Saturday, February 15, 2014

Samsung Repair Update & Systems Integration Rant

The Samsung service man came yesterday. I helped him turn the TV around so that the back could be removed. That revealed two printed circuit cards, each about 8” x 10”. They were connected by four flat cables, multi wire, each with a connector at both ends. One card was clearly the power supply, and the other was the electronics for the picture.
He systematically unplugged each cable and reconnected it. After he did that, he reattached the AC power cord, and it was obvious the LED screen lit up.

So it was a power supply problem, sort of, we think.

The connectors may not have been properly seated right at the factory, and a bit of vibration in shipping may have loosened the connections. Or maybe not.

He put the back of the unit on, and we turned it around, so that he could bring up the service menu. When he did that he did see an error code. It indicated that a watchdog timer had timed out on a single occurrence. He said he needed to do a bit of research, possibly order some parts, and if necessary he would arrange for a second visit.

I left the TV running from about 1 o’clock in the afternoon until about 11 o’clock at night, and there was no problem whatsoever. So maybe it is all right. Time will tell.

Which brings me to the second topic, that of system integration. When I bought the Samsung Smart TV, it was with the intention of occasionally watching Netflix movies, or a similar Internet movie source. So, I was careful to select a TV that was a smart TV and had an audio return channel, ARC.

My router connects to the TV, the TV to an Onkyo receiver, and the receiver to my speaker system. I can select an Internet source, such as BBC news and I can hear the audio through the TV speakers for example. The Onkyo receiver has the ARC set to auto, but when I select the TV/CD input the way the manual says to, I do not seem to be able to activate the ARC function.

One thing that’s making all of this a little bit more difficult than it ought to be is the fact that when I am looking at Internet content on the TV, I cannot see the Onkyo on-screen display. The Onkyo receiver is supposed to display an indicator on its front panel when it detects a signal on the ARC line. I have never seen this indicator light up.

So which unit is faulty? Is it the Samsung Smart TV that is not providing a signal on the ARC? Or is it the Onkyo input card which is not recognizing a signal on the ARC?
Yes, this is the joy of system integration. And, unfortunately in this case, Google is not much of a help. If you have ever read a TV or receiver manual, you will know they are not much help either.

It may be something quite simple, but at this point I really don’t know what else to do.

Oh yes, I spent 20 bucks on an optical TOSLINKcable and have the TV connected to the receiver. That should have provided the appropriate audio to the receiver, but that doesn’t seem to be working either. And that’s really disappointing, because the Onkyo manual seems to suggest that the optical connection is a valid alternative to the ARC and is supposed to be used when the TV set does not have the ARC function.

That points back to the Samsung, and I have asked the technician to do a bit of research on this for me. We did go through the various sound settings on the TV and he agreed that I was unable to set the output to “receiver”, although at the time this was not a valid test perhaps, since the receiver was not connected.

As I’m writing this, the only thing that comes to mind is that the HDMI cable is not one of these magic HDMI 1.4 versions, and may be not supplying the ARC signal. On the other hand, that really doesn’t explain what the issue is with the optical connection.

If anyone it Samsung is reading this, please recognize that your material on the web, on the TV, or in the supplied documents does not help anybody solve such problems and it’s very frustrating.

Surely, Samsung should be able to write a page that says "Want to connect your Smart TV to your Surround Sound receiver? Do this or this or this." Same with Onkyo.

I've already had the Onkyo in for service. They said the HDMI board was frequently faulty, so much so that they repair them even after the two year warranty. Could that be the problem?

If I ever get to the bottom of this, I will let you know.

Oh, I should tell of a success. My PC feeds an HDMI cable to the receiver. Then I must set the reciver to the PC HDMI source and on the PC I can then duplicate the desktop onto TV. Then, I can select the PC audio output devices, see the HDMI output portion of the PC is ready for enabling, enable it and get PC audio playing through the receiver. So, I don't really have to use the Samsung Smart TV function at all, but this is a too clunky solution to the original problem.

It's a bit embarrassing, I'm an Electrical Engineer. This should all be easy for me and it is not. What do "regular" folks do to get this stuff working? I've helped a lot of people with their TV and sound systems and PC problems too. The manufacturers just don't seem to provide the info needed and don't have the sense to play nicely together.


  1. As I understand from your text, there are two connections from the Onkyo. An optical audio connection and an HDMI cable.

    The HDMI is output from the receiver to input on TV. The audio is output from the TV to input on the receiver. Is there a video source associated with the optical audio on the receiver and what is plugged into it…

    I have a Sony and the optical audio is tied to a specific video source but it wouldn't play the audio unless a video signal was detected. So I just fed an output from the TV to the input. Since my old Sony doesn't support HDMI, I now use the TV to switch between all of the video sources. The optical output on the TV always sends out whatever would have been playing through the TV speakers. It's not a Samsung. I hadn't heard of ARC before.

    1. You are correct. And, just after my post, I had a tea and decided to try something. I set the reciever to the TV/CD input as source, selected the optical input on it, and used the BBC News app on the Smart TV. Yes, then I could get sound. The receiver front panel said "Digital", not ARC, but there was sound!. I saw a movie trailer and got full 5.1 sound, which was great.

      Mystery: I turned the amp off and on. Checked settings. In one spot, where previously there was "----" showing, now it says "ARC" which is what I expected and never saw. But, if the optical cable is disconnected, sound stops, the front panel does not have the ARC indicator lit. So, the ARC function is still MIA. Still, the $20 optical cable is obviously a keeper.