As you can read here, surround sound on Freeview HD isn’t quite as straightforward as on some other digital television services. Unless you have incredibly up to date surround equipment, then you really need to make sure that the Freeview HD receiver you buy is able to transcode from the HE-AAC format to Dolby Digital, so that your existing equipment will be able to understand it, and produce proper 5.1 surround, rather than just stereo.
(For a basic introduction to surround sound, click here).
As part of my testing of Freeview HD boxes, I’ve checked them to see whether or not they do transcode; testing was conducted by connecting the S/PDIF output of the box to an input of my Yamaha DSP-E800 surround decoder. If the display on the decoder indicates that it’s receiving Dolby Digital, then the box is transcoding.
When it comes to televisions, I think you can fairly safely assume that the audio functionality on different screen sizes in a particular range is going to be the same; it would be most unusual if, for example, a 32 inch set transcoded, but a 42 inch model in the same range didn’t. Note that you should compare model ranges carefully – for example, the Sony KDL-46EX403 and KDL-32EX403 are both the same range, but the Samsung LE40C650 and LE40B650 are not. And, if in doubt, specify to the retailer that this is a required feature when you purchase, so that you are within your rights to reject a product if it doesn’t transcode. I cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions.
I shall try to keep this page up to date, based on my own tests and reports from other people. Originally published on 20th May 2010. Updated 17th April 2011.
Equipment confirmed to transcode
- Bush DVB680; transcoding via optical digital output (note 1)
- DigitalStream DHR8203U, DHR8205U, DHR8206U (twin tuner recorders); transcoding via optical digital output (note 2)
- Humax HDR Fox-T2 (twin tuner recorder); transcoding via optical digital output and HDMI
- LG 42LE5900 (Freeview HD TV); transcoding via optical digital output
- Philips DTR5520; transcoding via co-axial digital output, NB only two channels.
- Samsung LE40C650 (Freeview HD TV); transcoding via optical digital output
- Sharp LC46LE821 (Freeview HD TV); transcoding via optical digital output
- Sony KDL-46EX403 (Freeview HD TV); transcoding via optical digital output
- Toshiba 40RV653 (Freeview HD TV); transcoding via optical digital output
- TVonics DTR-Z500HD (twin tuner recorder); transcoding with firmware V1.2.A1615.D300.F100
Reported as transcoding by other people:
- Humax HD-Fox T2 (with firmware update)
- Samsung PS63C7000 (Freeview HD TV)
- Sony KDL-46EX503 (Freeview HD TV)
- Sony KDL-40HX703 (Freeview HD TV)
Equipment confirmed not to transcode at present
- Goodmans GDB300HD
- i-Can EasyHD 2851T (to be added in an update, according to ADB)
- Icecrypt T2200
- Icecrypt T2400 (twin tuner PVR)
- Panasonic DMR-XW380 (twin tuner DVD recorder)
- Panasonic 2010 Freeview HD TV sets (all models)
- SagemCom RTI-90-320 (twin tuner recorder)
- Sharp TU-T2
1. The Bush model is actually made by Vestel and is their T8300. Generally, the features do not differ between the differently branded versions of this unit, and so it is a fairly safe assumption that all the other T8300 products also produce a Dolby Digital output. Here are the other names by which the box is known.
2. Transcoding to Dolby Digital was added to the Digital Stream models in a firmware update. All three models are identical save for their disk size (320Gb, 500GB, 1TB respectively). You need at least version 3.51r5849. Download updates here.