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Customer Review

85 of 98 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No Analog Audio Output, August 5, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: LG INFINIA 47LE8500 47-Inch 1080p 120 Hz Full LED Slim LCD HDTV with Internet Applications (Electronics)
The picture is beautiful. The frameless glass frame is magnificent. The speakers are so-so.

We went to Best Buy to physically look at TV's, intending to buy a 42". Two things became clear. The best imaging technology (e.g., high contrast ratio, etc.) doesn't really kick in until the 47" models. I guess there isn't a big market for high quality / small size TV's. The other was the fameless frame on this model. Every other TV in the store, bigger and smaller, had a raised frame that surrounds (and protects) the glass front. The LG 478500 does not ... there is a single piece of glass that runs all the way to the edge. The glass just changes to black in color in a thin region around the edge. It looks more like a painting than a TV. My wife spontaneously yells out "that's magnificent!" and I understood my TV just got more expensive.

We bought the TV from amazon with enhanced delivery. I wasn't there to observe, but my wife said they looked like they had never set up a TV in their life. At one point they wanted to lay it on it's front, but with the absence of a raised frame, that would most likely scratch the glass. They did get the TV in it's stand and sitting on the table, but not "set up" in any electronic sense.

We bought an LG BD590 250GB Blu-Ray player to go with it. I had read about various incompatibility issues related to various versions of HDMI or different manufacturers' implementations. Given that the BD590 was among the top reviewed players, it seemed a safe bet. That's the only source I have tried so far. At the time of this review, we've watched Avatar and Cars. I also watched a Hero DVD to check the up-sampling.

The picture is stellar. It looked better in the store than everything else we took the time to compare it to (more detail in the bear's dark fur, more subtle tones on images of snow). Until we get it up on the wall, we're sitting pretty close (about 8') and you can not see a pixel. I don't have the experience of "watching TV" ... it feels more like we are looking through a window.

The up-sampled DVD looked great. It was obviously not as beautiful as the blu-ray disk, but substantially better than my gargantuan Sony Trinitron (the last of the pre-HD monster tube TVs) did with a DVD player.

The speakers sound like TV speakers. With such a beautiful image, I assume that LG assumes that people are going to add their own speakers.

Which brings me to my one complaint, but this apparently is a complaint about the industry, not just this TV. The rest of this review is more about dealing with audio for folks who don't have a home theater setup.

This TV has no analog audio output. Only an optical digital audio output.

My setup is simple. I have blu-ray player, a TV and an amplifier with speakers. That's it. No satellite. No cable. No AV receiver. What I used to do was plug the player into the TV, use the TV volume control with the audio output set on variable, and feed the audio signal to the amplifier from the TV. It was simple. One volume control did it for all sources.

That won't work with this TV. I called LG customer service (which answered promptly) and they confirmed that only a digital output exists and that, "all the new TVs are going this way". The first comment to this review confirms that.

What the industry expects you to do is buy an AV Receiver for a home theater system. Given that I just want good stereo sound, my problem with AV Receivers is that (a) the TV itself already accepts 10 different inputs and I don't need another box to accept 10 more, (b) it adds another remote control and (c) another volume control and (d) another input select function to watch a simple movie and (e) I'm paying for video up-conversion and other video features I don't need. My understanding is that the latest HDMI may solve the dual-volume issue.

Update: 8/10/2010
It's worse than I thought. From LG customer service: "Regretfully, the optical output is a fixed output on this unit, and it will not respond to the television's volume.". Thus, it is not possible to connect an external DAC to the optical audio output ... unless you like listening exclusively at full volume.

Update: 8/11/2010
If you want to use external stereo speakers without buying an A/V Receiver, here are the options that I have found:

1) Almost no-cost solution:
Use the headphone jack and run that to your amplifier with a mini plug to RCA adapter cable. It works, but the quality is about what you would expect ... very compressed sound. I had to turn the TV volume up to 100% much of the time.

2) Low-cost solution:
Use the headphone jack as above, but add a headphone amplifier. This is the solution I have chosen. I'm using a Creek OBH-11. It costs about $200 and is the lowest priced headphone amplifier that audiophiles don't absolutely scoff at. The Creek has an audio output that you hook into your speaker amplifier and a headphone jack, so you can still use headphones. This won't improve distortion or frequency response of your sound, but it will improve the dynamics.

3) Middle of the road solution:
I looked for an HDMI box that might do something similar to an A/V Receiver ... sort of an AV Receiver Lite with a single HDMI input, a pass-through HDMI output, and audio out. Really what I want is an "Audio Receiver" to decode HDMI audio without any video. The closest thing I have found is the Ambrry AU-HDMICP with the very long name of "HDMI LPCM to Analog Multi-Channel Audio Decoder With Amplifier". It's a unique product and it almost does what I want ... but has no volume adjustment.

The other option is a Beresford TC-7520. It's a headphone amplifier with an optical digital input and a manual volume control, and costs about $200. So ... this works. You would have to adjust the volume by reaching for the box, which I would prefer not to. Note one thing ... in the A/V forums this is a controversial product because of the very extreme claims of how fantastic it is and other people saying those claims are a campaign of hype. For $200, I would not expect a top-end DAC in this product.

So, in my opinion, there is no middle of the road solution. The middle of the road solution is to spend your money on an A/V Receiver and be done with it.

4) Audiophile solution
If you want to put your money into the best audio (stereo) sound and not spend a dime on video switching, you can get the Benchmark DAC1 HDR or Lavry DA11. They take optical digital input and produce RCA output for your amplifier. They have nice little remote controls. The specifications and reviews are impeccable. They are exactly what I want. Also ... they cost more than the TV. For $2,000 you could get a decent A/V Preamp, a more audiophile solution than A/V Receiver. I might have gone down this road except that some A/V forum folks suggested that in a few years, these kind of products will start accepting HDMI and do full, audiophile quality TrueHD decoding. That would be great.

So ... for now ... it looks like if you want to listen to the audio on external speakers, even in stereo, you are pretty much forced to purchase an A/V processor or use the headphone jack. So be it.

Update: 11/30/2010
I used the headphone amplifier solution (2) for a few months. It's OK. But I could only look at those beautiful images so long without screaming inside for better audio. I broke down and got an Integra 40.1 A/V preamp to go with a three channel B&K amp that I had. So, after all my bellyaching about the state of the industry, I bought the box I didn't want to buy. The sound is good. I still only use it with stereo plus center channel. My wife can't figure out all the remotes, so I'll probably also purchase one of those programmable, RF remotes.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 15 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 6, 2010 7:00:57 PM PDT
cawgijoe says:
Most of the new sets that I have seen have an optical output and no analog. Buy a receiver. You can get an inexpensive one which will solve your connection problem.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 6, 2010 9:18:02 PM PDT
Wallace Guy says:
I don't know if Amazon reviews is the place for a back and forth, but my issue with a receiver is this. I have a blu-ray player that plays discs, connects to VuDu, Netflix and other streaming services, and pulls video from my home server. The TV has 4 HDMI inputs, USB inputs, analog inputs and even an RS-232 input. I don't need another switching box to accommodate more inputs. I don't have (or have room for) home theater. I just want the stereo audio to go to better speakers via an amplifier. And I definitely don't want another remote to another volume control and another place to select another input source.

I have found one solution. There are standalone DAC's that will convert optical audio to analog output. That will do the trick. I'm also looking to see if there is an HDMI box that might do something similar ... sort of an AV Receiver Lite with a single HDMI input, a pass-through HDMI output, and audio out. Once I find my solution, I'll add it to the review with a more thorough review.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 12, 2010 8:50:44 PM PDT
Scottus3 says:
The reality is technology marches on and you'll either have to upgrade to keep up or come up with some work-arounds to keep what you have. How many people still use parallel ports on computers or floppy drives? I have a pre-HDMI receiver that still works well for my surround sound needs, but couldn't buy the LG LH90 that I wanted without having to upgrade the receiver because it wouldn't properly output Dolby Digital via the optical out. Another option would be to buy a soundbar for improved sound. Probably not as good as your speakers, but maybe a little cheaper than a new receiver.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 12, 2010 10:00:14 PM PDT
Wallace Guy says:
You're right, of course, but I think the A/V industry suffers from lack of clarity in what functionality belongs where. You can optimize your purchase of a computer for your need ... beautiful display, fast speed, big disk, big ram, great sound, and fast I/O reasonably independently. It used to be you could get a great TV, a great player and great audio independently. With HDMI and the coupling of video and audio, that's not true. I've bought a nice TV and a nice player. But to get nice audio, I have to also re-purchase a bunch of video up-conversion capability in the A/V Processor. I can choose to get a cheap A/V Processor, in which case I risk actually degrading my HDMI video unless it has pass-through. Or I can get a really nice A/V Processor, but as soon as you start looking at higher quality A/V units to get better sound, they come packaged with lots of video capability. And, in fact, most of that capability is dedicated to up-converting older formats into the HDMI output. So, continuing with the computer analogy, if the A/V industry designed computers, my new gaming machine would still come with that parallel port and floppy drive, plus an extra core cpu for sound and video, even thought I bought a sound card and a video card.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2010 7:53:58 PM PDT
Scottus3 says:
You might want to check-out a new Vizio model that is coming out -- XVT473SV. It has similar specs to this TV, but quite a bit cheaper (by ~$500) and it has an analog out!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 24, 2010 1:30:07 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 24, 2010 1:39:30 AM PDT
RyanL says:
I think that you have the analogy backwards in this case. A better analogy would be that you are torn up about not having a serial port, a floppy drive, or a printer port on your brand new alienware gaming rig. Why not? Because today's stardard is USB for connecting printers and flash drives or what have you to the pc. I personally think that HDMI is the best thing since sliced bread. For most it simplifies things SO much for connecting a multitude of devices such as a cable box, gaming system, computer, disc player, etc. etc. to the AV equipment. It makes for a nice clean installation without a whole pile of cabling which resembles a rat's nest. I understand that you only have one device hooked up to your tv and sound like you don't want to run the HDMI signal through it which you can still do by hooking up your blu-ray player directly to your tv and then running the optical cable to a newer receiver. You'll only get good, clean stereo sound this way (usually the case with most tvs), but that sounds like all that you want anyway (I believe that this has to do with the bandwith issues of HDMI vs. optical/coax digital; HDMI carries uncompressed 7.1 audio while spdif can only carry up to 6.1 DTS quality which isn't bad at all IMO, but I don't think that most tvs have the processor power to "down mix" the uncompressed/lossless 7.1 into compressed 6.1 or 5.1 for the optical out so instead you get 2.0 PCM). Personally I wish that tvs gave you some sort of option to choose 5.1 DD or DTS as the default output (I know that they can do 5.1 via optical out because every onboard tuner that I've came across in newer tvs spits it out). If that was the case, I would still be sporting my 10 year old Yamaha receiver (still worked great and had excellent sound quality) which obviously didn't have HDMI switching but had digital inputs and I would use my tv as the switching device. Actually that was my plan, but I was forced to upgrade if I wanted to retain surround sound so I do feel your pain. You sound fairly sensible (you window shopped at Best Buy and bought at Amazon) so I'm sure that you could find a good deal on a fair receiver. I think that you mentioned spending a couple of hundred on a headphone amp or something. Why not spend $200 or so on a Yamaha or something and you'll have much better sound that trying to use a headphone jack which I'm sure can't have a very good signal to noise ratio. Just my 2 cents.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 26, 2010 9:13:04 AM PST
You can try the Samsung HW-C450 AudioBar. It has 2 optical inputs and wireless sub but also a another remote to deal with.

Posted on Nov 30, 2010 1:18:48 PM PST
M. Nickel says:
Seriously, is it that big of a problem to convert to digital audio? This isnt meant to be a debate between digital audio, and its approximation to real sound, versus analog audio, and its true sound with tons of white noise. Everything you and anyone else in the world who buys anything from this date forward will be acquiring devices that run on digital audio. Grow with the times. Why do you spend $1-2K on video but stay with 70 year old technology for audio?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 30, 2010 6:29:42 PM PST
Wallace Guy says:
Lots of good comments here. I don't know if I have much more to add because I've pretty much had my say. But I will try to say it in a different way to address the comments.

The issue is not whether or not to go for digital audio. The audio source is Blu-ray so, by definition, it's digital audio. The issue is where the DAC is located, how good it is, and how much you pay for it.

First, consider the video path. When you buy a nice HD TV and Blu-ray player, your digital video is set. There is a straight path from player to screen. There is a high quality video DAC in the TV for which you paid a lot of money and all is well.

The situation with audio is different. The HDMI from the Blu-ray player takes digital audio into the TV. In the TV there is a poor quality audio DAC. The idea behind using the analog audio out was to find a low cost solution to using that poor quality audio DAC and at least not waste money. I don't have the money or space for high-end surround sound, and was looking for an inexpensive interim setup.

Now let's say we want high quality audio. The standard solution is to purchase an A/V receiver. If you pay $1,000 for an A/V receiver, what percentage of that money do you think goes into the audio DAC? After taking into account the myriad inputs and outputs, power amps, switches, video DAC and everything else that is in that box, you are left with, once again, at best a mediocre quality audio DAC. I don't like paying another $1,000 for a mediocre quality audio DAC. This is a constraint that the industry has imposed on us with how systems are configured.

A more reasonable solution would be a $1,000 box that takes that HDMI input, passes the HDMI signal on to the TV's high quality video DAC, extracts the digital audio and runs it through a good audio DAC and produces outstanding audio. This box would not do anything at all with the video signal because the TV already does that job. That box doesn't exist, yet.

I'm guessing there are two reasons why that box doesn't exist. One is that although TV images are getting better and better, the music industry took a huge swing toward lower quality sound with MP3 compression. SACD's were a business flop. Most people don't want to pay a lot of money for premium quality sound. The other is that the audiophile industry tends to be dominated by smaller, specialized companies. The HDMI standard requires significant investment in licensing fees for the HDCP encryption standard that is part of HDMI. Not only have audiophiles been a little slower to go digital overall, this licensing hurdle further retards the creation of HDMI audiophile boxes. It's probably coming, but not yet. And this is all just a guess on my part ... I'm no industry expert here.

If I return to our computer metaphor, I can see how RyanL and others think that I am torn up about not having a floppy on my alienware rig because I complain that my new HDTV doesn't have analog audio out. Fair point. However, more precisely, I am torn up because I can't just buy a high quality sound card for my alienware gaming rig. Instead of a sound card, I have to purchase a Sound-And-Video card which has a lot of redundant video processing on it that I won't use. Even more annoying, my new Sound-And-Video card will support 8mm, Hi-8, 35mm, cassette tape and 8-track inputs on it that I don't need. And there's the remote thing.

For what it's worth, I did finally plunk down $1,000 for an Integra 40.1 A/V preamp. So, after all my bellyaching about the state of the industry, I bought the box I didn't want to buy. The sound is good. I still only use it in stereo mode.

At any rate ... the comments were fun.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2010 1:15:51 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 3, 2010 1:17:16 PM PST
Dan Page says:
I agree with you Wallace - have the same conundrum with my setup. It's frustrating not having an analog out only because of all the extra hoops you jump through. I moved to a smaller apartment, and essentially combined what were once separate music/recording and home theater spaces into one living room space. I got rid of a cheaper home theater in a box setup with the receiver and all those speakers/sub and use my recording computer (Mac Mini) with a little mackie firewire audio interface and connected to the hdtv on the wall with hdmi (with wireless trackpad/keyboard - it's actually a fantastically convenient computer setup).

But the audio interface only talks to the computer - not with my blu-ray playing playstation 3. I actually had the 5.1 optical out from the playstation connected to the optical-in on the mac - and then set up an audio program to monitor and play back the sound through the interface - but having multiple sets of converters active at once doesn't always work well on the computer and it would glitch out after a while. Now it's stereo rca plugs from the playstation going into the inputs of the audio interface and routing that to the stereo output - not that great of sound in this case as I think it is adding either another set of A/D D/A conversion at the interface, or the analog mixing is not clear, or the playstation's conversion is perhaps terrible (or a nice mix of all of the above). And watching over the air TV would require an SPDIF accepting input somewhere because that is what my TV outputs.

Analog out wouldn't have solved my problem (though it's an obvious feature since the tv already has digital/analog conversion going on to output to its own speakers) - for me it's more the general disconnect between the technological world of the home theater and of the computer recording studio. And the current expectation of buying a big, power hungry receiver with tons of features and mediocre actual sound quality has to be partly to blame.

Also , I'm green with envy over your TV purchase :)
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