How to fix sound problems with DIRECTV and your audio receiver

With the increase in 4K Genie clients, we’ve started to see an increase of one particular problem. There’s an issue where the sound drops in and out a lot if you have an A/V receiver or surround sound system. While this bug has been present since the beginning, it’s only lately that you’ve heard a lot of complaints. Not every user is affected, so it’s been slow to come to AT&T’s attention.

I do know that a bug fix is planned at some point but since it seems to be taking more time than expected, I thought this would be the right time to share this suggestion.

When the problem occurs

This problem specifically affects people with the DIRECTV C61K 4K Genie Mini Client and certain audio/video receivers. Denon, Marantz and Yamaha have been mentioned, but I don’t have a comprehensive list of receivers that have the problem.

The problem occurs when you feed the HDMI cable into the A/V receiver first and then pass it through to the TV. In some cases, the audio will drop out for up to 10 seconds when you pause, rewind, or fast forward, and in in rare cases you will get a prominent squeak or pop when coming out of pause, rewind, or fast forward.

Why this happens

The real culprit is DIRECTV’s interpretation of the HDCP 2.2 standard. HDCP is the copy-protection standard used by HDMI cables and DIRECTV has used it for several years. However their version of HDCP 2.2 seems to be very strict and it’s caused a lot of minor issues for years.

For example, if you’ve ever noticed that your TV goes black when you exit the guide or starts playing a program, and goes black again when you go back into the guide, that’s due to HDCP. The menus are non-copy-protected but the live video is, so there’s a quick blip while the TV is getting ready to show copy-protected video.

As I said, AT&T plans to deal with all the problems that HDCP brings. However, it’s an essential part of the DIRECTV experience and not likely to go away. Without it, most of AT&T’s programming contracts would be invalid and there would be nothing on TV.

How to fix it.

Unfortunately this fix won’t work for everyone and it does require that you do some rewiring. However, I’ve personally tried it and I can tell you it works for me with my Samsung TV and Yamaha AVR.

Look at your TV’s HDMI inputs. See if one is labeled “ARC.” ARC stands for “audio return channel” and it’s a feature of HDMI that might just save the day for you.

With ARC, an HDMI port can supply audio to your AV receiver instead of the AV receiver passing video to your TV. Instead of connecting all your devices to your audio receiver, you connect them to the TV then feed the audio back to the AV receiver.

Obviously this is going to take some rewiring. Also many TVs don’t have a lot of inputs. This auto-switching HDMI switch will help you multiply those ports, but be aware that it’s not 4K-compliant. While there are switches that claim 4K compliance, they’re not HDCP 2.2 compliant so they won’t fix the problem. So use the auto-switch for your remaining HD devices and connect any 4K devices straight to the TV.

Here’s a step-by step tutorial. Every situation will be a little different.

1. Connect all your devices to the TV, but leave the TV’s ARC port open.

2. Run a cable from the ARC port into your AV receiver.

3. Set your A/V receiver to the input where the cable is connected.

4. (if needed) Check the audio settings on your TV to make sure ARC is enabled.

5. (if needed) Reprogram universal remotes to use the correct inputs on TV and audio receiver.

Most of the time this will “just work” and will get rid of the long audio drops. Depending on your situation there may still be a short audio drop of 1 second or so. This is usually due to the AV receiver switching out of Dolby Digital when there is no signal.

If this doesn’t work at all, it’s usually because the cable isn’t ARC compliant. Check out the great selection at Solid Signal and choose a new cable.