We’ve all heard the expression “backward compatible”, it means that if we adopt a new technology it will still work with all our older technology AV gear. However, when it comes to the new HDMI v2.0a spec for sources like the new Blu-ray UHD 4K standard, consumers are in for a surprise. HDMI v2.0a sources wont work with their HDMI v1.3 or v1.4 AVR’s or Pre-Pros which means all of them older than about 6 months old are obsolete, at least for UHD 4K video. The new spec is designed to enable higher speed data transfer up to 18 Gbps because the next gen Blu-ray disc carries 4 times more pixels than 1080p, up to 200 Gigabytes per disc. It also requires an upgrade of the content protection system known as HDCP, now up to v2.2 from the older v1.1. The new HDMI v2.0a spec is not forward compatible for sources.
If you already own a UHD 4K display with the HDMI v2.0a spec, you’ve already found out that those are backward compatible to the current generation HDMI v1.3 and v1.4 sources. You can play your current Blu-rays through your AVR and into your 4K display because they use the lower spec. However once you connect the next generation Blu-ray player to that AVR or PrePro, it will not pass the signal on to the display because it wont be able to authenticate a secure connection via HDCP v2.2.
The question is, how can consumers and professionals adopt the new generation of HDMI v2.0a sources and still keep their existing AVR or PrePro? If you bought a new AVR a year ago, the last thing in the world you want to hear is that it’s obsolete already. Essence is again first to the market with a couple of clever solutions to consider.
At $299 MSRP is the Evolve II – 4K UHD, an HDMI DAC with a single HDMI v2.0a input and output, an optical output, and 8 RCA analog outputs to feed your amplifier directly or AVR if it has 7.1 channel RCA inputs. It’s a 24/192K HDMI DAC that supports the highest resolution audio content on the new Blu-ray 4K discs; LPCM 7.1, Dolby TrueHD, or DTS Master HD. It will pass through the uncompressed native 4K video to your display.
For the audiophile looking for a 2 channel solution, Essence solves the problem with its next generation HDACC II -4K UHD ($699 MSRP) Digital Preamp / DAC / Headphone Amp with input switching for 4 HDMI v2.0a inputs, one HDMI v2.0a output, plus USB 2.0 for decoding native DSD music files and LPCM 24/192K decoding plus Coaxial and Optical digital audio inputs and outputs, OLED display of selectable sample rates, remote control, XLR and RCA outputs and more. With its 32 bit / 384 KHz DSP engine, it offers a higher level of upsampling capability at $699 MSRP. It will enable audiophiles to upsample all lower resolution audio formats including first generation Blu-ray discs at 24/192K as well as downloaded hi res music files at 24/96K. It also has a built-in headphone amp with user selectable impedance matching so consumers can optimize their existing headphone to the amp.
The highly acclaimed first generation HDACC remains in the line selling for $499 MSRP for those that dont need the UHD 4K capable video output and are satisfied with native sample rates of 24/192K, already the best in history.
Essence is now taking orders for both models, they are due to begin shipping in March and April respectively and we expect demand to be brisk. If you’re an audio/videophile who already has his new UHD 4K display with HDMI 2.0a inputs, and you would like to keep your current AVR or PrePro, we have the perfect solution for your needs. Contact Bob Rapoport at email@example.com if you have any questions.