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Using Your Receiver’s Second Zone For Music Listening

by Alan Lofft, (bio), Axiom Audio

Question. I want to listen to the digital music channels in my bedroom from my Scientific Atlantic Explorer HD 8300 High-def cable box (Time Warner) through Zone 2 of my Onkyo TX-SR603X A/V surround receiver, however Zone 2 on this receiver will not accept digital signals. I have tried connecting RCA analog cables from the HD cable box to the Onkyo with no success. Onkyo tech support said they could only suggest that the digital signal in the Scientific Atlantic cable box does not have digital-to-analog conversion capabilities. Scientific Atlantic confirmed this.

What are my options for listening to the music channels thru my Zone 2? Do I need a separate D/A converter? Thanks.

Answer. No you don’t, and your Zone 2 simply routes analog, not digital, stereo signals to the remote speakers. I’m surprised at the bad advice given you by Onkyo and Scientific Atlanta, who should know their products better. The digital music-only channels supplied by Time-Warner are carried on a standard Dolby Digital feed, and your Onkyo A/V receiver will decode and play them in two-channel stereo. Furthermore, the Scientific Atlanta HD8300 cable box (I have one and I’m also on Time-Warner) routes the digital music channels to the left and right analog audio output jacks on the back panel of the cable box. (You may have to go into the HD 8300 cable box menu to activate the analog audio outputs.)

There are several possible hookups: Connect the coaxial digital audio output of the HD 8300 cable box to the digital audio input on your Onkyo receiver (you could use the optical digital output if you’d prefer, as the cable box has both optical and coaxial digital outputs). That will carry the Dolby Digital 5.1 bitstream of HD broadcasts as well as the 2-channel Dolby Digital music channels to your Onkyo. Then whichever input you select on the Onkyo for zone 2 will feed the analog stereo signal to the Zone 2 speakers. You’ll need to go into the Onkyo menu to activate the Zone 2 mode, but thereafter, you would just select the correct digital input on your Onkyo that corresponds to the cable box feed. Don’t forget that you’d need to select the particular digital music channel you want to listen to using the HD8300 cable box remote control.

The other way you can do it is use the HD8300 cable box’s stereo analog output jacks. You can connect those to any of your Onkyo’s analog audio inputs, and just select those inputs and Zone 2 to route the signals to your patio, garage or bedroom speakers. Of course, you’d still need to put your TV on and use the cable box remote to select the digital music channel from the on-screen channel guide.

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