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Why Won't My Cable Box Video Work With My Receiver?

by November 30, 2006

In response to numerous threads about this issue we have developed this ongoing sticky to address the issue and let everyone know of productive workarounds and the status of various cable company fixes...

The Problem (typical email/post)

I am having difficulties with the Scientific Atlanta 8300HD (cableTV) box's HDMI output when used in conjunction with an HDMI-switching/upconverting receiver.

When plugging the cable box directly into the HDMI display - the signal is transmitted correctly... When going through the receiver via HDMI, the TV does not get the signal and instead an error message is displayed (or nothing).

The Real Problem

When pursuing the topic with Yamaha Electronics' product engineers, they reported that this is a known issue and is on the Cable box end (Denon's engineers also concurred):

This Problem lays with the Cable box. It is not an HDCP issue. It has to do with HDMI 1.0 compliance. Neither Scientific Atlanta or Motorola boxes were originally designed to recognize a "REPEATER" (a repeater is a switching device in the HDMI format). Among other things it is able to pick off the audio bitstream from the HDMI signal. [These receivers are] much more than just a switch!

Conversations with S/A revealed that they have an upgrade algorithm that is available to local cable companies. However, the typical cable company takes 60 to 90 days [more like 6 months in our experience - Admin] to issue a firmware update blasts to their customers.

They are continually sending updates to their boxes but only after rigorous compatibilty testing with all other software being used in their systems.

According to [Scientific Atlanta] we should [have started seeing] boxes being updated by late November 2005 - but again they stress that it's totally up to the local cable companies to decide how urgently to attack this issue.

Please note that this is not a Yamaha/Denon/Pioneer/etc issue. Currently all HDMI switching receivers will produce the same results. (The only exceptions are certain products that act as a simple switch, not performing HDMI 1.1-specific functions with regards to scaling and audio processing).

The Solution

The ultimate solution is a firmware fix by the manufacturer. This part has been completed - however, the cable companies have not yet finished testing this firmware fix (and some have not yet started). From what I am hearing, many of the cable companies may not be equipped to fully test HDMI issues as they may not have HDMI-upconverting receivers in their headend. Audioholics is actually working with one of the local cable companies now to see if we can help them test a new firmware fix for this problem. Since we have two different setups with different upconverting HDMI receivers this should be very productive.

The Workaround

The workarounds for now include the following:

  1. Route video from the digital cable box directly to your television. This may not a good solution for those who have displays without multiple digital inputs as it will leave your DVD player's HDMI/DVI output with nowhere to go and defeats all of the convenient features of having a receiver with HDMI upconversion, or
  2. Purchase an HDMI switcher and route the output of the receiver to one input, and the output of the cable box directly to another input. Feed the output of the switcher directly to your digital display. This gives you a direct connection for the cable box that bypasses the receiver, but also allows you to use the receiver's output to upconvert your other sources.
  3. BY ALL MEANS contact your local CableTV company and get ahold of a supervisor (customer service phone representatives typically won't understand or care about your problem). Make sure they are directed to this thread and begin the process of implementing this firmware fix immediately since it could take some time to release to the general public. Remember that regardless of what they say this is NOT an HDCP-related issue or anything having to do with the receiver. This is important as the typical troubleshooting steps will lead them to think it is a compatibility problem with the receiver. Until demand for a fix is increased, they will be very content to not implement any additional firmware updates that could create additional problems and drain resources (this isn't evil, it's actually good business).
An abbreviated list of HDCP-compliant HDMI/DVI switchers:

 

There are many more, but we thought we'd provide a brief listing here.

For an ongoing status update, please visit our forum thread dedicated to this topic.

 

About the author:
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Clint Deboer was terminated from Audioholics for misconduct on April 4th, 2014. He no longer represents Audioholics in any fashion.

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