There’s no denying that in this era of video streaming services, content is king. With people watching movies and TV shows at a voracious rate, companies like Netflix®, Hulu™ and Amazon Prime Video are obtaining as much content as possible for subscribers to consume.
In an effort to keep up with its competitors, cable TV giant HBO® recently teamed up with WarnerMedia to establish HBO Max, providing double the amount of programming it previously had, with more than 10,000 titles already available. Aside from HBO’s original programming, new content includes blockbusters from the DC Comics and Harry Potter™ universes, along with popular shows like Friends, Doctor Who and The Big Bang Theory, among others.
Like other streaming platforms, HBO Max offers different ways to optimize audio and video for its content. Here are some tips on how to best configure those settings to get the most out of your HBO Max subscription and your gear.
For the best audio (and video) quality, you’ll want to start by connecting all devices with an HDMI® cable via the connection labeled “ARC”; this is especially important when using a sound bar or an AV receiver.
Depending on the device you’re using to stream content — whether it’s a smart TV, gaming console or a hardware add-on like Apple TV®, Google Chromecast Ultra® or Roku® (among others) — there are different ways to configure your audio settings.
By default, HBO Max offers two-channel stereo at a minimum and Dolby Digital® 5.1 as the maximum. Content that can be streamed in Dolby Digital is identified with a “5.1” symbol on the right side of the screen. Audio will automatically stream in whatever format you are currently using, which varies based on the audio device(s) you have installed in your home.
For example, if you are listening to audio through your TV’s speakers, you will hear content in two-channel stereo. But if you’re listening on a sound bar, audio is automatically optimized by all the speaker drivers built into the unit. The Yamaha YAS-109 sound bar offers six speaker drivers (including built-in subwoofers), as well as advanced features such as Clear Voice for enhanced dialogue clarity and DTS® Virtual:X™ 3D surround sound to extend the audio beyond the capabilities of what two-channel TV speakers can reproduce.
An AV receiver expands your default audio options even further by allowing you to listen in a multitude of audio formats, sometimes also known as “sound programs.” The Yamaha AVENTAGE RX-A1080 AV receiver provides program options that include Spectacle, Sci-Fi, Adventure, and Enhanced; the latter creates a sound field that emphasizes the dynamic transitions of 3D object-based audio. To get around the hurdle of being limited to using only 5.1-channels, the RX-A1080 lets you optimize the audio with CINEMA DSP™ and Surround:AI™ artificial intelligence technology.
Currently, HBO Max does not offer any way to alter the audio format through its app, but it does utilize whatever audio format you select on your streaming device. If you’re watching on an Apple TV, for instance, you can go to Settings > Video & Audio Format > Audio Format > Change Format and select Dolby Digital 5.1. If you notice audio issues in this format, try switching it to Stereo and see if that helps. (You can find more information at the HBO Max Help Center website.) For other devices (i.e. Roku, Google Chromecast™, etc.), the process is similar.
Even though HBO MAX does not currently support HDR (High Dynamic Range) or 4K UHD (Ultra High Definition) video, it does stream in high definition, and with an AV receiver capable of upscaling (such as the Yamaha RX-A1080), you can even watch movies in 4K UHD and higher.
Like other streaming platforms, the video quality adjusts based on your network bandwidth and internet connection speed, so you’ll want to have the highest connection speed possible. Most HBO Max content is available in HD (High Definition), as indicated by an “HD” symbol on the right side of the screen.
As with audio settings, manual configuration of video settings is not currently available within the HBO Max app, but you can adjust these settings in whatever device you’re using to stream content. For example, when using an Apple TV, go to Settings and click on Resolution under VIDEO to change the format to the highest resolution possible, which is 1080p. You can also adjust frame rate and dynamic range settings if you have preferences for those; however, we recommend not adjusting them unless you are well versed in their impact on video quality. You can learn more about HBO Max video settings here.
Once optimized, the audio and video settings you make for viewing HBO Max content should make your home theater experience more enjoyable no matter what you’re watching. It may take a little tweaking to get to that point, but rest assured that it’s time well spent!
Photographs courtesy of the author.
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