ME: Do you know anything about the home theatre systems here?
CSR: Well, what exactly do you have questions about?
ME: I have a PS3 and am getting an HD-A30, both of which do onboard decoding of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD (core) audio tracks on high definition media. How do I best benefit from the audio stream coming from my source(s)?
At this point, I was expecting a question about my current home theatre setup. I was wrong. I should have known better when he didn't answer my first question in the affirmative, rather with another question.
CSR: Did you get the HD-A30 here?
ME: (what does this have to do with anything) No.
CSR: HD-DVD is done. They announced it at the CES conference. [....] Warner is still doing both formats, but Universal is giving up and so is Paramount. [...] You know the format is over, right?
A small debate then ensued wherein I pointed out that it was Warner that pulled out of HD-DVD, while Paramount declined to announce its future plans and Universal reaffirming their support. The story about Universal quitting was a posted-as-fact rumor in Daily Variety that has since been debunked. He still insisted I was wrong. Growing increasingly frustrated at his incomprehension that I had on-order an HD-DVD player, I called attention to the fact my question remained unanswered; heck, it wasn't even acknowledged. I restated the question.
CSR: I don't understand.
ME: (paraphrased) Source. High-def audio stream. Can I do better than what I have?
CSR: What are you using now?
ME: Optical digital audio cables.
CSR: That's all you can do.
Now I was a bit skeptical. I have heard that HDMI carries better audio (due to a much higher allotted bandwidth).
ME: What about HDMI?
CSR: Does your receiver have HDMI?
CSR: Then optical is the best.
A moment of stunned silence. Does this guy even want to make a sale? I explained that I was looking at home theatre systems while I was there and wanted to know what to look for in them.
CSR: But does your system have HDMI? Otherwise, you'll be better off with optical.
ME: *slaps forehead* Will a different receiver that has HDMI better utilize the audio stream originating from my high-definition player?
If this were a cartoon, the salesperson's eyes should widen as the iris turns into glowing dollar signs for a moment. Not this guy.
CSR: Do both systems use optical?
I grew very frustrated at this point, and the CSR at least noticed that much. He claimed that upsetting me was not his goal and that he just didn't seem to understand my question. I repeated it again using as few syllables as is possible in the confines of the English language and had begun to scour the landscape for paper and pen with which to literally draw him pictures.
CSR: I listen to audio all day and I can't really tell much of a difference between HDMI and optical.
He continued on, but even if he was speaking truths (I intend to research this on my own) I was not willing to deal with him any longer. My question had received an answer. What can I do to better take advantage of the decoded audio stream? Nothing. Was that so hard an answer? Was there any reason for him to spew mistruths about a product I had purchased elsewhere? Was there some reason he continued to harass me while I tried to clarify the situation that, incidentally, was not even relevant to the issue at hand? Was there any reason why he could not just admit that he had no idea what he was talking about and instead refer me to another CSR that was at least marginally qualified?
I should have taken this up with the manager (he had been very helpful in the past and even prompted a post in the great_service community), but I was there with my brother and I didn't want to keep him there all day. I might go back later or tomorrow and try then, but I'm thinking of just doing it all online.
I have finally gotten around to looking up the answer myself. Optical can transmit uncompressed (PCM) stereo or Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1. In order to get uncompressed 5.1, HDMI is required.