Firestick to Old Projector

Firestick to Old Projector: a reader (from Rome) asks…

Dear Chris, I have a problem, can you help me to find best way to connect Amazon Firestick to my projector for video signal ( Benq PE5120 ) and to my home theatre for audio signal 5.1 ( Yamaha DPS-A1 ). For audio connection I’d like to use optical signal for taking advantage of 5.1. I’ve attached photos of my projector and receiver connections.

Saluti! Based on the pictures you supplied, I see that your projector’s video inputs are limited to only analog versions: S-video (round 4-pin plug), composite video (yellow RCA plug), and VGA (15-pin). Your Firestick is a digital video appliance, so you’ll need something to convert the video signal from digital to analog in order to use the Firestick with your projector. You’ll also need something to extract the digital audio with an optical output to send audio to your receiver. Both conversion and extraction can be handled by a single device (see below).

Of the video input plugs on your Benq projector, the best option is the 15-pin VGA port (the one with the blue insert, not the black one). VGA can support up to 1080p video resolution (1920×1080 pixels), while the composite and S-video ports only support standard definition television (720×480 pixels).

Based on your pictures, you’ll need the following equipment to connect your Firestick to your home theatre system:

  1. a digital video converter/audio extractor box such as this one for 22,35 €
  2. a standard VGA cable such as this one for 7,99 €.
  3. an optical cable such as this one for 5,99 to 7,39 € (depending on length).

Now to clearly describe how to connect things up:

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  1. Plug the Firestick into the HDMI IN port of the converter/extractor box, plug one end of the VGA cable into the converter/extractor box and the other into the blue 15-pin D-Sub IN port on the Benq projector. Set the projector to use the VGA port as the source, then power down the projector.
  2. Plug the optical cable into the SPDIF OUT port of the converter/extractor box, plug the other end of the optical cable into any available optical IN port on the Yamaha receiver. Set the receiver to use that same optical IN port as the source, then power down the receiver.
  3. Plug the converter/extractor box’s included power cable into a wall outlet and the converter/extractor box, then power up both the Yamaha receiver and the Benq projector. Don’t forget to supply power to the Firestick with its included microUSB plug.

You should obtain good video quality on the projector screen, and you should obtain Dolby 5.1 digital audio from your surround-sound speakers. You want to follow the specific order to power up the devices in #3 above to make sure that the video and audio are “authorized” (HD Copyright Protection or “HDCP”) between all components.

Nota Bene: I found an online manual for your Benq PE5120 that shows a DVI-I connector (which is digital), but your picture shows an apparently earlier version of that model. If in fact your projector has a DVI-I connection, you would swap out #1 & #2 items in the equipment list above with this converter/extractor box for 17,99 €, and this HDMI-to-DVI cable for 9,79 €. The video connection (instruction #1 above) will change slightly: plug the HDMI end of the cable into the HDMI OUT port of the converter/extractor box, and plug the DVI-I end of the cable into the DVI-I port on the projector. Set the Benq projector to use the DVI-I port as source.

About HDCP: This is best described as circuitry that all devices have (devices which use digital video/audio). This circuitry is designed to protect content from being used unlawfully and came about years ago with Digital Rights Management legislation. The idea is that artists (musicians, film makers, etc.) didn’t want their works stolen by digital piracy.

How this circuitry works is by devices like your Firestick, the converter/extractor box, and your digital receiver exchanging authorizations (aka “handshaking”) to approve each other to play/display protected content like movies, TV shows and music. This handshaking usually occurs when equipment is first powered up or connected. If the devices cannot successfully authenticate, they won’t pass the protected content from one to the other.

Since your video projector uses analog video, there’s no digital rights circuitry there. The handshaking for digital video is only between the Firestick and the converter/extractor box. For digital audio, handshaking occurs between all three devices (Firestick, converter/extractor box, and receiver).

14 Comments

  1. Hi Chris, you seem to be an amazing font of knowledge so I hope you can help me.
    I also have a Firestick to Projector query but with the added complication of a 5.1 Surround Sound system inbetween.
    Equipment – Amazon Firestick, Sony BDVE2100 DVD Home Theatre System and Infocus HD8606 Projector.
    Everything was working fine in my cinema room in London until Amazon pulled their Prime app from the Sony system in Nov 2019. They offered a discount on a Firestick but I already had two.
    The problem was the Sony system only has RCA input and an optical cable input…no HDMI input. The HDMI output feeds the Projector. I’d obviously like to connect the Firestick to the Sony system and enjoy the 5.1 surround sound. I think I need a converter which will take the Firestick HDMI digital input signal and convert it to RCA whilst also allowing a digital feed to the projector via HDMI. Will this allow 5.1 surround sound or is that only available with a digital feed? Would a converter which also provides an optical output (to connect to the Sony system) be a better solution?
    I don’t really understand what ‘pass through’ means and therefore don’t know if it is relevant in this case.
    If I can’t get this to work, I think I’ll have to buy a new DVD surround sound amp to drive my existing speakers which may work out quite expensive.
    Links to the manuals for the Sony & Infocus equipment and also a few converters which may or may not work are below.
    Hope you can help advise on how best to connect up my equipment.
    Many thanks, Neil

    https://www.sony.co.uk/electronics/support/res/manuals/4446/a7795ccb4ca06c8cb09e18ec54ae4da3/44467341M.pdf
    https://www.infocus.com/resources/documents/User-Guides/IN8606HD-UserGuide.pdf

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07KRWYN4R/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B073TXX3KV/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    • Hi Neil, thanks for providing lots of detail and links to the online manuals, saves me a lot of time researching your situation!

      Your situation is similar to others, and yes, you need a box (let’s call that a ‘breakout box’) that will extract the digital audio from the HDMI interface and send it (via digital optical cable) to the Sony system. You don’t want to use the RCA connections as that’s only 2-channel analog stereo audio. The optical IN port on your Sony system is the one to use, as it passes Digital 5.1 audio. And you’re correct, ‘pass through’ doesn’t apply to your situation, that’s for audio/video systems that send both video & audio out the HDMI OUT port and don’t process the audio to play through the system while sending the video out the HDMI OUT port.

      Either of the breakout boxes you chose from Amazon will work, the Toslink/SPDIF optical port on the breakout box should be connected with a digital optical audio cable, the other end of which goes to the Sony’s Digital IN Optical (TV) port.

      If you have multiple HDMI video/audio sources (say, a cable or satellite box, the Firestick and something else), then the 3×1 HDMI switch is the one you want (I’d choose this anyway since you never know if you’ll add equipment in the future). If the Firestick is (and will be) your only video source, then the other box will do.

      Connect an HDMI cable from the breakout box’s HDMI OUT port to the projector’s HDMI IN port (1 or 2). Connect an optical cable from the breakout box’s Toslink/SPDIF Optical OUT port to the Sony’s Digital IN optical port. Power on your projector, and power on your Sony system. Make sure your Sony system is set to use the optical source. Connect power to the breakout box, and finally, connect power to the Firestick’s microUSB port and plug the Firestick into the/an HDMI IN port on the breakout box.

      The reason to plug in the Firestick last is for HD copyright protection – all the devices connected must ‘see’ each other in order for them to validate themselves with each other, otherwise they won’t pass protected content. This is Digital Rights Management (DRM) in action and has always been a bugaboo for getting disparate pieces of home theatre equipment to work together. If a piece of equipment isn’t connected and powered on when you connect the Firestick, it won’t see it and validate – validation only occurs when you first connect and power on the device.

  2. A quick note: reader John H. was having trouble with getting his Firestick signal down 50′ of HDMI cabling to a projector. He swapped the 50′ for a 30′ and the problem went away. Even though the HDMI spec says that 50′ is the maximum length for a reliable signal, I’m guessing that the diminutive Firestick simply doesn’t ouput as strong a signal as other HDMI source devices.

    • Hey Chris, I have been reading up on this forum getting prepared to set up my own home theatre reusing some old stuff. I’ve been fairly confident it should connect to the firestick using and extraction box but the age of the projector worries me. I have a viewsonic pj551, with only 50 hrs on it! I have a screen and everything purchased, just don’t have a firestick yet to test it out(have a month before it comes in) and was going to get another projector if it didnt work. But instead of waiting, just wanted to see what your opinions are, if i should wait to buy a new one after testing or should just opt to get a newer model

      • Hi Calvin, thanks for your question. Your projector’s manual is online at https://www.projectorcentral.com/pdf/projector_manual_1489.pdf and shows this is an analog video projector. You say you have an extraction box but you don’t say what brand/model it is, so I am guessing that it does have HDCP circuitry built-in and will decode the HDCP signal coming from the HDMI output of the Firestick, and convert that digital video/audio to analog with an output video plug that matches one of the projector’s input plugs (VGA 15-pin, component, or S-Video). You don’t mention your audio output devices, so I’ll assume that you have that covered and are only concerned with video. You also don’t mention the screen you’ll be using, so I’ll assume it’s a true video screen (not a white sheet or white-painted wall). And finally, you don’t say how large the screen is, so I’ll assume it’s decently large enough for a home theater setup, say if seating 4 across/2 deep, the screen will be about 12′ away from the front seats and be at least 9′ wide.

        So my opinions are: First, you are seriously degrading the video quality when going from the Firestick’s digital HD (high definition or 1920×1080 pixels or 4k/3840×2160 pixels) video way down past SD (standard definition or 1280×720 pixels, e.g., DVD quality) even further down to analog VGA (640×480 pixels). Or even lower if you go to the other possible cable types (component or S-video which aren’t even measured in pixels). The projector can cast a display as large as you can manage in your room, but I expect you will be unhappy with the image pixilation that will be clearly visible when the image displayed on your screen is larger than about 33″ wide.

        If you want to have a decent home theater setup and want to enjoy watching movies, I think you’ll want a digital, HD-quality display projector. That should cast an image to a screen that’s big enough to be about 70 degrees or more (from your seating position) for a truly immersive experience (45 degrees is at the bottom of the scale if your room or screen is small). You’ll also want a digital 5.1 surround sound audio system with speakers placed around your sitting area so the audio is immersive as well. Tip: good audio can help the viewer overlook marginal picture quality, but when I say marginal, I mean SD quality (these days).

        VGA looks fine on a computer monitor (up to about 32″, bigger than that and you can start to see the pixilation), but on a projector when you blow that image up to much larger dimensions the video will look pretty primitive. I’m all for reusing old equipment, but home theater in 2020 should be high definition digital video and audio if you want to really enjoy movies and such.

        Second, I don’t know what your budget is like, but here’s a potential (what I’d consider a reasonable) shopping list (assuming you already have your screen, seating and lighting):

        1. Home Theater receiver with speakers such as this one for $430: https://www.amazon.com/Yamaha-Yht-4950U-5-1-Channel-Theater-Bluetooth/dp/B07SJJ9ZZK
        2. HD digital video projector such as this one for $700: https://www.amazon.com/Epson-Cinema-Wireless-Miracast-projector/dp/B074FLKWSY/

        With the above, you don’t need your extraction box, you’d plug the Firestick and any other HD video/audio source into the receiver, then run a single HDMI cable from receiver to projector, and connect your speakers to the receiver. You control source and volume with the Yamaha remote and control the Firestick with its own remote. If you have other video sources (cable, DVD player etc. you’d control them with their own remotes. Or get yourself a universal remote and control everything with that. I like the Logitech Harmony remotes, expensive but give you much better controls for your devices than the cheaper remotes.

        I should warn you about HDCP – the CP is copyright protection and all digital video/audio devices (including the Firestick) have that circuitry built in. HDCP can be tricky to get working correctly when you’re using component parts of your home theater that aren’t all the same brand. Even more difficulty is if you’re using equipment (like that old projector) that doesn’t include HDCP circuitry. Your Firestick may refuse to send ‘protected content’ (e.g., movies and TV shows) to that projector unless your extraction box handles the HDCP part, and is able to decode the digital video and send along unprotected analog video to the projector.

        HDCP circuitry is often finicky, since the validation part (called “handshaking”) usually occurs when you first power on or connect the equipment. So for example (with an all-digital setup like the above shopping list), if your Firestick is connected to the receiver before the receiver is set to send the Firestick’s video to the projector, and the projector is already powered on, the Firestick may not ‘see’ the projector when it validates, and may then refuse to send video to the unvalidated projector. You need to first establish an active signal path from the HDMI port on the receiver all the way to the projector, then plug in the Firestick. Meaning, set the receiver to use that HDMI source, have the projector plugged in and turned on, then plug in the Firestick.

        One final thought is that even though the Firestick is a low-cost device, using it with an analog, low-resolution projector will be frustrating and unsatisfying. If your room isn’t too big and your budget won’t handle the above shopping list, then you might consider a nice LCD TV and soundbar and plugging the Firestick into that. Such as:

        Of course, you can go smaller or curve-less on the TV and save a hundred dollars or more there, and get a cheaper soundbar and save another hundred or two…

        • Hi Chris,

          Thanks for answering my questions!! I have a pretty new set of yamaha surround sound already thats pretty new so i have audio covered! And seating, i’m seating about 4-6 people! You are correct about the screen being a true screen. It is a automated 8’ screen. I have mounts already installed as well! The screen is currently placed in front of my 55” tv, but I wanted something to enjoy at home while we’re mostly staying home now! I’m happy with your response and I think I am going to upgrade my projector! Thank you for your advice Chris!

  3. Sheila Garcia

    Hi Chris – only just come across your site – amazing info so I will have a good browse later.
    I had the idea of setting up an outdoor cinema and wanted to connect an old but very good and hardly used Optoma EP 279 projector with a Firestick.
    The projector has a VGA Connector, S-Video Connector, RCA Composite and USB port mouse (https://www.projectorcentral.com/pdf/projector_spec_2918.pdf)

    I purchased a 1080P HDMI Female to VGA Male with Audio Output Cable Converter Adapter Lead UK
    ( https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/1080P-HDMI-Female-to-VGA-Male-with-Audio-Output-Cable-Converter-Adapter-Lead-UK/143610608391?epid=23038256535&hash=item216fdbfb07:g:xQkAAOSwVVBexaUJ )
    When I connected I couldn’t get rid of the pink screen despite trying to change all the options on the projector. Not sure if it is something I am doing wrong or whether it is a faulty connector?
    I also can only connect to a very small Bluetooth speak with the cable – is there another way to get sound that you would suggest?
    Many thanks in advance

    • Hi Shiela, thanks for your comment and question!

      Unfortunately, the conversion from digital video/audio (e.g., HDMI) to analog video/audio (e.g., the 15-pin VGA jack and the round 3.5mm 3-element jack) is usually more complicated than a simple jack like you purchased can handle (nowadays). This is due to two aspects: 1) HD copyright protection (HDCP) and 2) electronic conversion of digital to analog. Most likely, this jack was produced before HDCP became an issue.

      For the HDCP issue, current Digital Rights Management laws around the world require all digital media equipment to have circuitry that verifies connected equipment with each other before they will pass ‘protected content’. Your Firestick is a modern digital media device with HDCP built-in. Neither that adapter you purchased, nor your analog projector have HDCP circuitry, so only unprotected content will be passed (and I don’t know of any Firestick programming that would be unprotected).

      The conversion of digital to analog can technically be done with such a simple adapter (that doesn’t have any real circuitry inside nor uses external power), but the actual performance will be significantly low – you should adjust your expectations if you want to use that adapter. Even if you could get video and audio out, they may not be synchronized well (such as someone speaking and their lips don’t match the timing of the audio of their voice). The other shortfall is that a VGA image is seriously low-quality compared to a digital image which will be much more noticeable when you blow it up to the projector’s screen. VGA projectors weren’t really designed for watching anything other than old home VCR videos of abysmal quality. That gorgeous 1080p or 4k video that your Firestick puts out will be degraded to a small fraction of its resolution. But if you’re determined to use that projector and have adjusted your expectations, read on.

      In short, you really need to consider a device that includes HDCP circuitry and down-converts all content to analog cleanly (and/or allows for digital/analog timing matchup or adjustment). I took a quick look around amazon.com.uk and see lots of simple adapters like what you bought. Some of them even have the letters “HDCP” in them, but none look trustworthy imo.

      You may want to consider something simpler. Do you happen to have a laptop that has a VGA output port? Then you could use any one of a number of apps (Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, etc.) that output video and display that to the projector with a simple VGA to VGA cable, and use either the laptop’s built-in speakers, or use the headphone jack to connect to either that small speaker or something larger – any pair of powered stereo speakers would do.

      If you don’t have that capability, then let me know and I can dive deeper into what’s available for your needs. I’m all for re-using old equipment, but if you want to play movies outside on a big screen, that old VGA projector will be a bit…underwhelming.

  4. Hi Chris, I was wondering if you could help me? I currently have a Optoma 1690 projector https://www.projectorcentral.com/Optoma-EP1690.htm and I am looking to hook up a fire stick. So, I bought a Sony STR- DG910 thinking of plugging the Fire stick into the receiver and then using a HDMI to dvi cable from the receiver to the projector. After purchasing the receiver and doing some research I learned this will not work because the receiver needs a return signal from the HDMI? ARC? Not sure what to do… I appreciate any help you can provide. Thank you
    -Dan

    • Hi Dan, I’m not sure what research you did, the ARC function doesn’t really apply in most situations – it’s primarily for controlling multiple devices using one remote. Your receiver doesn’t ‘need’ a return signal, it’s simply capable of using one (if you have compatible devices). So when you say “won’t work” the only thing that wouldn’t work is perhaps your receiver’s remote not being able to turn the projector on or off. It won’t affect the ability of the receiver to send video to the projector.

      I’m assuming that you asked your question because you connected things and didn’t get video from the Firestick to the projector. This is likely due to HDCP issues and should be solvable.

      Looking at your projector manual, it has a DVI-D port with HDCP, so you shouldn’t have any problem connecting the HDMI OUT port on your Sony receiver to the Optoma’s DVI IN port. That should get you video from the Firestick to the projector. Be sure to make the connections and settings changes before you plug in the Firestick so that HDCP negotiation completes successfully. Here’s the order:

      1. Connect the HDMI/DVI cable between the receiver’s HDMI OUT port and the Optoma’s DVI IN port
      2. Turn on the receiver and set it to use the HDMI port where you’ll connect the Firestick. Also turn on the Projector and set it to use the DVI IN port
      3. Lastly, plug in the Firestick’s electrical power (wall adapter to MicroUSB port), then plug the Firestick into the HDMI IN port you set in #2.

      At that point, the Firestick will be able to ‘see’ the projector and they will negotiate HDCP. From that point forward, the Firestick will send “protected content” (the video) to the projector. If you connected the Firestick before you ensured a clear signal path from the receiver to the projector, then the Firestick didn’t ‘see’ the projector and therefore didn’t negotiate HDCP. This negotiation generally kicks off when you make new physical connections between equipment, and the Firestick is very finicky about ensuring clean HDCP negotiation before it will allow video to be displayed.

      Since the Firestick is directly connected to the receiver, there should be no issue with the audio portion of the Firestick signal being authorized to play out the receiver’s connected speakers.

      Looking at your receiver manual, it shows (page 21) that when you connect sources to the HDMI IN ports, their audio is output to the receiver’s connected speakers. It also sends both audio and video out the HDMI OUT port, after negotiating HDCP. Since you’re using an HDMI/DVI cable to the projector, you’ll only have video received by the projector (DVI doesn’t carry audio), but that should be just fine, it’s what you want.

      I should mention that HDCP negotiation is not dependent on the 2-way communication capability of ARC, all equipment that is HDCP-enabled has circuitry that provides for that 2-way negotiation communication over digital cabling (both HDMI and DVI are digital).

      • Thank you for the quick response, I really appreciate your help. I will let you know how I make out.
        Thanks again
        Dan

        • Ok it worked and then it didn’t… no video and sound going in and out. ??? Receiver stopped putting out a video signal and if I unplug the HDMI/dvi cable the sound will play. Any other ideas to get a Firestick to work with this projector? Thanks again

  5. Hey Chris,

    I was reading up on all the previous firestick to projector questions, and was wondering if you could help me? I have an Epson powerlite 78 projector and used an HDMI to VGA adapter to connect it to my firestick. This seemed to have worked for awhile up until recently. The image seems to go up and then the screen turns blue and says no signal. After that seems to restart the firestick and goes back to the same blue scree. I tested the firestick and seems to be working fine. So I believe it is the adapter. Is there a better way to connect my firestick to the projector or a better adapter I can use?

    Adapter currently using :

    https://www.amazon.com/VicTsing-Adapter-Converter-Charging-Digital/dp/B07CT6HRR3/ref=sr_1_64?dchild=1&keywords=hdmi+to+vga+adapter&qid=1602958109&sr=8-64

    • I’m betting your problem is with HD copyright protection (HDCP). Most (but not all) of the content that you can watch on the Firestick is commercial programming and has HDCP encoding to protect if from piracy. All modern electronic equipment has HDCP circuitry built in to verify that other connected equipment is authorized to play such protected content. Your older projector doesn’t have HDCP circuitry (because it doesn’t do modern digital video/audio), and neither does that adapter. So anytime you try to play protected content with the Firestick it’s going to go blue screen on you, and may do so randomly otherwise (the Firestick is pretty finicky about HDCP).

      Looking at Amazon (search for hdmi to vga with hdcp), I found https://www.amazon.com/Portta-3-5mm-Audio-Converter-support/dp/B003O55U8K which says it has HDCP 1.2.

      You didn’t mention audio but the above box has an analog audio port (3.5mm plug type) so you can play the audio through speakers.

      Of course, with both these you’re missing out on high definition digital video and audio, which is what the Firestick excels at.

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