovered numerous shortcomings with the Roku.

First, no Roku device - not even their "Ultra" - supports lossless digital audio, the DTS-HD or TrueHD audio tracks you can rip to a file to play over a Plex server that would yield the same quality as the original Blu-Ray disc. On the Roku, this gets transcoded down to AC3 5.1 surround sound.

OK, so I can resort to playing the regular DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, right? Sort of.

It turns out that the Roku Ultra also has a bug with its SPDIF output. The audio is not in syc with the video. People have complained about this for years, but not enough people are forced to use this feature, so they haven't fixed it. The workaround? Get an external HDMI splitter that separates video from SPDIF audio, which will be in sync.

OK, but wait! Doing so - using SPDIF audio instEad of HDMI - will also result in losing surround sound from Netflix, as they only use Dolby Digital Plus (DD+) for 5.1 surround sound, which in turn only works over HDMI. So already, using the SPDIF audio workaround on my Ultra, I'd been losing Netflix surround sound! (I'd thought it sounded less full, but never dreamed it was a limitation of digital audio cabling!).

So the best solution would be to get my streaming device, the Roku Ultra, connected through HDMI via my receiver like it ought to have from the get-go.

So maybe the Denon receiver had a problem somehow? Let's try another receiver then!

Today, I got a Yamaha RXV-485 receiver, and spent a few hours unattaching and re-attaching all the wires and cables, which was not fun... And... Same goddamn problem with using the Roku Ultra through the AVR. It works fine with 1080P material, but as soon as I tried anything HDR, it destroyed everything to the point of needing a power cycle of multiple components. (Fortunately I can still return it, as I only just got it.)

I have found many complaints about this online, and Roku's response has generally been "does it work if you plug it in directly to the TV? - OK, so it's not the Roku's problem!" but yeah, it kind of is. And no, I can't run this to my display - it's a projector!

I literally have not found anybody saying "hey, I can use my AV receiver with a Roku Ultra!" online, only people who complain that they cannot.

Of course if it worked it would not be remarkable, so if someone has this setup and can say exactly what receiver does work with the Roku Ultra, let know!

As it stands right now, I'm assuming it's the Roku's fault and getting an Nvidia Shield.
Old 05-18-2020, 08:13 AM
robardin is offline
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Flushing, NY
Posts: 4,980
Quick update for my own thread: after going for suggestions to AVS Forum, it seems likely that this is power supply related... Am checking various connections now

Last edited by robardin; 05-18-2020 at 08:14 AM.


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