How to decide on hardware for audio passthrough
#1
Hi.

I use KODI audio passthrough on my Minix Neo U1, and I don't know how it works, but it just works, and I thought that was always the case.

Now, I'm trying to replace my device for a new one, and I find that many people acquired devices where this feature doesn't work.
On the other side, I see that, as per the information provided here, some of that same devices that can not passthrough some types of audio, can make it using LibreELEC, which makes me think this is not a hardware, but an operating system issue.

So, my questions are:
  • When people says KODI can not passthrough the DTS-HD (or any other format) audio to the receiver, it means that the audio will play only in 2.0, or it will still play in 5.1 but in a different format which KODI renders?
  • If I use a laptop/mini pc connected via HDMI, what should I check before buying to confirm my device will be able to play/passthrough the audio in 5.1 or in original format?
The point is that I do not really find a difference between the audio in different formats, but I want my audio to be 5.1.
My video requirement is not too high, as my TV is 1080p, so nowadays I think every device will fulfill that.

Thank you in advance.
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#2
If your device doesn't pass through HD Audio then there are usually a couple of things it does instead :

1. Lossless decode to PCM 5.1/7.1.  This is what Raspberry Pis and Apple TV 4Ks can do when playing DTS HD MA, Dolby True HD (and also FLAC and AAC multichannel), as can some other devices that have PCM multichannel but not HD Audio bitstreaming support (and some audio can't be bit streamed natively).  This quality should be identical in many or all cases.
2. Bitstream the lossy DTS core (DTS HD MA/HRA has a lossy DTS Core). For many people this is 'good enough' but it's not lossless.  Dolby True HD doesn't technically have a Dolby Digital Core, but there are usually 'hidden' (or not so hidden) Dolby Digital lossy streams alongside that can also be bit streamed.  
3. Transcode the multichannel audio (DTS HD MA/HRA, FLAC multichannel, AAC multichannel, DTS etc.) to lossy Dolby Digital and bitstream that.  This can be useful if you have a system that only accepts Dolby Digital 5.1
4. Output stereo.  This is the worst case scenario - very few devices apart from some Android boxes (or single board computers with poor driver support) - will do this now.
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#3
Wow, that was a very a complete and quick answer.

Ok, so based on your answer, I don't know what is my Minix doing today, maybe is not doing passthrough, but I can hear 5.1 always.
As per the manual, my Home Theater is able to reproduce almost all the formats.

In the audio setting in Kodi, it asks if your device is capable of, and then you have the list of formats: DTS, DTSHD, TRUEHD and others.
In case I do not tick one of the options, will KODI transcode that audio into something else to make the passthrough work?

I was looking into upgrading my NEO U1 into something more modern, maybe Android 8/9 if possible, and there is a big thread about that, but most of the people have problems with passthrough using Beelink GT-King which is the only Android 9 I have seen, and thbe same happens with other similar devices, so they still keep the recommendation of using Minix Neo U1 / U9.
I want to understand this to know if using a device similar to the GT-King I will have at least 5.1, or it will go to stereo, but I'm not sure if there is a way I can figure that out.

Also I see that the ODROID C2/N2 is listed in almost all the items (4K HDR, best audio) as a good device, but in some cases it talks about libreELEC, which is not a possibility for me, as my family uses the youtube app very heavily and Kodi youtube addon doesn't seem to be an alternative.
Is there any way to know if I can get this same specs by using Adnroid instead of libreELEC?
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#4
(2019-06-17, 15:37)elpreto Wrote: Wow, that was a very a complete and quick answer.

Ok, so based on your answer, I don't know what is my Minix doing today, maybe is not doing passthrough, but I can hear 5.1 always.
As per the manual, my Home Theater is able to reproduce almost all the formats.

In the audio setting in Kodi, it asks if your device is capable of, and then you have the list of formats: DTS, DTSHD, TRUEHD and others.
In case I do not tick one of the options, will KODI transcode that audio into something else to make the passthrough work?

No - Kodi only transcodes if you have the transcode option enabled, in addition to deselecting the HD Audio passthrough options. This is only offered if you configure your audio output to 2.0 (as if you have 5.1 output then you don't need to transcode and can decode to 5.1/7.1 PCM instead) 

If you have DD and DTS passthrough enabled but not DTS HD or True HD, then the core or legacy stream will be bit streamed instead of the HD Audio.

What AVR are you using out of interest?

If you have to go Android - then an nVidia Shield TV is a good platform. (And it handles HD Audio well)
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#5
(2019-06-17, 15:37)elpreto Wrote: I was looking into upgrading my NEO U1 into something more modern.

Best idea is to buy a Samsung EVO or Sandisk Class 10 U1 microSDHC (& adapter) and flash CoreELEC Kodi on to it:
https://coreelec.org/

Your U1 CE combo will then literally play anything non HDR you throw at it, and give you all the audio options you desire.

You will wonder why you have not done that before now for Kodi.
Remember to tweak the GPU MHz settings too in CE settings.

Best piece of advice - don't try and do everything on the one device, otherwise you will run into too many compromises.

Then for the next suggestion - buy something that has great ongoing bug fixing Firmware support, with regular OS and App updates.
I cannot stress enough how important proper Firmware support is long term. It's worth paying extra for and seen in the links in THIS post (click)

And the major choices for that are Android TV or Apple's tvOS.
For Android TV the best is the Nvidia Shield and for Apple the class leading, most powerful, Plug n Play media player, the Apple TV 4K, which really is a nice top end Apps platform.

I went the ATV 4K route to compliment my existing OSMC or CoreELEC Kodi - S9xx AMLogic hardware devices.

Next trap 4K HDR YouTube - neither the Shield or ATV 4K supports that. Modern 4K HDR Smart TV's should. The Mi Boxes do and I think the FireTV Stick 4K does as well. Remember I did say "don't try and do everything on the one device"



Also be aware any of the new chipset S905X2/Y2, S905X3, S905D2, S922X AMLogic platforms running any version of Android Oreo 8.1 or greater will NOT have Android Kodi HD audio passthrough support.
The best you will get is 5.1 - DD, DTS and DD+ audio passthrough.

(2019-06-17, 15:37)elpreto Wrote: I was looking into upgrading my NEO U1 into something more modern, maybe Android 8/9 if possible,

The legit Android TV OS - new MECOOL KM3 running Android 9.0 Pie looks decent value for money these days if you do not need official Netflix support. It may even get decent Firmware support, but that is a bit of an unknown at this stage.
See the KM3 YouTube review (click)

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#6
(2019-06-18, 10:10)noggin Wrote: No - Kodi only transcodes if you have the transcode option enabled, in addition to deselecting the HD Audio passthrough options. This is only offered if you configure your audio output to 2.0 (as if you have 5.1 output then you don't need to transcode and can decode to 5.1/7.1 PCM instead)
Let me see if I understood this correctly.
This means that if I set the output as 5.1 and disable transcode, I get the original audio if my AV is capable to take it?
Quote:What AVR are you using out of interest?
I h ave a Samsung HT-D5550K
Quote: 
If you have to go Android - then an nVidia Shield TV is a good platform. (And it handles HD Audio well)
Because Android TV devices are licensed to use Netflix with good audio and resolution, I have acquired a Xiaomi Mi Box S before, but I gave it back to the seller after one day of testing (the period they gave me to check if I like it or I can give it back).
My problem is that I consider pure Android WAY better in terms of usability, and all my family uses the TV.
Main issues with this is loosing Google Chrome and Youtube (the normal version), as the Youtube TV version doesn't allow things like searching another video while reproducing one.
Another problem is that I couldn't use the Minix remote control on the Mi Box, play/play, rewind and things were not working.
I should try sideloading apps and see how it works with the Minix Remote on NVidia Shield.
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#7
(2019-06-18, 10:36)wrxtasy Wrote: The legit Android TV OS - new MECOOL KM3 running Android 9.0 Pie looks decent value for money these days if you do not need official Netflix support. It may even get decent Firmware support, but that is a bit of an unknown at this stage.
See the KM3 YouTube review (click) 
Thank you for the advice.
I explained in the previous reply why I was trying not to go for Android TV, but pure Android instead.

About LibreELEC, looks good, but everybody here uses the Youtube app very heavily, so is not an option at the moment.
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#8
(2019-06-18, 11:42)elpreto Wrote: [quote="noggin" pid='2861965' dateline='1560845459']No - Kodi only transcodes if you have the transcode option enabled, in addition to deselecting the HD Audio passthrough options. This is only offered if you configure your audio output to 2.0 (as if you have 5.1 output then you don't need to transcode and can decode to 5.1/7.1 PCM instead)
Let me see if I understood this correctly.
This means that if I set the output as 5.1 and disable transcode, I get the original audio if my AV is capable to take it?
Quote:What AVR are you using out of interest?

If you set the output at 5.1 you won't be able to transcode. The option for transcoding to Dolby Digital is only ever presented if you are configured for 2.0 output.

if you have the output set at 5.1 and your AVR and Kodi support HD Audio passthrough then if you enable DD/AC3, DD+/E-AC3, DTS, True HD and DTS HD MA passthrough in Kodi you will get those passed through as bitstreams for your AVR to decode.

If your AVR and/or Kodi hardware have less support for bitstreaming then you have to trade off DD/DTS bitstreaming of cores/secondary streams, vs PCM 5.1/7.1 decode (if your AVR + Kodi hardware support that)
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#9
(2019-06-18, 10:36)wrxtasy Wrote:
(2019-06-17, 15:37)elpreto Wrote: I was looking into upgrading my NEO U1 into something more modern.

Best idea is to buy a Samsung EVO or Sandisk Class 10 U1 microSDHC (& adapter) and flash CoreELEC Kodi on to it:
https://coreelec.org/

Your U1 CE combo will then literally play anything non HDR you throw at it, and give you all the audio options you desire.

You will wonder why you have not done that before now for Kodi.
Remember to tweak the GPU MHz settings too in CE settings.
I have one of the s905x3 devices now with CoreElec on it. How can i make sure it is passing through bitstream for atmos and TrueHD?  Also how do you tweak the GPU MHz settings?
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#10
(2020-02-14, 18:28)Timbiotic Wrote:
(2019-06-18, 10:36)wrxtasy Wrote:
(2019-06-17, 15:37)elpreto Wrote: I was looking into upgrading my NEO U1 into something more modern.

Best idea is to buy a Samsung EVO or Sandisk Class 10 U1 microSDHC (& adapter) and flash CoreELEC Kodi on to it:
https://coreelec.org/

Your U1 CE combo will then literally play anything non HDR you throw at it, and give you all the audio options you desire.

You will wonder why you have not done that before now for Kodi.
Remember to tweak the GPU MHz settings too in CE settings.
I have one of the s905x3 devices now with CoreElec on it. How can i make sure it is passing through bitstream for atmos and TrueHD?  Also how do you tweak the GPU MHz settings?

Kodi Settings > Audio > Advanced or Expert (bottom Left) > then simple Enable --> TrueHD capable receiver.

The -ng CoreELEC releases already have the GPU properly "tweaked" there is no need to do anything.

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