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DirecTV boxes with my stereo
only looking to spend $500 or so...
even a TV's audio circuit needs breaking in it seems...
You could do it an easier way and save some money too. Plug the ROKU and DirecTV into the TVs HDMI inputs and the TV's audio output (S/PDIF digital coax or optical or analog) directly into your Outlaw or use a low cost but [very] good FiiO DAC between the TV and Outlaw.
That is the same, cheap dac that ruined a $500 subwoofer for me. I'll never take that chance again.
a band aid of a fix that will hold me for a while with a big midrange sound that is flat and lifeless but a step up from TV speakers
One other option to consider, if you like your amplifier, would be an HDMI audio extractor. They come in all price ranges, and most output analog stereo on 3.5mm mini jack as well as optical digital out. Some also have multiple HDMI inputs (HDMI switching). I don't know if they would sound better than your TV, but they might, and most are not expensive. You can look on Amazon and read the reviews. I use a KanexPro for Rocu and cable box, and the analog out is not bad. I don't notice a difference from adding a processor and additional HDMI cable between the source and TV, but that might depend on the type and length of HDMI cable that you use. I think the HDMI cables affect both the audio and video quality, though I won't argue with anyone who disagrees.
Yeah, those HDMI audio extractors are not bad. I use a monoprice one and I can't really complain, pulling SACD at 88kHz LPCM and 24/192 off of BDs. It's the only worthwhile extractor you can get in Canada that is much less than your $500 budget (it's $45 IIRC). Many manufacturers/distributors won't ship here, so better ones go for crazy prices here, and newer/better models never last long in the market it seems, monoprice pretty much has it sewn up these days. (It's different for pure HDMI switches, but for extractors I mean.) Edit: oh yeah, you need one of those common mini-plug to two RCA plug cables for analog output to your preamp, you probably have some already...
As for cables, I have compared 6'/2m HDMI cables here, from $5 to $800, and I really don't *see* a diff. That is with video, Oppo direct to last-gen Pio display, so 1080p. Can't say about with audio, that is minor compared to the video bitrate requirements. I do use a relatively cheap (but very nicely made) 12' HDMI for 7.1x24/192 + 1080p video from my laptop and it works just fine.
What I would say is be careful judging an HDMI cable by how it works with "no-name" gadgets. They have very cheesy HDMI I/O, and if you read the comments "fine print" for some of them, they kind of infer you better use not-the-lowest-grade HDMI cables with them. Actually, the amazon basics HDMI 1.4 or 2.0 cables work fine at 2m, it's when you go longer than ~12' you better start being careful. Like all cables, keep 'em as short as possible, it will never work out worse.
I will look at the Monoprice extractor as their stuff is silly good for the money
Yeah, I like Belkin stuff, it is decent for the $$.
But I was really just saying there is cheap junk, and then there's stuff that is just cheap in price. If you have ~$10 to spare, pick up a 2-pack of the 6' amazon basics HDMI 1.4 or 2.0 cables and give them a try. Not in a size longer than 2m necessarily, but those ones specifically. Good for spares, or to replace some that cost 10-50+ times as much, I'm not kidding.
Edit: d'oh! I read "beldin" as "belkin"...I am still drinking my "morning" coffee...true, and that's my excuse!
You mean Belden I think: no need to sell me on that, their cats are my standard references and I DIY using their stuff, have my surround speakers wired with some of their "deluxe" 4c cables, made analog and digital ICs with numerous of JR's recipes, speaker cables out of twisted 89259 cores, etc. etc. Good wire at a (used to be, here) reasonable price.
More: as a matter of truth in posting, the HDMI cables I actually use here for what I deem "important" stuff (like any of it is...), like from my Oppos and to the plasma, are Audioquest. I use them for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with them being better re PQ or SQ...
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