One of the obvious questions raised by the way surround sound is broadcast on Freeview HD is whether or not existing boxes can be updated to add the transcoding functionality that’s needed to make existing home cinema equipment produce proper 5.1 surround. If you’ve not been paying attention at the back, you should start with this article.
The good news is that it appears it will be possible, at least on some. For example, on the day my roundup of boxes was published at RegHardware, Humax subsequently confirmed to me that they will be adding transcoding in an update to the HD-FOX T2. When I hear about other boxes, I shall add appropriate notes in my list of transcoding Freeview HD receivers.
How is this possible? I think it’s probably because a lot of these receivers will have been designed with a European perspective, so that the same core design can be used in several countries. In many European countries HE-AAC transcoding is required, so it’s likely the boxes will include appropriate chips. The Dolby MS10 design, for example, is used in some digital TV chipsets, and can handle all the formats used on Freeview HD, as well as converting them all to Dolby Digital.
However, many manufacturers seem to have been under the impression that surround would be using Dolby Digital plus on Freeview and that, together with the fact that transcoding is not a mandatory requirement in the UK, means that they may not have added the appropriate options to transcode, and to provide settings in the user interface to enable it.
Clearly, in the case of the Humax it will be something along those lines, since they’ll be adding transcoding in their update. There may be other boxes where it isn’t possible to do an update, but that’s still an area that I’m looking into, so stay tuned.