HD Audio Bitstreaming Fix for Kaby Lake and Apollo Lake NUCs

Earlier we reported that both the Apollo Lake and Kaby Lake NUCs were suffering from an issue that prevented HD Audio (Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD) bitstreaming from the NUC to an AV receiver. Intel has today released an update to the firmware of the DisplayPort-to-HDMI2 converter chip that is also known as LSPCon. This firmware update will fix the issue that prevented proper audio bitstreaming to a HDMI 2.0-capable AV receiver.

You can download the fix here at Intel Download Center.

Ok, so this is all good. Unfortunately the patch is only provided in form of a Windows 64-bit executable. Now I had already installed Linux on my Apollo Lake NUC, so I had no way to actually upgrade the thing! What I did was to download the free 90-day evaluation version of Windows 10 and install that on the NUC. This was quite an effort but I really wanted to have the HD audio bitstreaming working!

The documentation says that you must have your NUC connected to a HDMI 2.0 device when upgrading so I connected it to my Marantz AVR. I noticed that the old version of the MegaChips MCDP2800 LSPCon firmware was 1.56 on my NUC6CAYH and the new version after the upgrade was 1.61. If you already have version 1.61 there’s of course no need to upgrade. The update itself was simple but during the installation the screen goes black for a couple of minutes. Do not press the power button or do anything else when this happens – just wait patiently.

After the firmware upgrade a reboot was not even necessary – I just opened MPC-HC and I was able to play back all my 7.1 channel audio clips properly! It finally worked as it should.

Now, would this fix the same problem that I had with the device under Linux? I set to find out. Quickly installed LibreELEC 8.0 (A Linux distro meant for running Kodi to turn your PC into a media PC with minimal effort) but unfortunately the problem persisted in Linux. This means that the bug report here is still valid… But anyhow, good to see that the hardware itself is capable.

EDIT: Not so fast! It seems the issue is still there if you change your screen refresh rate! When I set my screen to 1920×1080@24Hz mode the 7.1 audio formats stop working again… Intel is aware of the issue, so we’re again waiting.

EDIT2: There’s an update to this saga.

22 Responses

  1. guest says:

    It’s very intriguing that this was a LSPCon Firmware update/fix and not a driver fix. I also find it odd that there’s no way to update the firmware on the converter without being plugged in via HDMI 2.0 (e.g. why the tool can’t reboot and apply firmware via BIOS boot separate from OS).

    Nonetheless, as I’m on Windows 10 64-bit, this is fantastic; however, it would be problematic for others not tied to Microsoft.

    I wonder if it’s possible to get these firmware updates directly from MegaChips (who makes the LSPCon unit).

    • guest says:

      I guess it’s unclear to me where the firmware support lies; maybe MegaChips is just the hardware manufacturer and doesn’t do any of the firmware coding and leaves that to Intel (e.g. MegaChips is effectively just the supplier).

      • Olli says:

        The same LSPCon chip is used on other mainboards, for example ASrock boards. There are reports that people with the ASRock board have updated their firmware with this tool from Intel’s download center… Summa summarum, I think the firmware is solely provided by MegaChips and can be used on non-Intel products as well.

  2. uglybuttnono says:

    How are you suppose to run this firmware if you only have an older HDMI 1.3 AVR? Epic fail on Intel just like the NUC5i7KYK Skull Canyon. Almost a year and still the same sort of issues.

    • Olli says:

      This is speculation here, but I believe that the LSPCon is not used at all if you have HDMI 1.3 or HDMI 1.4 connection as the DisplayPort can provide those without LSPCon. Only when HDMI 2.0 signal is used the LSPCon is “switched on” and thus the firmware upgrade requires a HDMI 2.0 device to be connected.

      If you have HDMI 1.3 AVR the problem will not affect you. There are reports on the Intel NUC communities that the bitstreaming works just fine with HDMI 1.4 devices even without this upgrade.

    • Adam says:

      I know the notes say it needs to be hooked to an HDMI 2.0 device, but mine was attached to my HDMI 1.3a Denon AVR-1910 and it applied fine. Didn’t solve the issue under Linux as I’d hoped, but the firmware update flashed as expected.

  3. Robert says:

    A “Windows 10 executable” only patch? Intel is one of the most technologically advanced companies on the planet employing brilliant software engineers. They can’t figure out how to write code that would update this firmware for users of Linux or other OS’s? Doesn’t affect me as I don’t own a NUC & HD sound isn’t an issue but it might be for others. Just baffles me. Intel knows people use Linux on their NUCs. Surely one of their fancy pants programmers knows how to code this for Linux. After all, they went into tens of thousands of $$$ in debt to get a fancy degree that tells the world they know how to code, right? Right?

    • Olli says:

      Yeah, that’s kind of lame. Although, the patch is actually not provided by Intel but clearly by another company – most probably by MegaChips who actually manufacture the LSPCon chip that Intel decided to use in the NUC. There are reports of people with ASRock boards upgrading their LSPCon firmware using this same tool.

  4. Callum says:

    Has anybody had trouble connecting their NUC6CAYx to a Samsung 4k TV?

  5. Mike Compton says:

    Thanks ks for sharing, I was waiting for this crucial fix before even considering buying one of these – HOWEVER, it does not reflect well on Intel that this advertised feature was hobbled at launch. Intel: If it doesn’t work, don’t claim it does on your sales docs!!

    I feel that this would not have been fixed so hastily if NUCBLOG hadn’t hadn’t highlighted it. NUCBLOG appears very high on Google results!!!

  6. Hopefully there will be a Linux version for this, I have already configured ubuntu as a NAS and made a huge LVM with all my files on it, I really don’t want to format this just to have the firmware updated and I have no additional hdd to install on it 🙁

    • Olli says:

      I wouldn’t hold my breath while waiting for it…

      Your best option is to either a) explore options to boot Windows from an USB device or b) replace the drive temporarily (try to find an old laptop 2.5″ drive to install Windows on)

  7. rmilyard says:

    I was thinking about picking up NUC Kit NUC7i5BNK to replace my 5th Gen. I just got a new Epson 5040ub projector and thought would be nice upgrade to handle it. But this bitstream issue is big since I have system running though my Denon AVR-X6200 with ATMOS 7.2.4 setup.

  8. Disgruntled says:

    I don’t understand how this is a firmware fix if the problem persists in Linux? Does the link driver need to be updated to work with the newer firmware?

    • Olli says:

      As far as I have understood, the Linux driver needs an update to support the LSPCon used in Kaby Lake and Apollo Lake.

      • Mike Compton says:

        This implies that it was shipped with an older driver that perhaps just happened to fit (or partially)?

  9. Olli says:

    Intel has now released new firmware version (1.65). Read more here.

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