Last week Boxee released a new firmware update for their Boxee Box media player. The update brought a lot of new features and bug fixes. Unfortunately this was also met with two critical changes in my opinion. The first was removing the ability to decode TrueHD to 5.1 channel PCM. Instead Boxee Box will decode TrueHD to 2 channel stereo. This is due to a change in the licensing agreement between Dolby and D-Link (the manufacturer of the Boxee Box). This won’t affect everyone, but for anyone who uses a Receiver that cannot handle HD Audio tracks this could be a bit more problematic. More importantly it highlights a potential issue that any current/potential consumer should be aware of. The ability to decode TrueHD to 5.1 channel PCM has been a feature available on the Boxee Box since day one (in fact at first release the Boxee Box could not bitstream TrueHD so the only option was to let the Boxee Box decode). With the latest update a feature that may have influenced someones decision to purchase the Boxee Box has now been removed, and there is nothing the user can do about it since the firmware update is forced on the user. I can only see this as a red flag, so it is something to be aware of when dealing with any media player that employs forced firmware updates.
The second change, and possibly one of the biggest bonehead moves I have seen, the Boxee Box would send 2.0 PCM audio tracks out as 5.1 channel (all of the other channels would be empty except for the L and R). This made absolutely no sense and the original explanation was this was also due to the licensing agreement with Dolby (which is even more absurd since when did Dolby have any sort of say over a non-Dolby track). The implications of this is that many receivers can take a 2.0 audio track and matrix it into 5.1 channels for surround sound. By sending out the track as 5.1 the Receiver has no way in knowing that this is in actuality a 2.0 track, so it will not attempt to matrix into 5.1 (thus the user loses the ability to get surround sound). Well, it appears it has been acknowledged that this was a misunderstanding, and I am happy to report that with this “Service” update this issue has been corrected.
A look at the changelog as follows:
New firmware available 188.8.131.5292
New firmware is now out includes:
Improvements and Additions
- Revert PCM 2.0 to DD conversion from 1.1.0 release
- Added setting for enabling volume control under Settings > System > Audio > Control Volume During Playback
You can manually update from here